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Cannabis Processing

Industrial cannabis processing represents a transformative and rapidly evolving sector within the broader cannabis industry. As more regions legalize cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes, the need for efficient and standardized methods of processing cannabis plants has become paramount.

The cannabis processing industry has been silent about processing methods for years. Until recently, manufacturers selling equipment for cannabis processing didn’t clearly understand the purpose of their process within the industry. A well-thought-out cannabis process is more than just extraction, mainly overlapping with cultivation on the front-end and product development on the backend, which is also essential.

Companies in this industry process cannabis and hemp, a variety of cannabis Sativa plant species, from cultivators into finished products. This could include concentrates, oils, and various consumer-packaged goods. Industrial processors can play a crucial role in moving cannabis and hemp products to market from edibles to pharmaceuticals. They can also play a vital role in nurturing the horizontal integration necessary for the cannabis industry to evolve.

Milling the cannabis plant is the final stage of extracting cannabis oils. Milling of the cannabis is usually done in the drying room. The milling process breaks the cannabis into small pieces of a uniform size, making it ready for extraction.

The production size mills allow for high throughput, aided by the inline inlet and outlet design, meaning that operators can quickly and continuously feed large amounts of plant material through the machine with little to no resistance. Choosing the correct screen type and hole aperture is crucial to achieving the required throughput and final particle size. The throughput of the mill or grinder is also essential, and it is dependent on many factors such as the moisture content, density, resin content, and the desired output size.

Benefits of milling

  • Increased output of downstream processes
  • Precise particle size distribution
  • High throughput and increased efficiencies
  • Improved quality of final product

Drying is the primary step of the post-harvest process. Harvested cannabis must be dried immediately to avoid spoilage. Most moisture should be removed within the first three days, then slowed to prevent drying out. The product should be kept in a dark room with air circulation, at a temperature range of 60-70°F (15 – 21°C). The initial drying period can take anywhere from 5 days to a little over two weeks, depending on the conditions in your space and the quality of your bud.

Why is drying cannabis important?

Freshly picked cannabis that is not dried or cured carries a greater risk of incurring mold, mildew, or rot. Storing cannabis products that have not been correctly preserved or packaged in areas with high humidity levels will further accelerate the degradation process.

The most common way to determine if the drying process is complete is to test the brittleness of the smallest branches. If the small branches snap when bending, and the buds are slightly crisp on the outside, the plants are ready for curing.

Industrial cannabis extraction can be described as converting target molecules in cannabis raw material to a usable form.

Which molecules those are, depends on the goals of the final product. This ranges from an extract containing only a pure, isolated cannabinoid like CBD to an extract containing more than 100 cannabinoids and terpenes in a particular ratio.

Butane, water, CO2, and ethanol are standard methods of cannabis extraction. All of these solvents allow for separating cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. Each extraction method has its benefit, but the goal of each is to offer a highly potent end product.

During the cannabis oil extraction process, biomass is placed inside an extraction vessel with a solvent (Ethanol or CO2) to filter out the soluble components. This process precedes the separation and filtration process.

Cannabis extraction allows for

  • Higher cannabinoid purity
  • Stronger and longer-lasting concentrates
  • Accurate dosing

What are the most common extraction methods?

  • Butane honey oil extraction
  • Supercritical CO2 oil extraction
  • Ethanol extract
  • Water extraction
  • Isopropyl oil extraction

Before any cannabis concentrate, weed butter, CBD oil, or THC tincture can be produced; first, it must be extracted.

This is the job of cannabis extraction equipment, the machines that remove the coveted cannabis compounds from the plant’s matrix.

 Industrial cannabis extraction has been used as a broad term for what can best be described as cannabis processing.

A well-thought-out cannabis process goes far beyond just extraction, mainly overlapping with cultivation on the front-end and product development on the backend.

Decarboxylation is a method that applies heat to cannabis plant material over time to create a reaction. Raw cannabinoids have a carboxyl ring or group present in their molecular structure: a carbon atom bonded to an oxygen atom and a hydroxyl group. Heating removes the carbon atom from the chain, and as a result, carbon dioxide is released.

Generally, decarboxylation before extraction is preferred because the process removes moisture which speeds the extraction process. The result is a more efficient extraction with higher yields.

What are the benefits of raw cannabinoids (no decarboxylation)

While these heated molecules are favored in most cases, those looking for specific uses may wish to seek out the natural or ‘raw’ forms of these cannabinoids. Some CBD companies offer raw products which are created by cold-pressing hemp. These products are often combined with activated hemp extracts. One example is a blended CBD + CBDA combination.

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Articles about Cannabis Processing

Experts for Cannabis Processing

As the Sales Manager at Foeth, Michel Terlouw possesses an enthusiasm for international trade and excels in identifying the perfect match for every customer. In a company like Foeth, individuals with a solid technical background are truly indispensable. Clients from across the globe visit to explore our extensive inventory of pre-owned machines, and it’s essential to collaborate closely with each customer to determine which machine best suits their intended application. Michel is impassioned by the collaborative process of discovering the ideal machine alongside the customer because it aligns with our mission. The pursuit of finding the perfect solution is not only gratifying but also contributes to advancing sustainability within the industry.
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Robert brings over 25 years of experience for bulk material handling and material processing equipment to Material Transfer. At MTS, he is responsible to fostering new business opportunities while nurturing account relationships. His depth of experience and industry knowledge allows our Team to meet the growing needs of our customers as we continue to provide the highest quality systems to the marketplace.
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