Short Path Distillation

Written by Heather Ritchie

One of the greatest things about the cannabis industry is that cannabis science is always evolving and there are always new and creative products available in the cannabis marketplace. Distillates are becoming more popular and producing phenomenal purity levels.

Distillation has been around for centuries since Roman Egypt and ancient India first began distilling water and liquor. Now hundreds of years later, the process has been modified to become a crucial part of the development of cannabis concentrates.

Distillates have an advantage as far as medical cannabis applications too because of the process’s substantial reduction of purities in the final product. The process is essentially refining cannabis material that’s already been extracted by splitting and concentrating three factions:the lighter volatiles, non-volatiles, and cannabinoids.

Distillates are helping cannabis-infused products because previously the process for creating them was complicated. Each process involved weighing, processing, and packing each concentrate individually. Since the process was manual, that meant no two edibles were alike. Someone could purchase an edible from the same bakery numerous times, and each time it would taste differently because there was no guarantee of consistency.

Benefits of Short Path Distillation Processes

While consumers focus on flavor and the cannabis “experience”,producers find advantages in the Short Path Distillation Process and the Short Path Wiped Film Process. One advantage of this method is the continuous feed part of the process which is excellent for producing large amounts of concentrate for extended amounts of time with better consistency. Typical extraction processes utilize heated beakers, while continuous feed accommodates a larger degree of scalability in production. Batch mode stills really don’t have this option.

Also, since short path distillation uses heat and differences in a respective cannabinoid’s boiling point to selectivity volatize, and subsequently condense that individual cannabinoid in a collection flask, THC and CBD fractions can be isolated. Repetition of this process enables highly pure concentrates, devoid of residual solvents, and other contaminants.

These systems are also compactly designed,so they are ideal for operations that have sizeable quantities of various chemovars to extract. They are also mostly automated and simple to use.

Short Path Distillation

This process uses a high force vacuum to distill cannabis oil (or other products) at a low temperature (important considering cannabinoids have a high boiling point), at a much faster rate.” It removes all other extraneous compounds besides the molecule of interest. This technique is becoming the preferred extraction process for edibles since it’s a method that distills at a lower temperature making sure that the extract isn’t subjected to heat for an extended time. The result is a final product that has a much longer shelf life.

Using this technique provides a cannabinoid potency of up to 99 percent. This automated and sophisticated process makes consistent infused cannabis products that don’t overpower the flavor and taste of the edibles.

Short path distillation uses a feeding vessel to send the material to be extracted to a heated flask. A vacuum assists by “drawing the vapors up into the fractionating tube.”Next, the contents contact the condensing tube. From there, the fractions divide into separate paths. Each fraction’s weight is the determining factor for the collection flask. For further refinement, the extracted material can run through the process several times.

The Short Path Wiped Film Process

This is essentially the same as the short path process except there is a wiper blade that rotates inside the evaporation vessel that disperses the extracted material all over the walls of the vessel. The material spends a brief period on the wall. A shorter time frame limits degradation and heat exposure to the extract material.

Within the evaporation container, there’s an internal condenser. The various pieces of the extracted material are separated and concentrated here.It’s the condenser’s close proximity to the evaporation vessel wall that creates a shorter path through the process for the extraction material and thus illustrates why it’s called the short path distillation process. While the wiper distributes the material downwards through the evaporation container, it evaporates towards the condenser where it converts back to a liquid. The liquid that collects at the bottom is the distillate.

The heavier material that can’t evaporate like wax fractions, chlorophyll, salts, and sugars travels through the wiper blades down into a separate vessel. Another chilled evaporator catches the terpenes in a separate flask.

In this billion-dollar industry, scalable systems for expanded, mass production will play a pivotal role. The owner of Elite Cannabis Enterprises and Elite Botanicals, David Bonvillain said in an interview, “Distillates and isolates represent the future of ancillary cannabis products (edibles, vapes, oils) and broader acceptance and infusion into everyday life.”

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Heather Ritchie

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