Plant Oil Extraction – FAQ

Q: How many gallons of solvent does it use?
200 gallons of ethanol or isopropanol per shift.

Q: How many pounds of plant material can it process?
Depending on the extraction procedure used, approx. 800 to 1200 pounds (363 – 544 Kg) per shift.

Q: How cold can the solvent go?
Down to -20 C.  For high-volume processing, we recommend 0 to -10 degrees centigrade.

Q: Is the chiller included?
Yes. The R5 extractor includes a customized 60,000 BTU / hour chiller that’s available in either single phase, or 3-phase versions.  It provides plenty of cooling down to -20 C.

Q: Is the R5 ethanol extractor approved in my state?
Probably. It has been peer reviewed and approved by Pressure Safety Inspectors, the most-recognized engineering and safety inspection company for extraction equipment.  It is approved in the following states: AZ, CA, CO, FL, HI, MD, MA, ME, MI, NV, OH, OR, PA, and WA.

Q: Is the R5 ethanol extractor UL certified?
No, since it does not have any electrical parts, UL certification is not applicable.  The chiller conforms to UL standard and is so stamped.

Q: Does the extractor offer agitation?
Yes, it has a powerful air pump that can be adjusted to suit extraction agitation needs.

Q: Is the extractor suitable for “explosion proof” facilities?
Yes, it has been specifically designed to work in explosion-proof rated facilities. Extractor support equipment, such as the chiller, would likely be located in a nearby, non-rated room.

Q: Why ethanol?
A: From an extraction viewpoint, by varying wash time and temperature ethanol will absorb the desired target essences and little else.

Once extraction is complete, the saturated tincture is transferred into an ethanol recovery unit where 90% to 95% of the ethanol is recovered for re-use. The remaining extract is called hyper-tincture and is ready for post-processing.

Q: Why is food-grade ethanol the solvent of choice
A: Ethanol is safe. People have been using it for thousands of years so there is a certain comfort knowing that ethanol was the extraction solvent.

190 proof food-grade ethanol is an affordable and residue-free solvent that doesn’t leave a chemical signature in essential oils once removed. Additionally, ethanol has antiseptic, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. It can be purchased by the barrel and is easy to handle. It also doesn’t require high pressure (unlike CO2) and it has a higher flash/auto-ignition temperature than hydro-carbons, making it far safer to handle.

Q: Can isopropyl alcohol be used as a solvent?
Only if post-processing ensures that ALL of the isopropanol is removed.  One of the best ways to remove 100% of the “iso” solvent is distillation. Isopropyl alcohol is NOT a food safe ingredient (unlike ethanol) and cannot be present in consumable products whatsoever!  The R5 extractor is approved for both ethyl and isopropyl alcohol.

Q: Can the solvent be recovered for re-use?
A: Yes, up to 95% of the alcohol may be recovered using an industrial recovery unit and re-used many, many times .  After recovery, the resulting fluid output is called “hyper-tincture” since it is well beyond super-saturation.

Q: How can hyper-tincture used?
A: There are many possible production paths depending on the source plant material used. Here are some of the more common product paths:

1) Distill into fractions. Since it is already in ethanol solution, Pure oilwinterization is simple if you need to do so. Once any fats and lipids are removed the tincture may be distilled into pure fractions. Because there’s gallons available, even rare plant oil fractions can be recovered.

Bottling hyper-tincture


2) Use “as is” for resale; many medicinal and herbal users prefer it in this form.

3) Whole plant oil. This is a molasses-like substance that is excellent for a wide range of products. Finished whole plant oil This is a very stable form of output and has a long shelf-life.

Q: What is whole plant oil?
A: It is a full-spectrum oil means that has all the soluble goodness that was in the plant material. This includes essential oils and the desirable sterols and terpenols; these components are thought to add medical value to edibles, balms, and other products.

Q: Is it economical to use less desirable parts of plants?
A: Many types of extractors prefer only the most potent parts of a plant, however, there can be a lot of value to be gained from other parts of the plant. Since the R5 extractor can handle very large quantities and because ethanol is a very efficient solvent, experimentation with the less desirable parts of the plant may make strong economic  sense.

Q: Can I use previously washed plant material?
Yes, it may be worthwhile to use ethanol extraction on high quality plant material that has been previously washed using a different extraction methodology such as CO2. Phase-change washes typically leave behind essential oils that ethanol can recover.

Q: What else is needed besides the extractor?
A: The R5 extractor includes an industrial grade chiller and is capable of producing output tincture immediately after installation.

Q: How much time does it take to run an extraction on a full load?
A: If you are seeking feed-stock for a fractional distillation system, a short-path extraction may run as little as 20 minutes. If you’re making full spectrum plant oil you’ll want everything the plant offers so a longer wash time at a warmer temperature with more agitation will work.

Q: How should plant material be prepared for extraction?
A: A common method is dried plant material ground into flakes (about the same size as parsley flakes). This method provides the greatest density of plant material in the extraction tank. The material can be pre-chilled in a freezer before extraction to facilitate a very clean lipid and wax-free output. Very rough dried material can be used though this will reduce the weight that can be fit into the extraction bags. Finally, fresh plant material may be used without drying. This allows plant material to go directly from harvest to processing thereby reducing spoilage, contamination, or break-down of the plant’s valuable goodness.  However, fresh material will result in tincture with water bound to the ethanol and will add time to the ethanol recovery process.

Q: Can wet plant material be used?
A: Yes. In cases where drying is a hassle or unworkable due to local conditions, fresh, moist or even wet plant material may be used. If possible, chop up the plant material and increase wash time. Ethanol recovery time may be slower due to increased dissolved water in the output tincture.

Q: Can the roots or bark be used?
A: Yes, a strong advantage of ethanol extraction is that it can work with extremely tough plant material such as roots, bark, and stems.

Q: Is this cold ethanol extraction?
A: Yes. Cold extraction is typically a very quick wash designed to strip easily extracted oils. Typically it does not strip other, more deeply integrated components.

Q: Can the extracted output be reproduced reliably?
A: Provided the same inputs and procedures are used the resulting output should be close to identical and post-extraction testing will verify it. The input must be the same in terms of plant species and variety, grower and method of growth, the same age after harvest, and the same dryness and grind. The extraction procedures must be the same too; use the same amount of material and ethanol, temperature and agitation, and the same amount of time for each load.

Q: What type of plant material is best for extraction?
A: The extractor can be used to extract essential and whole plant oils from many plants Rosemary extract such as rosemary (see picture at right), hops, chiles, and various powdered and flaked plant parts. Contact us to discuss your particular plant extraction needs.

Updated: 11-16-2018

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