Episode 6

Published on:

26th Jan 2021

S1 E06 - Decarboxylation Of Cannabinoids

Learn the ins and outs of decarboxylation from Greg Arias, co-founder of Concentrated Science. Greg and Jason discuss what is actually happening on a molecular level when decarbing your material, as well as specific SOPs for a streamlined and efficient decarb process.


Jason Showard - 00:00:10 

Hello and welcome to episode six of The Modern Extractor. This podcast focuses on the processes, equipment, and science found inside a cannabis extraction laboratory. I'm your host Jason Showard, and I work professionally in the cannabis extraction field. Here in season one, we're focusing on ethanol extraction and post-processing, with each episode digging deep into a particular stage in that process. The shows are released in an order that follows the workflow through a lab, as material makes its way from Cultivar to concentrate. 


Jason Showard - 00:00:39 

Last week on the show, we had Ray Van Lenten, founder and CEO of TruSteel on to help us break down falling film evaporation. Ray hooked us up with some amazing tips and tricks to get the most out of a falling film. He also broke down his decarb SOPs for use on their DR 10 decarboxylation unit. That's the same unit that I use and I absolutely love it. Moving on to this week's show, let's catch back up with our material on its way through the lab. 


Jason Showard - 00:01:06 

We've performed a cold ethanol extraction in a centrifuge and cold filtered it through a lenticular filter. Last week we took the resulting miscella and ran it through a Falling film evaporator to separate the oil we're after from the ethanol that we used to extract it. We were left with ethanol that's going to be sent back and used for future extractions and crude oil, which we're going to decarboxylate today. We heard Ray's decarb tech last week. But mine's a bit different. Let's get into it. 


Jason Showard - 00:01:33 

Now, I'd agree with Ray that a nitrogen sparge to push the air out of your decarb unit is ideal, but I've gotten pretty good results without doing it. Since, unlike Ray, I remove the solvent under vacuum. First off, fire up your cold trap chiller to protect your vacuum system. The condenser will catch any solvents removed from the crude. I like to bring my crude oil in and hold it at eighty degrees Celsius under vacuum of about -30 inches of mercury. 


Jason Showard - 00:01:57 

While it boils the remaining solvent off. It's important not to overfill the unit while doing this, or you can get some bumping of product into your condenser. This is a mess and it sucks to deal with, so don't overdo it. If you end up too full, you can lower your vacuum level a little bit. I bought the fourth ever DR 10 from TruSteel, so mine doesn't have an internal thermocouple to read the process temperature. I usually wait about fifteen minutes at 80C, then kick it up to 90 for about another ten minutes just to ensure all the solvent's gone. 


Jason Showard - 00:02:25 

Once I'm sure all the residual solvents are gone, I set my heater to 110C and start a timer for 40 minutes. Keep in mind that my process temp is 90 when I set that timer. Since I don't have an internal thermocouple, I don't have the ability to check the process temperature. So we just had to send out some lab tests along the way to make sure our decarb was going correctly. The oil makes it to 110 in, I would guess about ten minutes after I set it there, then spends another 30 at 110. 


Jason Showard - 00:02:54 

Then I immediately set the temperature on the heater back down to 70. Again, I'm using an older DR 10, so I don't have the ability to cool my process down like the fancy new ones do. Once my heater reads an incoming temperature of 70, I'll drain the decarbed crude out of the system and send it on to the next stage in the process. Well, a lot of people talk about decarboxylation and everybody's got some decarb SOPs that they use. 


Jason Showard - 00:03:18 

Many don't understand the mysterious molecular magic that's actually going on inside your decarb vessel. And we're going to fix that. Joining us today to help break down decarboxylation, we have Greg Arias. Chemical engineer with Concentrated Science and Aftermath Laboratories. Greg is one of the smartest people I know and literally my first call as soon as I need to call in some science reinforcements. So without any further ado, Greg Arias, welcome to The Modern Extractor. 


Greg Arias - 00:03:44 

How's it going Jason? 


Jason Showard - 00:03:46 

Hey, pretty good man. Where are you calling in from today? 


Greg Arias - 00:03:49 

Calling in from my closet in Venice, California. That's the best place I could find to record around here. 


Jason Showard - 00:03:57 

I appreciate the little bit of extra care taken to make sure you sound good. Thank you. 


Greg Arias - 00:04:03 

No problem, man. 


Jason Showard - 00:04:05 

So Venice. You're a semi-recent transplant to the L.A. area in general. Tell us a little bit about your journey to working in the cannabis field here in Cali. 


Greg Arias - 00:04:18 

Yeah, of course. So back in 2013, I started my journey out west from New Mexico, my home state. Went to Arizona State University for my master's in chemical engineering, studied specifically fuel cell technology there. I was out in Arizona for about six years. I had always kind of wanted to come out to California anyway. That was my main goal. But I got a little side-tracked for about six years in my way, in Phoenix, I started distilling after I graduated. So I was making vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, you name it. All of the general spirits at Ohso Distillery. So - 


Jason Showard - 00:05:16 

That was fantastic, by the way. I was the beneficiary of some of those. They're great. 


Greg Arias - 00:05:21 

Appreciate that. Yeah. No, I had a lot of fun with that. That was a very, very cool little side quest, if you will, on the way out here. So, yeah, I was responsible for our recipe development, flavor creation, and things of that nature out there. So I was making all of the delicious spirits and flavors that people would be drinking on a daily basis out there. So during that time at the distillery, I had a friend turn me on to the cannabis industry. 


Greg Arias - 00:05:57 

She mentioned that one of her close friends was in a lab and looking for an assistant extractor because they were just taking off. Just like the industry seems to be doing right now. So I got in over there in 2017. Started doing some part-time work while I was still at the distillery. So I was in a supercritical carbon dioxide lab making extracts there. That was a short-lived little taste of the industry. That company was expansion of a larger Colorado company. They kind of phased themselves out after about two, three years there. 


Greg Arias - 00:06:52 

And, after that, I didn't really think about it much more until you called me up in January of 2019. 


Jason Showard - 00:07:04 

Glad I did too. 


Greg Arias - 00:07:06 

Yeah. Seriously, man. It was, you told me that there was some big opportunity out here in California to really get a taste of the industry, really start to build a career around it. And I had always thought when I was younger, I think it would be pretty cool to go into the cannabis research and development. Like actual lab scale proceedings of cannabis. But I never thought it would come to fruition as much as it did because of all the legislation out there. 


Jason Showard - 00:07:38 

Yeah, I remember when it was, I think it was Concentration 2019. We decided to meet up and have the conversation, and meet the team, and figure it all out. I'm very happy you made your way out. 


Greg Arias - 00:07:52 

Yes. And that was a fun weekend there at the Pala casino. I won't get into the details, but - 


Jason Showard - 00:08:00 

I think I'm still paying that off. 


Greg Arias - 00:08:02 

Yeah. Aren't we all? Why do they always have these conventions at casinos? I mean, is it. Well, we can make one guess as to why, but - 


Jason Showard - 00:08:13 

They know their audience well. 


Greg Arias - 00:08:15 

Yeah, of course. They know the risk tolerance of this audience. Right. 


Jason Showard - 00:08:20 

You got it. 


Greg Arias - 00:08:23 

So then after that. Moved out here. Started doing some terpene creation for a mutual friend of ours through Aftermath Labs, and we created our line of Sierra Turps and - 


Jason Showard - 00:08:44 

We'll shout out to Devon here. 


Greg Arias - 00:08:46 

Yep. Thanks a lot Devon. We appreciate it. 


Jason Showard - 00:08:49 

Yeah definitely. 


Greg Arias - 00:08:51 

Yeah, and then everything was going pretty good there as soon as I moved down. Then I think we all remember this very, in various capacities. But the vape crisis hit us. So that being the main outlet for the terpenes, that took a pretty big hit on the entire industry. So we kind of took a step back from there and - 


Jason Showard - 00:09:20 

Yeah, it came to a screeching halt and it was pretty brutal. 


Greg Arias - 00:09:22 

Oh, yeah. Now that was a tough time. And then wouldn't you know it right after that happened, then COVID hit. And then another couple of hits happened to the industry. So then that that led me to having to adapt, realizing that this was kind of the new normal now. Took a side career, so to speak, as I call it. As a sanitizer manufacturer. So I was a - 


Jason Showard - 00:09:52 

Yeah, I was right there with you, man. We jumped into that one together. 


Greg Arias - 00:09:56 

I remember. Yeah. Well, I don't think we'll ever forget that. That was a whole career in four months. A lifelong career in four months. It was unreal times. 


Jason Showard - 00:10:06 

That I was a wild story. Maybe we'll do a bonus episode on that ridiculoucity. 


Greg Arias - 00:10:10 

Yeah. That's a good idea. Spinoff. 


Jason Showard - 00:10:14 



Greg Arias - 00:10:15 

And if anybody needs to know how to make good sanitizer, I've got a, I know a guy now. It's me so. Yeah. Then since then, after that kind of side quest if you will, into sanitizer, that's opened up a pretty large career of consulting for me. So now that I had had some cannabis knowledge under my belt, and now some sanitizer knowledge under my belt, I've been able to just kind of dance around doing some consulting for some labs up in Adelanto, California. And sanitizer consulting still down here in Los Angeles. Because that's just like the cannabis industry, I don't think the sanitizer industry is going anywhere anytime soon. 


Jason Showard - 00:11:09 

This is true. Just to clarify, for those of you who don't know Adelanto, it's one of the largest cannabis hubs here in Southern California. There's a ton of stuff going on down there. And I can attest to Greg doesn't want to toot his own horn here, but the lab that he's working at out there is fantastic. It is a facility, unlike anything I've ever seen before. It's awesome. 


Greg Arias - 00:11:33 

Looks like a P Diddy music video. 


Jason Showard - 00:11:36 

It really does. 


Greg Arias - 00:11:38 

It's well put together. It's very well thought out. And it is modern. It is very well-oiled machinery up there. And to just be a part of that is fabulous. Again, just to be at the forefront of, you know, modern technology in cannabis extraction is a very great gift, I think. 


Jason Showard - 00:12:01 

Yeah, yeah. And now you've kind of established a foothold here in town. You're tending to bounce around, a little less to just like whoever wants to hire you and more to whoever's got the hardest science and formulations that they're working on. I've definitely watched your schedule filled up over the past couple of years. And, you know, congratulations on that. What's the most interesting thing that you're working on currently or recently that you can talk about? 


Greg Arias - 00:12:26 

So not to get into too much detail. NDAs and proprietary information and whatnot. But cannabinoid conversions is the big one. Other than that, formulating is my main strong suit. Like you said, it's just trying to figure out what are the best recipes for making, for solving difficult questions that we have in the field. And this, of course, started when I was making terpene recipes here. But I'm most excited about my joint venture with you, Jason. 


Greg Arias - 00:13:04 

We're opening up a lab supply storefront, along with our general consulting services. So I'll be providing the lab-scale based consulting. So all of your analytical equipment, small scale research-oriented and development procedures. And then you, of course, will be doing the scale-up. 


Jason Showard - 00:13:31 

You got it, man. I couldn't have said it better myself. Definitely really excited about that one, too. It's been a long time coming. 


Greg Arias - 00:13:38 

Yeah, man. 


Jason Showard - 00:13:39 

I'll make sure to keep all you guys out there posted on the progress from that project as it comes along. Greg, circling back a little bit to what you mentioned prior to our side project. In regard to your solving difficult questions on the formulation work, I don't think I've ever seen you in a happier place than when you've got a hard problem on the desk in front of you. As far as formulation goes. It's definitely your sweet spot. Why do you think that is? 


Greg Arias - 00:14:05 

It's all a big puzzle out here. We're in one giant puzzle. There is methods to find it. There is language to find it. And that language is math and science, chemistry, physics. 


Jason Showard - 00:14:20 

Yeah. That's why I call you first man. 


Greg Arias - 00:14:22 



Jason Showard - 00:14:23 

In regard to the conversions, something that I've heard you speak about a lot, which I find a really interesting analogy for it, is that you call it molecular Legos. Like you can basically take things apart, put them back together and really build from a molecular standpoint. I've always been more process-oriented. And like when I get you talking about the molecular Lego aspect, it's always fascinating to me. 


Greg Arias - 00:14:47 

Yeah, I kind of came up with well I'm not, I'm obviously not the first one because Legos are a thing before I was born. But I recall in undergrad, when I was studying organic chemistry under Dr. Yanser at New Mexico Tech. I'd first gotten my foray into developing novel anticancer drugs, and they would show me the skeletal structures of chemicals and, you know, kind of walk me through the process. This is the reagent that we add. This is the products that we get out and they look very similar. 


Greg Arias - 00:15:27 

And I'm like, "Oh, so you're just like putting pieces onto a smaller thing. Or taking off pieces. It's just like Legos. It's, and I love Legos growing up." So it's all like Legos that you can't see. You have to put it in a special machine to see, but it's Legos nonetheless. And that's just, it's just always has been fascinating, organic synthesis, organic decomposition it's just, it's wildly interesting to me. 


Jason Showard - 00:15:51 

It's a little bit tougher than building Legos, though, considering you've got to build Legos with a blindfold. And then finally, after you're done, take it off and see how you did. 


Greg Arias - 00:15:59 

Yeah, hope the best. Hope for the best yeah. It's kind of the magic of it, though right? Before photography became such a ubiquitous thing, you know, you would take a film photo and hope for the best. And that's kind of what it is. And that's, you're taking a little snapshot down here. And hopefully, it's what you want. And that's kind of like a pleasant surprise if you do get it. 


Jason Showard - 00:16:22 

Yeah, it's certainly some job security because there's a lot of people that are far less patient than you. 


Greg Arias - 00:16:28 

Oh man. It's just, you got to love what you do I guess. 


Jason Showard - 00:16:33 

That's true. So just the whole concept of not being able to see exactly what you're doing is a good segway into our main topic on the show today, which is decarboxylation. Up into this point of the process, you've really been able to get some pretty visual feedback about how you're doing. Decarb is one of the first stages where that's not necessarily the case. Well, it's definitely not the case. And in order to get feedback on that, you've got to really send it in for some lab...

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About the Podcast

The Modern Extractor
Professional extractors talk extraction!
The Modern Extractor is a podcast about the processes, equipment, and science found inside a cannabis extraction laboratory. Season one focuses on the process of ethanol extraction and post processing into either distillate or isolate. Season two focuses on hydrocarbon extraction and the craft concentrates that it can produce. Each episode digs deep into a particular stage in the extraction and finishing processes, and we discuss the various approaches with industry expert guests. Episodes are released in an order which follows the work flow through a lab, following material closely through the process from cultivar to concentrate.