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How to Extract Cannabis Oils from Trim | extraktLAB
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How to Extract Cannabis Oils from Trim

Extract Oils

How to Extract Cannabis Oils from Trim

What Is Cannabis Trim?

Trim refers to the trichome-rich outer leaves that encompass the cannabis flower (or “bud”). The overall cannabinoid content of these leaves can range from 10-15%, and high-grade trim usually includes small flowers that cannot be sold elsewhere.

Even though many medical purveyors in oils-only states use both flower and trim as a source for the extract oils, some extractors use trim exclusively as the source material for their extractions.

Trim can be obtained from a variety of producers, which means that the range of quality will also vary greatly. In our experience, there is no difference in quality between trim from cannabis plants grown indoors versus outdoors. However, some less scrupulous purveyors sell their fan leaves and stems as cannabis trim.

This plant material is not trim. It is all the waste material from a grow, and it often contains high concentrations of pesticides and/or herbicides. Exercise caution when purchasing trim; it costs more to produce a gram of botanical extract from poor-quality than from high-quality cannabis cuttings.

The Four Grades of Cannabis Trim

We generally classify trim into four grades based on a standard set of criteria, such as resin, trichome density, and several other factors used to determine its quality. We will discuss these criteria in more detail below.

Grade 1 Trim for Extract Oil

High-quality cannabis trim suitable for oil extraction

  • Origin: Small leaves that are attached to the flower and buds that are too small to sell
  • Resin Content: 15%
  • Nug Content: 10%
  • Cannabinoid content: High
  • Trichomes: High density
  • Sticks: None
  • Fan Leaf: None
  • Typical value: High
  • Typical extract oil output: High
  • Debris: Free from foreign debris
  • Mold and mildew: Visually free from mold and mildew

Grade 2 Trim for Extract Oil

  • Origin: Small leaves that are attached to the flower
  • Resin content: 10-12%
  • Nug content: 1-3%
  • Cannabinoid content: High
  • Trichomes: Medium density
  • Sticks: None
  • Fan Leaf: None
  • Typical value: High to medium
  • Typical extract oil output: High to medium
  • Debris: Free from foreign debris
  • Mold and Mildew: Visually free from mold and mildew

Grade 3 Trim for Extract Oil

  • Origin: Small leaves that are attached to the flower that have greatly reduced trichome content.
  • Resin Content: 5-10%
  • Nug content: 1-3%
  • Cannabinoid content: low
  • Trichomes: Low density
  • Sticks: None
  • Fan Leaf: None
  • Typical value: High to medium
  • Typical extract oil output: High to medium
  • Debris: Free from foreign debris
  • Mold and mildew:  Visually free from mold and mildew

Grade 4 Trim for Extract Oil

Low-grade cannabis trim that is not suited for oil extraction

  • Origin: Fan leaves and branches
  • Highly Resinous: 1-5%
  • Nug content: 1%
  • Trichomes: Low to no density
  • Sticks: Yes
  • Fan Leaf: Yes
  • Typical value: little to no value
  • Typical extract oil output: Low
  • Debris: Typically will have refuse
  • Mold and mildew:  Visually free from mold and mildew

Buyers Beware When Purchasing Trim for Extract Oils

There are many unscrupulous sellers of trim on the market because there are many uneducated buyers on the market. A popular way to downgrade the extract oil content from Grade 1 and 2 trim to Grade 3 is to tumble the trim with dry ice to knock the trichomes off of the plant.

Notice that the resin content can be high, but the cannabinoid content is low. This is why measuring output by weight only is fraught with potential misjudgments on the quality of the extract. The degraded material looks like high-quality cannabis trim, but is, in reality, poor-quality trim.

Grade 4 material is nearly worthless, as the cost to extract the material can be greater than the cost of the material itself. In general, materials with less than 5% resin content should not be considered for oil extraction.

Sampling Trim for Extract Oil

Sampling is an important part of the grading exercise. For example, when a truckload of trim is purchased, Grade 1 and 2 is presented to the seller who typically makes the decision on whether the trim is “good” or “poor” quality by rubbing the material on his fingers to gauge the resin content. This method of determining good vs. poor is not objective and is very prone to mis-grading.

However, the point is not necessarily the method here. The question is, “Is the sample representative of the truckload?” The answer to that question is where the science of statistics enters.

First you must ask, “Is the sample a random sample?” Second, you must know, how many times you must sample the truckload in order to be certain within a degree of error that the sample is representative of the truckload. Third, you must have an objective analytical tool with an established accept/reject criteria on which to accept or reject the samples.

If you are just rubbing the material between your fingers to determine the grade, you have already lost and you will lose money. The method involves squeezing and rolling the material in between your fingers. Then the plant material is let go and some resin remains on your fingers.

Measuring for Potency, Identity, and Pesticides

Many, extractors believe that the only time that an extract needs to be measured is when the product is shipped or maybe not even at all. A more refined approach includes measuring pesticides, potency, concentration, and identity before the trim is purchased.

This is accomplished with modern-day techniques using high-performance liquid chromatography-ultraviolet (HPLC-UV), mass spectrometry (MS), and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The finger method is a good first approximation, but it can lead to erroneous results, even with an experienced buyer.

For example, some cultivars have a much higher resin content than others. And it is known that cannabinoid content varies with variety. Thus, you could be purchasing a high wax content material that would “finger” well but have very low cannabinoid content.

How to Extract Oil from Cannabis Trim

There are several different methods you can use to extract oil from cannabis trim. Each method varies in its simplicity, scalability, and purity of output. Some of the most common extraction methods include:

  • Butane extraction
  • Olive oil extraction
  • Ethanol extraction
  • Supercritical CO2 extraction

Butane Extraction

One popular way to extract oil from cannabis trim is by using a hydrocarbon solvent such as butane. Butane is nonpolar, so it is useful for extracting terpenes and cannabinoids from solution without unwanted plant material such as chlorophyll.

To avoid impurities, only high-quality commercial butane must be used for extraction. It is also necessary to purge the extract before consumption to ensure that all residual solvent has been removed. A major downfall of butane is that it is highly combustible; even a minor mistake during the extraction process could prove disastrous.

Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol extraction is another common botanical extraction method to consider for your cannabis trim. Ethanol is designated GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) by the US Food and Drug Administration, and it is highly effective at separating cannabinoids and terpenes from plant material. Like butane, though, ethanol is highly flammable – so great care must be taken when extracting cannabis oil with this method.

Ethanol is a polar solvent, so it also extracts unwanted plant material such as chlorophyll, waxes, and fats. When you want to remove the plant waxes and lipids from solution, winterization is a critical step in the process. Our popular DrainDroyd system provides a fast, simple solution for your extract filtration needs. The DrainDroyd allows you to filter and dewax up to five liters of cannabis oil in only five minutes.

Supercritical CO2 Extraction

Using a supercritical CO2 extractor is the safest way to extract high-quality cannabis oil from trim at scale. CO2 extraction removes the high risk of flammability introduced by methods using volatile organic compounds such as ethanol.

The process of extracting oil from cannabis biomass involves pressurizing CO2 until it turns into a liquid which is pumped through your plant matter. To separate the extracted compounds, the CO2 is converted back into a gas, leaving only the desired material behind.

extraktLAB specializes in CO2 extraction equipment. Our high throughput Extrakt-1 machines can produce 600 to 1,200 grams of extract per hour. We offer a variety of options suited to fit your desired level of output. You can view more information by visiting our extraktLAB Plant Oil Extractors page. For more information about any of our products, submit a form or give our sales team a call at 651-600-0036.