There are many different methods of extraction available today, utilizing a variety of solvents. Why has Starstrike Stainless settled on food-grade ethyl alcohol, aka ethanol? The answer is straightforward: simplicity, safety, and cost.
Ethanol is a highly efficient solvent, perfect for extraction of botanical oils and essences. Unlike some other solvents (hexane, butane) it does not leave any hydrocarbon residue. This residue is not only impossible to remove from an extract, it imparts foul flavors and can even be toxic. Many products avoid utilizing ingredients with hydrocarbon residue- and for good reason. Ethanol is easy to remove from an extract, and is also 100% safe for human consumption, making it an ideal solvent for the health-conscious extractor.
Not only is ethanol safe for human consumption, it’s also relatively safe to handle in the modern lab or workplace. Ethanol has the advantage of not needing to be stored under pressure like butane or CO2, it can be stored at room temperature and pressure- it only needs to be in a sealed appropriate non-flammable container. Even though ethanol is flammable, it behaves much more predictably than say, butane, and the likelihood of a flammable event is greatly reduced.
The bottom line with ethanol, however, is cost. Ethanol is cheap – far cheaper than medical grade C02 and instrument grade butane. Ethanol’s’ main benefit is the money it will save an extraction shop over the long haul; because ethanol is easy to recover from a given tincture via distillation the vast majority of ethanol used can be easily recovered and reused again and again.
On the topic of solvent costs to the extraction shop there is the future to consider. Currently, certain extraction industries are not federally regulated – but that will likely change. When it does, certain extraction solvents are going to be closely reviewed by federal regulatory agencies. When this happens, extraction shops will no longer be able to utilize low-grade (welding) CO2 or butane in their extractions- they will be forced to utilize pharma-grade gases which are far more expensive.
Ethanol, on the other hand, will likely benefit from federal oversight. Currently, extraction shops in certain industries are unable to recoup excise taxes from the federal government. However, once federal regulation begins, extraction shops will likely be able to justify excise taxes refunds. The cost of ethanol will drop significantly as federal oversight takes over. Considering that excise taxes make up 70% of the total cost of ethanol, this points to a dramatic lowering in cost of operations for extractors using ethanol as a solvent.
It’s these benefits that compel StarStrike Stainless to fully embrace ethanol extraction, and devote our fabrication expertise to maximizing the return on investment to those customers who purchase our equipment.