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Getting Up Close and Personal with Short Path Distillation of Cannabinoids

-        Understanding how short path distillation works and answering commonly asked questions about cannabinoid extractions.

When the cannabis industry was first outlawed in the United States, the industry grew full of secrecy. Of course, the black market was the only way to get cannabis for decades thereafter. As a result, growing techniques, extraction methods, and operational practices were largely kept in the dark. Thankfully, the tides are changing.

Canada has legalized cannabis. Every state on America’s west coast and a spattering of others—even in the Midwest—have legalized recreational cannabis. As the industry opens up to the mainstream and its acceptance is slowly codified into society, industry secrets and techniques are finally being elucidated.

As we learn more about cannabis from a variety of sources, we’re collectively able to improve the cannabis industry. The sharing of growing secrets, curing techniques, and specialized extraction methods has led to the exponential growth in the variety of cannabis products available.

Some of those products are made using specialized lab equipment and a solid understanding of chemistry. That’s where we find the uniquely pure cannabinoid products produced through short path distillation.

What is Short Path Distillation?

In its easiest terms: short path distillation is the separation and collection of cannabinoids. Getting from point A to point B is a little more difficult than that explanation, however.

This is a highly specialized form of cannabis extraction that is distinct from solvent-based extractions. Such methods of extraction rely on potentially dangerous compounds such as butane, ethanol, and supercritical CO2. Short path distillation needs no solvents to create cannabis extractions.

People make extractions because they don’t want to consume every compound the plant makes. For example:

  • Waxes
  • Lipids
  • Chlorophyll
  • Bad flavors
  • And more

Another thing that makes short path distillation so unique is that it automatically separates compounds through the distillation process and collects them in nearly pure concentrations. Not only can the extraction process create distillate waxes that are almost pure cannabinoids, but they can also isolate terpenes.

As a result, pharmaceutical companies are starting to create personalized cannabis medicines. By creating unique blends of cannabinoids and terpenes, it might be possible to target certain ailments and maximize drug efficacy.

Perhaps even more important than the isolation of compounds like THC and the major terpenes is that secondary isolates can also be produced. That means researchers and industry leaders can experiment with a more diverse range of molecules. In the end, that means even greater diversification in the products on the market.

What Equipment is Used During Short Path Distillation of Cannabis?

If you’re trying to set up your own short path distillation kit, here’s a quick guide to reference.

For as complicated and esoteric as the process is, there are some short path distillation kits that can fit on your kitchen counter. That means that the need for a massive amount of space isn’t necessary. However, that doesn’t mean you’re going to have a small bill when setting up your short path distillation kit.

In fact, an industrial short path distillation kit is going to tip the scales mightily. However, whether you’re purchasing a full-scale industrial laboratory or a DIY kit for production as a caregiver. Here are some pieces of equipment that you’re definitely going to need.

  • Magnetic stirring heating mantle
  • Digital stir controller
  • Collection flasks
  • Boiling flasks
  • Short path distillation heads
  • Cold traps
  • Condenser kits
  • Keck clips
  • Three finger clips
  • Hollow glass plugs
  • Stand and lab jacks
  • And more

It’s easy to see why even the smallest short path distillation lab could run a fortune just to build. That’s why there are some companies that have pre-constructed short path distillation kits that they’ll install themselves. The most reputable of these companies will even show their customers how to use them properly. There is no one way to build a short path distillation kit, so training is usually required.

How Do You Use a Short Path Distillation Kit?

When looking at a short path distillation kit for the first time, one might expect a lightning bolt to strike out while you delve into ominous laughter. They really do look like kits for a mad genius. However, they aren’t as intimidating as they appear. Once you get a feel for a short path distillation kit, it’s more like riding a bicycle.

  1. Warm the heating plate.

Heating to the plate to about 100 degrees Celsius and letting it run for a short while is a good way to prime a short path distillation kit. It helps evaporate any moisture and push out any stale air.

  1. Add the initial product.

Once the kit is warm, it’s time to add the product. Ideally, the kit will be vacuum-sealed to help draw in the material.

  1. Slowly increase the heat.

As the heat slowly increase, compounds will evaporate off at different temperatures.

  1. Capture.

As the compounds separate through their different evaporation points, they can be collected in various collection flasks.

  1. Repeat.

Once the concentrate has been fully collected, some may want to run the process again simply to ensure that any contaminants are removed to create the purest distillate wax.

What Is Distillate Wax?

Distillate wax is perhaps the most sought-after cannabis product on the market. Since they’re created without solvents, they’re often touted as some of the healthiest extracts. However, the isolates are often odorless and tasteless. Depending on who you are, that’s either a pro or a con.

Overall, people agree that it’s probably the best way to consume cannabis. In fact, distillate wax is nicknamed, ‘The Pure.’ It got its name for good reason, as some distillate waxes have shown 100% cannabinoid profiles. For those wanting the health benefits in a targeted way, distillate wax is likely the best option.

Distillate wax not only pleases health-conscious cannabis consumers, but it’s also a treat to those who appreciate cannabis aesthetics. The final product is often a clear, crystal wax in different shades of green and gold. It’s like a gooey ruby, and it’s a product that was almost worth its weight in gold before plummeting wholesale flower prices tanked the high ticket.

If you have more questions about short path distillation, please contact us today!