How to Make Your Own Soxhlet Extractor
DIY Soxhlet Extractor for Essential OilsClick thumbnail to view full-size
If you have two left hands, it will be hard to build the Soxhlet I have built, and I would advice to purchase Laboy instead of cheap Chinese copies. But if you have two right hands, an Erlenmeyer Flask will be sufficient.
What is a Soxhlet Extractor?
A Soxhlet extractor is a piece of laboratory equipment to extract the essential ingredients from solids like plants.
It was invented by Mr. Von Soxhlet almost 150 years ago, and named after him. Now you know where that awkward name comes from.
The nice feature of a Soxhlet is that it can operate on its own, while completely stripping the essentials from the sample. Isn't that great? But how does it work? And why did I think the Soxhlet required an upgrade in the form of a DIY?
The principle of the Soxhlet has never been really improved. The principle in itself is very effective, and that requires no changes. The Soxhlets you buy today are basically the same as the ones of 150 years ago. The reason for that is because it works great...if you work in a laboratory.
The original Soxhlet was never designed to operate in home conditions. It requires a constant stream of cold running water. One supply hose and one drain hose. Of course you can fill your sink with cold water and put some ice cubes in it, and connect the supply hose to a pond pump. The drain hose has to be put then in the second sink. That is to say, if you have one. If you haven't got a kitchen with two sinks, you have to leave the drain water somewhere else.
And if you have a partner, he/she might not appreciate your amazing DIY constructions in the kitchen. So we need something simple and small, that preferably operates even better. Here it is, taadaaaaah!
These days are many people becoming aware of the possibility to cure themselves from cancer, or other nasty diseases by using medical Cannabis oil. It is said to be the most powerful medicine available today. And that development is shouting for a better DIY homedesign of the original Soxhlet.
The fact is that you can make with this apparatus from every plant material essential oils. Let's check it out!
How the Soxhlet Principle Works
This Guy Claims That Cannabis Oil Cured Him of Cancer
What is Cannabis Oil?
Cannabis oil is a thick, sticky, resinous substance made up of cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, that is extracted from the cannabis plant. Cannabis oil is a cannabis based product obtained by separating the resins from cannabis flowers using a solvent extraction process.
What is Wrong With the Traditional Soxhlet?
That might be a good question that requires an answer in advance. Like already said, the Soxhlet was designed to operate in a lab, under lab conditions, with the proper safety equipment and protocols.
There are many people on the internet showing you how to make a Cannabis extract by using a Soxhlet, or by using even more rudimentary methods. That's fine, but stay critical. Check and cross-check the info you're taking in.
The most common method seems to be to put the material in a jar, then pouring the alcohol in it, shaky shaky like a bartender, and then filter out the extracted green fluid. That green fluid is the alcohol mixed with the THC/CBD stuff in it - the green gold. The only problem is the alcohol. No problem. You have to evaporate it. Very slowly. On an electrical heater.
Not many people seem to be aware of the intense dangers this stage is taking them in. Some give the advice to evaporate outside. Of course, that's a good idea. Weren't we trying to make something for medical usage?
Now, about the Soxhlet. The Soxhlet is basically doing the same thing, only it extracts much better. A Soxhlet literally sucks everything out of the solid, only if you use a high percentage alcohol. The shaky shaky bartender is maybe extracting twothirds of the essentials, because the alcohol gets saturated before all the essentials are drawn out. That's a waste of the green gold. Because the Soxhlet recycles unsaturated alcohol into the sample container it doesn't have that problem. That was the original idea behind the whole concept.
But, both, the Soxhlet guy and the bartender, are having the same problem after extraction - the alcohol that is still in the extract. So, the Soxhlet guy has to evaporate as well. And that was never a problem in a lab. But at home that can be tricky. So, reducing this risk is our goal. In the same time we keep the qualities of the original Soxhlet.
And exactly that needs an improvement. That is what my DIY Soxhlet is about.
Extracts all essentials
Extracts partially the essentials
Large amount of alcohol have to be vaporized to get pure oil
Large amount of alcohol have to be vaporized to get pure oil
Wasting precious alcohol
Wasting precious alcohol
Complicated and vulnerable
Simple but ineffective
The Alleged Treatable Diseases
Some of the conditions cannabis oil has been used for include: cancer, diabetes, crohn's disease, gout, pain relief, Glaucoma, Opioid Dependence, treating alcohol abuse, epilepsy, psoriasis, anorexia, asthma, adrenal disease, inflammatory bowel disease, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, pain, migraines, Dravet syndrome, Doose syndrome, Multiple sclerosis.
Why an Erlenmeyer Flask? The solvent that the flask contains is highly volatile and flammable. An Erlenmeyer Flask is designed to take intense heat of an electric heater. You cannot take any risk of braking just ordinary glass because of the heat. The Erlenmeyer has also nice proportions which we can use for our design.
Making Essential Oils like CBD
The Soxhlet I designed and built for my own use to make extracts from plants like:
- rosehip fruit,
- dandelion leaf,
- bilberry leaf
But also to extract the powerful essentials of the Cannabis plant, the so called CBD.
It is said that the Sumerian tablets are speaking about the Cannabis plant as the plant with the most healing power in it. So, that's why it is interesting to experiment with. Bio-chemist Dennis Hill explains on his website how the cannabinoids work. You can check it out here. He seems to be a man of integrity.
Within the limits of the law, I am allowed to grow three Cannabis plants. It depends of your location whether it is allowed to grow Cannabis and how many. You might want to check that before you start. I ordered five seeds in a specialized shop. Seeds that are said to grow a plant that contains 50/50 THC and CBD. After consulting some sources this plant promised to give the most powerful healing properties. We will see.
The idea is to provide the oil for free for people who need it, and perhaps more important, who like to try it but don't have the money for it.
Still Baby Plants
Principle of the Improved DIY Soxhlet
What do You Need?
The only thing I bought was the Erlenmeyer Flask, all the rest was just 'purchased' from waste areas and dumpsters. I love to potter about between garbage. It's a goldmine!
- Erlenmeyer flask
- Large jar with metal lid (which is protected against corrosion).
- copper expansion tank from little refrigerator (for condenser).
- about 10 inches of the copper thin pipes from back of fridge (for siphon).
- about 2 inches of the high quality copper thread for connecting the sample container to the condenser. I used the very thin compression tube that runs to the expansion tank of the demolished fridge.
- one little glass spice jar with PE or PVC screw cap. You can do it without screw cap, but this design has some advantages (extract container).
- PE or PVC tube of about 4 inches long. I used from a similar glass spice jar as mentioned above, the screw cap to close the bottom (sample container). You can try to make it from glass, but due to the amount of holes you need to make that might be difficult.
- rubber ring to seal the connection between the large jar and the Erlenmeyer flask.
You must be creative and handy to stick all parts together that it actually works, and keeps on working reliable. I won't explain how to stick it all together because I think that is pointless. If you're going to scramble parts around you will find out for yourself how to engineer the major design, like I've shown here, together in detail. There are probably many people out there who can make this design much better. Maybe you?
How to Operate
- Put the plant material in a paper coffee filter. Roll a fat cigar of it that fits nice and tight in the sample container (4). If you throw the plant material just like that into the container, the loose material might start to block the entrance of the siphon.
- Fill the large jar with 50/50 cold water and ice cubes. Close the lid tightly, and check if nothing is leaking. Cover the jar with a few layers of aluminium foil. Wrap it in nicely. This prevents the contents from heating too quickly. This part might be improved by remodelling a thermos flask. The rest stays the same.
- Put the rubber on its place on the lid, and connect the lid (with the condenser on it) to the sample container. Make it ready for use.
- Pour in about 500 ml of ethanol or isopropyl in the Erlenmeyer flask, and carefully shift the battery of extract container, sample container, and condenser in its position. You're now ready to Rock-'n-Roll!
- Put the apparatus on the smallest electrical heater you can find in the house, and put it in the lowest setting. Maybe you can put it somewhat higher if it really goes too slowly. But doing it sloooowly is the best way! Stay with your Soxhlet to make sure it works well, and that the alcohol doesn't start to boil too fiercely.
- The alcohol will start to condensate on the condenser long before it boils. The thermodynamics in your DIY Soxhlet is very complex. The main point is that the condensing alcohol will add lots of warmth to the cold water in the jar, and will heat it up slowly.
- If you operate your DIY Soxhlet calm and slowly there won't be any alcohol peeping out during operation, because the evaporation and the condensation will stay in harmony with eachother. But if the water in the jar starts to turn too warm, there might start some alcohol peeping out. At that time the extract container will contain two to three cycles of extracted material. That is in most cases enough. You might want to squeeze your 'sigar' dry after you have taken it out of the sample container.
- If you're not convinced the sample material is sufficiently extracted, you can replace the jar with new cold water and ice cubes, and put the whole construction back into the Erlenmeyer flask. Make sure you take the Erlenmeyer flask from the heater and cover the opening well to prevent the alcohol to evaporate. Remember, we like to stay safe and sound!
Additional Benefit of This DIY Soxhlet Principle
One of the additional benefits of this DIY Soxhlet is that the evaporated ethanol or isopropyl is captured in a separate container, together with the essentials of the plant(s). You have to evaporate just a little bit of alcohol. Most of the alcohol is still in the Erlenmeyer flask.
Ethanol and isopropyl have often Bitrex (or denatonium) added to it, to make it unusable for human consumption. Since we evaporate the ethanol or isopropyl very slowly these unwanted additions do not come into the extract container. The Soxhlet guy and the bartender will thicken the essentials during their evaporation (you know that outdoor job) and will include therefore the Bitrex into their end product. This will make the product of a lower quality. Maybe even slightly poisonous.
This DIY Soxhlet doesn't have all these disadvantages, because the Bitrex is too heavy to evaporate together with the solvent. You will end up with a better quality oil!
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it!
© 2016 by Buildreps