Top 3 Cannabis Extraction Methods

cannabis extraction methods

Cannabis extraction removes active ingredients cannabinoid and terpene from the cannabis plant, often using a solvent. Solvent-based extraction dissolves unwanted compounds to yield a more refined and potent form of cannabis for edibles, beverages, topicals, or direct consumption. As the cannabis industry continues to explode, growers are continually evaluating which solvents and extraction methods produce the best results.

In this article, we’ll cover the following top three solvent-based cannabis extraction methods in 2021, highlighting the benefits and considerations for each one:

  1. Supercritical CO2
  2. Hydrocarbon
  3. Ethanol

Continue reading to learn more about these solvent-based extraction methods and how you can use them to enhance your operation.

Supercritical CO2

According to Marijuana Times, experts predict that 2021 will be the year that novel CO2 cannabis extraction methods will gain traction as equipment and technology continues to improve. Borrowing a page from extraction processes in other industries, such as coffee and dry cleaning, cannabis growers increasingly use supercritical CO2 extraction. This method harnesses the unique properties of carbon dioxide, producing a “supercritical” fluid that behaves like a gas and a liquid simultaneously, allowing it to pass through liquids like a gas while retaining the properties of a liquid.

The supercritical CO2 extraction method uses a closed-loop system, where CO2 is recaptured and recycled after each pass, preventing CO2 from escaping into the environment for a green-friendly cannabis extraction technique. Without the need to “purge” CO2 to remove residual solvent, this method is also high on the safety scale.


  • Clean and non-toxic
  • Non-flammable for safety
  • Economical method


  • Shown to lack chemical diversity in the end concentrate
  • May capture waxes and lipids along with cannabinoids
  • Additional processing may be required to clarify the undesirable cloudy mixture


Hydrocarbon is a well-known botanical extraction method used to produce petroleum products like butane, propane, and hexane. With non-polar hydrocarbon molecules, this top cannabis extraction method effectively dissolves fat-soluble and non-polar cannabinoids and terpenes. However, some hydrocarbon solvents like benzene are unsafe for humans and can be dangerous to handle, giving safer and less expensive hydrocarbons like butane and propane an edge.

Early industry professionals may remember butane extraction as the inspiration for the demand for butane hash oil (BHO). While this cannabis extraction method used to be crude, things have changed. In 2021, hydrocarbon extraction involves a closed-loop system, helping to recapture most of the solvent during the concentration process.


  • Excellent at extracting cannabinoids and atomic molecules in cannabis
  • Can also be used to extract resin from fresh, flash-frozen flowers
  • Cold-temperature extraction process helps prevent heat-related denaturing


  • Can be expensive
  • Highly flammable, posing a safety concern
  • Least sustainable of the cannabis extraction methods, contributing to human-made greenhouse gasses


Ethanol is another top cannabis extraction method taking hold in 2021 because it has the unique ability to dissolve in water and dissolve fats and oils, thanks to its polar and non-polar regions. Because ethanol is at room temperature, high-pressure extraction isn’t necessary. This solvent is often the top choice for large-scale cannabis operations because it’s safe and efficient, allowing growers to extract large quantities quickly.


  • Fast extraction time
  • Capable of handling large quantities
  • Clean and relatively safe
  • Processes at cold temperatures to prevent heat-caused cannabinoid and terpene degradation


  • Extracts compounds other than cannabinoids and terpenes, including chlorophyll
  • Must be chilled to successfully separate cannabinoids without extracting water-soluble molecules
  • May need to be “purged” from the final product, depending on the technology

In 2021, there are many cannabis extraction methods to consider, each with unique benefits and considerations. No matter which technique you choose, head to our blog to learn everything you need to know about finding the best chiller for cannabis extraction and other extraction equipment you may need.

To learn more about our cannabis chillers, reach out for personalized advice from our experienced team. Our robust selections of custom-ready industrial-grade systems are built to last, giving you peace of mind for your end product. We also offer short lead times and exceptional after-the-sale support to demonstrate our commitment to your success.