CannaOil Extraction 101

The first step in making effective cannabis edibles is always to make cannaoil (or cannabutter as many refer to it, though using dairy is by no means necessary). If your extraction is done improperly, you’re going to be left with a batch of very disappointing treats.

Unfortunately, the internet is a vast place and everyone claims their method to be “the best”, and with such a variety of resources available it can be confusing to new cannabis users that are simply after a safer and longer-lasting method of medication. In addition, not every medical patient has access to fancy lab-grade extraction equipment or the expensive commercial kitchen appliances used in some of the more “gourmet” extraction methods  Therefore, I do not claim that my techniques are “the best” out there, but I do know them to be effective for the basic production of edibles in one’s home kitchen.

Step 1: How Much Cannabis Do I Need?

Making great edibles doesn’t require an exorbitant amount of cannabis, and can definitely be done on a budget. The first step is to figure out how strong you want your edibles to be, then look at the yield of the recipe you’ll be using and the potency of your cannabis. With some simple math, you can easily deduce the amount of cannabis you’ll require for your extraction.

Let’s assume you purchase your cannabis from a provider that lab tests the cannabinoid content in their product, and you know that your cannabis contains 20% THC (because that’s a nice round number).

For those who are less mathematically inclined, just take the THC (or CBD) percentage and place a decimal at the beginning of the number (20% becomes 0.20, if your cannabis is 15% that becomes 0.15, and so on). Multiply the number of grams of cannabis you have by that decimal number and you will get the amount of grams of THC (or CBD) content in your cannabis. Just multiply that final number by 1000 and you’ll have the number of milligrams.

30g of dried cannabis medicine
x 0.2 (for the 20% THC)
___________________________________
= 6g (or 6000mg) of THC

Let’s say that we’re going to extract our 30g of high-quality cannabis into two cups of oil. (I live in Canada, so 1 cup = 250mL. If you live somewhere that uses the imperial system of measurement, your 1 legal cup = 240mL).

6000mg of THC / 500mL = 12mg/mL … and because no extraction is 100% efficient, we can reasonably assume this will result in an actual potency of ~10mg/mL, which is about perfect if you’re making oral oil drops.

If you only have a little bit of cannabis to work with (or you just don’t feel like throwing an entire ounce at a batch of oil) you can figure out how much cannabis you’ll need for a single batch by working backwards. If you’re going to be baking with your oil, let’s say you’re making an average batch of brownies that makes one dozen (12) treats, and you want each brownie to be 10mg THC each. Multiply the desired number of mg per treat by the number of treats yielded by your recipe to find the number of milligrams of THC required per batch.

12 brownies in a batch
x 10mg per treat desired
___________________________
= 120mg of THC required (which we will call 140mg for this purpose, because once again, no extraction is 100% efficient, so we’ll want to top it up a bit).

Now, remember how we turned our cannabinoid percentage into a decimal number? For this purpose we’re going to divide the number of milligrams of THC we need for the batch by that decimal number.

140mg THC required / 0.2 = 700mg (or 0.7g) of dried cannabis.

And there you have it. You can make a whole batch of gently medicated brownies with under one gram of cannabis.


Recommended Starting Dose for Edibles

THC’s psychoactive properties can pack a bit more of a punch when ingested orally instead of inhaled, and the effects of your medication will last far longer as well. Unless advised by your physician, it’s best to start with a very small amount of THC and work your way up. Half a treat is often effective. Many dispensaries sell treats with incredibly high potencies of sometimes several hundred milligrams of THC. This level of potency may not be medically necessary (or even advised).

For CBD therapy: 25mg
For THC therapy: 10mg

Step 2: Decarboxylation

What is Decarboxylation?

You may have heard that the key to making good edibles is decarboxylating or “decarbing” your cannabis. But what is decarboxylation and why is it important?

Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide. Usually, decarboxylation refers to a reaction of carboxylic acids, removing a carbon atom from a carbon chain. The reverse process, which is the first chemical step in photosynthesis, is called carboxylation, the addition of CO2 to a compound. Enzymes that catalyze decarboxylations are called decarboxylases or, the more formal term, carboxy-lyases.
-Wikipedia

The cannabinoids that are contained within the trichomes (those are the little hairy, crystally bits on your buds) of raw cannabis flowers have an extra carboxyl ring or group (COOH) attached to their chain. That carboxyl group must be removed for the cannabinoids to readily attach to the cannabinoid receptors in our bodies and give us the effects that we’re looking for. When cannabis is exposed to heat and light, decarboxylation occurs turning the raw cannabinoids in their acid form (THCA , CBDA, and so on) into their bioavailable forms (THC, CBD, etc. respectively). When you purchase cannabis from a source that lab-tests their product, the THC and CBD percentages listed are the maximum potential content post-decarboxylation. When we expose our cannabis to high temperatures when smoking or vapourizing, decarboxylation occurs immediately so we can absorb those cannabinoids through our lungs, but when we ingest our cannabis orally we need to heat the cannabinoids at a lower temperature over a longer period of time. This allows us to decarboxylate the cannabinoids while preserving the integrity of the material we use so that we may infuse it into what we consume.

How to Decarb

The best way to decarboxylate your cannabis is to start LOW and go SLOW. Most sources recommend decarboxylating cannabis in your oven between 170°-240°F for about 30 minutes. I personally recommend not going over 200°F and lengthening the toasting time. While decarbing at lower temperatures takes longer, it preserves more of the terpene content of the cannabis. Terpenes are the essential oils found in cannabis (and many other plants) that give each strain their distinct taste and aroma, and they have many beneficial medicinal uses. Preserving terpenes is important because science has proven that the compounds found in cannabis work better as a team. This is called the “Enourage Effect”.

  1. Preheat your oven to 170° – 200°F, but preferably on the lower side. (An internal oven thermometer is helpful for this process as the temperature displayed on your oven is not always the ACTUAL temperature inside your oven).
  2. Break up your cannabis into smaller chunks. Just with your hands is fine.
  3. Spread your cannabis in a thin layer over a rimmed baking sheet so that there’s no overlap.
  4. Bake the cannabis for 40-50min, stirring every 10 minutes or so to keep the heat even.
  5. When the cannabis is darker in colour with a tinge of brown and has dried out, remove the baking sheet and allow the cannabis to cool. It should be crumbly to the touch.
  6. In a coffee grinder or food processor, pulse the cannabis until it is coarsely ground (you don’t want it too fine). Store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place and use as needed.

There you go. You’ve just decarboxylated your first batch of cannabis and you’re ready to start extracting!

Step 3: The Extraction Process

Many different extraction processes and methods exist, and to be entirely honest with you, most of them will get the job done just fine. A vast number of methods exist for “gourmet” cannabis extraction, but not everyone has the space nor the cash for fancy appliances like immersion circulators, and most of us just want our medication without a having to spend four years at Le Cordon Bleu. So for that reason, I will go over the two most basic methods that I personally use for my own edibles with you in this section.

Method One: Slow-Cooker

You Will Need:

  • Your decarboxylated cannabis that we made in Step 2.
  • Cooking oil of your choice. (I prefer using coconut or olive, but many people opt for lighter tasting oils like avocado or sunflower. Stay away from canola, soybean and corn).
  • Liquid vegetable lecithin.
  • Cheesecloth or a sieve.
  • Cooking thermometer. (Analog or Digital, either is fine).
  • A slow-cooker with a “keep warm” setting.
  • A glass jar for storage (NEVER USE PLASTIC).

Slow-Cooker CannaOil

The slow-cooker method is fantastic for making larger batches of cannaoil which keep very well in a glass jar in the fridge or freezer, and most people have one kicking around somewhere. If you don’t, you can easily pick one up new for around $50, or there’s one at pretty much every garage sale. However, because of the sheer volume of most slow-cookers, I would only recommend using this method for extractions using 2 cups of oil or more. I like to pour the finished product into a silicone muffin tin in 1/4 cup increments and freeze little cannaoil pucks that I can just toss into a recipe at a moment’s notice.
Author: Caelan Hart

Ingredients

  • 1 oz High-grade cannabis flower (decarboxylated)
  • 2 cups Cooking oil of your choice. (I prefer using coconut or olive, but many people opt for lighter tasting oils like avocado or sunflower. Stay away from canola, soybean and corn.)
  • 2 tbsp Liquid vegetable lecithin.

Materials

  • Cheesecloth or a sieve.
  • Cooking thermometer.
  • A slow-cooker. (with a “keep warm” setting)
  • A glass jar for storage. NEVER USE PLASTIC.

Instructions

  • Place desired amount of oil and decarboxylated cannabis in the slow-cooker.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of lecithin for every 1 cup of oil.
  • Turn the crockpot on to the KEEP WARM setting.
  • Stir the mixture every 20 minutes or so for the next one to three hours, checking with your thermometer that the mixture stays between about 160°-170°F (71°C-76°C). If it starts to get too hot, turn the slow-cooker off until the temperature drops back into the safe range… though this shouldn’t happen because the “keep warm” setting on most CrockPot brand slow-cookers keeps it at 165°F
  • Strain the mixture into a jar through your sieve or cheesecloth and make sure to squish out any oil still left in the plant matter. Waste not, want not!
  • Let cool slightly before placing a lid on the jar and storing in the fridge.

Method Two: Stove Top

You Will Need:

  • Your decarboxylated cannabis that we made in Step 2.
  • Cooking oil of your choice. (I prefer using coconut or olive, but many people opt for lighter tasting oils like avocado or sunflower. Stay away from canola, soybean and corn).
  • Liquid vegetable lecithin.
  • Cheesecloth or a sieve.
  • Cooking thermometer. (Analog or Digital, either is fine).
  • A double boiler -OR- a saucepan and a glass jar.

Stove Top CannaOil

The stove top method is fantastic if you only have a small amount of cannabis to work with and you only want to make one or two batches at a time. If you have a double boiler, that’s awesome. But if not, you can use a regular saucepan and a glass jar. The glass jar will serve as the top pot in your double boiler.
Cook Time2 hrs
Straining & Cooling15 mins
Total Time2 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 1 Batch
Author: Caelan Hart

Ingredients

  • 3.5 grams good quality cannabis flower (decarboxylated)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (use at least 1/4 cup, but more is fine if your recipe calls for it)
  • 1/4 tbsp organic vegetable lecithin

Materials

  • 1 cheesecloth or sieve
  • 1 double boiler (a glass mason jar and a small saucepan will work just fine)
  • 1 cooking thermometer

Instructions

  • Fill the bottom pot of your double boiler (or your saucepan) with water and bring it to a boil. If using the glass jar method, make sure it is a VERY GENTLE boil.
  • Place your oil and decarboxylated cannabis into the top pot of your double boiler (or into the boiling water if using a glass jar).
  • Add 1 tablespoon of lecithin per cup of oil (so if you’re only using 1/4 cup of oil, only use 1/4 Tbsp of lecithin).
  • Stir the mixture every 20 minutes or so for the next one to three hours, checking with your thermometer that the mixture stays between about 160°-170°F (71°C-76°C). If it starts to get too hot, turn your burner down a nudge and remove the pot from heat until the temperature is back within the safe range.
  • Strain the mixture into a glass or metal (but never plastic) container through your sieve or cheesecloth. Once again, make sure to squish out any residual oil still left in the buds. You may need to let it cool a bit before adding to certain recipes.

Notes

Do not put a lid on the glass jar or you will have a bad time.

Method Three: The MagicalButter Machine

You will need:

  • 1oz decarboxylated dry flower (2-3oz if using aftervapes)… or more. I’m not your real dad… But at least 1/4 – 1/2 oz of cannabis per cup of oil.
  • 2-5 cups of cooking oil. Once again, I highly recommend using coconut or olive oil. If using coconut, be sure to warm it up until it liquefies.
  • 15mL vegetable lecithin per cup of oil.
  • A MagicalButter machine and it’s corresponding accessories.

MagicalButter CannaOil

The MagicalButter Machine is a contraption that takes all of the hassle out of making cannabis oil (and many other extracts). It’s a lovely little contraption that I use in my everyday life. Though I definitely scoffed at the hefty $199 price tag initially, this thing has paid for itself in the amount of time and frustration that I no longer have to expend when I make cannabis extracts.
Author: MagicalButter.com

Ingredients

  • 1 oz High-grade cannabis flower (decarboxylated, not ground).
  • 2-5 cups Coconut or MCT oil (warmed until liquid).
  • 15 mL vegetable lecithin (per cup of oil).

Materials

  • A MagicalButter™ machine
  • MagicalButter PurifyFilter™ and LoveGlove™
  • MagicalButter™ trays or other storage container

Instructions

  • Place the ingredients into your MagicalButter machine, and secure the head.
  • Press the Temperature button, and select 160°F/71°C; then press the 2 Hours/Butter button.
  • After the cycle is complete, unplug the unit at the outlet, and remove the head of the appliance. Put on your LoveGlove™, and pour the pitcher contents slowly through your PurifyFilter™ into MagicalButter Trays, formed molds, or other storage container.

Notes

  • For best results do not pre-grind botanicals. Adjust botanical weight according to personal preference.
  • The biggest difference between unrefined (organic) and refined coconut oil is the taste. The unrefined will have a big coconut flavor, and the refined will have a neutral taste with very little or no coconut flavor. Do not use cold, firm coconut oil. Liquify it first by warming it to above 76°F/24°C

Congratulations!

You’ve just made your first batch of cannaoil. If using coconut oil, this stuff can keep for MONTHS in the fridge, but be careful with other oils that go rancid more easily. If you’re ready to get baking, check out my recipe for vegan, gluten-free, black-bean cannabrownies!

Remember that edibles are more potent than if you were to inhale the same amount of cannabis, so it’s advisable to start with half a treat, wait an hour or so to see how you feel, and then eat the other half if you desire a stronger result. The effects of an edible usually peak around three hours, so if you find that yourself with that “too high” feeling, just remind yourself that it is only temporary, drink water, and find a comfy spot to wait it out. Remember: #ModerationIsCool!

Author: Caelan Hart

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