CBD Manufacturing: A 4-Phase Approach to Bulk CBD Oil Production

If you've ever wondered what it takes to manufacture CBD oil — from seed to sale — then you've come to the right place.

Whether you want to expand your cannabis knowledge as a curious CBD consumer, or you're a prospective manufacturer and soon-to-be business owner, by the end of this article, you'll have a good understanding of the entire CBD manufacturing process from end-to-end.

We won't overwhelm you with the nitty-gritty details. Instead, in this post, we're covering hemp cultivation, processing and extraction, distillation, and quality assurance in a 4-step overview of the CBD oil manufacturing process.

Phase 1: Hemp Plant Cultivation

It all comes back to the hemp plant. The first thing you should know about the CBD manufacturing process is that quality matters — it matters a lot! The quality of the initial cannabis plant will directly influence the quality of the finished product you buy from the store or use in your product formulations.

Companies who want a product line of potent and consistent cannabis oils, gummies, hemp CBD tinctures or softgels, or even food products understand that what you put into the system directly impacts what you get out.

Quality In, Quality Out

Savvy CBD manufacturers in the cannabis industry know that quality inputs lead to quality outputs.

CBD (cannabidiol)is the most highly sought after phytocannabinoid in the cannabis plant, so it should come as no surprise that CBD manufacturers are very selective about which species of hemp they choose to cultivate and harvest for hemp oil production.

Cannabis Sativa flower (as opposed to seeds, stems, or stalks, for instance) is the ideal choice for CBD manufacturing because it is naturally high in CBD and low in THC. Sativa flower is often used to produce medicinal-grade CBD products. In contrast, industrial hemp is typically used for commercial purposes due to its lower price point.

By cultivating high-quality industrial hemp plants that have been selectively bred to have high CBD and terpene levels, your job becomes to extract those precious materials to use in your hemp products at the end of the CBD manufacturing process.

CBD manufacturing begins with selecting high-CBD hemp plants. In the next step, we'll discuss how to take that plant material and extract those valuable compounds into usable oil.

Phase 2: Processing and Crude Oil Extraction

Before the raw hemp material is ready for oil extraction, it must be ground up and broken down into smaller particles. This preliminary step helps increase surface area during the solvent extraction process.

Hemp oil extraction is essentially a process of macerating hemp matter in a solvent solution to extract, or strip, the essential oils from the original plant. CBD manufacturers use all different kinds of solvents to separate and extract these precious hemp oils. Still, carbon dioxide is far and away the best and most common option.

Carbon Dioxide Extraction

CO2 extraction is generally the preferred extraction solvent because, unlike liquid solvents like butane, hexane, ethanol, or isopropyl alcohol, carbon dioxide leaves no residue after extraction. For that reason, it is generally considered the "cleaner" and gentler solvent to extract CBD oil.

In this supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction method, CO2 is forced through the ground hemp matter. CO2 passes through a series of chambers in a relatively elaborate sequence of high pressure, low temperature, and alternating between gas and liquid-like states. This sophisticated methodology works to simultaneously isolate and preserve the chemical stability of the essential hemp oils.

Supercritical CO2 extraction is extremely effective at drawing out everything from the plant. And when the extraction is complete, you're left with a crude, unrefined hemp oil that contains the full profile of compounds from the whole hemp plant. Manufacturers are mostly interested in cannabinoids like CBN, CBG, CBC, and of course, CBD. But there will also be an assortment of plant compounds and residues like lipids, flavonoids, phytochemicals, waxes, and even trace amounts of THC.

Crude oil is like the mound of raw clay at the artist's disposal — the only limit is her imagination.

CBD manufacturers can produce virtually any combination of potencies, concentrations, and formulations from a single batch of unrefined crude CBD oil.

Here is a taste of what you can create from crude oil:

THC-free CBD is important to our customers because:

  • CBD isolate
  • CBD distillate
  • Water-soluble CBD powders and liquids
  • CBD concentrates
  • THC-free CBD
  • Broad-spectrum CBD
  • Full-spectrum CBD
  • CBC, CBN, or CBG concentrates
  • And beyond

All it takes is some outcome goals, a skilled technician, and state of the art manufacturing equipment.

Phase 3: Winterization, Decarboxylation, and Distillation

As we mentioned, raw crude oil contains numerous leftover plant compounds from the initial extraction. Waxes, lipids, plant pigments, and other impurities aren't useful to CBD manufacturers. They need to be filtered out before the process can continue.

Indeed, to produce a pure, high-quality CBD extract, the initial crude oil must go through a process of winterization, decarboxylation, and distillation.

Winterization and Solvent Removal

Winterization refers to the process of dewaxing and separating all of those undesirable plant materials we mentioned in phase 2 — waxes, lipids, and plant residue from the extraction stage.

In this stage, the crude oil mixture is combined with a food-grade solvent and stored in a deep freezer. At cool enough temperatures, waxy waste substances and impurities will begin to precipitate to the surface and separate from the crude mixture.

After the mixture is sufficiently winterized, waxes and any other non-active components are filtered out. What's left is a solvent solution rich in individual cannabinoids.

Remove the solvent and what you have is a potent CBD oil that's just about ready to use, put up for sale, or use to create even purer, more potent CBD concentrates.

There is just one more step the oil must go through before it is ready to use — it needs to be activated.

Decarboxylation

What began as an unfiltered slurry of miscellaneous cannabinoids, terpenes, pigments, and waxes — aka full-spectrum CBD oil — is now a potent and purified CBD oil.

But before it can be consumed orally, it needs to be activated through a process called decarboxylation.

Decarboxylation is a process of heating hemp oil to alter the individual cannabinoids' chemical structure to enhance oral bioavailability. It isn't until the oil is "decarbed" that it can be ingested and absorbed through your digestive system. You need to "activate" cannabinoids, so your body knows what to do with them.

Once activated via decarboxylation, we can refine the hemp extract even further through distillation.

CBD Distillation

At this stage in the CBD manufacturing process, the oil has been extracted, filtered, refined, and decarbed. This form of CBD oil will be considered full-spectrum (low-THC) or broad-spectrum if the THC is removed. To refine the oil even more and isolate individual components, you'd turn to distillation.

Like winterization, distillation is about isolating the compounds you want and separating those you don't. Every compound has a different boiling point. The lab technician's job is to manipulate these variables with temperature and pressure to isolate the compound for the desired end product.

Here's a selection of the main types of distillation being used in CBD manufacturing:

Short-Path Distillation (Fractional Distillation)

Short-path distillation involves distillate traveling a very short distance under pressure and at lower temperatures. This technique is useful because there is much less risk of damage to unstable compounds. After all, high-quality ingredients are expensive, and short-path distillation supports profitability by reducing precious materials' potential loss through excessive heat exposure.

Short-Path Distillation (Fractional Distillation)

Like winterization, distillation is about isolating the compounds you want and separating those you don't. Every compound has a different boiling point. The lab technician's job is to manipulate these variables with temperature and pressure to isolate the compound for the desired end product.

Thin-Film Distillation

Thin-film distillation is another method of creating high-quality CBD products. In this process, a thin film of oil is spread evenly over an evaporative surface. Combined with vacuum distillation and low boiling temperatures, this allows for steady evaporation without running the risk of damaging the natural compounds from heat exposure.

Short-Path Wiped-Film Distillation

Wiped-film distillation is a type of short path distillation.

It's simple, effective, and a good solution for high-volume production operations. In this technique, wipers create a thin film of oil around a heated surface. The liquid is then captured as vapor, condensed, and ultimately collected in a vessel as CBD distillate, THC distillate, or any desired form of distillate.

Falling-Film Distillation

Falling-film distillation occurs by allowing oil to drain down the inside of a heated column (no wipers), functioning as a continuous evaporative surface.

It is a good option for steady throughput (high volume) but isn't entirely effective in separating compounds. This quirk makes falling-film distillation more suitable for initial screening of volatile components, such as removing ethanol or other solvents after extraction or removing terpenes.

The end product of any distillation process is most often high-CBD distillate. A distillate is a highly concentrated, purified derivative of hemp in one of its purest forms. Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum distillates are common, but pure CBD isolate is the most popular ingredient manufacturers are looking to produce and infuse into their CBD oil products. CBD isolate is what's left when you remove all oils, waxes, and other plant matter.

Well, folks, distillation is the end of the line. What began as a humble hemp flower has become a highly concentrated, intensely pure CBD oil or isolate powder. The product has been extracted, refined, and processed. Still, before we can distribute the final saleable product, we need to make sure it meets quality standards.

Phase 4: Third-Party Lab Testing for Quality and Compliance

Ever since the Farm Bill was passed in 2018, there has been a growing swell of CBD manufacturing businesses. Indeed, the CBD industry is a multi-billion dollar vertical, and new players are entering the arena every day looking to get in on the action.

Even though CBD is legal in all 50 states, and while CBD as a substance is now part of the FDA's purview (not the DEA), we don't yet have the regulations in place to protect the consumer from being swindled low-quality products. Not yet, anyway.

The FDA is developing such rules and regulations for the CBD industry, but until they work the kinds out, consumers would do well to choose wisely when considering the right CBD manufacturer to work with. The real sign of a state-of-the-art CBD manufacturing facility with high standards in place is evidence of third-party lab testing.

Evidence of lab-testing on the company website or recent examples of certificates of analysis (COA) are two of the most tangible signs that the company is committed to producing high-quality CBD products.

Lab tests typically include:

  • Potency
  • Purity
  • THC content
  • Heavy metals
  • Cannabinoid contents
  • Terpene contents
  • Microbial profile (mold, yeast, bacteria)
  • Pesticides

We began this article insisting that the original materials' quality is a major determinant of the final products' quality. Lab testing essentially serves as physical proof that a company has done its due diligence and is committed to high-quality at every step of the supply chain and manufacturing process.

Hemp Corp is a Leading Manufacturer of Wholesale CBD in Colorado

Hemp Corp subjects every batch of every product to rigorous third-party lab testing. We pride ourselves on the superior production, manufacturing, and distribution services we offer within the CBD industry. Our team of professional lab technicians and scientists work together with our clients to set the industry standard of highest-quality hemp and CBD products.

Interested in our CBD Manufacturing services?

Hemp Corp offers a full range of CBD manufacturing services including, but not limited to: hemp oil extraction, winterization and decarboxylation, hemp oil distillation, THC remediation, cannabinoids and terpene isolation, custom white-label formulations, and more.

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Any and all statements made on www.hempcorpusa.com in regard to hemp derivative products are not expressed as medical claims. Hemp Corp does not suggest results nor encourage action on the part of the reader or consumer. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always check with your physician before starting a new dietary supplement program.