Cannabis Infused Oils and Butters: The Building Blocks

On August 30, 2023 By KindCare Staff in General

Cooking with cannabis is like discovering a whole new world of flavors and experiences in the kitchen. But before we start whipping up delicious cannabis-infused dishes, it’s crucial to grasp the foundation of this unique ingredient and transform it into an easy to use vehicle.

One essential concept is decarboxylation. Decarboxylation is all about activating the full potential of cannabis by heating it. You see, raw cannabis doesn’t have the same mind-altering effects as its heated counterpart. The heat converts the inactive compounds, like THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), into the familiar THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), unlocking its psychoactive properties.

Getting To The Good Stuff

Decarboxylation is a fundamental chemical process that occurs when cannabis is heated, transforming a non-psychoactive cannabinoid into a psychoactive one. It’s a crucial step when you want to unlock the full potential of cannabis for culinary or recreational use.

In raw cannabis, the primary cannabinoid present is THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid). THCA is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t have the mind-altering effects commonly associated with cannabis consumption. Instead, THCA is known for its potential anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.

The magic of decarboxylation happens when you apply heat to THCA, causing it to lose a carboxyl group (a molecule composed of one carbon, one oxygen, and one hydrogen atom), hence the term “decarboxylation.” This process converts THCA into THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabinoid famous for its psychoactive effects, such as the “high” feeling.

Here’s the basic chemical reaction that takes place during decarboxylation:

THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) + Heat → THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) + CO2 (carbon dioxide)

The carboxyl group (COOH) is released as carbon dioxide (CO2), leaving behind the THC molecule, which can then bind with the body’s endocannabinoid receptors, primarily CB1 and CB2 receptors, leading to the familiar psychoactive effects.

Infusing Your Product

Cannabis infused butters and oils are some of the most common vehicles for delivery of cannabis into cooking. To make your own you will first need to acquire the butter or oil and cannabis.

Prepare your cannabis by grinding it finely but wait to add it to the butter or oil until you have brought it to the infusion temperature.

The temperature required for decarboxylation of the THCA cannabinoid to THC occurs in the range of 220 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit (104 to 115 degrees Celsius). We recommend holding the infusion mixture at this temperature for between 30 and 60 minutes to allow for the majority of the THCA decarboxylation to occur.

When infusing cannabis into oils and butters, you’ll want to aim for temperatures within this range to ensure effective decarboxylation without going too high and risking the degradation of cannabinoids or the creation of unwanted compounds. We recommend one of the following methods to achieve this:

Stovetop Method: On a stovetop, you can use a double boiler setup to infuse cannabis into oil or butter. Fill the bottom pot with water and place the top pot with your chosen fat and decarboxylated cannabis on it. Keep the heat on low or a gentle simmer to maintain a temperature that is within the decarboxylation range. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and ensure it stays between 220 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slow Cooker Method: If you’re using a slow cooker, set it to the low or warm setting. Slow cookers typically operate within the decarboxylation temperature range, making it a convenient method. However, it’s still a good idea to check with a thermometer to confirm that the temperature remains within the desired range.

Sous Vide Method: For those using a sous vide setup, you have precise control over the temperature. Set your sous vide machine to a temperature within the decarboxylation range, typically around 220 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. This method ensures consistent and accurate temperature control.

Regardless of the method you choose, having a reliable thermometer is essential. It allows you to monitor the temperature throughout the infusion process, ensuring that you’re within the appropriate range for decarboxylation without exceeding it.

Remember that the duration of the infusion process can also impact the decarboxylation. Longer infusion times at lower temperatures may lead to more complete decarboxylation. However, too much heat for an extended period can potentially degrade cannabinoids or lead to undesirable flavors. Experimentation and finding the right balance for your specific needs and preferences is essential.

Remember, once you have finished infusing your oil or butter you should strain it to remove the cannabis flower from your end product. Common straining methods use cheesecloth, a fine mesh strainer, or a nut milk bag. You may need to squeeze and press the mixture to recover as much of your final product as possible.

Measuring Your End Product

Measuring the exact THC content in homemade cannabis-infused butter or oil can be challenging without specialized laboratory equipment, as it requires precise testing. However, you can estimate the potency of your product based on the starting material’s THC percentage and the infusion process. Here’s a general method to estimate the THC content:

Know Your Starting Material: The first step is to know the THC percentage of the cannabis you used for the infusion. This information might be available if you purchased the cannabis from a legal dispensary, as many products provide this information on the packaging. If you’re using homegrown cannabis, you can consult online resources or ask experienced growers for typical THC percentages for the strain you used.

Calculate Total THC: Determine the total amount of THC in the starting material. If you used 1 gram of cannabis with a THC percentage of, let’s say, 15%, then the total THC is 0.15 grams (15% of 1 gram).

Estimate the Extraction Efficiency: Not all the THC from the starting material ends up in the butter due to the extraction process. The efficiency of the extraction depends on factors like the infusion time, temperature, and the quality of the infusion process. For homemade infusions, an estimate of 60-70% extraction efficiency is commonly used, but this can vary.

Estimate THC in End Product: Calculate the estimated THC content in your end product by multiplying the total THC from the starting material by the extraction efficiency. For example, if you used 1 gram of cannabis with 15% THC and you assume a 70% extraction efficiency, the estimated THC in your butter is 0.15 grams * 0.7 = 0.105 grams.

Calculate Portion Potency: If you know the total volume of butter and how much you use in a recipe, you can estimate the THC per portion. For example, if your infused butter is 200 grams, and you use 20 grams in a recipe, the estimated THC in that portion would be 0.105 grams * (20 grams / 200 grams) = 0.0105 grams, or 10.5 milligrams (mg).

Keep in mind that this is a rough estimate, and there can be variability in the actual THC content due to factors such as variations in the starting material, infusion process, and the extraction efficiency. If you’re seeking precise THC measurements for medical or legal purposes, it’s advisable to consult a professional testing lab that specializes in cannabis analysis.

Storing Your Product

After completing the infusion process, proper storage is essential to maintain the quality, potency, and shelf life of your cannabis-infused butter or oil. Here are some guidelines for storing your infused product:

Airtight Container: Transfer the infused butter or oil to an airtight container. Glass jars with secure lids or food-grade plastic containers work well. Ensure that the container is clean and dry before transferring the infusion.

Cool, Dark Place: Store the container in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. A pantry or a cupboard is a suitable location. Excessive heat and light can degrade cannabinoids and affect the overall quality of the infusion.

Refrigeration or Freezing (Optional): While cannabis-infused oil or butter can be stored at room temperature, some people choose to refrigerate or freeze it, especially if they plan to use it over an extended period. This can help prolong the shelf life and maintain freshness. If you choose to refrigerate or freeze the infusion, ensure that the container is tightly sealed to prevent moisture and odors from affecting the product. When taking the infused product out of the refrigerator or freezer for use, allow it to come to room temperature before use to ensure easy scooping or measuring.

Labeling: Clearly label the container with the infusion’s date and estimated potency (in milligrams of THC or CBD per serving, if known). This information helps you keep track of the infusion’s freshness and allows for more accurate dosing when using it in recipes.

Separation: Over time, some separation between the oil or butter and any water content might occur, especially if you added water during the infusion process to prevent burning. If you notice separation, gently mix or stir the infusion before use to redistribute any settled material.

Use Within a Reasonable Timeframe: While cannabis-infused oil or butter can have a reasonably long shelf life when stored properly, it’s best to use it within a few weeks to a couple of months for the best flavor and potency. Over time, the infusion might start to lose some of its potency and develop off-flavors.

Remember that the exact storage duration and conditions can vary based on the specific recipe, ingredients, and local climate. Regularly inspect the infused product for any signs of mold, off-odors, or changes in texture. If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to discard the infusion to ensure your safety and enjoyment.

Getting Into The Kitchen

In the next article, we’ll cover adding a touch of cannabis magic to our recipes

A final reminder as safety is our top priority. Handling and storing cannabis in the kitchen should be done responsibly. Keep your cannabis securely stored away from curious hands, and remember, not every dish is suitable for a cannabis infusion. Start with simple recipes to get the hang of it before moving on to more complex creations. Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, get ready to embark on a culinary adventure that combines the art of cooking with the magic of cannabis. Buckle up, because we’re about to take your taste buds on a journey they won’t soon forget!

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