The Fascinating World of Dry Ice and Its Role in Cannabis Extraction

Dry ice, the solid form of carbon dioxide (CO2), is renowned for its unique properties. Unlike regular ice, which melts into liquid water, dry ice sublimates directly from solid to gas at -78.5°C (-109.3°F). This process of sublimation makes dry ice an excellent cooling agent, widely used in various industries from food preservation to scientific research and entertainment.

Production and Applications

Dry ice is produced by compressing and cooling CO2 gas until it liquefies. This liquid is then expanded into a snow-like consistency and compressed into blocks, pellets, or slices. Its extreme cold and sublimation properties make it invaluable for tasks where water residue from melting ice is undesirable, such as in transporting frozen foods, pharmaceuticals, and even in creating special effects in entertainment.

Dry Ice in Cannabis Extraction

In the cannabis industry, dry ice plays a crucial role in the extraction process. It’s used to create concentrates like hash by freezing the cannabis trichomes, making them brittle and easier to separate from the plant material. This method, known as dry ice extraction, is favored for its efficiency and ability to produce high-quality extracts without using solvents.

The Process

  1. Preparation: Cannabis buds are broken down into smaller pieces and mixed with dry ice in a mesh bag.
  2. Shaking: The mixture is shaken vigorously, causing the frozen trichomes to break off from the plant material.
  3. Collection: The separated trichomes are then collected through a fine mesh screen, resulting in a potent concentrate often referred to as “kief.”

This method is popular among home growers and small-scale producers due to its simplicity and the purity of the final product.

Dry Ice in the Winterization process of closed loop extraction.

  • Winterizing
    • Process that removes inert plant solids from the liquid solution to increase “stability,” giving the product a firmer “shatter” consistency rather than a sappy, goopy, or waxy one.
    • Certain popular BHO styles that rely on the retention of some fats and waxes to achieve certain textures.
    • Conclusive evidence that long term inhalation of those plant waxes compromises lung health. Winterized shatter produces a smoother vapor because of the further removal of heavy waxes.
    • Should not be used as an alternative to a proper vacuum purge.
    • For chemical winterization, freshly extracted BHO with some solvent in it, (enough that it’s still runny) is poured directly into 99.5% or purer ethanol and frozen by placing the containment vessel into a cooler full of chopped dry ice. In a few minutes, the solution will freeze, exposing the plant wax to cold temperatures and causing it to sink to the bottom, where it can be skimmed out.
    • Some closed loop systems have recapture units that offer “in-line winterization,” which is a special stage in the process where the raw solution sits in a steel drum surrounded by a layer of dry ice. Dry ice flash freezes the drum and the waxes in the off-gassing BHO collect on its sides.

Safety and Environmental Considerations

While handling dry ice, safety is paramount. Its extreme cold can cause frostbite, and the CO2 gas released during sublimation can pose suffocation risks in confined spaces. Therefore, proper ventilation and the use of insulated gloves are essential when working with dry ice.

From an environmental perspective, dry ice is considered more eco-friendly compared to some other refrigerants. Since it is often produced from recycled CO2 captured during industrial processes, its use does not contribute additional CO2 to the atmosphere. However, ensuring responsible production and efficient use are critical to minimizing its environmental impact​.


Dry ice is a versatile and powerful tool across various industries, particularly in cannabis extraction, where it helps produce high-quality concentrates efficiently and safely. By understanding and implementing best practices in handling and usage, its benefits can be maximized while mitigating potential risks and environmental impacts.

For more detailed information on dry ice and its applications, you can visit CK Supply’s website.

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