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Sun Tzu

THC extraction using butane.

65 posts in this topic

Extraction of THC using Butane

Most people seem to have heard of this process by now, but the method most commonly mentioned is certainly not the only one. Where I come from, getting hold of pure butane is expensive. There was only one brand that evaporated cleanly (no white residue left when a whole can is evaporated in glass) and it is only available in 250ml cans. One thing that struck me about the usual method of injecting the butane into a PVC pipe containing the plant material, was that the butane was highly unlikely to reach saturation point while in contact with the MJ. Seeing as butane will remain as a liquid while in a confined space I reasoned that if kept it in a closed system, or partially-closed to release pressure build ups, I could keep the plant material in contact with the butane until much higher levels of saturation were reached. I originally tried it with a plastic bottle. This worked well, technically, but I’m sure the butane was pulling something from the plastic of the bottle. The method I’m going to write below is the evolution of this method, including all the tips and tricks I’ve garnered along the way. I’m not saying this is the best way to use butane, but all the improvements I’ve made, if that’s what they are, have some kind of logic behind them, even if it’s flawed logic.

So, first off, why use butane? Well, the way I understand it is this: Butane is a non-polar solvent that displays super critical tendencies. True super-critical solvents, such as CO2 in liquid form, can only be stored in special conditions. In normal conditions they revert to their gaseous forms, usually in quite violent reactions. Butane is like this in that it is a gas which can be stored as a liquid as long as it is under pressure. When exposed to air, especially warm air, it will boil off, reverting to a gas. This is what happens with a “clipper” type cigarette lighter. Shake it and you’ll hear the butane sloshing around, but when it is released it is as a gas. It is this volatile nature of butane, and its particular polarity (that dictates its selectivity) that makes it so useful to extract THC. From start to finish, a butane extraction should take about an hour.


Butane is an extremely volatile chemical, and the utmost respect should be given to its ability to cause injury or death at all times. Some people avoid the butane process because of the idea of smoking traces of butane in the oil. These same people use butane lighters to light their spliffs or pipes, though, and far more butane will be inhaled from the lighter than you will ever find still suspended in the oil.

Because of the dangerous nature of butane, please, please make sure you take care and follow these guide lines.

1) Never let butane touch unprotected skin. It will give you instant frostbite. I’ve had this on a finger-tip and it really is not fun to have bits of you going grey and dropping off.

2) Always conduct extractions outside. The fumes will have you making all sorts of cock-ups if you do it in a confined space. There is also less risk of explosions due to build ups of gas.

3) Never use any metal object, whatsoever, in an extraction. Wood, or plastic, is best. This is to avoid the chance of any sparks being created.

4) Always dispose of the cans safely, as they will still contain propellant when empty.

5) Never smoke or have any source of ignition or naked flame anywhere near the area you will be working in.


You are going to need the following. I do not recommend prolonged use of plastic, but pyrex separating funnels are quite difficult to find so it will do for a one, or two, off. I take no responsibility for any chemicals that you pull out of it, though! If you do want to use a bottle, or any other receptacle that you think fits the bill then substitute it for sep funnel in the text.

1) A decent amount of finely ground THC containing plant material. Trichome covered material is best used while it still retains some moisture, trim and leaf is best used bone dry. The more finely ground the material is the more plant material will come into contact with the butane and the more THC will be extracted.

2) A pyrex separating funnel of the type commonly used in labs. This should cost around £20-£30. A 1 litre funnel is fine. If you can’t get hold of a funnel a bottle may be used, but you must make sure it can take the rapid temperature changes that occur when using butane. Glass is a no-no. Plastic may be okay, but there is a chance that the butane will pull some crap out of the plastic. I certainly haven’t noticed any residues or odd flavours in the oil, despite having used plastic for 50+ extractions, but can’t say for sure that its not happening.

3) Roughly 500mls of butane. As pure as you can get it. Newport lighter re-fills are extra-purified and have been evaporated cleanly. My personal favourite. Avoid Ronsonol, as you will have a scummy white residue at the end of the process. If you are unsure as to the purity of the butane you wish to use, evaporate 1 whole can in a pyrex beaker to see if any residue is left behind.

4) Thick insulating gloves to wear while handling the butane and sep funnel. Frostbite from spilled butane is no joke!

5) A small strip of wood approximately 3” long by 1” wide by ¼ - ½” deep. It should have a hole in the centre of it large enough to take the thin part of one of the butane can nozzles. This strip of wood needs to be longer than the opening in the top of the funnel, and narrower, so that when the strip of wood is place over the opening there is a gap for air to escape from as the butane goes in. If the wood covers the opening completely it will take you a very long time to get the butane in.

6) An old T-shirt or shirt, 100% cotton, to use as a filter. Muslin works best for me.

7) A pyrex beaker in which to collect the butane after extraction. Really should be pyrex, as this is the only material that will take the rapid freezing and warming that this process calls for.

8) A lab-stand. This is to hold the sep funnel upright while carrying out the extraction. The less you need to handle the funnel while it has the butane in the better, and with a good lab stand you will only need to touch the tap of the funnel once during the whole process. If you can’t get hold of a lab stand you can make one using a 1ft square sheet of plywood. Cut a hole in it slightly smaller (2” or so) than the circumference of the bulb of the sep funnel. Four legs about a foot long and made of 1 1/2” square timber can be screwed onto the ply, one in each corner.


Now, the aim of this process is to expose plant material containing THC to liquid butane. This will freeze the plant cells, causing them to rupture and release their stored THC to be absorbed by the butane. We then need to filter the butane to remove any plant material and evaporate it to leave an amber THC oil.

Here’s how…..

Step one: Preparation.

The first thing you are going to need to do is set everything up ready for the extraction. Once you have started the whole process needs to move pretty rapidly, and it helps to be ready for each step.

The sep funnel needs to be fitted into the lab stand so that there is enough room beneath it to accommodate the pyrex beaker. Cover the top of the beaker with the muslin filter, so there is some slack, and secure with an elastic band. This is to catch the butane as it leaves the sep funnel, filtering out any plant material. If you find too much plant material is coming out and filling up the filter you can try covering the bottom outlet of the funnel instead.

Make sure the tap on the sep funnel is closed, and you are ready to pour in the finely ground plant material.  The sep funnel wants to be less than half full of weed. There is no precise weed to butane ratio, as the potency (i.e: the amount of THC) of the weed will vary. The best thing to do is decide how much you want to extract from and repeat the procedure on that amount of weed until you don’t get any more oil at the end of it.

I find it useful to lay out everything else at this stage. Open both cans of butane and decide which nozzle will best fit through the hole in the strip of wood.

Step Two: Adding the solvent.

Now you are ready to inject the butane. Wear gloves on both hands for this stage. Hold the strip with the nozzle already in place in the hole securely over the opening in the funnel. Then you can fit the can into the nozzle with the other hand and press it down. The can should be empty in a minute or so. Follow suit with the other can. You will now be able to see the butane bubbling away in the bottom of the sep funnel. DO NOT REPLACE THE TOP PLUG IN THE FUNNEL! If you do it will cause a pressure build up which is dangerous and unnecessary.

Step Three: Evaporation.

Wait until the butane has turned a deep golden green colour. The sides of the sep funnel will be frosted, but you should still be able to see the colour through it. Experience will tell you when the moment of balance has been reached, between the butane evaporating too much, so that the plant material absorbs too much, and a deep enough colour being reached. I leave mine for 1-2 minutes.

Now you need to open the tap at the bottom of the sep funnel. Be careful not to use any force. Turn a little at a time until you get a steady stream of butane pouring into your filter. Don’t worry if the tap appears to become clogged, as butane will still come through. Just let it sit there for as long as it takes to stop dripping, maybe 3-4 minutes. You are now ready to evaporate it. Although this process will have already started, you can speed it up dramatically.

First, remove the filter cloth if you had it over the beaker. Next fill a pan with warm, not hot, water. It only needs to be an inch or so deep. Keep another jug or something handy with more warm water as the water in the pan will cool quickly. Place the beaker in the pan and watch it boil! The whole surface of the butane should be a writhing mass of bubbles at this stage. NOTE: You will see the fumes distorting the air around the beaker. Butane gas is denser than air, and so will keep low, like dry-ice vapour does. Make sure you stay well clear of these fumes!

In roughly 10-15 minutes, depending on how much butane you ended up with, the butane will be gone. I like to remove the beaker from the warm water when the last few big bubbles of butane are forming. Once all the butane is gone the oil is very viscous and quite hard to work with.

You are now ready for a little treat. Get a teaspoon and get a little dab of the acacia honey-like oil on the end. Smear it onto a rizla and skin yourself up a little spliff. You’ve earned it! One thing to watch out for: I have done loads and loads of extractions, but when the it comes to the first joint from a batch of oil, I ALWAYS forget just how little of this stuff you need. I’m usually wankered within minutes.

Have fun, be very careful, and enjoy some of the best smoke you can get from your unsmokeable trim!

Sun Tzu 14-06-02


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Cheers sun tsu

Very interesting and informative. (;), i sound like chumley warner)


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OK, using a sep funnel is not the ultimate method. I admit it. There is a much better way, that costs a lot less.

Go down to your local Woolies, M&S, whatever. Pick up a cheap cafettiere (Sp? plunger type coffe maker is what I mean). Now you have the best butane extractor I can think of. Simply make it like a cup of coffee. Put the weed in the bottom, then the butane (still using the wooden strip with the hole in it). As soon as the butane is in, put the plunger in, with the base filter bit resting at the top of the butane (to slow evaporation). When the butane has turned green, simply push the plunger down (slowly) to filter out the weed and pour off the butane into a seperate pyrex beaker for evaporation.

How much simpler do you want it? :P

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I cant wait to give this one a go! Sounds as though the end product is truely something to be proud of. Just got a little query about this coffee maker, most of those that ive seen have been made of glass, i thought you said glass was a bad idea? At any rate ill be down to woolies tomorrow :rolleyes:

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Double check your coffee maker. Usually they are actually made from Pyrex, tlo withstand the sudden contact with boiling water.

As long as it is Pyrex it will also be able to withstand the sudden freezing caused by the butane.

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Sun tzu, youre the man. Quality all the way! I cant fucking wait for some oils!!! :blink:

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Just a bit of a mad quick question...

Do you reckon this is worth doin with buds - i.e. purchased from usual sources...

I don't grow cus I'm still at home (with the old's).


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damn right. It'll work with all ganja :P

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how much ganja we talkin 1/8 or 1/4 or more

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Do you reckon this is worth doin with buds - i.e. purchased from usual sources...

I wouldn't bother jontz.....if you were growing and had loads of bud kicking about why not? BUT with yr precious bought and paid for buds stick to smoking them IMHO

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The better the bud you extract from, the better the oil will be. More trichome covered stuff leads to finer, more golden oil. I've done a few extractions from bud only before and the results were awesome.

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Excellent posts Sun Tzu - reeespeck!! B)

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Im considering this method to extract the THC from my uprooted males.

Would love to hear any sucess stories anyone has with this.

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what a great idea sunsch, look out woolies, run on coffee machines,

just looking around to see what to do with, trim, have coffee machine, pyrex jugs, off to find the gas, must be abetter experience than smoking trim, aargh, how much trim per operation, roughly any one any ideas, i suppose 50 50 or half of the jug?????????? sj

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I tried this yesterday, two thirds of a (1 mug) caffetiere full of cut-up leaves, 450ml butane.

Worked OK but 25%/75% female/male leaf ratio was just lame...

I got about enough for 3 kingsizes, not great results but a clear, noticable high. Better than binning 'em.

As people have said before, It all depends on what goes in to start with.

Try pouring into a large pyrex bowl for the last stage - more surface area, therefore faster evaporation of butane.


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