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How to Make Your Own Soxhlet Extractor

Updated on November 10, 2016
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The author, Mario Buildreps, is a graduated engineer, and specialized in showing you the same topic from a different angle.

DIY Soxhlet Extractor for Essential Oils

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The improved AND simplified Soxhlet extractor for home usage. The device does not only extract in the same way as the original one, it extracts and collects more efficiently. The same principle but now with a thermosflask instead of the jar. This version works even better.
The improved AND simplified Soxhlet extractor for home usage. The device does not only extract in the same way as the original one, it extracts and collects more efficiently.
The improved AND simplified Soxhlet extractor for home usage. The device does not only extract in the same way as the original one, it extracts and collects more efficiently. | Source
The same principle but now with a thermosflask instead of the jar. This version works even better.
The same principle but now with a thermosflask instead of the jar. This version works even better. | Source

Soxhlet Extractor

Laboy HMK21043 Glass Soxhlet Extractor Set 55/50 Lab Glassware (Pack of 3)
Laboy HMK21043 Glass Soxhlet Extractor Set 55/50 Lab Glassware (Pack of 3)

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

The principle of the Soxhlet.
The principle of the Soxhlet. | Source

This Guy Claims That Cannabis Oil Cured Him of Cancer

David Hibbitt from the United Kingdom was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012. Surgery and chemoradiation didn't help, he was told he was terminal. Hibbitt claims to be cured by using Cannabis oil. The posts of him went viral.
David Hibbitt from the United Kingdom was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012. Surgery and chemoradiation didn't help, he was told he was terminal. Hibbitt claims to be cured by using Cannabis oil. The posts of him went viral. | Source

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.

source: cureyourowncancer.org

Directions for Making Cannabis Oil. You can do it this way as well, but is less effective than Soxhlet extraction. You will waste medical substances.
Directions for Making Cannabis Oil. You can do it this way as well, but is less effective than Soxhlet extraction. You will waste medical substances. | Source

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.

Comparison

Soxhlet
Bartender
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.

Source: cureyourowncancer.org

213G15 Karter Scientific 2000ml Narrow Mouth Erlenmeyer Flask
213G15 Karter Scientific 2000ml Narrow Mouth Erlenmeyer Flask

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:

  • comfrey,
  • horsetail,
  • 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

Three Cannabis babies are called "CBD Critical Mass". They contain an equal amount of THC and CBD. You can't get high from it, because the CBD prevents that. It is one of the most powerful medical plants available.
Three Cannabis babies are called "CBD Critical Mass". They contain an equal amount of THC and CBD. You can't get high from it, because the CBD prevents that. It is one of the most powerful medical plants available. | Source

Principle of the Improved DIY Soxhlet

The improved DIY Soxhlet works better than the traditional Soxhlet. The extract does not flow back into the main solvent, and the extract is thickening during extraction. The solvent remains clean for reuse as well. It saves money and is safer!
The improved DIY Soxhlet works better than the traditional Soxhlet. The extract does not flow back into the main solvent, and the extract is thickening during extraction. The solvent remains clean for reuse as well. It saves money and is safer! | Source

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!

Close Ups

The copper condenser of a small fridge cut in two, and I've reworked it a little to make it suitable for  its purpose. The right side has been reinforced to be somewhat wider. It will be connected to the metal lid of the jar.
The copper condenser of a small fridge cut in two, and I've reworked it a little to make it suitable for its purpose. The right side has been reinforced to be somewhat wider. It will be connected to the metal lid of the jar. | Source
A close up of the assembled condenser.
A close up of the assembled condenser. | Source
This is how the improved version looks like. The condenser is made from a desoldering pump. This design encourages the circulation of cold water into the condenser.
This is how the improved version looks like. The condenser is made from a desoldering pump. This design encourages the circulation of cold water into the condenser. | Source
The sample container and the extract container are connected to eachother. The extract container can be screwed off. The extract container may not touch the bottom of the Erlenmeyer flask.
The sample container and the extract container are connected to eachother. The extract container can be screwed off. The extract container may not touch the bottom of the Erlenmeyer flask. | Source
A glimpse inside the sample container. You see the top of the siphon.
A glimpse inside the sample container. You see the top of the siphon. | Source
How the improved condenser is connected to the sample container. The subtle way how the copper wire is bended makes sure it locks itself up. We can now slide it away for a better access to the container.
How the improved condenser is connected to the sample container. The subtle way how the copper wire is bended makes sure it locks itself up. We can now slide it away for a better access to the container. | Source
The cover of the extract container with the siphon peeping through. At the top you see how the air vent is constructed. I drilled a hole partially in the lid. It appears to be simple and very effective.
The cover of the extract container with the siphon peeping through. At the top you see how the air vent is constructed. I drilled a hole partially in the lid. It appears to be simple and very effective.


Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it!

© 2016 by Buildreps

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    • Buildreps profile image
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      Buildreps 8 months ago from Europe

      elisadallo, I suppose you want to put the liquid carbon dioxide in the condenser? In that case I would say, no, because the condensate (alcohol) would freeze on the condenser.

    • Buildreps profile image
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      Buildreps 13 months ago from Europe

      Thank you for your great and kind comment, techygran. I hope your son finds some helpful tips and tricks in this article.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 13 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      I found this article very comprehensive and interesting. I also have a son (now, isn't that fascinating?) who will likely be happy to see your DIY videos and read this article. He has made a number of tinctures that have helped his various friends, with various herbs, and is currently doing some work with Indian Pipe (since this is the time of year it springs up in the bushes around here) towards pain management. Thank you for posting this!

    • Buildreps profile image
      Author

      Buildreps 15 months ago from Europe

      Good morning, Larry. This is indeed the kind of technology that stays the same throughout the centuries because it is just good. Happily I live in a country where it is legal up to a certain limit. I think that is great! :) Thanks for the comment.

    • Buildreps profile image
      Author

      Buildreps 15 months ago from Europe

      Thanks for reading and commenting, MizBejabbers. The things is that you can make oil from virtually any every plant. They, of course, do not all produce the CBD oil.

      But did you know there are other plants that produce CBD as well? And they are not illegal. Doing some research to it might give you huge insights. Plants like flax also produce CBD. Related compounds to CBD (I do not know if they are as effective as CBD) are produced by the Chinese Rhododendron.

      You can order different kinds of seeds of plants that are 'suspected' to produce CBD as well, and just experiment with it. The DIY Soxhlet is meant for these kind of experiments. But be careful to experiment with poisonous plants!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 15 months ago from Oklahoma

      I really love technology that is so simple and good that it has remained relatively the same.

      Great read, and you know how I stand on legalizing it.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 15 months ago

      Thanks, Buildreps, I'm passing these plans along to my husband who loves to experiment with engineering projects. It is still illegal to grow Mary Jane in my state here in the U.S., and one man was recently arrested for buying it through mail order.

      Our laws don't make sense except to benefit Big Pharma. I am on a schedule I drug for a localized fibromyalgia-type ailment called RSD (reflex sympathetic dystropny) or complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). The side effects of this drug are almost as bad as the disorder. I've tried cannabis oil and found that it works. Thing is, we can get low- or no-THC plants in this country that work better than legal drugs, but in some states like mine, we risk prison.

    • Buildreps profile image
      Author

      Buildreps 15 months ago from Europe

      Good morning, Randy. I'm not sure CBD will help to prevent glaucoma from further degradation. Maybe you can share your experiences after you've done it?

    • Buildreps profile image
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      Buildreps 15 months ago from Europe

      Hi Jodah, this device is able to make extractions of all medicinal plants. Maybe it is not illegal to grow just one plant at a time somewhere in house. Who cares? I am allowed to grow three plants at a time, and that is what I'm doing now. Thanks for your comment!

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 15 months ago from Southern Georgia

      Wonderfully illustrated and explained! I too will give my son this article, but with the hopes he will construct one for me too. I have glaucoma so I'm continuously looking for better medicines to prevent my eyesight from further degradation. :)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 15 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This was very interesting and informative, Buildreps, and like Bill, I may pass this info onto one of my sons. It is still illegal to grow any cannabis here at the moment.

    • Buildreps profile image
      Author

      Buildreps 15 months ago from Europe

      Thanks for that, Bill. Looking forward to his ideas, and his experiences with it. :) The hub hasn't been featured yet, so your son isn't maybe able to read it.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Passing this on to my son who will be fascinated by it and will most likely immediately begin constructing one. LOL Thanks my friend.