What Is CO2 Extraction and Why Is It Better Than Other Methods?

In a CO2 extraction, you’re using carbon dioxide gas as the chemical solvent in a solvent-based extraction.

Written by
The Muncheez Team
Published on
January 19, 2022
Read time
Weed 101

Cannabis concentrates are considered to be the cream de la cream of cannabis products since they offer greater dosage control and a refined flavor profile. But not all concentrates are created equal. Here at Muncheez, we’ve refined our CO2 extraction approach. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of that process along with why we think CO2 extracts are better than others.

Concentrate Primer: Solvent-Based vs. Solventless Extracts

To make concentrates, THC must be separated from the plant material. Through the process of extraction, this can be accomplished. However, extraction can be conducted in two different ways: with a solvent and without a solvent. Think of solvent-based and solventless as umbrella categories for a few different sub-methods that yield different types of concentrates.

In a solvent-based extraction, plant materials are blasted with chemical solvents to strip away plant materials from cannabinoids and terpenes. Some solvents are ethanol or alcohol, propane, butane, hexane, and carbon dioxide (CO2). At the end of a solvent-based extraction, the chemical solvents are evaporated out. This typically leaves behind a few trace amounts of the solvent, though. Solvent-based extracts include shatter, wax, hash oil, live resin, sauce, and distillate.

In a solventless extraction, plant materials go through a series of mechanical techniques as well as heat and pressure to concentrate the cannabinoids and terpenes. They do not require the use of chemicals to separate the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant materials, though they do require a lot more work to make than solvent-based extracts. Solventless extracts include kief, bubble or ice hash, dry sift, and rosin.  

What is a CO2 extraction?

In a CO2 extraction, you’re using carbon dioxide gas as the chemical solvent in a solvent-based extraction. An extractor will separate cannabinoids and terpenes from plant materials by placing carbon dioxide under extreme heat and pressure until it reaches a supercritical state. Supercritical CO2 is carbon dioxide that takes on the properties of both a gas and a liquid. It’s the safest solvent-based extraction method since it is noncombustible and already present in the air we breathe. Outside of cannabis extracts, CO2 extraction is used to decaffeinate coffee and extract pharmaceuticals. At the end of the process, the concentrate is left to purge, and the carbon dioxide gas evaporates out of the final product.

Where to find CO2 extracts

CO2 extracts can be found at most dispensaries in vape cartridges, syringes, topicals, and tinctures. However, the majority of edibles on today’s dispensary shelf are made with distillate. Distillate is made by taking a CO2 extraction a step further and separating everything except cannabinoids, which helps to remove the hashy flavor and promote a cleaner edible high.

Why CO2 is better than other solvent-based extracts

Simply put, CO2 extracts are cleaner than other solvent-based extracts. With CO2, the solvent is a natural gas that is found in the atmosphere and released every time we breathe. More importantly, unlike shatter or wax made with butane or hexane gasses, it doesn’t leave behind residual solvents that can make you sick. Further, the CO2 used in the extraction isn’t combustible and makes for a safer final product.


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