Extracting (almost pure) Caffeine from Caffeine Pills.

Picture of Extracting (almost pure) Caffeine from Caffeine Pills.


So let's say you want to make caffeinated muffins, caffeinated peanut butter, or even caffeinated Chap Stick. That means you're going to need some caffeine. Sadly, pure caffeine isn't something you can just buy at your corner store but you can, however, but caffeine pills. In this Instructable I'll be using Maximum Strength NoDoz. The bottle states that each pill contains 200 mg. of caffeine so it will be perfect for this process.

Some may ask "Why not just crush up the pills and use as is?”
If you have ever tasted a caffeine pill (or any solid pill for that matter), you’d know why. The taste is unpleasant and it carries through to the flavor of the food.

With this process, it allows us to do away with the parts of the pill that we don’t want to deal with.

Inactive Ingredients:
Benzoic Acid, Corn Starch,FD&C Blue 1,
Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Microcrystalline Cellulose,
Mineral Oil, Polysorbate 20, Povidone, Propylene Glycol,
Simethicone Emulsion, Sorbitan Monolaurate, Stearic Acid,
Sucrose, Titanium Dioxide.

Since we will be using denatured alcohol as our solvent, we have to analyze these substances to see what else will be dissolved. By searching through the MSDS records, I have that list here.

Soluble in Ethanol or Methanol:
Caffeine, Benzoic Acid, FD&C Blue 1, Povidone.

Some of these are soluble in Methanol but since the solvent is > 4% Methanol their concentrations in the solution will be low (their concentrations are already low and shouldn’t be enough to effect taste). This is true except for caffeine which is soluble in alcohol and will be in high concentration (just like we want).

Having that been said, lets start with the parts list.
what about 99% rubbing alcohol?

When dealing with commercial solvents, check the label for use of 'Bitterants', chemicals added to make the alcohol taste bad.

Is it isopropyl? Yes it will work, but careful to evaporate all of it, it is fairly toxic.
1st off, Wow this instructable is awesome and relitivly easy to do!!
But 1 problem, denatured alcohol is not really human safe to eat or drink, and i dont have any so um can i use anything els (like somthing around the house, vodka, tequilla, rubbing alcohol :-\?, or idk what lol. When ya msg me back ill go make some, cause i got so many caffine pills i got free (as generous sized samples) in the mail (...a LOT...)
WesDoesStuff (author)  !Andrew_Modder!7 years ago
Thanks. In this process you evaporate the denatured alcohol so you aren't eating or drinking it. the problem with all the alcohols you listed is that they contain water and god knows what. the big tin i got was $6 USD (used it to sanitize my greenhouse) and i still have some left over. BE VERY CAREFUL if you do, do this. make sure your solvent does not leave a residue of any thing toxic or unpleasant. your solvent should be clear. Not purple, green or red.
:-\.. 72% isopropyl alcohol is 100% deluted down to 72% to my knowlage it doesn't contain anything els (also when it evaporates there is nothing left like a residue). I would be safe on using it but on the side of all rubbing alcohols it says something about if ingested it may cause blindness :-O! so idk if when it evaporates it will still be bad :-\??? got an oppinion on this? Also, is there anything other than denatured alcohol i could use?? cause i really want to do this but cant get denatured alcohol.
72% is NOT just watered down 100%. It is either normally distilled to 71%, or azeotropically to 91%, then diluted.
WesDoesStuff (author)  !Andrew_Modder!7 years ago
rubbing alcohol is watered down denatured alcohol. the problem is that there is water in it and it will dissolve other parts of the pills as well as the caffeine. i believe someone else said another substance you could dissolve caffeine into. weather it will cause cancer, i cannot say.
Oh, :-(...
how did you get the sample in the mail?!?! i want some....lol.
umm. one of the like 7 diff types (the best 1) was by a company called Spike (spike caffine pills) they are HUGE horse pills to, ... seriously there HUGE, so i think i would get a LOT of caffeine off them. go to spike energys website, see if there still giving out samples!
can I have a link? i couldn't find the spike site.
yeah, lemme look 4 it..... http://www.biotest.net/ i got that second 1 (14.99+shipping.. for 100% free :-D)
rolfit7 years ago
Whats next? Meth!!!!!
Lol, the classic, "if you are doing something with chemicals I don't understand, it must be meth!"
badfrog7 years ago
Let's see... you say use 100% alcohol. According to Sunnyside Corporation (225 Carpenter Ave, Wheeling, IL), the product you are using is: "85.7% Ethyl Alcohol, 3.6% Methyl Alcohol, 1.9% Methyl Isobutyl Ketone, 1.0% Methyl Acetate, and 0.8% Solvent Naphtha (Petroleum) Light Alliphatic" When they say "denatured" they mean "rendered toxic and/or unpalatable" (read: bitter) Aside from neglecting the fact caffeine is probably the most bitter substance you'll encounter in a caffeine tablet, you've also overlooked the chances of introducing something like Bitrex (denatonium benzoate) from a denatured alcohol solvent -- a real concern. This is really a pointless exercise in Meth Lab 101 and should not be considered safe to produce or consume.
ALL, of those ingredients will evaporate completely. I don't exactly see the problem. If his denatured alcohol contains denatonium benzoate, a quick simple distillation will remove all traces of it.
That's a really bad idea. First off, I don't mean to be rude, I mean to be informative, and to give a few words of caution. I cannot attest to this process's viability, but as previous commenters have pointed out, denatured alcohol is not a safe substance to consume. Also, caffeine is a drug, and in its pure form extreme caution should be taken while using it. It is extremely difficult to accurately dose the drug in it's pure form, and doing so requires accurate, calibrated milligram scales. On the tip of your finger, you can fit the amount of caffeine necessary to overdose. In addition to this, as a caffeine source, nodoz is a horribly expensive source. Pure caffeine can be had for cheap online. 400g of Pharmaceutical grade caffeine (about 3,300-8,000 cups of coffee worth) cost me $12. I like the idea of paying LESS to make sure my caffeine is safe. Oh, and while pure caffeine "isn't something you can just buy at your corner store" it is available at my local nutrition store, a less than 10 minute drive from my house, albeit it is quite expensive.
You aren't drinking the denatured alcohol, it evaporates away completely. A safe method could be just extracting 2 or 3 pills at a time. This says nothing about price.

So now, how is this a bad idea?
Firstly, the above comment people are dippy. :P Use 90% alcohol or everclear, this method is completely safe and highly recommended for any substance you want to extract. Keep alcohol away from flame and wear disposable gloves when handling any extracted substance. Also pyrex baking dishes are used instead of pane of glass to prevent loss of product. As with everything read up on dosages of the substance you are extracting and use a accurate gram/mgram scale.
Alcohol won't extract anything. Also the water in it could hydrolyze lots of things.
dammat6 years ago
This method definately is not safe. If you use pure grain alcohol as a solvent it would be much better. Also if you have a mel-temp melting point apparatus you can test the purity of your caffeine. caffeine melts at 237 degrees Celcius.
Why isn't it safe? The methanol is the only other ingredient in his brand of denatured alcohol.
nobody_956 years ago
Good job, but how i can get pure caffeine powder from normal coffee??
You'll need sodium carbonate and a non-polar solvent, such as methylene chloride. add 1g sodium carbonate to 100ml coffee and add an equal amount of MC. the caffeine and some other alkaloids dissolve in the MC while everything else stays in the water, collect and evaporate the MC and youre left with pretty pure caffeine ;]
Not pretty pure, but far purer than coffee is. If you go on to sublime it onto a cold surface, THEN you'll have pretty pure!
skylane6 years ago
METHANOL IS POISONOUS and can NOT be made non-poisonous. Just the fumes can be deadly and will also cause brain damage. Non reparable. It's absoultly not worth the risk. Ethanol, however... now we're talkin... Evercear comes in 75% and 95%. 95% is not available in all states. Oregon and Nevada have it.. The 75% can be found in BevMo in Calif. I cannot tell you how effective these will be, but DO NOT USE METHANOL Even denatured alcohol IS POISONOUS. And cannot be made non poisonous. That is because, otherwise it would be ethanol and would have to have the federal alcohol taxes added on. that would increase the price about 5X.
It evaporates completely during the procedure. Lighten up with your misinformed assumed knowledge.
vaxjo7 years ago
You should add a disclaimer about the LD50 of caffeine to the Instructable text (from Wikipedia: the LD50 of caffeine is about 150mg per kg of body mass: a potentially lethal dose for me, a 75 kg male, would be around 12 grams, which is exactly how much is in a standard cannister of NoDoz). Crushed and purified this would fill only a small vial. An unknowning person might not realize the potency of the drug and, deciding to give his coffee a big kick, might just dump it all in.

Also, would it be possibly to use ethyl alcohol as the solvent? If you can get it, 191 proof Everclear contains the maximum amount of ethyl alcohol available through the non-toxic distillation process. This might be safer than using potentially toxic denatured alcohol.

That said, I believe I'll now go brew up a cup of coffee. The natural way!
WesDoesStuff (author)  vaxjo7 years ago
My particular Denatured alcohol is considered "Denatured" because it contains > 4% alcohol. it also leaves no residue when dried on it's own on the glass. Some denatured alcohols do contain toxic or unwanted substances such as: syrup of ipecac wood naptha mineral naptha denatonium pyridine my denatured alcohol does not induce vomiting or have a bad smell. methanol is non-toxic but it metabolizes into some nasty carcinogens. using 191 proof "95.5%" ethanol would work but that 4.5% water you may be dissolving more than what you want. a note that caffeine IS water soluble and even more so if it's boiling but it almost negates this process. GO COFFEE!
Shark, METHANOL IS TOXIC! It cannot be made non toxic. It can and will cause brain damage and or death. Denatured alcohol is poisonous. "denatured" means that they took the "natural alcohol" and poisoned it so it cannot be consumed. Any carcinogens it may have or create would be the least of one's worrys.... You might consider editing your comment or deleting it, regarding the methanol...
Gahh, methanol is totally non toxic (atleast as non toxic as regular alcohol), and you will even get drunk off of it the same as ethanol. However, 12-24 hours later, after your body has metabolized the methanol to formaldehyde, you will get very sick, go blind, and/or die.
fUkyURlifE3 years ago
Denatured alcohol is just ethanol (drinking alcohol) generally at 95% concentration. It has denaturants added (stuff like methanol, etc) to make it toxic to drink. So, yeah, regular alcohol will work. Clear as possible, like clear vodka, or everclear. No flavorants if possible.
Some are also about 50-50 methanol ethanol. Also might be a few percent hexone.
Actually, pure caffeine is readily available online. For example, United Nuclear sells 100% pure caffeine powder in quantities of 2, 4, and 8 ounces, which is enough to last you a very very long time.
Ah but no self satisfaction from extracting it yourself.
Is it possible to use acetone?
Look up the solubility of the other ingredients in acetone, caffeine in acetone, etc.
simonnomis5 years ago
It's much easier to just buy cheap caffeine powder in pure form already.
agreed but i think united nuclear has cheaper 
5 bucks for 2 ounces (about 60 grams)
id be nervous having that around though 2 grams is enough to make your caffeine high very unpleasant and around 20 grams is enough to kill a 100 kilogram guy like me.
The caffeine from united nuclear is not food-grade.
rchallender3 years ago
Hidy --

Very interesting!
But you can now buy caffeine powder on amazon.com too.
jmcdermott4 years ago
i guess ive tired this step and i can come to a conclusion on what this man means by two layers. this is not working not to mention he is very broad about the details of the experiment
Due to the fact the the dye is soluble, "clear" will mean no longer cloudy, instead of colorless.
More or less you will want to wait for any of the insoluble particulate matter to settle to the bottom of the solution. This is easier to do if you pour the solution out of the mortar and into a small beaker (or smooth piece of kitchenware, such as a shotglass, if you do not have access to laboratory glassware).
use Everclear or vodka
legionlabs5 years ago
A funnier title for this would be "Decaffeinating caffeine pills". For people who enjoy the classic taste of caffeine pills, but dislike the high!

More seriously, small amounts of methyl alcohol are in fact present in most fermented beverages... but if you want to purify the results of this extraction anyway, you could perform a fractional recrystallization in distilled water. Basically, you dissolve the results of the previous step in as little boiling water as possible, then evaporate out a little water, then let it cool. The caffeine will crystallize out of solution before other substances will. It still won't be 100% pure but it will be closer, as the solubility of benzoic acid is greater in water than caffeine so it is less likely to precipitate. As an added bonus it is sort of cool to watch.

If it refuses to crystallize and you are using a glass container, scratch the bottom lightly with a metal implement to provide a nucleation site (this happened to me once)
megafeltch5 years ago
methanol is 100% safe to use for extraction as long as you let it all evaporate!!! just like when water evaporates, there is nothing left.
the only problem is some denatured alcohol has other additives that are toxic. so when doing this make sure that your alcohol is a mix of ethanol and methanol and nothing else. 
i have the same ones 100% caffeiene!
me79776 years ago
You can do the same thing with just regular water, caffeine dissolves in water. Just boil a little water, pour onto the crushed pills and stir it well. Decant the water onto your evaporation surface and let it dry. It probably won't be as pure, but it's a lot cleaner and easier. Also you could do it again to purify it.
kortez6176 years ago
interesting. i think a distilled water 'pull' on the final product would purify it greatly. and instead of denatured alcohol i think one should use 151 or 190 proof everclear, nuttin but purified water and ethanol :3, agh wait but its not anhydrous so um nevermind that lol
skipp6 years ago
A true gammers keyboard
Pyrotechnik7 years ago
dang... i did this.... but instead of tablets i had mini-thins caffeine supplement herb pills or something... 1. opened the tablets 2. poured about 30 mL of 100 proof (50% alcohol) vodka 3. mixed the inards of the pill and the vodka 4. used a pipet to put it on a flat surface 5. let it evaporate (alcohol) 6. scraped remains into a nickelbag the thing is... my caffeine ended up brown... much like the color of hashish but a little darker... explain anyone?
use no-doz or something else. not herbal caffeine pills that is why it was brown
Using alcohol denatured with Bitrex and methanol would add bitterness, would it not?

I would strongly recommend that you update your intro to actually include the warnings, too. For example:

Caffeine is a widely used and fairly safe drug. If you are a healthy adult and consume a single overdose of less than 150 mg per kg of body weight (68 mg/lb), it will probably not kill you. However, some people have died from consuming 13 mg/kg (5.9 mg/lb) or more. Of course, much smaller doses of caffeine can do unpleasant things to your heart and mental state.

schimmi6 years ago
i did the same thing to my keyboard!
codongolev7 years ago
I wouldn't put this in my mouth even if I were about to fall asleep during my favorite episode of the office. sorry, but if you have to say it's not your fault if I kill myself, I won't do it.
codongolev7 years ago
the keyboard is pretty sweet.
codongolev7 years ago
why did all your apostrophes end up as ’ ?
Yeah, for the love of God, use Everclear or 100% Ethyl. That is, if you enjoy seeing things.
celticjcm7 years ago
You most know how to use pure caffeine,but this is awesome!
Doctor What7 years ago
if you are going to use caffeine in a good, healthy way, then odds are you should just leave it in the form it comes in. use responsibly!!!
Eye Poker7 years ago
Caffeine is toxic, do not attempt this!
WesDoesStuff (author)  Eye Poker7 years ago
Only in high doses as explained in other comments. unless you are a household animal... then it is very very toxic. that's why dogs / cats / (insert your pet here) isn't supposed to eat chocolate. small animals are very sensitive to caffeine.
As little as 2 grams can kill you. Obviously it depends on your weight.. but understand that there are 14 year olds who would think this is the coolest thing ever. Caffeine is a drug; and if you're not stating potential dangers someone could get hurt, or even worse die. I vote you add a disclaimer, especially for kids.
Whaleman ARVash7 years ago
Thoth7 years ago
You can get 1 kilogram of food grade caffeine for $30-40 from most chemical suppliers. Methanol if ingested or absorbed through the skin is toxic because it is metabolized into formaldhyde in you body cause blindness, kidney & liver failure, plus being a carcinogen. Unless you draw you alcohol through a septum and store it with a molecular sieve. Depending on how often and how long the the bottle was open, it is probably closer to 95%. That is because alcohol is very hygroscopic absorbing moisture from the air. Rubbing alcohol can also be Isopropanol, instead of denatured ethanol. Even sub-lethal doses have an adverse effect on your health
trebuchet037 years ago
Some may ask "Why not just crush up the pills and use as is?”
If you have ever tasted a caffeine pill (or any solid pill for that matter), you’d know why. The taste is unpleasant and it carries through to the flavor of the food.

It's not the inert material in the pill that makes it taste bad -- you're body is typically a good indicator of poison when you eat it :p The caffeine itself has a very bitter flavor.

Tetranitrate used lab grade anhydrous caffeine in jello shots, very bitter ;)
Caffeine Jello Shots
WesDoesStuff (author)  trebuchet037 years ago
Removing the inert material does 2 things:
1. Prevents particulate from forming at the bottom of the container
2. It does reduce the strength of the bitterness

not saying it isn't bitter.. you wouldn't want to eat (snort? insufflation) it.

As for the Jello Shots. Tetranitrate uses crushed "Awake" pills.
1. That's fine - probably a good idea anyway - I don't have a problem with that
2. I stand by what I said before - caffeine has a strong bitter flavor

The version that was served to a large group of people used lab grade caffeine (as pictured in the vial). In both cases (crushed pill and pure), the taste was very bitter.

As for what he used (aside from me seeing, in person, what was used):
(original idea, and 5 grams of anhydrous caffeine generously provided by talbotron22) <-- which was totally cool. There's something hilarious about pulling 5g of caffeine out of your pack :p

Caffeine powder (can be bought pure or made from ground up caffeine pills)

In any case, a quick Google search for caffeine and bitterness shows all sorts of information on how to reduce bitterness (typically offset with sugar - of course) etc.
WesDoesStuff (author)  trebuchet037 years ago
P.S. Everyone Loves Magical Trevor!
Ora7 years ago
I would really like to know if the denatured alcohol used in this experiment leaves behind any toxic residue or harmful chemicals. If so, what else could I use?
WesDoesStuff (author)  Ora7 years ago
No. this particular brand in this particular country does not leave a residue. I know because I checked be evaporating some on the glass. NO STREAKS. But yeah I should have said that in the instructable.
I have the exact same can so I'm going to go try this, thanks!
WesDoesStuff (author)  Ora7 years ago
for sure measure.. test some of the alcohol first. just to be safe.
Will do!
Limadito7 years ago
Denatured alcohol is no meant for human eating/drinking, as it may content methanol or another toxic solvent.
WesDoesStuff (author)  Limadito7 years ago
Good thing this wasn't an instructible on "Caffeinating Denatured Alcohol and Drinking it"
gmoon7 years ago
You should add a disclaimer about the possible toxic effects of too much caffeine (especially for kids.)

Here's a sample reference. Looks like <40 caffeine pills are potentially fatal for a 50 kilo adult. The fatal dosage for children appears to be less than 1/4 the adult dose....
WesDoesStuff (author)  gmoon7 years ago
Good idea!
John Smith7 years ago
Wow, didn't know you could do that. Cool!
WesDoesStuff (author)  John Smith7 years ago
Fitz7 years ago
IMHO you shouldn't base things off of MSDS get yourself a CRC to look things up in. Look at the MSDS for table salt and you'll catch my drift.
Fitz Fitz7 years ago
oh and Dichloromethane or Chloroform would probably just dissolve the caffiene. Although I would advise against Chloroform (toxic cancer causing fumes)
WesDoesStuff (author)  Fitz7 years ago
well we don't wan cancer now do we. you're right but i try to avoid tumor causing activity.

Thanks, I'll look into it.