What does "ZERO-WINTERIZATION" mean to you?
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
The people of Cannabis have spoken, so I will try my best to answer!
MYTH #1: “Zero-Winterization”
We’ve all heard the term "zero-winterization" and I’d be willing to bet that most of us pretend to understand what it means. But do any of us (including the experts in extraction) really know what it means to our brands? I would say NO, unequivocally, and wholeheartedly, NO. Why you might ask? Well, I'm glad you asked, I honestly feel product development is unique to a brand so a term like "winterization" is a loose term at best. I mean how much winterization is needed? Is it a universally excepted tolerance? Should it be? Or is it just a word used to sell extraction equipment in the cannabis space?
Again, I'd like to ask what you know "winterization" to mean? Most of you are probably going to say "I don't know", and that’s of great interest to me because most of the “winterized” oil you are buying on the market today still have fats/lipids and waxes in the product, they definitely have sugars, chlorophylls and I'm guessing pesticides (because a COA apparently means "Total Cannabinoid") so what exactly do you think you are buying/selling when looking at the US Supply Chain for Cannabinoid Oils? Purified oils? Clarified oils? Remediated oils?
Oh, wait, we aren’t talking about “Winterization” we are talking about “Zero-Winterization”! You’ve heard the term time and time again, its a great term, ZERO which automatically correlates to "free of" non-desired compounds. But what does ZW (I'm going to now refer to "zero-winterization" as "ZW" because it’s a taxing word to continuously type out) refer to? Ethanol extractors feature sub-thermal temperatures extraction equipment that can In-line “Dewax”, but is "dewaxing" synonymous with "ZW", ZW is such a broad term that when its relayed to the novice extractor or decision-maker, they think purity, so much so that often owners of extraction equipment are confused when their ethanol extractors produce cannabis oil that looks like tar!
So let's look at Ethanol first.
Since ethanol acts as an aggressive solvent, it's great at aggressively attacking the substrate of whatever it tasked to “extracting” and no matter how fancily you describe how amazing Alcohol Extraction is as a method, it is NOT selective at all! So whether the material is polar or non-polar [think back to 8th-grade chemistry] it’s going to effectively complete its task and EXTRACT! That means:
Chlorophylls (yeah that’s right plural there are several types of Chlorophyll) A & B,
Pesticides (most are water-soluble which makes them…the word you are looking for is POLAR),
Glove or Cigarette butt
Part of the vape pen that you just dropped because the “extractors” in industrial cannabis are “over-regulated” and GMP technically doesn’t apply to them because it's only for APIs
And of course CANNABINOIDS (yes, ∆9-THC, and for those of you that are curious, its option + J and BAAM ∆ symbol).
But the same critique shall also apply to Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extractors, we often hear the BIG NAMES in CO2 extraction boasting “Zero-Winterization”, just think about WHO you are hearing the verbiage from? Is it the engineers or was it from a site visit that you took part in when the sales team was laying down the red carpet at a facility where one of their pieces of equipment was being showcased? Or, even worse, was it a salesperson who has probably never turned on an extractor in his/her life?
I’ve been on the site visits, I’ve asked the one question that you should be asking,
“Do you receive an incentive to give these tours?”
– chances are good that if you catch them off guard and you’ll hear “yes”, or perhaps not, but chances are pretty good that they receive compensated service agreements (which can be in the tens of thousands of dollars annually on a single piece of equipment - I think most "service agreements start at 10% of the overall value of the machine) or some form of incentive.
Speaking of interrupting daily operations, have all of you seen our product line at FS-Origins!
Seriously, why else would a production facility allow a stranger into a secured facility that requires multiple hoops to jump through just to sign in? But I digress, partially because a qualified extraction engineer can achieve greatness with CO2, its potential is limitless if you think about it, it's just that most [espcially if you are new to Industrial Cannabis/Hemp] do not have the background or expertise to do what a qualified technician can do - at least not right out the gate.
ZW within CO2 can happen, often you won't see it especially in Industrial Cannabis, mostly because it requires a very specialized set of parameters and a much slower extraction process (actual time). Now for medical cannabis licenses, this might be practical. Industrial cannabis…well, no one actually pays per input pound in Hemp, so why would the extractor spend any more time than necessary to pump out higher-end products that are not going to be paid for? If you are having to attract deals with “splits” the costs associated with the extraction side will eventually outweigh the profits (hint: look at what has become of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp industry due to the overreach of the processing facilities and their contracts that promised the world to the farmers).
Side Note because I went off on a tangent: Winterization refers to the dropping of a temperature of a solvent until the separation of compounds by differences in their melting and precipitation points occurs. Also, it has not been my experience that cannabinoids would precipitate out of the solution in a winterization scenario at -80C, you need to be tender with the temperature dip, and shake things up a bit, but we will save that for “Aaron’s rantings 2.0”
Yes, in classical biochemistry, this means the separation of waxes, but, in neo-classical cannabis, the manufacturers of extraction equipment lead you to believe that ZW equates to purified oils. Now, I know some of the manufacturers are going to jump down my throat and say "dewaxing", but I would then ask why do they also mention "dewaxing" outside of their "zero winterization" spiel? But, I am not here for their reading pleasure, I am here to try and help the novel-cannabis venture to better understand what the limitations of modern extraction equipment are. So, when you hear:
“Our equipment doesn’t require the oil to be purified because our equipment is capable of 100% zero-winterization”
ask them for a sample directly off the cup, and go down to your local lab and have it tested. If you are going to drop $200K+ on an extractor, another $45 won't break your bank [I hope]. I guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised by how well your “gut feeling” is in tune with your better judgment.
Look, I'm not trying to say all salespeople are…creative, yeah, "creative" with their sales approach [actually, I am]. They sell, they have quotas, and they have Managers that probably have a tenuous grasp on what “motivating” staff really means, so the chances are good that you are just a number value. But don't take that personally, its just business. What I am trying to say is that you don’t have to be just another number, there are some incredible teams out there with specialized sales engineers that can walk you through their equipment from front to back. Which, by the way, is the norm in any capital equipment arena, especially when you are dropping high dollar values on equipment, it’s the job of the Sales Engineer [hehe - good luck talking to the engineers] to walk you through the equipment's abilities to do what you need precisely!
Hint: Think of a GMP Scheme – is the equipment you are looking at QUALIFIABLE in a GMP setting? Can it hit the targets that you have laid out in your business plan? Can those targets be validated (not theoretically) with data? This is basic capital equipment scheming in a GMP setting [join our next CUMCS program with Blue Inspection Body and Control Union to get a better understanding of what all this is and how it all works].
Here is what I have learned/know – you can buy that TESLA, but if you cannot charge the battery because it came with a European plug, then what good is it?
What I mean is that if you purchase a piece of equipment, and you do not properly define your business scheme, then whose fault is it when the equipment does not do, what you think it's supposed to [based on what the salesperson told you]? I reread that last line ten times, so let me try to rearrange my thinking on this – if the salesperson is using a carefully engineered language to get you to purchase their equipment, is it that same salesperson’s fault when the machine is delivered and it does not do exactly what YOU thought it should be capable of?
There are almost 5,000 extractors/processors in the United States Cannabis and Hemp Industry alone, with about 450,000 licensed acres, that about 90 acres per extractor to handle. At 1,500 pounds of CBD rich plant/biomass, that's 135,000 lbs of biomass to extract, of which FARMERS ARE RARELY PAYING to have extracted - seriously, even if you are one of the top tier extractors in the US and you have a GMP level facility and SOPs dialed in, they still are not paying for your expertise, because why would they? There are 4,000+ other extractors willing to do the "same" job for a split (aka free).
My suggestion, leave the technical stuff to those that excel at it, spend your $500K on a retail space, with CBD currently selling at $150 per kilogram, you are better off making products.
I mean look at me, I'm just sitting by the phone waiting for you to call! But seriously, here is my number - (970) 251-191