By Gregory Daurer | Oct 16, 2020
Extracts for brewing, cannabis, and other industries
Kevwitch serves as the Vice President of Operations for Isolate Extraction Systems, a Louisville, Colorado-based maker of supercritical carbon dioxide extraction machines that sells a lot of equipment to businesses within the cannabis industry. The machines are used to extract cannabinoids like THC and CBD from raw plant material, as well as the plant's terpenes -- those molecules that lend different strains their unique aromas.
But there are other fields that use extraction machines as well, including the nutraceutical industry. And breweries and other manufacturers are starting to purchase the oils that can be extracted using CO2 technology. Kevwitch does research and development work for those industries at his parent company's affiliated business, Isolate Labs.
Kevwitch says a major revolution in brewing is underway due to terpenes. Instead of adding pounds of hops to boost the aromas within a beer after it's already been brewed -- a process known as dry hopping -- brewers can switch over to just a few milliliters of Kevwitch's potent oil, extracted from those same types of hops. Kevwitch told The Colorado Sun, "I truly believe what we are doing here is probably the biggest innovation in brewing since malted barley."
Why does Kevwitch believe that's the case?
He says, "If you look at what malted barley did for the industry, it significantly reduced the amount of brewing-process steps that were required in order to make a beer, and it's dramatically increased the yield of the beer. And I think that what we're doing is similar to that -- we're just doing it on the hops side."
With Isolate Labs' oils, there's no biomass to run off or hops to filter out in order to get clear beer, and brewers only need to use the equivalent oil from a quarter or half the amount of hops used in dry hopping.
"We're reducing the time required to make a really aromatic, dry-hopped beer; we're increasing the yield of that beer; we're using less biomass, less hops; and, from an environmental standpoint, we're putting less spent material back into the wastewater stream," says Kevwitch. "So, I really do feel that it's a major innovation for beer."
Breweries in Colorado are already incorporating Isolate Labs' terpenes -- marketed under the Oast House Oils brand name -- into their commercial products, including Telluride Brewing Company and New Image Brewing, and other breweries are getting into the act. "There's about a dozen," says Kevwitch, noting that many more are still in R&D. "Some of the larger beer companies that we're working with . . . just move a little bit slower. Their market reach is significantly larger. So when they roll something out, they've got to make sure it's going to hit the market in several states versus [just Colorado]."
If clients want the data, Kevwitch can provide breweries with a lab analysis detailing the various terpenes contained within the hop oils. For instance, one batch of Citra hops had vast amounts of myrcene, large amounts of humulene and caryophyllene, and minor amounts of eight other detectable terpenes, including linalool and limonene -- all of which contribute to the aroma imparted by the oil.
Another client of Kevwitch's lab doesn't want terpenes to add to an alcoholic product; instead, it wants ethanol extracted from wines to infuse their vinous flavors into non-alcoholic beverages. There's also the distiller who wants to extract oil from spent corn, with the intention of refining it into biofuels. And then there's the nutraceutical company that's purchasing supercritical CO2 extraction equipment in order to remove a couple of desired molecules from avocado pits: avocadene and avocadyne. "Those two molecules have shown pretty substantial health benefits," says Kevwitch, who's developing the process the company will use to extract both of them.
"We develop supercritical CO2 processes for various industries, so they can hit the ground running when they buy equipment from our parent company," says Kevwitch. So far, Kevwitch's lab has worked with over 50 clients, in various capacities. (Isolate Labs doesn't extract oil from cannabis, due in part to the fact that it's not allowed within the company's lease.)
"We're bringing in customers at a rate that we can fulfill their needs," Kevwitch adds, "but we're not out there pushing our services, or overselling our services, which would force us to grow faster than we're comfortable. We're growing really at a market pull rather than market push kind of speed."
At one time, Kevwitch -- who possesses a PhD in chemistry -- worked at a company that manufactures semiconductors. "The equipment that we're using for the extraction of terpenes is not significantly different from the equipment that I used to remove photoresist from semiconductor wafers," he says.
Another job involved working on hydraulic fracturing fluid. After that, Kevwitch was the co-founder and brewer at Grist Brewing Company in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, then he helped Province Brands in Canada develop a non-THC beer derived from the cellulose within hemp stalks.
In terms of his present-day work extracting terpene-containing oils for the beer industry, onetime brewer Kevwitch calculates he's got the best of both worlds: "I get to use the science background that I have to develop products for an industry that I actually really enjoy working with."
Challenges: Kevwitch says, "The biggest challenge right now is getting people to invest in the R&D for their own companies. Everybody slow-rolling right now, [due to] COVID. They're not pushing products to market as fast as they were considering doing it this time, last year." He hopes to see more customers using Isolate Labs "as their R&D house."
Opportunities: "The nutraceutical market," says Kevwitch. "It seems like every day there's some new natural product that we've been ignoring for years that has a million health benefits, so the biggest opportunity is tapping into that . . . and helping them develop some of those processes [for the extraction of those molecules]."
Needs: Getting companies within industries which Kevwitch is targeting "to believe in us and to work with us," by appealing to the "scientifically-minded people" within them.