Ethanol is an excellent solvent for extracting cannabinoids. There are multiple methods of extraction using solvents, here we are going to focus solely on the “short soak” or “quick wash” method using Ethyl Alcohol (Ethanol). Another popular quick wash extraction, QWISO, uses Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) instead of Ethanol.
In the traditional long soak process, alcohol (and water) stays in contact with the plant material for up to months at a time. As alcohol is a polar solvent, this technique also extracts water soluble materials like chlorophyll into your final product.
Using a quick wash involves only brief contact with the solvent. Cannabinoids are quickly separated from the plant material while leaving behind most of the water-soluble materials. This keeps the majority of the yuck out of your final product. The quick wash method will still extract some impurities, but they can be quickly and easily filtered off.
To achieve the most pristine extract, you can first prepare your flower by water curing it. This process will remove most (if not all) of the green coloring as well as the undesirable taste before you extract. Water curing adds quite a bit more time to the process but the end results are simply delicious.
Alcohol – The Higher Proof the Better
A quick note on alcohol: The higher proof alcohol that is used, the lower amount of water-soluble materials will be pulled into your product. Everclear, a 190-proof grain alcohol, is 95% alcohol and 5% water. Properly cured and stored cannabis will have between 10-15% water content as well.
Amazon sells 100% Ethyl Alcohol (200 Proof Ethanol) if you truly want the best extraction, but be forewarned: using 200 proof alcohol can get a little pricey if you are evaporating it off without recovering.
Reclaiming your $
If you use the good stuff, I highly suggest investing in an alcohol reclamation device like The Source Turbo by ExtractCraft would allow you to reclaim and reuse the alcohol, dramatically reducing costs over time. Alternatively, you could construct a simple vapor distiller with parts from your local chemistry supply store.
Unless you are going for the utmost purity you can get from a home extraction, there’s no real need to spend that much on pure ethanol. Most people will be quite satisfied with their results using Everclear or something similar.
Just a heads up – if you put 200 Proof alcohol under your tongue it WILL burn. If you plan on using this tincture sublingual, you may want to dilute it a bit with some distilled water first to cut down on the sting. Adding water will decrease the potency, so make sure you take that into account.
In regards to Washes
There are those who advocate processing these 2 washes separately to achieve products with 2 different effects. Feel free to explore this method if desired, but here we will be combining them into a single product.
The cannabis used in this process will still contain some cannabinoids after the 2 soaks. Simply dry it out and use it to infuse some coconut oil for topical balms or salves or for cooking purposes. You can also grind the dried herb and put into gelatin capsules to ingest. Waste wan’t, want not!
Ready to go?
To perform a QWET extraction, start with fresh decarbed cannabis that has been dried in a slow oven (180-200* F.) until it easily breaks apart with your fingers. There are numerous time/temperature combinations on the internet for decarbing, feel free to chose the method you prefer.
I like to keep the temperatures nice and low for an extended time. In addition to decarbing, the secondary goal of the oven is to purge as much water as possible from your material.
There is no need to grind your material into a powder, that just makes filtering 1000 times harder. Simply break up your buds a bit by hand until they are pea sized. If using shake or trim, just use it as is. Place the cannabis into a clean dry mason jar and put it into the freezer along with the alcohol you will be using until they both reach zero degrees (overnight will be sufficient).
The freezing process will help to tie up any additional water as ice which can be filtered off.
The Next Day
Once the correct temperature has been achieved, working quickly pour alcohol into the jar of cannabis until covered by an inch or so. Screw on the lid and gently swirl for a few seconds. Place both back into the freezer immediately. For the next 3 minutes, gently swirl the jar of cannabis once a minute, keeping in the freezer until complete.
After 3 minutes, remove the lid and pour the cannabis / alcohol mixture through a quick draining stainless steel mesh strainer into another jar. Cover the cannabis with more alcohol and place everything back into the freezer. Repeat the previous 3-minute process, straining the alcohol into the same jar you used to collect the first wash and place that jar back into the freezer.
Loosely attach a coffee filter to top of a second jar with a rubber band so that it can sag in a bit. Remove the jar from the freezer and pour the contents into the jar with the filter. If the liquid has not been left out of the freezer for more than a few moments, any remaining water will be removed by the filter in the form of ice crystals.
Remove the filter and put a lid on the jar. This is your extract! Now this mixture can be kept as-is and used as a tincture or further refined by evaporating off the alcohol. This leaves a very high-quality extract that can be both dabbed as well as eaten.
If you plan on doing this often or in large quantities, look into the available methods of alcohol recovery in order to keep your price down.
You can easily make a quick cannabis tincture like this one with this by simply evaporating off some of the alcohol until your desired potency is reached.
How did your extraction turn out? Let us know in the comments below!