Introduction: 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.

Step 1: Parts List

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A clean pane of glass.
This will be your working surface.

Caffeine Pills
I used NoDoz but any should work.

A mortar and pestle.
Used for crushing pills but any crushing mechanism should be fine.

Eye dropper.
You could use a pipette or straw.

A solvent.
Use 100% alcohol because caffeine dissolves in alcohol.

A lamp.
To see

A razer.
For scraping crystals off of the pane of glass. Key Lime not necessary.

Make sure you're in a well ventilated area.

Step 2: Crush the Pills

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Crush the desired amount of pills how ever you intend to.

Grind into fine powder.

Leave no clump uncrushed.

Step 3: Dissolve the Caffeine

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Pour in some alcohol and mix.

Allow the mixture to settle into 2 layers.

Wait until the alcohol layer becomes clear.

After it settles suck up the clear solution with the eye dropper and pour it onto the pane of glass.

The solvent will evaporate leaving a layer of caffeine crystals.

Continue adding the solution and drying until you run out of clear solution.

Then add more alcohol and repeat this step until you feel that there is no more caffeine in the undissolved bottom layer.

Step 4: Scrape Off the Crystals

Picture of Scrape Off the Crystals

Push the sharp side of the razer flat on the glass and scrape the crystals into a pile.
(like you see those coked up people do with mirrors on cable tv)

Put the crystals in a dry container and save for later.

Step 5: You're Done...

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The caffeine can be used for what ever you wish.
It will still have a bitter taste but a lot less than if you had not done this.

This method can be used for many different substance extractions.

There is another way to extract caffeine by heating it until it sublimes and condensing it after it evaporates.

I've done it for acetone peroxide dissolved in acetone (it is not recommended because it is very friction sensitive so you have to keep it slightly "wet" as to not trigger an explosion).

Furthermore, if you re-dissolve the caffeine and repeat the process leaving the undissolved layer on the bottom, you can further purify your caffeine.


OwenV2 (author)2016-05-10

I tried this for the first time yesterday. Followed all the steps with the appropriate ingredients and let the mix dry in 2 Pyrex dishes over night- from 6pm to 7am.
This morning instead of been dry crystals it's more like slighty sticky bits of white "caffeine"?
Is this normal or does the drying process take longer?
I had a lamp over it all night to assist with warmth if that helps.
Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

SHOE0007 (author)2016-01-11

If you are worried about impurties then most of the caffiene from the pills can be extracted with isoproponal alcohol and allow the dissolved material to be filtered. the solution with alcohol (99%) is ultra pure and slowly it will evaporate giving you 20 grams of pure caffiene from 100 tablets that have 200 mg of caffiene.

SHOE0007 (author)2016-01-11

Hi am wondering if Tetrachloroethylene or DCM could be used to purifiy or extract the caffiene from the pills?

badfrog (author)2008-03-09

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.

LiquidLightning (author)badfrog2012-08-08

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.

"....a quick simple distillation will remove...." Um, I'm really trying to adhere to the "be nice comment policy", here, so I'm going to use like "science" type talk, and statements of reasonably well-accepted fact. No, the entire point of denaturant is to make it Real Hard (technical term) for the average joe to buy cheap-ass alcohol and distill it down easily to drinkable quality, whilst evading taxation. 10ppm of denatonium benzoate is considered "hell, no" undrinkable - and it's pretty tough to get down close to that, let alone below it. KEY POINT: at the minimum, you'd need to reflux it like crazy (or, equivalently, run it a bunch of times, with a helluva lot of lab discipline). And that is almost exactly the definition of "a simple (and/or quick) distillation"..... NOT.

In parallel: if cheapo drugstore alcohol made a decent lab solvent, with "a quick simple distillation" - a few grillion lab RAs would use that instead of paying for absolute EtOH (a bottle of which I have right here, still anhydrous. If I wanted to distill my own EtOH, t'd actually be cheaper & faster to just throw sugar and Fleischmann's yeast into a bucket, take a break, and then reflux that for a day or two (vs. trying to de-denature bottles of 70% ethyl from CVS...)

distortedlabs (author)2007-10-22

what about 99% rubbing alcohol?

Garadin (author)distortedlabs2015-02-24

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.

!Andrew_Modder! (author)2007-10-22

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...)

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.

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, :-(...

pyro13 (author)!Andrew_Modder!2007-10-22

how did you get the sample in the mail?!?! i want

!Andrew_Modder! (author)pyro132007-10-23

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!

pyro13 (author)!Andrew_Modder!2007-10-23

can I have a link? i couldn't find the spike site.

!Andrew_Modder! (author)pyro132007-10-24

yeah, lemme look 4 it..... i got that second 1 (14.99+shipping.. for 100% free :-D)

rolfit (author)2007-10-29

Whats next? Meth!!!!!

LiquidLightning (author)rolfit2012-08-08

Lol, the classic, "if you are doing something with chemicals I don't understand, it must be meth!"

jamesccostello (author)2008-05-10

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?

snowmoonbear (author)2009-01-17

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.

dammat (author)2008-11-03

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.

LiquidLightning (author)dammat2012-08-08

Why isn't it safe? The methanol is the only other ingredient in his brand of denatured alcohol.

nobody_95 (author)2009-06-08

Good job, but how i can get pure caffeine powder from normal coffee??

kortez617 (author)nobody_952009-07-15

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!

skylane (author)2009-07-25

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.

LiquidLightning (author)skylane2012-08-08

It evaporates completely during the procedure. Lighten up with your misinformed assumed knowledge.

vaxjo (author)2007-10-22

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)vaxjo2007-10-22

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!

skylane (author)WesDoesStuff2009-07-25

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...

LiquidLightning (author)skylane2012-08-08

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.

fUkyURlifE (author)2011-10-17


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.

walkingreject (author)2011-10-12

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.

somefilename (author)2010-07-04

Is it possible to use acetone?

Look up the solubility of the other ingredients in acetone, caffeine in acetone, etc.

simonnomis (author)2009-10-02

It's much easier to just buy cheap caffeine powder in pure form already.

Roflolommo (author)simonnomis2009-10-28

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.

clockfort (author)Roflolommo2010-08-24

The caffeine from united nuclear is not food-grade.


rchallender (author)2012-03-20

Hidy --

Very interesting!
But you can now buy caffeine powder on too.

jmcdermott (author)2011-04-30

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

kevingibson0 (author)jmcdermott2012-03-02

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).

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More by WesDoesStuff:Ultimate Guide to Making a Cheap but Effective Aluminium Forge. Extracting (almost pure) Caffeine from Caffeine Pills.
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