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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)

GW

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205 Comments

  1. Macken chi

    Hi skunkpharm! I love your website and your scientific approach. I followed your technique with a minor adjustment - i use lab grade iso for extraction, 10 sec wash, and when 95-98%of the iso evaporates, i pour 50 ml abs ethanol to replace the solvent and retain the terpenes, and evaporate until a final product. End product was certainly a blaze. I have not gone through the winterization process but i plan to test that out. My question is have you tried different time points, from 10 sec and above, for the iso wash? Will cooling the solvent and plant material using dry ice or liquid nitrogen allow for longer, more clean extractions?

    Reply       Edit
    1. Skunk Pharm Research,LLC

      We used various times and picked 20 seconds as a generally safe place to start. We always tweak a process based on what we are observing happening, so you can extend it until the moment of "now", by observation. Freezing the material and using subzero Iso definitely improves your odds of getting a pristine extraction. It will slow down the extraction somewhat, so it takes longer and is more forgiving. GW

      Reply
      1. Macken chi

        Thanks for the reply! Last question - in your personal experience does winterizing changes the rnd product in terms of psychoactive effects?

        Reply
      1. scott stumpf

        if I was only planning on eating the end product what is the best way to concentrate, also do you feel the effects from topicals

        Reply
        1. Skunk Pharm Research,LLC

          Starting out with no equipment, and extracting for one person, I would recommend a QWET extraction. A quality extract with low initial investment. https://skunkpharmresearch.com/qwet-extraction/ I don't feel any psychoactive responses to a topical and have only met one person who said that she could. She was an ultra lightweight from a tolerance standpoint, so it is possible. GW GW

          Reply
  2. Kevin

    Thank you for all the great info! The issue I'm running into lately is the product still tasting like alcohol. After I evaporate the alcohol until the remaining is a molasses-like goo (about 45 minutes on my heat source), l scrape it all into one puddle. After about ten minutes the puddle starts getting little tiny bubbles which gradually turn into larger ones. After about 45 minutes, all the bubbles are gone and the goo is clear. The wax doesn't give me a headache at all, just tastes a bit like the alcohol. I'm not vaping it currently.

    Reply       Edit
    1. Skunk Pharm Research,LLC

      45 min is not long enough even with vacuum. Try spreading it in a thin film 1/16-1/8" and placing it on a seedling heat mat for two or three days. GW

      Reply
  3. NEWEYGOOEY

    Hi all, i had a run of BB#3, hat got neglected at harvest, not my fault , i ran all buds and got plenty that came out great for a newb, the other was blue kripple and was dark but with a light under it ccould see thru. Is it too late to use my mini blender and some IPA TO GET THE KINDA GREEN FLAVOR out by blending it with IPA? Filter it put in freezer 24-48 hrs and r evaporate on siclacone mat? To improve the flav? IT is already strong. So can this work ANY HELP T.Y.

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  4. redturtle984

    https://mobile.twitter.com/pancakespoons/status/763020983783399427/photo/1 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!

    Reply
  5. tbone

    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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  6. Kevlar

    Would it b okay to combine my first second and third quick wash iso 99% into one mason jar after using pasta strainer, then poor that through coffee filters abit at a time? Since I have issues with over Pouring Ink coffee filters then having it spill on to my Pyrex? As I use to putting coffee filter directly onto Pyrex the Pooring into it?

    Reply       Edit
  7. 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!

    Reply       Edit
    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

      Reply
      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.

        Reply
        1. skunkpharmresearch

          Iso will work, or you can have the ethanol shipped to you from http://organicalcohol.com/store/ 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.

          Reply
  8. Chris

    Please help, Tried this method and just got tested by analytical360. 78%thc and 2%cbd. Those are good numbers but the residual iso content was 50000ppm. I heated my oil to between 250 and 260 degrees using a fondue pot. How can I get the iso content down?

    Reply       Edit
    1. skunkpharmresearch

      250F is high enough to get rid of residual Iso, if you leave it in the hot oil until the larger irregular bubbles cease, and only the fine fizzy bubbles remain. You can also pull a -29.5" Hg vacuum on it at around 115F to quickly remove the residuals.

      Reply
      1. Chris

        I thought I did that, twice. Once with the iso and again with the everclear. I'll try another batch and see what happens. Do you test your iso oil and what residual numbers do you get. I can't smell or taste any alcohol in my oil but analytical says it's at 50,000 ppm. I don't get it.

        Reply
        1. skunkpharmresearch

          I don't get it either, if you have purged and decarboxylated in 250F oil. We are typically under 100ppm. How deep is the film that you are purging and at what point did you cease purging? How are they testing it? It would almost have to be a head space test, because the alcohol injection spike would cover the residual alcohol using a standard test.

          Reply
          1. Chris

            Thank you so much for your quick response time and patience on these posts. I would guess the oil at completion was less than 1" deep. I kept it on the heat until there were only a few small bubbles, at that point I popped the bubbles, then waited about 30 minutes and checked for bubbles, no bubbles. Analytical 360 uses some type of cold testing, not G.C. I haven't made a new batch yet, still trying to figure how to use the wife's oven without getting in trouble. I'm going to take it slow and really make sure to pay attention to the details. If I still get bad results I will try another testing lab.

            Reply
            1. skunkpharmresearch

              I would suggest a larger dish or doing it in smaller batches, to reduce film thickness and increase surface area. 1" is much too deep a pool. 1/8" would be about perfect.

  9. James

    This is my tutorial completely based off of things i learned on this website! http://boards.cannabis.com/concentrates/205709-great-iso-alcohol-method-high-potency-next-no-green.html

    Reply       Edit
  10. C

    Your amazing the more I read. Is it possible to winterize in the iso instead of changing it to everclear? I thought I read something like that in one of these discussions but now I can't find it. I see in this one you say to evaporate out the iso. I'm really excited to be able to get real answers with the science behind it. Some forums can be so frustrating because people talk but don't know. You obviously know. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply       Edit
  11. Ken

    I made (tried to make) some QWISO with 99% IPA. Everything was going great until I put the strained IPA in the Pyrex pie plate. The IPA was not evaporating very quickly, I was using a fan blowing ripples on the IPA. The last time I looked at it (after 4-5 hrs.), it had gotten milky. Is this water? It has been raining off & on the last couple of days, 50-65 degrees & high humidity. Does IPA absorb water from the atmoshere? Is there a safe way to evaporate IPA with heat(without a hood)?

    Reply       Edit
    1. skunkpharmresearch

      Iso starts with some water in it and extracts a lot more from the plant material, besides drawing it from atmospheric humidity. Water turns Iso milky, but the milkyness goes away once the water is evaporated off. I evaporate off iso in an electric fondue pot full of hot canola oil, which I set outside and blow the fumes away with a fan.

      Reply
      1. Ken

        I looked beautiful until it had been in the Pyrex pie plate with a fan on for about an hour. The next morning I floated the Pyrex in hot water. I kept the water temp. at 130-140F. This time I put it in a bldg. that was warmer/drier. All of the white disappeared, and it thickened-up. I left it in the hot water for another 30 min. I scraped it up. It hardened within a minute. It has a nice amber color with a little green. It melts fast, clean, and tastes good. It is a little harsh on the exhale. Smaller dabs cure this! Overall I am very pleased (excited) with the results! Thanks for help!

        Reply
      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.....

        Reply
  12. 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?

    Reply       Edit
    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.

      Reply
  13. kannamed

    Thanks for your great website! I’ve made several RSO extractions for medical use, successfully. However, after reading your post on QWISO extraction, I feel that by decarbing and freezing, the extraction should be cleaner and stronger. I’m getting ready to try your QWISO extraction and would like to ask you two questions: Once the buds or leafs are dry (10 days after harvest) does it make any sense to go through a curing process, since the oil will be decarbed any way? Is the liquid used in the fondue pot (to set the Pyrex beaker in) regular cooking oil?

    Reply       Edit
    1. skunkpharmresearch

      Thanks for your good thoughts! There is no advantage to curing after you reach the 10/15% moisture content, where the small twigs snap. We use Canola oil in the cooking pot, because it works well and is cheap. GW

      Reply
  14. Liam

    If im making a qwiso for vaporizing and I extract the material twice without drying in between washes, just going straight back to the freezer, What is a typical yield to expect per ounce? Sometimes I use high quality fine trimmings with little to no shade leaf and small buds in it, and sometimes i use straight high quality flowers.How many grams of QWISO should I expect to be getting with two washes per ounce of either?

    Reply       Edit
  15. Liam Morgan

    Ive managed to produce results im for the most part quite pleases with lately following a slighltly simplified version of this same procedure. I have one question that comes to mind regarding how one of the steps could be clearer. After one extraction has been done and is says "We set the material aside to dry and refreeze for a second extraction." , what method are you using to fully dry the plant material for a second extraction before refreezing it? Or are you just refreezing as is directly after first strain, which is what I did?

    Reply       Edit
  16. cmackhack

    Looks like this could become popular technique for those who can get it built and does the cost of butane make this a feasible alternative. I guess it would depend on the amount of oil that you make. I think this would be a good investment maybe some more R&D is the butane recollected been tested in the gas chromatigraph to see if it is identical which I think it would be. But I have a question for you guys and I am not sure where to ask as I live in northwest oregon as well as I believe I read you do I am Interested in buying some chemicals from Nurnberg Scientific am I was wondering if you know if I can purchase Acetic Anhydride ACS 500ml http://www.nurnberg.com/pc_product_detail.asp?key=C0BE9DC52AAE4D39B2321B8DC22EBC9D legally and for medical cannabis research...If you know for sure please advise.

    Reply       Edit
    1. skunkpharmresearch

      We've never purchased chemicals from Nurnberg Scientific, so have no insight as to their policies. As a legitimate licensed business, we purchase our acetic anhydride from American Scientific without issue. There are no laws that I am aware of against purchasing it, only using it for illegal purposes, and it continues to be used for any number of legitimate purposes as well, so it remains legal. As two of the illegal uses includes manufacturing illegal drugs and explosives, it is on a watch list, so you might expect to be scrutinized. My guess is that 500ml occasionally would draw less attention than a drum of the stuff, or steady consumption. I would just give Nurnberg a call and ask! GW

      Reply
  17. Ommp Payit Forward

    Howdy folks, I made some QWISO yesterday and had some funny results. It's RED! It tastes good, smells good, but is not very potent. I'm curious why it turned red and why it isn't very comparable to the buds, which are very potent. You may want to know my process to help but first I'll post some pictures and see if you can help from that. Is this cloudyness the wax and plant material or the oil? Question from Member asks at pay it forward

    Reply       Edit
    1. skunkpharmresearch

      Hi bro! QWISO makes a red oil, compared to Ethanol. If you redissolve QWISO in Ethanol, it will drop out a red waxy substance, that won't redissolve. Cloudyness in a QWISO can be retained water or small bubbles. How was it purged?

      Reply
      1. weedwhat

        Frozen trim placed in large mason jar > washed 30-45 seconds with 99% iso alcohol > strained through coffee filters into pyrex baking dish > placed pyrex dish onto hot water bath that was at approx 200-240 degrees until alcohol was evaporated. also had a fan blowing high speed the entire time I believe it was strain related. It was the first sativa I've processed with this method. The indica oils I've made like this turned out as expected, golden brown honey colored. Would it be possible to re-dissolve it in 99% Iso and run it through coffee filters a few more times to get rid of the waxyness?

        Reply
        1. skunkpharmresearch

          Unfortunately no. Iso will continue to redissolve the same things. Your process looks OK, though I use a 20/30 second wash. It is most likely related to material, and I suspect anthocyanins are the source of the color in the wax, as the wax itself is light tan colored. It would probably take a non polar wash to get rid of the polar cyanins.

          Reply
          1. Randy

            Quick question, when reducing solution (iso/marijuana) in hot oil bath, the point is to evaporate until golden film appears. Time has no bearing, only the amount of solution to be reduced tells that. I'm assuming not an almost full bowl of iso. That'd be dumb. What's a max line? No more than an 1/8" to 1/4" full of solution? Does the iso mixture need to reach a temp of 250 F for decarboxylate? Or just the oil bath temp? I'm really curious about that. Wow info overload. You guys rock!

            Reply
    2. Ross McMillan

      by any chance was any of the process done near a window? exposure to UV light tends to turn qwiso rusty, especially at the point where it is dissolved in the ISO, this could obviously also explain your reduced potency?

      Reply       Edit
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