3-minute Quick Wash Ethanol Extraction (QWET)
Ethanol is an excellent solvent for extracting cannabinoids. There are multiple methods of extraction using solvents, here we are going to focus solely on the “short soak” or “quick wash” method using Ethyl Alcohol (Ethanol).
In the traditional long soak process, alcohol (and water) stays in contact with the plant material for up to months at a time. As alcohol is a polar solvent, this technique also extracts water soluble materials like chlorophyll and various plant alkaloids and waxes into your final product.
Using a quick wash involving only brief contact with the solvent, cannabinoids can be separated from the plant material while leaving behind most of the water-soluble materials and keeping them out of your final product. The quick wash method will still extract some impurities, but they can be quickly and easily filtered off.
A quick note on alcohol: The higher proof alcohol that is used, the lower amount of water-soluble materials will be pulled into your product. Everclear, a 190-proof grain alcohol, is 95% alcohol and 5% water. Properly cured and stored cannabis will have between 10-15% water content as well.
That’s already 20% water by weight, so if you use a lower proof alcohol your water content rises dramatically helping absorb more unwanted impurities, making your final product a bit “dirtier” because of the water solubles. If you are making oils by evaporating the alcohol off: the more water also means a longer the evaporation process.
Amazon sells 100% Ethyl Alcohol (Ethanol) (200 Proof) in 2.5 Gallon, 1 Gallon, 32 oz. & 16 oz. bottles if you truly want the best extraction, but be forewarned: using 200 proof alcohol can get a little pricey if you are evaporating it off without recovering.
If you use the good stuff, I highly suggest investing in an alcohol reclamation device like The Source Turbo by ExtractCraft would allow you to reclaim and reuse the alcohol, dramatically reducing costs over time. Alternatively, you could construct a simple vapor distiller with parts from your local chemistry supply store.
Just a heads up – if you put 200 Proof alcohol under your tongue it WILL burn. Dilute it a bit with some distilled water if you are using it as an oral tincture….fair warning.
There are those who advocate processing these 2 washes separately to achieve products with 2 different effects. Feel free to explore this method if desired, but here we will be combining them into a single product. The cannabis used in this process will still contain some cannabinoids after the 2 soaks.
Simply dry it out and use it to infuse some coconut oil for topical balms or salves or for cooking purposes. You can also grind the dried herb and put into gelatin capsules to ingest. Waste wan’t, want not!
To perform a QWET extraction, start with fresh decarbed cannabis that has been dried in a slow oven (180-200* F.) until it easily breaks apart with your fingers. There are numerous time/temperature combinations on the internet for decarbing, feel free to chose the method you prefer.
I like to keep the temperatures nice and low for an extended time. In addition to decarbing, the secondary goal of the oven is to purge as much water as possible from your material.
There is no need to grind your material into a powder, that will just make filtering 1000 times harder. Simply break up your buds a bit by hand. If using shake or trim, just use it as is. Place the cannabis into a clean dry mason jar and put it into the freezer along with the alcohol you will be using until they both reach zero degrees (overnight will be sufficient).
The freezing process will help to tie up any additional water as ice which can be filtered off.
Once the correct temperature has been achieved, working quickly pour alcohol into the jar of cannabis until covered by an inch or so. Screw on the lid and gently swirl for a few seconds. Place both back into the freezer immediately. For the next 3 minutes, gently swirl the jar of cannabis once a minute, keeping in the freezer until complete.
After 3 minutes, remove the lid and pour the cannabis / alcohol mixture through a quick draining stainless steel mesh strainer into another jar. Cover the cannabis with more alcohol and place everything back into the freezer. Repeat the previous 3-minute process, straining the alcohol into the same jar you used to collect the first wash and place that jar back into the freezer.
Loosely attach a coffee filter to top of a second jar with a rubber band so that it can sag in a bit. Remove the jar from the freezer and pour the contents into the jar with the filter. If the liquid has not been left out of the freezer for more than a few moments, any remaining water will be removed by the filter in the form of ice crystals.
Remove the filter and put a lid on the jar. This is your extract! Now this mixture can be kept as-is and used as a tincture or further refined by evaporating off the alcohol leaving a very high-quality extract that can be both dabbed as well as eaten. I suggest if you plan on doing this often or in large quantities, look into the available methods of alcohol recovery in order to keep your price down.
You can easily make a cannabis tincture like this one with this by simply evaporating off some of the alcohol until your desired potency is reached.
If you have performed this QWET extraction, let us know how it turned out in the comments below!