CO₂ Extraction Basics

CO₂ extracted cannabis oil is mainly found in vape cartridges, such as our Terrapenns and Terrapods. Knowledge is power, so today we aim to answer your questions about CO₂ oil. Throughout this blog you will find certain words bolded. These links take you to our blog, “CO₂ Extraction Vocabulary” if you’d like to learn more!

What is CO₂ and CO₂ oil?

CO₂ is Carbon Dioxide – what plants breathe and humans exhale. Generally found as a gas, it can be used as a solvent to extract cannabis in its subcritical or supercritical states. CO₂ oil refers to any cannabis concentrate made using CO₂ as a solvent. The CO₂ extraction process typically involves the use of subcritical and/or supercritical fluids, which vary in pressure and temperature.

Why use CO₂?

There are a myriad of reasons that companies choose CO₂ as a solvent for extraction. The first is that it occurs naturally, and contains no chemical residue. This makes CO₂ a preferred method for those who prefer the cleanest available product. While BHO extraction often leaves a tiny amount of residual solvent measured in parts per million (PPM), CO₂ disappears into the air leaving absolutely no residue. CO₂ is also unique in that its solubility changes with pressure and temperature, making the end product highly customizable. This allows it to be used in different states to pull cannabinoids such as THC(a), CBD(a), and CBG(a) – plus a wide variety of terpenes. CO₂ extraction is most commonly used to extract crude oil to make the distillate used in vapes, but is occasionally used to create wax, crumble, shatter or sap! CO₂ extraction is also a popular choice for edibles, as the resulting purified distillate is decarboxylated and doesn’t have to be heated to be active.

Is CO₂ oil different from distillate?

Consumers often use the words CO₂ oil and distillate interchangeably, but they refer to totally different products and processes. Distillate can be made from CO₂ oil, BHO and most other extracts, and is the process of further refining extracted cannabis oil through fractional distillation. Distillate is created when a concentrate manufacturer wants a product to reach its highest THC concentration. While a normal range of THC found in CO₂ oil is between 70-85%, distillation can elevate the potency in oil to nearly 100%. Unfortunately, the process involved in increasing concentration of THC removes terpenes and flavonoids. The end result is much less flavorful, and the high tends to be very similar regardless of the strain used in extraction. Some manufacturers who make distillate for vaping will reintroduce a small amount of terpenes after distillation to improve effect and flavor. Distillate is often used to make edibles and drinks, as it is decarboxylated, and virtually flavorless.