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QWISO Extraction with Isopropyl

Quick Wash Isopropyl, also know as QWISO is one of the techniques that skunk pharm uses to extract oil from mixed leaf for topicals and sometimes buds or trim for vaporization.   Here is our technique 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 on 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 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 container to keep film losses low.

When the oil is completely bubble 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. Attached thumbnail(s)


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  1. TJ

    Hey, Skunkpharm! I was wondering if there are any solvents that should not go into a vacuum chamber with silicon gaskets? I have seen people use the vac that I have, but I remember reading somewhere that you have to be careful purging certain solvents as they can degrade the materials in the chamber faster. Any truth to this? I'm using 91-99 ISO and 200 proof ethanol (different runs). Also, thanks for the incredible articles and tutorials here. Finding out about this site has been incredibly helpful in my extracting endeavors.

  2. kev

    I read somewhere that it takes 8 minutes for all of the good stuff in the leaves/buds to fully be extracted or absorbed into the alcohol, but that heat helps. Personally, I start off with everything at -32f. After the wash, but before I run the product through a paper coffee filter, I use a metal coffee filter so that what's left is nothing but liquid and trichomes. At this point, would placing the jar of product into a pot of hot/warm water do anything to improve or worsen my product?

  3. chris

    I am new to iso extraction . In your article you said if the extract is for vaping , you filter the material after a 20 sec wash into a Pyrex plate, evaporate the alcohol then put it in a water bath at 140 degrees for 30 min to an hour. Is that now ready to vape or is there another step after that?

  4. redturtle984 This is a photo of extract dissolved first in isopropyl alcohol, then tap water is added slowly until the nearly pure essential oil rolls out of the mix like a worm. Small amounts of oil are left entrained in the white iso/water/terpene/wax layer. That layer is drained and frozen to recover trace amounts, and the oil "worm" is boiled in water then frozen. The water as ice is easily removed and a vacuum chamber procedure used to remove all water. Isopropyl alcohol is listed as being fatal to humans in doses as little as eight ounces. This process normally takes an ounce or so of iso for each batch of a few grams as shown. Iso is widely used in pharmecutical processes because of the inherent historical safety - only cases of extreme suicide attempts account for serious poisonings and those are pretty rare because of the pain involved in attempting this. In my process the iso is completely evaporated under vacuum. Trace amounts of isopropyl alcohol are easily detectable by smelling hot extract. The nose knows!

  5. Ed Snowden

    Great info. Have some questions regarding a qwiso extraction of pressed bubble hash and pressed dry ice kief. For material prep, I am thoroughly drying material in a food dehydrator, and then both breaking it up manually and using a cusinart. The kief readily breaks down into almost powder, yet the bubble is much more of a pain and tends to stay in pebble form, especially the more oily and gooey bubble. 1. Is there a good way to prep the bubble or is it the case where I just do my best and then use additional agitation and possibly stirring to achieve complete dissolution of the bubble in solution? 2. Is there any advantage gained by freezing the kief or bubble prior to extraction? 3. I have half gallon mason jars for the extraction, and 99% iso. What is an optimal ratio for kief to iso? for bubble to iso? 4. Once the mixture is in the mason jars and sealed, is gentle shaking for approx 3 min (I am guessing this will be the time for kief, and that more may be required for the bubble) enough or is stirring a good idea? 5. When you are pouring out the mixture through a coffee filter, whats a good way to set this up? I was thinking of just putting the coffee filters over the top of the mason jar and securing in place with thick rubber band and inverting. 6. Is there any advantage gained by winterizing kief or bubble in an iso solution? 7. How much of a difference will I notice between doing a simple blow dry and using a vac pump? 8. My local grow shop has heating pads intending for seedlings, they say 10-20 deg above ambient temp, is this good for the drying stage, or is a 140F pad necessary? 9. For storage, what do you recommend? I was thinking of wrapping in wax paper, putting in tupperware, and then freezing it. Thanks for taking the time and spreading great knowledge, it is much appreciated!

    1. skunkpharmresearch

      1 I get good results extracting the granules of bubble as is. If you agitate regularly to keep the boundary layers removed, ISO will readily dissolve the resins, and leave behind non polar waxes and the like. 2 No advantages to freezing before extraction and that will slow down the process. 3 Probably around 3:1 or greater. The Iso will saturate at somewhere around 1:1 molar, but achieving 50% mostly happens in heaven unless you are reflux boiling. I would plan on 30% as a starting point. Even less saturation means more extraction speed but , at the cost of more alcohol and more time evaporating it off. 4 The reason for the frozen quick wash with green material, is to avoid chlorophyll pickup, which you ostensibly won't have with kif or bubble, so you wash it as long as it takes to dissolve the hash. I would recommend a second wash to glean anything left behind. 5 I like to just invert the jar and dump it through a wire strainer, into a restaurant size coffee filter, in a coffee maker basket. 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. 6 Isopropyl is not highly polar, so it isn't prime for winterizing. Ethanol or Methanol would be better. Iso also doesn't extract as many non polar waxes as the simple alkanes like butane or hexane, so winterizing is less needed. 7 Lots of difference between a vacuum purge and a blow dry. Even in a thin film, a blow dry requires more heat to keep the film liquid enough for the solvent to escape. 8. Depends on what you want to make. We run our mat at 115F to produce shatter. 9. No wax paper, unless you want wax in your oil. I store mine in a sealed blue glass container. Peace, GW

      1. Ed Snowden

        Thanks for answering my questions, helps a lot. At the moment I don't have easy access to eveclear (Ca has it banned, but the local grow store sells 99% iso by the gallon, lol). I'm going to go ahead and get a vacuum pump, and wanted to know what you think would be good quality/choice? I'm also not exactly clear on what the ideal steps are. If I'm using a vacuum pump, is this the right idea: 1. Reduce material by filtering winterized solution through coffee filter onto pyrex plate, and then placing it on top of a reptile heating pad or similar, and waiting for most of iso to evaporate before scrapping up material, placing into a glass container and into vac chamber? Is the reduction on heated oil necessary when you have a vac chamber? Do you have any tips for efficiently processing larger amounts of material? Any success in finding a good surface that is significantly bigger than the average pyrex plate? I was thinking of winterizing larger volumes of solution and then reducing it at once.

        1. skunkpharmresearch

          Iso will work, or you can have the ethanol shipped to you from I have had good luck with the CPS VP6S single stage vacuum pump. You can cold boil the alcohol solution under vacuum with out heat, but you will need a cold trap to keep the alcohol vapor out of your pump crankcase, or change your pump oil several times as the oil level reaches high limits. A rotary evaporator would be the way to process large volumes, but a rectangular casserole dish in a vacuum oven, has more area than a pie plate.

      1. adam

        one more quick question, let me see if i can word this right. which oil u think would work best for oral consumption? hexane, butane, etc.....

  6. Liam

    If a qwiso extraction has taken on a completely solid, glass like consistency subsequent to one hours thin film purging over low heat, Is it possible for it to still contain some residual alcohol? What is the best way to be 100% sure that your extract is fully purged of iso?

    1. skunkpharmresearch

      You can thin film purge it under high vacuum, or decarboxylate the oil at 250F without vacuum, and drive off any residuals. If you just keep the oil in a thin film molten state and blow filtered air over it, it will keep the enriched boundary layers blown away, and encourage more rapid evaporation of the residual volatiles.

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