Foreword: In this Growers Spotlight, we interview Tasia Mercadente, who runs Santiago and Dunbar Extracts. Tasia performs many extractions for her company, producing a wide variety of concentrates, from waxes to crumbles, shatters, oils, and more.
Since learning about cannabis in her teenage years, Tasia has formed a company and made a career out of making extractions for both recreational and medicinal users.
Why Make Concentrates?
I got into making cannabis extracts to help cancer patients, which started because of my best friend. He had to get a testicle removed and a hernia out of the same region. I started giving him CBD and high potency THC capsules. He’s taking them every day now, and they’re really helping him with the pain and some other symptoms.
What Concentrates Do You Make?
I make live resin, shatter, and crumble extracts.
Crumble is like a cookie crumble. It breaks apart really easily into a dust. It’s stable but crumbly and not gooey at all.
Live resin starts by freezing flower. When you take a cannabis plant down, you immediately put it in a cryogenic freezer. After it’s frozen, you blast it with butane. Live resin should be a little bit gooey. It should be stable, but moldable, like pottery before it’s fired.
Shatter has the consistency of glass. It’ll break easily. People prefer it to be a transparent gold color because that shows how clean it is. Some of the darker kinds can have more THC but don’t as good. My Bubba Skywalker turns out a blonde shatter, without fail, at 72.63% THC. My God’s Gift produces a dark, amber color shatter at 77.92% THC. The dark amber color is seen as less desirable, despite the higher concentration of THC.
What’s Your Thought Process When Making Extracts?
Whenever you put something new in, you don’t know what you’re going to get out. If I run trim from some unknown place, I wouldn’t know what the kind or amount of product I would get. I also don’t find out until the next day, because I run a 12-hour purge in the vacuum oven. Luckily, I know how to take that product a step further. I can throw it in a rotary evaporator, distil it, make tinctures with it, or something else.
What Do You Try To Avoid When Performing Extractions?
I try to avoid blowing myself up.
When you’re blasting, you’re unleashing a ton of highly-flammable butane into the air. It can blow up if you blast in a non-ventilated area. Generally speaking, closed-loop systems are safer than open-air blasting, because they cycle the butane via tubes into another tank, preventing significant oxygen exposure.
This is why you sometimes hear about cannabis grows blowing up. Somebody was not taking appropriate safety precautions.
What Equipment Do You Use for Extractions?
I use a closed-loop butane extractor for my BHO’s, and Everclear alcohol for my tinctures and edibles. My policy is that if you’re going to ingest it, it should be an edible product.
For purification, I use a couple of things. I’ve already mentioned rotary evaporators to remove solvents. I also use vacuum ovens as one of my key components in purification. We also have a custom distillation apparatus set up.
The rest is just standard laboratory equipment — beakers, flasks, test tubes, racks, the works.
How Do You Hire Extractors?
You either come to me with prior experience or work your way up.
I would probably hire someone who has experience of their own. I would never hire someone who didn’t have a degree or other experience proving they are smart enough to follow directions without hurting themselves or others.
If I’m moving someone up, I would start them off trimming. If they do well, I’d move them to an hourly wage. If they kept doing well, I would let them watch me perform extractions, and if they understood it and could explain it to me, I might promote them.
What’s Your Extraction Procedure?
Make sure all your valves are closed and the area is free of flammable materials and physical hazards. Clear the space and all distractions.
Blast the flower in the tube with butane until nothing’s coming out of the flower tube. This requires a lot of focus. You need to understand which valves to open and close and what pressure you’re working with.
I purge the butane by fonduing the mixture in a bowl-shaped boat floating on hot water. Afterward, I put the boat into a vacuum oven for 12 hours and come back the next day. I set my vacuum oven temperature based on a chart I found some time ago, detailing the different cannabinoids and compounds you can extract.
What Advice Would You Give to Someone Looking to Get into Extractions?
Do your research. Watch YouTube videos, and engage in the community. And don’t hesitate to ask questions. The worst thing you can do is not know anything and be quiet about it.
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