QWISO Extraction with Isopropyl

Quick Wash Isopropyl, also know as QWISO is one of the techniques the skunk pharm uses to extract oil from mixed leaf for topicals and sometimes buds or trim for vaporization.   Here is our techniques for producing a pristine oleoresin extraction.

We also decarboxylate our oil for topicals and based on the 122C/252F curve shown in the attached graph, courtesy of Jump.

Note that the boiling point of the terpene ß-caryophyllene is 119C/246.2F, so it is boiled off at that temperature, and its anti-inflammatory, cytoprotective (gastric mucosa), and anti-malarial properties are diminished or lost.

The first question is why use a quick wash technique to extract the resins, instead of long soaks to extract as much resin as possible, or just reflux boiling the material in alcohol to get the greatest amount of extracted material?

The answer to that is that because alcohol is a highly polar solvent that is soluble in water, the latter two techniques also extract the water solubles like chlorophyll and plant alkaloids, as well as the plant waxes and vegetable oil.

Even quick wash does to a lesser degree, but the added steps that we include here minimize pickup even further and we take additional steps to remove the impurities that we do pick up, so that they are not left behind on the skin.

The first wash will usually extract 75 to 80%, leaving the balance for the second. If you use a hand microscope, you can easily see when the trichome heads are gone and the stalks look like wet fur.

A cured material QWISO absolute made from prime bud, is one of the most aromatic and tasty of the extraction and consistently gets high raves from the volunteer test panels, as well as the patients and students when vaporized. Both from an efficacy, as well as a flavor standpoint.

This process is for mixed leaf material however, which includes fan leaves, so it usually isn’t all that tasty.

The first step in the process is to get as much water as possible out of the material. Typically material for smoking has been cured to about 15% water content. 15% is a lot of water and the alcohol already has 1% in it, so unless we reduce the water content even further, we will be extracting a lot of water solubles.

We dry our cured material even further by spreading it on a cookie sheet and baking it in a 200F oven until just frangible when rolled between the finger and thumb.

At this point, we have a choice of running the leaf whole, or reducing it in size to improve packing.  Leaving it whole will produce a more pristine extraction, with the least amount of chlorophyll pickup, and we do it both ways.

When we make QWISO for vaporizing, or for a show and tell beauty contest, we always leave the leaves whole.

When reducing it in size, while it is still warm from the oven, we force the material through a pasta strainer.

In both cases, we seal the material in a jar while still warm and place in the freezer to tie up any remaining water as ice. We also put the 99% Isopropyl alcohol in the freezer.

When they have both stabilized at about -32C/0F, we pour the alcohol into the jar of plant material, so that it is at least an inch above the material, and shake it gently for 20 seconds.

At the end of 20 seconds, we dump it through a wire strainer to drain quickly. I use a pasta strainer to catch the bulk of the material, followed by a fine mesh French Chinoise. This allows the material and the alcohol to separate fast.

We set the material aside to dry and refreeze for a second extraction.

Next we filter the alcohol, using either vacuum and a #1 lab filter, filter or a simple coffee filter, depending on the quantity we are processing.

After filtration, there are a couple of directions to go, depend on use.  If it is to be used for vaporizing, we may place it a large surface area dish, like a Pyrex pie plate, and just blow air over it.  That reduces it fast, but is not a suitable technique in dusty areas.  That can be improved somewhat by placing cheese cloth over the dish and blowing over the top of that.

When the alcohol is visually gone, place the dish on a 140F heat mat, or float it in a hot water dish, until the smell and taste of the Isopropyl is gone, usually around 30 minutes to an hour.

For our use in topical, we place the filtered liquid in a bain marie stainless vessel and place that into an oil bath heated to 121C/250F.

I throw four jar lids in the bottom of my electric fondue pot to suspend the container up off the bottom, to eliminate hot spots and never trust the numbers on the fondue pot dial. Instead, I use a good a mercury lab, or a digital thermometer to set the dials. Good temperature control is key to the process.

That means the device that we use to control the oil temperature must have a narrow dead band, so that the temperature control is stable.

We paid about $60 for a Quisinart fondue pot that was designed to heat sensitive sauces like chocolate and has excellent control throughout its temperature range. We scored a second one for $15 at Goodwill, so do shop about.

There are a couple of Revels in our group that are slightly larger and work well, plus cost only about $30, though they have a slightly larger dead band.

Some fry cookers have sensitive enough controls, but many deep fryers designed to primarily run at 375F, lack control sensitivity and have large dead bands at 250F.

We boil off the alcohol until the liquid is reduced to a pool of oil and all but minor bubbles cease rising at the edges and then pour in at least ten volumes of ethanol and wash out the whole pot by swirling it and washing off any resin stuck to the sides.

Using a funnel, we pour that liquid into a jar or bottle, seal it, and place that in the freezer. After about 48 hours at -18C/0F, the liquid will lose its clarity and become slightly cloudy, from marginally dissolved inactive ingredients like waxes and lipids flocculating out. There will also be precipitant on the bottom of the container. While this step isn’t totally necessary, it makes a cleaner, more pristine oil.

Next, we carefully decant and filter that liquid one more time, leaving a bell clear extract, that is ready to reduce down a final time.

We pour it into a Pyrex beaker or a stainless bain marie container for return to the oil bath and since we. have much less material, we use a smaller one container to keep film losses low.

When the oil is completely bubble I free, we remove it from the oil bath, wipe it off, and weigh it. As we know the tare weights of our containers, we subtract it from our total weight and add the rest of the required ingredients for the topical into the same container, based on the amount of cannabis oil present.

We then set the container back into the oil bath and stir until thoroughly mixed and then remove it from the container using a glass syringe, so as to not leave a streak of material in the vessel.

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204 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Skeeter on February 13, 2015 at 10:02 AM

    Hello, SkunkPharms. I disagree with your posted boiling point of beta-caryophyllene. It is, unfortunately, wrong. After some research and some time and money spent. I have come to the conclusion that the actual boiling point for beta-caryophyllene is 286 degrees Celsius. A total of 514 degrees Fahrenheit. A far, far cry from your findings. Keep that in mind, folks! Research things that you read. Do more research after finding out a fact. Is this fact true? Go find out for yourself. Either way, it is a great article. But that boiling point for the caryophyllene just didn’t make sense to me. As, I have felt the anti-inflammatory effects from qwiso before. Do a bit more research into caryophyllene, guys and gals. It’s a very important bicyclic sesquiterpene for human health and should not be overlooked.


    • Posted by Peter on February 27, 2015 at 9:34 AM

      this wikipedia about beta caryophyllene is pretty cole to what Skunk Pharm wrote…


      However, Im pretty sure that 0F is not the same as -32C.

      0F = -17.7C and -32C is -25.6F

      Im guessing we are shooting for 0F since 25 below zero is pretty cold even for a freezer


      • Posted by Peter on February 27, 2015 at 9:35 AM

        Great article by the way!! i actually use the QWET method but noticed the typo reading this one :) thanks for all the great information!


  2. Posted by doug on February 12, 2015 at 6:57 PM

    Why use iso then ethanol? why not use just the ethanol? does the iso extract more?


  3. Posted by Del Canno on January 31, 2015 at 3:26 PM

    When the oil is bubble free (last step), is there a way to both decarboxylate and “dry” the oil such that it comes out like wax, or will it always remain in an oil-like state?

    I can see where this would make a great oil but I was wondering if it can be transformed into more of a wax.



    • Posted by DanDanger on February 4, 2015 at 6:06 AM

      If the bubbles are gone. And it’s all purged clean. Heat it slightly again. So that it’s all melty. From there, you have to whip it! Whip it good! Use a dabbing tool or something and just stir the living heck out of it. Keep taking it off the heat, cooling it completely in a cold water bath. Heating it up slightly again, and whipping it. Cooling. Heating and whipping. Until it begins to budder up. It may take 30 minutes. It may take 3 hours. But that’s how I does it!!


  4. Posted by nik on December 24, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    Has anyone ever used a silicone bowl/double boiler to purge your qwiso in order to eliminate scraping? Im starting to think I should have asked before I bought one since I haven’t been able to find anyone else using this method


  5. Posted by Ryan Mooney on October 17, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    You say that you evaporate the iso then redissolve the hash in ethanol before refreezing the solution… Why use ethanol rather than just freezing the iso solution… From what i understand ethanol is a slightly more polar (based on Dielectric Constant) solvent than isopropyl alcohol… Plus the added polarity from easily obtained grain alcohol with higher water concentrations than 99% iso…

    I thought you would want a non polar solvent to better filter and separate the wax, lipids from the solution…

    What is the benefit of moving the extracted oil from iso to ethanol… ??


  6. Posted by butters on September 9, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    What advantage do you gain from freezing your solvent? I’ve looked at several QWISO guides and I can’t find anyone who explains why the solvent and not just the plant material should be almost frozen.


    • Posted by Tanner on September 19, 2014 at 11:10 PM

      It seperates the oils from the waxes and when you pour it through the filter the waxes stay behind making it purer


    • Posted by Ryan Mooney on October 26, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      I now freeze the solvent twice… With the initial washes i will freeze the plant matter and the ISO for at least 24hrs… Even 99% ISO will have 1% water that we want frozen during the washes…

      Freezing the ISO/Extraction solution (Yellow color ISO and hash liquid) will remove the remaining waxes and lipids by making them easier to strain out… If you have room in the freezer filter slowly inside the freezer to help the waxes/lipids remain solid as you filter them out…

      Until i see evidence to the contrary i will stick with ISO throughout instead of evaporating the ISO and redissolving the hash into ethanol as suggested here before refreezing…


    • Posted by Blujayz on October 26, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      To answer you directly. Freezing your solvent prior to extraction is to raise the evaporation point of the solvants from what they would be warm. It has two main benefits.

      1) To keep the solvent in liquid form allowing the solvent to make more/ longer contact with the material before it evaporates.

      2) freezing the solvant and the material keep the temps down freezing most of the water and lipids (fats and waxes).

      This gives you a cleaner extract. With a similar effect to winterizing your finished product. However there will still be some lipids and h20 but much less then if you add warm solvent to cold material.

      This is different then wintering your end product.


    • Posted by Tokehead on December 2, 2014 at 4:52 AM

      It is quite simple. The process is called Winterization. It freezes waxes and other water solubles so they can be removed from the oil.


  7. Posted by Ryan Mooney on September 5, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    What are the thc/cbd/cbn extraction contraptions in QWISO compared to BHO or CO2 extraction… ??


    • Sorry i am asking for concentrations of THC/CBD/CBN in the different extraction processes not contraptions… =]


    • Posted by Chunker on November 21, 2014 at 9:04 PM

      Its hard to say, i dont have much experience with analyzing the differences, but I can this. One time a guy I met took some 39% THC 0.6% CBD Kif, and did an ethanol long soak extract that gained 50% yield, and tested at 61% THC 1% CBD. So the THC went up by about 50% and the CBD went up by almost 100%. But there is still some stuff left in the product apparently, or somewhere… or else it would be higher THC percent right? o well, 50% is still boss.
      I Know a different guy who took an approximately 3% premature flower and used an unknown ethanol process to gain a 51% cbd oil. Those are the only things that I know off off the top of my head. I hope that helps.

      I have a feeling that ethanol, especially long soaks (if you dont mind green goop) on super ground up material is prime for absorbing CBD from stuff.


  8. […] Fair call Fx. Properly purged QWISO for consumption. Proper technique can be found here: QWISO Extraction with Isopropyl | Skunk Pharm Research LLC […]


  9. I’m purging now with Pyrex and griddle how hot is too hot and how long should it take depending on amount?


  10. Posted by david on July 28, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    I jave a quick question.. I to the freezing…. Well just finiahed the freezing point…. How do u filter this without the fats and lipids defrosting back into it? Do u keep it cold? Do u not use a coffee filter for this filter process? Im stuck on how to take the fays and lipids out. Im all out of dry ice


  11. Posted by hay on July 14, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    How does the yield of a 20 second Iso wash compare to extracting the same amount of trim/buds with butane? Making bho, the butane is continually shot thru the material until the runoff comes out of the tube clear. So it’s (presumably) stripped as much resin as it’s going to. Being new to qwiso, the 20 seconds needed to prevent picking up polar compounds seems awfully ‘quick’. I would guess that in the attempt to avoid removing chlorophyll alot less resin would be extracted. Have you compared the weights (before winterizing) of qwiso vs bho?

    Also, so many people use e-cigarettes (with/without an attachment for oil). My friend bought one today, tried some good, low-temp-vacuum-purged bho in it, but said he wasn’t impressed w the high. I then found that the temp they operate at is around 250F compared to oil-rig/butane torch around 2000F. So now i’ll fully decarboxylate oils both for oral consumption and for e-cigs. Probably do partial-decarb for oil-rigs, too; if it takes 27 min to decarb @ 252F, even at 2000F it’s got to take more than the 5 seconds of toking to fully decarb?


  12. Posted by hay on July 14, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    I’d like to use the largest container that one person can comfortably hold/swish to put the cannabis in for the extraction. I have a 4-gallon steel cookpot like the one in the photos below this article. If i cover that volume of trim/smalls with Iso, and do that a couple dozen times, i just calculated that’s going to require a hell of a lot of gallons of Iso. So i wondered can i do a 20-second wash in the 4-gallon pot, strain/press off the alcohol, refill the pot with fresh material, and cover that with the alcohol strained off the previous wash?

    1) About how many times could i re-use the same alcohol before it would become too saturated to work?
    2) Would i be losing some of the resin already in the alcohol when i pour the alcohol onto the fresh material (i.e. it get trapped/filtered into the fiber of the fresh material)?
    3) After a 20-sec wash, when the alcohol is poured off, should the trim/buds be pressed or squeezed in a chessecloth to get the most alcohol out of it, or will that squeeze out chlorophyll?


  13. Posted by mario on July 11, 2014 at 9:55 PM

    i gotta ask this is driving me crazy, do you decarb before you swish the material in alcohol?


  14. Posted by Rob on July 9, 2014 at 6:43 AM

    I’ve been experimenting with ISO wash a few times. I usually put my Pyrex dish on a pot of boiling water. A small fan blowing on it and do it in small batches in one run. So I would pour my first batch in to the dish, evaporate it until it doesn’t smell like alcohol. Then pour second batch over first batch and repeat until all my batches are in the dish. I let cool, then scrape it off and on to parchment paper. I heat it up in a pan until it turns golden in Color. Usually a few minutes and then into the freezer. It looks like shatter, it smells great. Now when I use my atomizer, it has a alcohol taste to it. I do get super high but I can’t get past the slight alcohol taste. How do you fully purge all the alcohol? And I have a vacuum aswell. Please help


    • Posted by Nick on July 9, 2014 at 9:26 AM

      You need to let it dry more or spend more time on low heat. Why not try following the very detailed instructions in this article? After you get that right, then try mixing in your own technique/optimizations.


    • Posted by Mike on October 13, 2014 at 8:05 AM

      On a siicone pad on a griddle or similar bring pad bring goo up to 110, whip it, let it slump. Get it back down to 70-80 and it will pile up easily. (Your “whipper” will clean off easier at a lower temp – especially a silicone tiipped tool.) Back up to 110 for the slump and whip., then back down, and etc. Once you are happy (3-4x) then at 70-80, you can shape and flatten it, then back to 110 for the final slump, then back to room temperature and you have a nice looking piece of hash oil – or shatter if you have brewed that. I set the pad on a blue ice pack to get the temp down fast for low stick handling. Stay away from water and water vapor. Use a “laser” thermometer to watch the goo temperature – higher heat improves nothing .


  15. Posted by Jake on June 25, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    Now my question is this. How long after evap should I wait to scrape. Should I wait until everything is completely dry on my dish?

    Also does differnt evap temperatures effect the consistency of the oil? For example shatter vs. honey. And what is the optimal temps for such consistencys.


  16. First off, thanks for these amazing gifts of knowledge!

    I’m completely new to solvent extraction so have been experimenting with small(3g) amounts of AVB and getting reasonable results following your guide.

    “When the alcohol is visually gone, place the dish on a 140F heat mat, or float it in a hot water dish, until the smell and taste of the Isopropyl is gone, usually around 30 minutes to an hour.”

    I’ve been doing the above, but I noticed when the iso is visually gone what is left is mostly dry not oily, I then finish with hot(140F) water heating for 1hour…topping back up with hot water to 140F after 30 mins or so.

    1) I notice elsewhere you say you need to keep the surface molten for it to purge properly but mine is dry…should I be worried?

    2) Also, I’m a bit confused about the temp(140F) because I’m sure I read a comment of yours elsewhere mentioning 130F & 110F …would it be better to keep the temp lower at 110F but purge for longer say 2hrs?

    Thanks for Everything you guys do for us!


    • Posted by cleanz on June 25, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      Almost forgot:

      “I use a French Chinoise strainer, with about a 10mm mesh, which is stout enough that I can press the alcohol out of the material.”

      Is this a typo: 10mm/1cm ..I just measured the mesh hole on my new FCS & it’s only 1mm? …10mm seems huge!


  17. Posted by reaper on June 22, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    So I’ve been making some good shatter lately using ISO. A bit different. I’m using 91 tho. All frozen. Quick washed, metal strainer to coffee filter, to freezer for a few days filtered again. Parchment paper on top griddle at 225 til its done. Shatter everytime.
    one thing tho. Once I do my quick wash I run IPA over the material for a bit to extract more then I ditch the material.
    I dont decarb before hand. I smoke with a rig or lightning rod. Thinking of getting it tested soon.
    I did notice tho today since someone thought it was over and u plugged it they didn’t realize the changed my temp when I told em to plug it back in. I come out the bathroom a couple min later and noticed that it had huve bubbles and the temp was at 400. Luckily only the inside was cooked it the rest had jus barely if at all changed color. I scraped up the almost 4 g now oil. Smoked it and was definatly headcase narcotic.
    I was evaping at 90 then 100 then 110 and all the same but when purging I noticed that unless you purge at atleast 180.7f no vacuum it stays oily. So I figured in no reason not to boil it at 200-225. Shatter everytime. And it decarbs at the purge temps. As for taste idk I do t get crazy tastes I use a mix of strains and sugar leaf or bud or both.
    I was doing this with everclear but at the lower temps. I went back to ISO and just treated it more delicately.
    any opinions?


  18. […] I would go with a qwISO for the first time. It might be easier for a first time. https://skunkpharmresearch.com/qwiso/ Reply With […]


  19. Posted by gascan021 on March 3, 2014 at 2:43 AM

    I did a iso run awhile back, for vaporizing purposes. My product came out golder then most “absolutes” you see around (i live in san jose CA). I did the washes for 20s because i saw that any longer and it goes from gold to green to black. But just a thought, since heat distorts color, kills chlorophyll, lowers THC content and lowers clarity wouldnt it be ideal to not use any heat? or do i have heat and UV rays mixed up?
    I didnt use heat to purge at all (except for Decarb at the end), instead i left the mixture in a pyrex under a fan in a semi perfect environment. The downside was evaporation time and fumes. So i thought, if i were to make a “Fume Hood” box (a box lined with glass along with 2 fans, like a speed evaporation chamber), that essentially is a perfect environment, contains the irritating fumes and increases evaporation speed, would that lead me to not have to use any heat and my final product would be clearer, have higher thc value and better taste? or would my ppms still test high?
    Just wondering if the fume hood would make a sizable difference in my procedure, as i have not seen something like that used before, at least in my internet travels.
    One last thing, is the difference between industrial grade iso worth it over the walmart iso?
    Thanks for the compassion and for actively pushing and setting the high standard that is very much needed right now, keep it up GW!


  20. I did a iso extraction(vaporizing, not topical) awhile ago and it came out golder then i see butane extractions come out.
    I did the quick wash at around 20sec, because i saw distinct color change if keep the iso in the plant material longer.
    I just had a quick thought, if heat decreases thc content wouldnt it be advisable to not use any heat?
    When you stated that blowing air on it was ideal for a purge, this is thin-layer evaporation correct? I was wondering if you were to make a “fume hood” box that was a perfect environment blowing constant air via fans, wouldnt that completely eliminate the need for heat and the end result would be greater clarity, higher thc content and a overall cleaner oleoresin? Because most “absolutes” i see were i live (the bay area, CA) are definitely not an absolute and defiantly don’t have the clarity my iso run had. I could watch tv 20ft away thru my slab.
    One more question, what is the highest ppms you would test for iso runs(for vaporizing the oil)?
    Thanks, GW, I love the forums and this site, your definitely setting the standard that many are completely unaware of. Pls respond tho, im in need of help.


  21. Posted by tbone on February 9, 2014 at 7:32 PM

    Will the iso (99%) fully evaporate with a fan (pantyhose covering Pyrex evap. Dish) if given enough time? All available heat sources available to me currently require ignition and an open flame, other than a hair dryer. flame obviously not a great idea with 99% iso, nor do imagine the hair dryer being particularly effective.
    Just for dabbing.


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