What Is Butane?
Butane is a light hydrocarbon belonging to the same molecular family consisting of ethane, propane, and methane. Butane is produced from crude oils derived from decaying organic matter buried deep underground. Fractional distillation purifies the crude oil and compresses the butane into an odorless and flammable liquid. Professional extraction companies use instrument-grade butane for its purity and low boiling point allowing a more complete cannabis extraction compared to other solvents such as carbon dioxide or ethanol.
What Is the History of BHO?
Cannabis concentrates have a long history as ancient medicinal substances with the development of hash, or concentrated cannabis resin. The origins of today’s BHO concentrates can be traced back to D. Gold’s 1971 book titled “Cannabis Alchemy: The Art of Modern Hashmaking,” which described a solvent-based process used to make concentrates.
BHO, also known as butane hash oil extraction, or hydrocarbon extraction, is the preferred extraction method for large-scale producers due to its scalability and versatility.
The prevalence of BHO extraction boomed in the late 1990s with the advent of the internet. A 1991 article published on Erowid, an online database for psychoactive compounds, also described the making of the popular hash oil. The “Hash Honey Oil Technique” describes an open-blasting method, which can be dangerous.
Modern methods of BHO extraction are incredibly safe; they use closed-loop extraction methods that capture any residual butane in the air and recycle it, leaving no butane behind.
HOW IS BUTANE HASH OIL MADE?
Butane hash oil (BHO) is produced in one of two ways. These are known as the “open” and “closed” methods. The open method is the most commonly used method; it involves filling a glass or stainless steel tube with marijuana and passing an extraction solvent (butane) through it. This results in a thick yellow-orange oil coming out the bottom of the tube – after further steps of purification and drying, that‘s the highly prized oil.
The closed method, which is much safer, involves the use of using a proper machine known as a butane oil extractor. Unfortunately, these are not easily available and cost a lot of money, so they‘re unavailable for most people. These machines are common in industrial extractions of oil from such things as lavender.
Since the open method is easy and cheap, it‘s what most people do. Unfortunately, it‘s also the least safe method. Butane is highly inflammable and explosive should the a spark ignite it. As you might have heard, that has happened more than once. In the US, where dabbing is more prominent, news about exploding kitchen labs are mounting.
LET’S GET TO IT – HOW TO MAKE BHO!
To recap, you will need:
- N-butane gas
- BHO extractor tube
- Pyrex-style container
- Lots of top grade weed
- Properly ventilated, safe place
Great, you have it all. Let’s make some BHO.
First, grind up your favorite weed. The better the starting material, the better final product. Get your BHO extractor and put the filter/mesh in. Pack the BHO extractor with your best weed. Close the extractor tight and get your container and butane gas cans ready.
Place the container on a flat surface and point the exit port of the BHO extractor right over it. With your gloves already on, insert the tip of the butane can into the extractor and press down. You will hear the hiss of the gas exit into the BHO extractor. It will start filling up and eventually, the liquid butane will start dripping onto the Pyrex container.
With your heavy duty gloves still on, hold the BHO extractor firmly and keep injecting the butane in, applying some pressure. If you need, take a break, but the idea is to maintain a constant flow. As you keep dispensing the butane, two things happen simultaneously. The temperature will drop very quickly and will quite literally freeze the BHO Extractor. That is why heavy gloves are of supreme importance. A quality BHO extractor will be able to withstand these harsh conditions and not crack wide open.
The butane gas turns into liquid and fills the BHO extractor. After this sudden depressurisation, pressure starts building back up again inside the BHO extractor. It is only when the pressure inside the extractor is significantly higher than outside that the liquid butane will start pouring into the container. This is the critical moment where you should be on high alert. Absolutely no smoking nearby; even turning appliances on or off is not recommended. The butane is now out and about and in highly explosive conditions.
The general rule of thumb is to dispense double the volume of butane than that of the BHO extractor. When you have depleted the cans, carefully put the BHO extractor in a safe place. It will be entirely frozen. Let it come back to room temperature slowly before attempting to open and clean.
Now, all the liquid butane in the Pyrex will start bubbling all by itself. We want the butane to evaporate as much as possible so our oil is butane free. This process is called purging. Butane’s evaporation point is 1ºC. This means that you can leave the Pyrex out in the open at room temperature and eventually all the butane will evaporate.
As the oil becomes concentrated, the speed of evaporation and final purge will slow down considerably. This is when a vacuum chamber comes in handy. With a vacuum chamber, you can suck all the air out, forcing the butane out along with it.
Not everyone has access to a vacuum chamber or pump, so the next best thing is a larger container to fit the Pyrex in. Fill it with hot or boiling water and place the Pyrex with the unpurged oil inside, being careful that no water splashes into it. This will heat oil enough to make it more viscous, allowing for an easier butane release. At the same time, butane will speed up its evaporation rate due to the increased temperature.
After a long while, bubbling activity will have ceased. This is when you know the process is finished. Leaving it overnight generally does the trick. You can now have a taste of your well-deserved, freshly made butane hash oil.
When you start looking around for an oil extractor, you will soon find out there are many options out there. We will briefly describe a couple of quality options that have been tried and tested. They all are of similar design, but vary in materials, work volume, and price tag. There is one for everyone.
For those who want to get their feet wet, we suggest the Oil Extractor, the Red Dragon or the Queen Bee Extractor. They are made from plastic and PVC which makes the more affordable, but very sturdy nonetheless. They will not disappoint and get the job done perfectly.
If you plan on continuously making BHO as part of your hobby, then we suggest taking it up a notch with a stainless steel Extractor BHO Roller or the Dexso Oil Extractor. Stainless steel provides you with a robust and durable tool that can withstand heavy loads of use. It is easy to clean and will not degrade over time.
If you are looking to produce the best quality possible extractions, then high-end glass extractors are your best bet. The Ehle-X-Trakt is all glass, even the screen! The extraction will not carry over any by-products or off-tastes, leaving you with the purest grade BHO you can make at home.
As you can see, making BHO is not rocket science. But it can be dangerous. The risk of hazard or explosion is very high indeed. There are unfortunately many stories of things going wrong. All of them due to careless methodology, lack of preparation and sub-par equipment.
You can use all your trim as a first experiment, in fact, we advise it as a practice run. Just one word – don’t judge BHO by what you get from trim. The best BHO is made from the top-shelf weed. You get out what you put in. After you are confident you have made a good batch from your disposable leaf and have nailed the process, you should definitely give it a go with primo weed of your favorite strain!
DANGERS OF BHO EXTRACTION
Criticism of BHO extraction mostly focuses on the dangers of open-loop systems versus the solvent itself. In the early days of black-market extraction, these systems would build up pressure. People cutting corners by using PVC pipe would end up in a room full of shattered, splintered PVC when this occurred.
Metal doesn’t shatter, so when problems occurred in these, the metal tube would launch straight through someone’s garage door. Much safer than 10,000 PVC needles filling the air, but still not exactly safe.
Closed-loop systems can still be dangerous, but when used correctly in controlled settings, the risks are reduced.
The other risk is consuming butane hash oil that hasn’t been properly purged. Once the extraction process is complete, it’s important to purge the extract. Those air bubbles you see are what make shatter look like swiss cheese instead of a Jolly Rancher. They won’t leave the product on their own, and if you leave them in, they could cause trouble down the line.
On the consumer end, the risks of BHO, aside from explosion, are consuming concentrated mold, heavy metals, pesticides, or other impurities from the plant. In addition, dab rigs are heated using butane or propane torches instead of traditional lighters.
There are certainly risks involved throughout the BHO supply chain, but they’re no different than those experienced by smartphones, cars, food, clothing, and any other mass-produced consumer product.
Due diligence from seed to sale and from purchase to consumption ensures a smooth transaction. Butane hash oil is one of the most innovative products on the cannabis market, and it can be safely enjoyed, so long as everyone does it responsibly.