EE 22 | Extracting Lavender

 

In the last few episodes of Extraction Essentials, you learned about the growing process, preparing your garden for harvesting, and making perfume from lavender. Today, get ready for the last part of the series – extracting essential oils out of lavender with the Little Buddy Extractor. Join your host, Tony Frischknecht, and Nick Gay from Soul Source Naturals. Nick is also the Head of Product Management at Essential Extraction. Learn the curing and extraction process, as well as the difference between subcritical and supercritical on today’s show.

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Nick Gay On The Extraction Process Of Lavender

I’m here again with Nick Gay, Head of Product Management. Nick has been walking us through the last couple of episodes and we’ve created start to finish. We’re going to finish out the series with him discussing a few things. One, we’re going to be talking about extracting, but we’re going to be talking about the curing process of lavender and how that works. We’re also going to be talking about subcritical and supercritical. What are those? Why do those matter? I hear these things. I don’t know what they mean. Hopefully, we can give you guys a little bit of a context behind that so you can understand a little bit more of what this is and why these are important. We’re going to talk about the Little Buddy Extractor. It’s not the only way to extract, but we have found it’s one of the best ways to extract purity out of plants and get the top notch quality that you need if you’re creating a product.

Nick, welcome to the show again. How are you doing?

I’m doing great. Thanks for having me, Tony.

Nick, last time we talked about harvesting and the growing process. Now, what’s our next step? What are we doing?

The desirables that most people are looking for in essential oils are terpenes. They are what make the smell good. Click To Tweet

I have these lavenders that we just harvested. This is the leaf from the clones we took. This is the Spanish lavender here. Here’s the English lavender. In order to dry them, typically, I’ll use a paper bag. This is quite the easiest way to do it. You hang that up for about a week. With that said, depending on your humidity, wherever you’re drying it, it may take two weeks. You should be about 40% humidity or lower if you’re trying to dry a product out.

Why do you use a paper bag?

First of all, it holds it easily and then the paper itself helps. It’s like a membrane to let it dry. The paper will get wet and then dry up from the moisture within it here. It allows a little bit of airflow and it’s also easy. Everyone has a paper bag. With that said, they also make these drying towers where there are multiple shelves of netting. That works well. We’re only drying this amount. If you’re drawing a bunch, then you’re going to probably want one of those drying towers. Let me throw these in here and then. I have some lavender that I dried out. I’ll show you that here.

How long do you think that’ll take to dry in that bag?

About a week.

It’s pretty quick.

Here is the dried-out lavender.

How much is in there?

This is a half-pint ball jar. You would think, “That’s a lot.” It’s only six grams. It’s not much at all. You can see why cloning and knowing how to grow lots of lavender can be helpful because I can put up to 30 grams in this chamber. For efficiency’s sake, you want to be sure you’re filling the container, but now, since that’s what I got, that’s what we’re going to fill.

That’s 1/5 of what can fit in the chamber that you have for the extraction machine, right?

Correct.

You would have to smash this in the extraction machine to get 30 grams in there. Is that going to cause any harm to the biomass?

No.

There’s no concern about destroying any properties in the plant matter itself?

Not from compressing it because it’s dried out. Let’s say if it was wet, then that could cause you some issues. Since it’s dried, not so much of an issue.

As people are out there and they’re thinking, “Am I creating this for myself or am I creating this to sell essential oil to friends and family?” What would you say to them about the best way to do this? That seems like very little.

If you have a big garden and you live in a region where lavender does well, then this could be a viable option where you just plant a 50-foot row of lavender and then every couple of months, go out there and harvest. You could be pulling in about a pound a lot. This is the same type of lavender from the same plant. On this side here, that’s the wet, live, we harvested, still needs to dry, lavender. This is the dried out lavender. These flowers didn’t start at the same exact size, but you can see how much the content is in there and how much it shrinks down.

You’ve got dried and then you also have the fresh harvest flower that you’ve taken. What I’d like to talk about quickly is what’s the weight difference when you look at the fresh versus the dried? That can be tough to understand when you’re growing this and you’re like, “I’m going to have so much product. I’ll be able to extract or I’ll be able to use this in my recipes.” What are the big differences? What can you tell by looking at it and holding it in your hand?

Not specifically lavender, but a lot of plants, in general, will contain anywhere from 80% to 90% water weight. You can expect to only retain about 10% to 20% of that weight by volume to get back once it’s dried.

That’s a big loss.

That’s something you want to think about when you’re harvesting and then you throw it on the scale. You’re only going to get 10% to 20% of that back. Twenty percent is if you’re lucky. That’s a rough road.

I told people that we were going to talk about subcritical and supercritical. Can you share with everybody what they are and what the differences are between them are?

Our machine, it’s a subcritical extraction, which is still using liquified CO2 under pressure to go through the biomass and pull out the different oils and waxes. That’s done around 1,100 PSI. We’re usually about 900 PSI. Whereas supercritical is done over that PSI range of 1,100 PSI range. Typically, there’s a lot more heat needed in that process. You can degrade certain things that you wouldn’t in the subcritical extraction.

EE 22 | Extracting Lavender

Extracting Lavender: Most plants, in general, contain anywhere from 80% to 90% water weight. You can expect to retain about 10% to 20% of that weight by volume once it’s dried.

 

When you say certain things, what are some of those certain things, for example?

It depends on what you’re extracting but you’re going to degrade some of the more volatile, more gentle terpenes. You can also convert one thing to another thing just by heat and pressure. There’s a lot of chemical reactions and things that can happen when you heat something up like you can turn sugar into caramel with heat. It’s like that thinking process.

There’s some chemistry that’s involved.

That’s why I’m not going to say, “You’re going to degrade this or that.” Every compound that you’re extracting, even this lavender as opposed to that lavender, you’re going to get different compounds and medicinal quantities of things out of there.

When people are wondering, “What do you mean by compounds?” There are also other things that the Little Buddy Extractor is pulling out. What are some of those things that you’re going to be seeing that get collected at the end of the extraction run?

The desirables that most people are looking for in essential oils are the terpenes. The terpenes are what smells. It’s what’s makes lavender smell good, but also terpenes have a lot of different medicinal qualities. There are a few different terpenes out there that are FDA-approved to treat certain ailments. It’s pretty rare to hear FDA-approved essential oil. It’s nice to know that. With that said, depending on what you’re doing, you’re going to be searching for different compounds. Within lavender, the main terpene is linalool, which smells great. It has a few medicinal properties but has far less medicinal properties than a lot of the other compounds within the plant. Whereas your steam-distilled essential oil will have quite a bit more linalool sometimes. That’s not necessarily what you’re always looking for. Not everyone is looking for something solely as perfume.

We’ll talk about lavender but how many different compounds are in a plant? I’m sure this varies.

When you send something out for an analysis, it’ll be like a panel of anywhere from 30 to 60 different terpenes at different percentages.

When you’re extracting with the Little Buddy, can you focus in on certain terpenes?

Yes. If you’ve done some research and you’ve ran the product multiple times, by smelling different products, you can tell a little bit. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty, then you can do multiple extractions, multiple different ways, and then send out that product for test results and see, “By turning up the heat here or using no heat, do I get more of this or less of that, or turn this into that?” A lot of science and a little bit of trial and error.

For those out there that don’t want to get too detailed, how easy is it for them to do the extraction?

Doing the extractions is very easy. I’m going to be grinding up this dried lavender. We then put it into the biomass chamber, pop that on the machine, start running it, four hours later or longer, if you so choose, you are done. The only time of me turning levers and knobs, it’s only about 10 to 15 minutes. Whereas the rest of that four-hour time period, I’m off working, I’m in the garden, or making some smaller lavender clones.

Nick, why don’t you take us through the next step of loading the collector for the Little Buddy?

This is that lavender that I dried out, fully dried and ready to go. The next step that I’m going to be doing is grinding it up. I’m doing this by hand. If you have quite a bit more, then you’re going to want to use something like Ninja blender or you could use a coffee grinder, depending on your material. You want to make sure that it’s all pretty uniformly ground up. Once you have that all ground up, we’re going to pour it into this vessel in small increments and pack in between.

You’ll pack down the matter.

Correct.

For you reading, he’s taking from a small Mason jar, putting it into a larger, and breaking it up getting it ready to fill the collector itself.

You don’t want to do this with any more than this amount because it takes quite a while.

Do you leave the stems in there or are you pulling those off to the sides?

I’ve been pulling them off. You can leave them in there. It all depends on what you’re trying to get out. The stems typically contain a lot more waxes and different colors that you don’t necessarily want to pull through, but on some plants, you do extract the stem.

Can you use the waxes for anything?

Some people use them for a couple of different things. Depending on what you’re extracting, they have different uses. For example, there are certain types of starches that are left behind in this chamber because we filtered them out, that they use in the cosmetic industry like a concealer base. That’s the starch that binds all their compounds together. Depending on what you’re extracting, the stuff in this chamber could be what you’re looking for. Maybe what you’re trying to do is get the essential oils out of something. It’s like when you’re making candles and if you want to put them on top of your candles, sometimes the essential oils can cause color leeching. It can mess up your candle. If you extract the essential oil out of it, then you have a plant matter that’s void of all the different other compounds that mess you up.

People would be using it more as a decorative. He’s almost finished here. He’s cracking up the last couple of pieces. The next step is we’re going to load it in.

There are many chemical reactions and things that can happen when you heat something up. Click To Tweet

I’m grabbing my little funnel here. It makes life a lot easier. I pour a little bit at a time with a shot glass here that I like to use to pack things down.

Does that fit right?

It fits pretty good. I have another thing that I usually use, but I misplaced it. This is only six grams. I’ll show you once it’s all packed down how much this chamber is filled.

To your calculations, it should only be filled 1/5 of the way up.

I haven’t packed that yet. You can see it’s pretty fluffy.

It’s 3/4 of the way up in the chamber there.

You want to make sure, when you’re packing it, you get a nice even pack because if you don’t pack it well and evenly, the same thing with planting pots, is what people call channeling. What will happen is there’ll be like those little pockets where there are air pockets. That’s where the liquid will travel through. You don’t want to do that with liquid CO2 and with water when you’re planting things, because a lot of times what will happen when you’re planting is people won’t push down the sides and then the water runs down the sides, not the bottom. You’re not watering your plant. Now, I have this all pretty good tamped down. It is about 1/5 of the way up.

It’s under 1/4 of an ounce is what he has in there right now. Now, he’s sealing the top with the wingnuts and getting that all tight and sealed as he finishes that. What is our next step after this, Nick?

The next step, once I got this all sealed up, safe and ready to go, we’re going to put this onto the machine, which is a pretty easy, quick connection, so you push it on there. You fill the machine up with CO2 into the chiller. I will run it for about four hours, although you can run it longer or less than that, depending on what you’re looking for.

One thing I want to make sure people understand out there is that this is a closed-loop CO2 extractor that we’re using right here. What does that mean, Nick?

What that means is we’re putting CO2 into this side. It goes into the chiller. It then goes through this chamber once I put it on there, off into this chamber, and then back up into the chiller. You’re re-circulating the entire time. The initial CO2 you put in is going to be used throughout the entire extraction process. With that said, you can even recapture a lot of the CO2. Not all of it. Every run, you lose probably about 20% or so. That’s from using the pressure to push the actual essential oils out of this tube here. What will happen is you’ll push that CO2 back up into the chiller, close these two off, and the CO2 will sit into there while you’re harvesting the machine. That way, when you go to start your next run, you don’t have to put quite as much CO2 in there. It’s also already pre-chilled and ready to go.

Is CO2 expensive enough to be concerned about recapturing it?

Not at all. At home, I use a five pound tank. It costs maybe $30. If I’m running the machine every single day, it’ll last about a month.

It is pretty inexpensive then.

A dollar a day, especially if you’re doing a couple of runs every day on the machine, it’s pretty negligible cost.

For people that haven’t seen a large-scale machine, this is more of a personal CO2 extractor, a small scale. There’s not a lot of these type of machines that are small. In fact, we know very few. We’re one of the few. What are the size differences when you go to trying to extract a purity with CO2 extraction?

This machine is very small. You could pick it up. It weighs about 50 pounds. It uses 110 power. The CO2 tank is small. You could put it in your car and bring it to your friend’s house. It’s super easy. Whereas most of the other CO2 extraction machines, you need a crane to lift the biomass into the machine, or the lid will be 300 pounds.

You’re saying the actual plant matter itself in the majority of the CO2, you need a crane for it.

Exactly. You can imagine some of these machines are literally the size of a city block. That’s on the biggest thing. Most of these machines on the smaller end, I honestly don’t know of many other machines this size, but most other machines are about 6” or 7” wide X 6” tall. You also need ancillary equipment like chillers and heaters, which are the big fridge-size units and things like that. My house is 300 square feet and I run this in there.

What sound comes from it as it’s running?

It’s super quiet. It’s about the same sound as a desktop computer part. It’s a couple of fans and that’s about it.

The majority is pressure. It’s moving pressure through the system in the loop.

EE 22 | Extracting Lavender

Extracting Lavender: The main desirables that most people are looking for in essential oils are terpenes. The terpenes are what smells. It’s what’s makes lavender smell good.

 

No noisy pneumatic pumps, air compressors, or large power draws. You can plug this into the wall and start running.

There are folks out there. It’s interesting to them. They’re like, “How much does it cost?” You can check us out ExtractionEssentials.com. For this machine itself to do what it’s doing, there are machines out there that are pharmaceutical-grade type machines and their costs go into the $60,000 plus for essentially what we’re doing here for the $8,000 price tag that is on this. Before you guys are like, “That’s a lot of money.” There’s a lot of details that we have taken to shrink this cost from these $60,000 to $100,000 machines. There are a lot of things we’ve eliminated to make this simpler. There are also a lot of ways that, through our show, we want to be able to show you if you want to turn this into an income stream. We can show you how to do that.

There are so many different things that we can do with this. We’re learning all the time. We want to make sure that you understand that, at the end of the day, if this is something you’re interested in, Nick has tons of knowledge that we’ll follow up with something like this. We hope you explore this more. There are a lot of different ways to extract out there but what we’ve found is to create the purity that’s needed for some of these products that you are wanting to make. This is an exceptional way to do so.

With that said, if you can’t afford it or you are like, “I’ll think of it down the road,” please read our blog still, because there’s going to be a lot of things that you can use this for whatever extracting. If you’re doing steam distill, Nick and I talk about in earlier episodes when we were talking about steam and how easy it is to do. There’s a lot of things in there. In addition, he’s walked us through the cloning process and some growing, simple stuff like that.

We want you guys to take and learn from this. No matter if you’re using our machine or you think it’s out of your price range, there’s a lot of free stuff that we want to give you because this is a lot of stuff that are a part of essential extractions that all of us have taken and done firsthand. We want to save you some time. A lot of this is to save you time and money. Had I had a guy like Nick in my life back several years ago, it would have saved me so much more time. We want to make sure you guys are looking for some good knowledge. We have it here and we want to share that with you. That’s something that we do and we want to make sure we continue doing with you. Nick, we’ve got our products here. The process has happened. We’re making soap with it. We’re making insect repellent. What do you see future episodes of us creating with this?

In the future, we’re talking to a few different guests to do some guest speaking and analyzing some results that we’ve got done and then also continuing to make new products. It’s springtime. As every day goes on there, there are more things that I could be pulling out of my garden. The reason we’re doing lavender is because that was one of the easy things for me to get right now. We’re going to be doing hop extraction, some turmeric, different culinary herbs, and also infusions and things like that you can consume, flavorants and stuff like that.

This is to the reader out there, tell us what you want us to extract. We can do that. If you guys specifically tell us what you want, can we get it? We want to be able to get it. We can extract numerous things, but also what is available to us. Generally, like the Farmer’s Market, the best-tasting stuff or the best-smelling stuff is going to be what you can get locally. A lot of our constraint is only what we can access locally. If it’s possible, we will sure as heck run it for you.

You can reach out to us at ExtractionEssentials.com. Give us what you want. We’ll even put your name and say, “Nick Gay sent this is in and he wants us to extract eucalyptus.” If we can get eucalyptus, we’re going to run it. That’s one that I’m looking forward to because we haven’t been able to do that. Stuff like that, for example, very simple, you can also reach out to us on our social media and ask us there, too. Nick, thank you so much for walking us through the process. I’ve enjoyed it. I hope you guys have, too. Please join us next episode as we jump into another new extraction. See you there.

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About Nick Gay

EE 15 | Extracting Tinctures And FiltrationA leader in the CBD and herb industry with 8 years experience in new facility set-up, employee training, SOP creation and integration, product production, extraction and distillation.

A collaborative team player who strives for operational excellence and works across all departments to scale production and create safe work environments.

Skilled in Compliance Management, Management, CBD, THC, SOP Development, and Research and Development (R&D). Strong business development professional with a Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainable Manufacturing practices focus.

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