A blank tincture bottle with the text "CO₂ vs. Ethanol Extraction" highlighting the comparison between two popular hemp extraction methods

Two solvent-based extraction methods dominate the hemp industry: CO₂ and ethanol extraction. But which one is better? This question has lingered for years, and while there are no definitive answers, both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

In this post, we’ll highlight and compare the two main methods of solvent-based extraction:

  1. Ethanol Extraction
  2. Supercritical Carbon Dioxide (sCO₂) Extraction

What is Solvent-Based Extraction?

Cannabinoids like CBD and THC can be extracted from hemp in various ways. Because cannabinoids are fat-soluble, solvents can be used to pull cannabinoids from hemp via its essential oils. Solvent-based extraction methods allow manufacturers to concentrate hemp’s essential oils, which can then be infused into other products like edibles, topicals, and tinctures. The efficiency and effectiveness of these methods have made them popular in the industry.

Comparing our methods to competitors, it is essential to note that solvent-based extraction often ensures a more potent and pure final product. Many leading brands in the hemp industry rely on these extraction techniques to guarantee the quality and efficacy of their products.

Is There Such a Thing as Solvent-less Extraction?

Yes, cannabinoids can be extracted without solvents. For millennia, people have used screens and mechanical tumbling to separate kief, also known as dry sift concentrates, from hemp and cannabis plants. While solvent-less extraction is a more traditional method, it does not always achieve the same purity and potency as solvent-based methods. This is a significant factor when comparing our extraction processes to those of our competitors.

What is Ethanol Extraction?

Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, is an incredibly efficient solvent responsible for intoxication through alcoholic beverages. It’s a relatively safe and efficient solvent, making it a great choice for commercial and at-home extractions. Many competitors in the hemp industry also favor ethanol extraction for its simplicity and effectiveness.

Extracting cannabinoids using ethanol involves grinding down hemp to increase its surface area and washing it with high-grade ethanol. Ethanol is a polar solvent, meaning it will readily bond with water-soluble and fat-soluble compounds, resulting in a full-spectrum extract. This full-spectrum extract includes all active ingredients from the hemp, providing a richer profile of cannabinoids and other beneficial compounds.

When the extraction is complete, the ethanol is evaporated off and recycled for future use, leaving behind a molasses-like product called full-spectrum crude extract. This dark brown oil can be turned into distillate using purification methods. Compared to competitors, our ethanol extraction process ensures minimal solvent residue and a high-quality final product.

What is Supercritical CO₂ Extraction?

Supercritical CO₂ extraction uses carbon dioxide cooled and pressurized into a supercritical state—displaying properties of both a liquid and a gas—to strip away cannabinoids and other phytochemicals from hemp. This process requires carbon dioxide to be kept above 87.9°F and 1,071 psi (pounds per square inch). For reference, car tires are usually kept between 30 and 35 psi.

Aside from the high pressure, CO₂ extraction and the resulting oils are very safe and pose little risk to consumers. Supercritical CO₂ setups generally feature three stages: cooling, closed-loop extraction, and CO₂ recapture. This meticulous process ensures the safety and purity of the final product, a standard that is often highlighted by top competitors in the industry.

Supercritical CO₂ is also a tunable solvent, meaning its solvation strength can be adjusted incrementally by changing the density of the supercritical CO₂ fluid. This flexibility allows for precise control over the extraction process, ensuring that the final product meets specific quality standards.

What Does Supercritical Mean?

When a substance is supercritical, it’s at a temperature and pressure above its critical point. It is not a gas nor a liquid but is also not under enough pressure to become a solid. This unique state allows supercritical CO₂ to act as an effective solvent for extracting cannabinoids and other phytochemicals from hemp.

Compared to ethanol extraction, the supercritical CO₂ process can be more complex and costly. However, it offers unparalleled control over the extraction process, which can result in a purer and more potent final product. This level of control is a key selling point for many of our competitors who use CO₂ extraction.

CO₂ vs. Ethanol Extraction: Which is Better?


If the goal is to make a full-spectrum distillate for edibles, tinctures, and topicals, ethanol extraction is the way to go. Ethanol bonds with cannabinoids in hemp and other beneficial compounds like terpenes and flavonoids. This results in a rich and potent extract that can be used in various products.

Supercritical CO₂ extractions tend to leave many of hemp’s phytochemicals on the table. While CO₂ extraction pulls out cannabinoids, a 2018 study found that it eliminates terpenes and flavonoids in the process. Producers can more readily turn their extract into products like oils, concentrates, and vape cartridges. However, the loss of terpenes and flavonoids can be a drawback for those seeking a full-spectrum experience.


Both ethanol and CO₂ extractions are relatively safe but present unique safety hazards that can be mitigated with proper equipment and training. If done poorly, both methods can result in residual solvents in the concentrate. Proper testing should include a residual solvents test to ensure safety. This is a standard practice among leading hemp product manufacturers.

Final Product

Advocates of both extraction methods point out the benefits of their preferred method. CO₂ extractions are cheaper for manufacturers and better at pulling cannabinoids from hemp plants after equipment costs. Ethanol extractions require less energy, take less time, and create a more rounded full-spectrum extract for infusions.

If your goal is potency, CO₂ extractions may be the way to go. For a balanced full-spectrum experience, ethanol is the better choice. Many competitors in the hemp industry choose their extraction methods based on these same considerations, aiming to produce the highest quality products for their customers.

Comparing Our Page with Competitors

When comparing our extraction methods to those of our competitors, several factors come into play. Many competitors emphasize the purity and potency of their products, highlighting the benefits of their chosen extraction methods. Our detailed comparison of CO₂ and ethanol extraction methods provides a comprehensive overview, allowing customers to make informed decisions based on their preferences and needs.

Competitors often showcase their extraction processes’ efficiency, safety, and final product quality. By providing a thorough comparison, we ensure that our customers understand the benefits and drawbacks of each method. This transparency helps build trust and confidence in our products, setting us apart from competitors who may not provide as much detail.

Our emphasis on the safety and efficacy of our extraction methods aligns with industry standards and best practices. By highlighting the rigorous testing and quality control measures we implement, we reassure customers that they are choosing products that meet the highest standards of purity and potency.

Solvent-Based Extractions: Final Thoughts

We’re not here to tell you which extraction method is better. However, all of Sunset Lake CBD’s products are made with ethanol-extracted hemp concentrates. We believe that terpenes and flavonoids play an important role in the experience and may enhance hemp’s beneficial effects. By comparing our methods with those of our competitors, we demonstrate our commitment to quality and transparency, ensuring our customers receive the best products possible.

Get more info in our website


  1. What is the difference between ethanol and CO₂ extraction?
    • Ethanol extraction uses ethyl alcohol as a solvent to create a full-spectrum extract, while CO₂ extraction uses supercritical carbon dioxide to extract cannabinoids and other compounds.
  2. Which extraction method is safer, ethanol or CO₂?
    • Both methods are relatively safe with proper equipment and training, though they each have unique safety hazards.
  3. Which extraction method is more efficient?
    • Ethanol extraction is generally more efficient for creating full-spectrum extracts, while CO₂ extraction is better for isolating cannabinoids.
  4. Can ethanol and CO₂ extractions be used interchangeably?
    • While both methods can produce high-quality extracts, they are not always interchangeable due to differences in efficiency, cost, and the final product’s characteristics.
  5. What products can be made from ethanol and CO₂ extractions?
    • Both methods can produce oils, concentrates, tinctures, edibles, and topicals, though the composition and benefits of the final products may vary.