Investing in CO2 Extraction Systems

–by Scott Sondles

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It’s all about the yield… or is it?

When doing research on plant extraction machines business owners and investors simply want to understand the ROI. The problem is that yield is not the only part of the equation. If your goal is to extract medicinal compounds and you get high yields of fats, waxes, and chlorophyll, this does little to the profitability of your business.

Warning: If an extraction company starts claiming that they have the highest yield on the market you need to walk away. When recording yields please document the following parameters: starting weight, total yield, moisture content and yield after winterization so you have something to compare your yield to.

Having a high yield is important, but high yield doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t creating the high quality extracts that customers expect. The above picture is a cannabis extract that was harvested in Portland, Oregon, using Apeks Supercritical technology.

Variables that dictate yield and quality include…

  • Plant Material – Before doing a CO2 extraction please test your plant material for plant profile and potential contaminates. Typically, water content is the enemy of any extraction process.
  • System – Many CO2 systems apply heat during the extraction process that can thermally degrade your medicinal plant extracts. This added heat makes creating products like shatter impossible. The system also includes your brands standard operating procedures (SOPs) for preparing your plant material.
  • Solvent – Some solvents are more powerful than others and many solvents are actually dangerous to human health.

Plant Material

The first step in creating excellent quality extract is having a reliable and trustworthy growing partner (or become vertically integrated).

Cannabis plants must be picked at the optimum time in order to maximize the chemical composition of the plant material. The plant extraction process may be perfect, but if you don’t have quality material you’re wasting your own time and money.

Trim (cannabis waste product) is one of the most common plant materials that are put into CO2 extractors. When preparing your plant material it’s vital that you understand what you’d like as an end product.


In Apeks Supercritical CO2 extractors, you can use both temperature and pressure to adjust the yield and quality of your extracts.

When dealing with CO2 extractors you have to consider the differences between a liquid extraction phase and a gas phase. Many manufacturers focus on the easier process of liquid CO2 extractions and will claim that liquid CO2 extraction machines provides the best yield. By this logic, they claim that their systems are best for your business, but this simplification of the ROI equation is misleading at best. Liquid CO2 extractions require higher temperatures than gas CO2 extractions and thus produce inferior extracts.

If you are looking to preserve the medicinal benefits of volatile plant chemicals than liquid pumping isn’t for you. The only way to pump liquid CO2 and maintain safe temperatures is by installing a separate chiller than increases your energy costs and upfront investment (all Apeks systems utilize this method). Gas pumping is the way to go if you are looking to optimize the medicinal properties of your extract. If you pump liquid CO2 make sure your machine is equipped with the proper chillers.

The Apeks Supercritical CO2 design allows for a cold separation and uses heat given off by the diaphragm compressor to warm the water jackets that surround the separation vessels. Without warm water flowing through these water jackets your separators would turn into a block of ice. Apeks CO2 extractors don’t require extra chillers/heaters and is a more sustainable design than the competition. Have you done a sustainability analysis on your extraction process?

All Apeks systems are fully automated and log data during each extraction run. Why put the extra workload on your employees when all data tracking can be automated? Data tracking also allows the Apeks customer service squad to easily trouble shoot any problems that may occur.

2000-5Lx20LD – Processes 30 lbs per day with a price tag of $153,000 + plus taxes and shipping.

Have the peace of mind that comes with working with Allen-Bradley automation and UL listed control panels. The below graph is an example of how our engineers and customer service team use data to better understand the extraction process.

Just because you have a state of the art extraction system doesn’t guarantee you riches, high yields, or quality medicine. There are many variables that go into a successful extraction business. We recommend that all of our clients get their plant material tested both before and after the extraction process.


CO2 in itself is one of the most versatile solvents on the market. Carbon is the most prevalent element in the world and when it comes to creating extracts you can use both subcritical (low temperatures and low pressure) or supercritical (high temperatures and high pressure). Subcritical is great for extracting more volatile chemicals such as terpenes and THCa/CBDa, but it is a weaker solvent that produces a smaller yield than supercritical CO2.

Things that don’t matter to Yield.

  • Size or weight of an extraction machine has absolutely nothing to do with yield or quality.
  • Location of CO2 extraction manufacturer. It’s a global market and CO2 manufactures should be able to provide top notch customer service no matter where they are located.
  • Hope and passion. These can fuel other areas of your business, but creating high quality medicinal extracts is pure science and engineering.

If you would like to increase your yields with Apeks Supercritical or you would like to learn more about getting into the extraction business please contact us!

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