CO2 Extraction Method: What is It and How It Works?

Step by step CO2 Extraction Method

The CBD industry is rapidly growing due to the massive consumer demand. But even as the popularity of CBD products grows, manufacturers are usually left wondering which techniques to employ. On the other hand, consumers don’t know where to start for CBD extraction techniques. Well, there CO2 extraction method for CBD is currently the industry gold standard. But how exactly does it work, and what are its pros and cons? Keep on reading to find it out more.

How CO2 Extraction Method of CBD Works

As one of the most effective ways of extracting CBD from cannabis hemp, CO2 extraction is currently the industry standard. It’s mostly used by reputable and professional companies that have reputations to protect simply because this method can effectively formulate the purest CBD extract.

While this is a sophisticated and expensive method, the quality of CBD products extracted by this method is usually top-notch, the whole technical machinery of C02 extraction can be divided into three chambers:

  • First chamber: It pressurizes then cools the CO2 gas into a supercritical liquid.
  • Second chamber: It holds the organic plant material
  • Third chamber: Responsible for holding the final CBD hemp extract, including the CO2, later reused.

The presence of pressurized carbon dioxide at high temperatures will change force its state to change. Note that pressurized CO2 will effectively pull the CBD compound and other important phytochemicals from the plant. The extracted compound from the organic plant material will end up in the 3rd chamber responsible for holding the final product.

Why CO2 Extraction Method of CBD is Popular

Even though there are many methods of extracting CBD from raw plant extracts, CO2 extraction has proved to be quite popular due to the following reasons:

  • FDA-Approved: This is the only CBD extraction method that has the approval of the FDA.
  • Purity: CO2 is a non-volatile and non-toxic gas. It’s naturally found in our surroundings, which means that if it can’t be reused, it can be safely released.
  • Full-spectrum extract: This method allows for the extraction of full-spectrum hemp extract and other important plant compounds.

Pros and Cons of CO2 Method of Extraction

The CO2 exaction method for CBD is currently one of the most used techniques in the industry. But like the other processes, it still has some downsides. It’s a safe choice that can effectively deliver premium CBD hemp extracts but not every manufacturer is keen to implement it.

Pros of CO2 Extraction

  • Incredibly safe: CO2 extraction is one of the safest methods to extract CBD from hemp plant extracts. That’s why it’s also used to process a wide range of foods and beverages since it’s a safe additive.
  • High purity: This technique provides manufacturers with a high level of CBD purity. Well, purity is important in CBD products since it determines the quality and potency. Generally, the CO2 extraction method for CBD helps minimize the chances of contamination by compounds such as chlorophyll.
  • Solvent-free: There are no flammable solvents used in the extraction of CBD by using this technique. This also makes it environmentally friendly.

Cons of CO2 Extraction

  • Costly: The equipment used with CO2 extraction is expensive. For instance, the starter kits’ starting price is around $40,000 each. This is a costly method that should be treated as an investment. Only big companies with high cash flow can manage to purchase such equipment.
  • Sophisticated equipment: This is another problem that manufacturers face. It takes experience and specific knowledge for this equipment to be properly and safely operated. Note that an amateur chemist can’t handle this equipment successfully without the right professional training.
  • Expensive CBD products: The professional knowledge and expensive equipment consequentially make CBD products extracted by C02 quite expensive.

Types of CO2 Extraction

There are two main methods of CO2 extraction, and the main difference between them is the temperature and pressure levels.

CO2 Extraction Process

Supercritical C02 Extraction

CBD extraction that involves using this method requires temperatures above 31.1 degrees Celsius and 1071 psi. It should be noted that CO2 is a gas at standard room temperatures and pressure. However, above the aforementioned pressure and temperature, then the gas turns into liquid. This is known as the supercritical fluid hence the name supercritical C02 extraction. This method usually produces more yields and takes less time compared to subcritical CO2 extraction.

Subcritical CO2 Extraction

Generally, subcritical C02 extraction takes longer. It requires a lower temperature and less pressure to create a non-supercritical liquid. Besides that, it is less efficient and normally produces smaller CBD yields compared to supercritical CO2 extract. It is also worth noting that this technique protects and retains fragile hemp extract constituents such as terpenesessential oils, and other beneficial compounds found within the plant.

There is a big difference between these two methods due to temperature and pressure differences. Supercritical CO2 normally produces CBD extracts with peanut butter consistency. The high pressures and temperatures used in such systems also lead to the extraction of other larger molecules, including chlorophyll, waxes, omega-3, and 6 lipids.

CBD extracts from subcritical CO2 usually have a consistency that’s almost close to molasses. As stated above, this method also preserves the additional compounds found in hemp plant extracts apart from CBD compounds.


Pressurized CO2 to pull CBD and other beneficial compounds from the hemp plant is one of the safest ways to extract CBD. The technique is highly effective in helping to eliminate any dangers that come with solvent extraction. Besides that, it normally produces quality CBD-rich full-spectrum hemp extracts vital in promoting mental and physical wellness. However, manufacturers should understand that CO2 extraction involves expensive and sophisticated equipment. This is because the technology and professionals that the company employs are not affordable. Additionally, consumers should understand that will this method produce the safest CBD products, they should be prepared to spend more.


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