You have heard about Edibles. How about Drinkables!
A Quick and Easy Way to Use Cold Ethanol at Home for Cannabis Extraction
Did you know you can drink the weed you grow?
I tend to get wordy, so feel free to just jump ahead to the recipe. I won’t be offended. It's a few paragraphs ahead. (Note: All the Amazon links use the CocoForCannabis.com affiliate code, so purchases will support the website. Thanks Dr Coco!)
If you have good quality trim that you don’t know what to do with, buds that have dried a bit too much and taste harsh to smoke or vape, or you just want to experiment with cannabis cocktails or tinctures, you will quickly find yourself in a dark, green corner of cannabis culture, where every recommendation contradicts every other one. Recipes for the mysterious “green dragon” abound, and they are all different. Most of them are bad. So, I’ll save you all that trouble, and share the results of my research and experimentation. The technique I settled on is my own variation on the Quick Wash Ethanol technique or QWET (Skunkpharmresearch 2012).
I call these “cannabitters” instead of tinctures, because my primary use is for drinking my weed in alcoholic beverages or fruit juice. But this method can absolutely be used to make tinctures as well, and I'll include instructions on that as well. You can even evaporate off the ethanol and produce oils and dabs (Alchimia 2016), as large-scale commercial producers do who use the QWET technique (June-Wells, 2018).
You can start off with using as little of 2 grams of buds, which will make enough extract for 25-50 doses, but you will probably quickly expand to making larger quantities if you have the materials available. You will also need a source of ethanol. What is ethanol? Also called ethyl alcohol or EtOH, ethanol is fermented and distilled neutral spirits that are watered down to make vodka or watered and flavored to make gin. In most states in the USA, 95% (190 proof) grain alcohol is available in liquor stores under brand names like Everclear or Graves. Do not use anything that has the word “denatured” in the description. This indicates that it has noxious ingredients added, such as methanol or other poisons, to make it unsafe for human consumption. Do not use isopropyl (“rubbing”) alcohol (also poisonous). Use the highest proof ethanol made for human consumption that you can find. For those of you in states or countries that have made purchasing higher-proof alcohol illegal, you have my condolences. If anyone tries this process with lower-proof vodka or whiskey, I’d be curious how it comes out, but I don’t hold out much hope.
Let’s get started!
BerkshireBud’s Cannabitters Recipe
Total time to prepare: Under an hour
- Filter. I use my Aeropress Coffee Maker with a fresh filter disk ( https://amzn.to/3fEJaTz ) but if you wanted to get fancy, you could buy a Luer-lock syringe ( https://amzn.to/36eUjWV) and a package of syringe filters ( https://amzn.to/2Z9kGvx). That might actually cost a bit less and give you a clearer product, but it won’t make coffee. [ Update: I added links for the syringe and filters. I just may buy some of those myself! Note that if you back flush the filter with clean water and let it dry, you can keep using it until it gets too hard to push things through. ]
- Jars with lids. At least three. The mouth on one should be sized to fit the filter. I use small, regular mouth, Ball canning jars, because I have plenty of them around. But any jar will work.
- Measuring cup, cylinder, beaker, or syringe to measure the ethanol.
- Digital scale. If you don’t have one, @rosettastone recommends https://amzn.to/2HRTtVv
- Aluminum foil
- Small funnel
- Dropper bottles. If you don’t have any around, any of the sizes below will work. The small ones are good for giving samples to friends. The larger ones are good for keeping at home. Amber bottles will block a bit more UV than these pretty cobalt blue ones, but my bitters never last long enough for that to be an issue! There are also green jars available which are super pretty, but block almost no UV. Your choice.
15ml (1/2 oz) https://amzn.to/2zwb83e
30ml (1 oz) https://amzn.to/2YWBjL5
60ml (2 oz) https://amzn.to/3bsOlCq
120ml (4 oz) https://amzn.to/2SZL4UQ
- Labels. These are optional, but helpful if you make multiple varieties or share with friends. I eventually settled on these waterproof labels which are pricey, but work well. https://amzn.to/3fCF3Y5
- 2g cured Cannabis flowers (“buds”) or 4-5g cured trim (8g buds/16g trim for larger batch)
- 60 ml (4 tablespoons) 95% ethanol (210 ml or 7 fl. oz. for larger batch)
- Chill a jar of ethanol and an empty jar in the freezer. Don’t worry, the ethanol won’t freeze. Household freezers only go down to -18°C (0° F) and the freezing point of 95% EtOH is -144°C (-227°F). Chill your measuring cup or syringe too.
- Preheat oven to 115°C (240°F).
- Gently wrap flowers or trim loosely in a flat, folded and sealed pouch of foil, and decarboxylate by heating in oven for 40 minutes. Yes, this will make your house smell lovely. See the notes below about decarboxylation.
- Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.
- Place flowers or trim into the empty chilled jar, being sure to brush any flower dust (trichomes) off the foil and into the jar. Here's a photo of 16 grams of Purple Kush trim about to be mixed with 160 ml of EtOH.
- Add 40ml (about 8 teaspoons) chilled ethanol to the jar for a small batch, or 160ml for larger batch.
- Stir or muddle gently to make sure flower or trim is fully saturated. The more you muddle, the muddier the end result will be. The flavor will also be stronger, which can be good or bad, depending on the strain and your tastes.
- Start a timer, cover the jar tightly, and place it in the freezer. Briefly agitate jar (swirl, don't shake) for 5 seconds every minute for a total of 5-6 minutes extraction time for flowers, 3-4 minutes for trim. See note below. This goes quickly and my phone was busy being a timer, so no photos.
- Pre-moisten filter with ethanol.
- Place Aeropress press with pre-moistened filter on small jar and pour chilled mixture into Aeropress.
- Use the extra ethanol to wash any residue out of jar and add it to Aeropress.
- Filter under pressure into a clean jar. This photo is from a different batch.
- Use the funnel to pour into dropper bottles (15 through 120ml sizes work well). You will likely get about 50ml out of a small batch and about 180-200ml out of a large, depending on how firmly you press that Aeropress!
- Store in a dark, cool place for maximum lifespan or use right away!
If you are wondering what the Purple Kush trim cannabitters came out like, here they are. The green color is chlorophyll. This one has a stronger flavor and, because it was made with trim, is less potent.
How much should I take?
This will depend on the strength of your flowers and your personal tolerance. If your flowers were 25% cannabinoids, the extract would contain about 8mg/ml (since it does not extract 100% of the cannabinoids. But, most of us don't grow buds that strong, so 5mg/ml is probably a reasonable estimate. Each standard-sized dropperful (around 20 drops) is about 1ml. Try 10 drops in water or juice first and wait at least 2 hours. If that isn’t enough, try 15 or 20 drops next time. Onset of effects should be noticed between 15 mins and 90 mins of ingestion, and will feel similar to edibles, though usually a bit faster onset and a slightly shorter length of effect. Like edibles, much of the THC goes through the hepatic portal vein into the liver, where liver metabolism produces 11-hydroxy-THC, which appears to be more potent in the bloodstream than THC itself. If taken on an empty stomach, the effects will be more profound and more rapid.
What was that about Cannabis Cocktails?
Cannabitters can replace or augment the bitters in many cocktail recipes. You’ll want to experiment, as each strain and batch has a different flavor, just like they do when vaping. I’ll be posting more Cannabis Cocktail recipes soon, but here’s a favorite to get you started:
Cannhattan (also known as a Washington Square Park. If you've ever been there, you'll know why.)
- 60ml (2 oz) Rye or Bourbon Whiskey
- 30ml (1 oz) Sweet Vermouth
- 15ml (1/2 oz) black cherry juice, liquid from soaked cherries, etc.
- 1ml Cannabitters (I find Northern Lights bitters work well for this drink both in flavor and effect)
Shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandy or whiskey-soaked cherry or just with a twist of orange. Drink while surreptitiously muttering “Smoke? Smoke?” to everyone you walk past.
If you want a faster onset without having to wait for it to get through your digestive system, try a “tincture.” Mix the extract with an equal or greater amount of distilled water. This will bring it down to about the strength of vodka. Place the diluted tincture under your tongue (“sub-lingual”) and allow it to sit there as long as you can before swallowing. The tincture will be partially absorbed by blood vessels under your tongue and will enter the bloodstream faster. Don’t try this with straight 190 proof alcohol extract! Trust me, it is very painful, and not a mistake you will make a second time.
Why heat it in the oven? Why this temperature and time?
Heating is necessary to decarboxylate the non-psychoactive chemicals THCA and CBDA into their psychoactive components, THC and CBD. This time and temperature combination is from a scientific study I found (Wang et al. 2016) which determined it maximized the amount of decarboxylation, without breaking down the THC and CBD.
Why chilled ethanol and why so short an extraction time? Is 5 minutes always the right amount of time?
There are many recipes out there for cannabis tinctures with names like “Green Dragon” which require days or weeks of extraction. THC, CBD, and most of the other active ingredients in cannabis dissolve quickly in ethanol and don’t need long extraction times. The longer the extraction time and the higher the temperature, the more chlorophyll and plant waxes will be extracted. While this makes the result a lovely bright green color, it will taste horrible and bitter.
I have had some strains (e.g., sour diesel) get a rank flavor after 5 minutes. If this happens to you, try extracting that strain for just 3-4 minutes.
What about using trim or other leaves?
Yes, this works. You will need a larger quantity of leaves than of flowers. For good trim mostly from the small leaves, use at least twice the quantity and extract for a shorter time. Leaves have far more chlorophyll, so expect the flavor to be stronger. I haven’t tried using fan leaves
What do I do with the extracted bud material?
It is possible to do a second extraction. The first pass extracts 75-80% of the cannabinoids (Skunkpharmresearch 2012). The cannabinoid levels will be much lower in the second pass, and will tend to produce more of a sedative effect (more body than heady), so you will want to label these extracts differently. You could also do a fat extraction for the second pass (e.g., cannabutter).
Fairbairn, J.W., J.A. Liebman, and M.Gl Rowan. 1976. The stability of cannabis and its preparations on storage. J. Pharm. Pharmac., 1976,28, 1-7.
June-Wells, Mark. 2018. Your Guide to Ethanol Extraction in Cannabis. Cannabis Business Times, July 2018. Retrieved from https://www.cannabisbusinesstimes.com/article/your-guide-to-ethanol-extraction/
Wang, Mei et al. 2016. Decarboxylation Study of Acidic Cannabinoids: A Novel Approach Using Ultra-High-Performance Supercritical Fluid Chromatography/Photodiode Array-Mass Spectrometry. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, Volume 1.1. DOI: 10.1089/can.2016.0020 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28861498
Well, I promised I would post some recipes for dank drinks (AKA cannacocktails), so here's the first of many.
The Bronx Cheer
This is a variation on the classic Manhattan, which is whiskey, sweet vermouth, and cherry. I ran out of cherry, but I found a jar of frozen raspberries in the bottom of the freezer, and thus was born the Bronx Cheer.
- 60 ml (2 oz) Whiskey (I am particular to George Dickel Rye for this, but bourbon or whatever will work)
- 30 ml (1 oz) Sweet Vermouth (if you want to be fancy, get the Carpina Antica. Pricey, but amazing)
- 15 ml (1/2 oz) raspberry juice or raspberry bourbon (see recipe below)
- 1.5 ml Northern Lights cannabitters
Stir all ingredients gently for 30 seconds in a mixing glass. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with raspberries.
My Northern Lights harvest 2 years ago was quite potent. While I didn't have it tested, NL often runs to 20% cannabinoids. So, based on that, I estimate the THC content of this dank drink around 12 mg. You can adjust the strength by dropping it to 1 ml or raising it to 2 ml.
If you drink this on an empty stomach, expect both the EtOH and the THC to travel quickly through the hepatic portal vein for a fast-onset high. The alcohol seems to come on first, but then the THC kicks in and completely overshadows the EtOH. Or drink it after dinner, for a more gradual onset.
Here's how I made the raspberry bourbon:
Pick fresh raspberries in season. Rinse them, place on cookie sheets in freezer in single layer. Freeze. Gently put into wide-mouth Ball jars in bottom of freezer. Forget about them for 2 years. Find them. Take out a jar. Remove lid. Fill with bourbon. Replace lid and place in fridge. Wait until it looks good. It will keep getting better.
Tonight's aperikif is an oldy but a goody. The Martini is made with gin, dry vermouth, and bitters. The Maritini is made with gin, dry vermouth, and cannabitters! Because gin tends to be strongly flavored, it holds up well to stronger-flavored cannabitters, such as those made from Purple Kush trim. But if you don't have any of that, it also works well with just about any cannabitters! You may want to reduce the quantity if you use more potent bud bitters.
- 60 ml gin
- 30 ml dry vermouth
- 2 ml cannabitters from trim, such as Purple Kush
Shake some ice and water and pour ice and water into a cocktail glass to chill the glass. While that is chilling, shake the remaining ingredients with fresh ice. Empty the glass and strain the Maritini into the chilled glass. Garnish with an olive or three.
The maritini, like the martini, is a drink best served cold. That's why the traditional cocktail glass has a long stem, to keep the heat of your hands from warming up the ice cold beverage. Some people will tell you not to shake this cocktail as it will "bruise" the gin. Uh, gin is just neutral spirits (grain alcohol), water, and various flavorings (like juniper berries). What's to bruise? The reality is that shaking with ice cools the drink down better and faster, but does result in a bit more water and sometimes tiny ice chips ending up in the cocktail. It's a matter of taste, but I find these things improve the flavor of a maritini, although it does make the cocktail a bit cloudier than stirring. On the other hand, cannabitters tend to make everything a bit cloudy...
Enjoy! And let me know what strains of bitters you try with your maritini.
This one I just made up on the spot, and it is quite tasty! It's a cross between a margarita, a manhattan, and a negroni, with the requisite canniboids to make it dank. Not too sweet, but not as bitter as a negroni. I can only take so much Campari at once.) I named this drink after the farmers who harvest the agave that is used to make Tequila. ¡Salud!
- 60 ml (2 oz) Tequila (Espolon Tequila Reposado is yummy. Reposado has rested in oak.)
- 30 ml (1 oz) Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica is my favorite)
- 5 ml (1 tsp) Campari
- 10 ml (2 tsp) Orange juice
- 1 to 1.5 ml Cannabitters (I used White Widow because it just felt right)
- Dash of orange bitters (Optional. I have bottles of non-cannabis bitters around that I will never use up. Maybe I should dankify them. Orange bitters would be good with sour diesel or super lemon haze. Okay, there's a weekend project!)
Shake gently with ice for 30 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.
This one is sort of a cross between a Boulevardier cocktail and a Chambord Manhattan, plus dank wonderfulness. What to call it? At first I was thinking of its Manhattan lineage, or something French, or even its Negroni roots. But then I realized, this drink is all about the bourbon and the raspberries. So, Kentucky Lights it is. Enjoy!
- 60 ml (2 oz) bourbon whiskey (Knob Creek will do)
- 30 ml (1 oz) sweet vermouth (really, spend the money and get Carpano Antica!)
- 5 ml (1 tsp) Campari
- 15 ml (1/2 oz) raspberry bourbon (see https://www.cocoforcannabis.com/community/member_articles/you-have-heard-about-edibles-how-about-drinkables/#post-28892 for the recipe)
- 1 ml Northern Lights cannabitters (of course, you can use another variety, this one just smelled right)
Stir with ice in a mixing glass and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a few raspberries out of the raspberry bourbon.
Robbie Garrigus is a professional golfer. He may not be as famous as Arnie Palmer, but he was suspended from the PGA in 2019 for using cannabis. In his honor, I have created this cocktail.
- 60 ml (2 oz) vodka
- 240 ml (8 oz) sweet tea
- Juice from 1/2 a lemon
- 1 ml cannabitters
Shake with ice and strain into a tall glass and serve straight up with a twist of lemon. Or, shake with ice and pour it all into a tall glass and serve on the rocks with a slice of lemon, depending on how hot it is outside!
High Steppe cocktail recipe. The high steppes of the Hindu Kush are characterized by sagebrush, with areas of juniper and other trees. What better name for a cocktail combining those flavors with a cannabis strain formed from cross of strains from the area.
- 30 ml (1 oz) Rye Whiskey (I used Redemption Rye, bottled in Indiana)
- 30 ml (1 oz) Gin (I used Art in the Age Sage. They don't call it gin, but if you take neutral spirits and add a bunch of botanicals to it, that's what I call "gin." I would describe its wonderful flavor, but apparently they don't make it any more. Pretty much any gin will work, but if you want to come close, something like the St. George Terroir Gin ought to do it justice.)
- 15 ml (1/2 oz) Dry Vermouth
- 15 ml (1/2 oz) Orange juice
- 2 ml strong-flavored cannabitters (I used my Purple Kush Trim bitters. They go really well with the gin and rye.)
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice.
Wasting Away in Marijuanaville. Looking for my lost shaker of salt.
The weather has finally turned warmer here in New England (although I'm still having trouble keeping my grow tent above 20°C during lights out). That means thoughts and palates turn towards summer drinks. The origins of this drink started with the classic Martini: gin, dry vermouth, bitters. From there, I created the Margarini, a cross between a Margarita and a Martini: tequila, triple sec, lime. Today, I introduce to you the Marijuaini. Or, if that's too hard to pronounce (and it is), let's just call it Wasting Away in Marijuanaville, or just Wasting Away for short.
- 60 ml (2 oz) Tequila (as mentioned before, Espolon Tequila Reposado is my current fave)
- 30 ml (1 oz) orange liqueur (triple sec is fine, I use Bauchant)
- Juice from 1/2 lime
- 15 drops cannabitters (wish I had some Acapulco Gold, but used White Widow. Feel free to use more if you really want to be wasting away!)
- salt on a plate
- lime wedge
Chill a cocktail glass with ice and water. Mix the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Dump the ice and water from the glass, moisten the rim with the lime, and dip the glass in the salt to salt the rim. Carefully strain the cocktail into the glass, float the cannabitters on top, and garnish with a lime wedge.
Trim and Tonic. Another classic summer cocktail: the gin and tonic, with a twist.
Trim & Tonic
- 60 ml (2 oz) Gin
- Tonic water (I like Q Tonic, as it isn't horribly sweet)
- 2 ml cannabitters from trim
- half a lime, cut into wedges
Fill a lowball glass with ice. Drip the canabitters over the ice. Squeeze all but one piece of lime over the ice. Pour in the gin, and fill the glass with tonic. Aim for around 100-120 ml (less than 4 oz) of tonic. Stir gently and garnish with the remaining wedge of lime.
Drinkables are not just cocktails! Here's a non-alcoholic drinkable I am calling High Tea.
- Tea (about 250 ml or 1 cup)
- 5-10 drops White Widow cannabitters (yes, you can substitute. I recommend a mild or citrus-flavored, energetic/creative strain)
Fill a glass with ice. Pour tea over ice. Add sugar and lemon juice to taste. Drip in cannabitters and stir well. Garnish with a wedge of lemon or a sprig of mint if you want to be fancy. Enjoy! If you are going to drink more than one of these, or you intend to try to get something accomplished, I recommend keeping the number of drops low.
WARNING: Do not operate power tools, lawn mowers, heavy machinery, or motor vehicles after drinking High Tea. Just kick back and relax. Go for a walk in the woods. Play with your dog. Listen to the birds. Make a drawing or painting or photograph. Plant vegetables. Write a story. Read a book. Have another High Tea.
I bought a bottle of Campari, since someone insisted I would love Negronis. So far, not so much. I'm trying, I really am, but the combination of the extreme bitterness, artificial color, and really no easily detectable interesting flavors in the Campari beyond just "bitter" isn't floating my boat. But, I continue to try it. Maybe it is an acquired taste. Now, a Negroni is equal parts Gin, Sweet Vermouth, and Campari. Here's a dank version of that bitter drink, trying to adjust the proportions more to my palate.
[ Update: Okay, the first sip I thought this was a bust. But, I've been sipping on it for a while and it is growing on me. The Purple Kush really adds to the whole flavor. Which is why I used so much of it. I think this actually pretty damn good. ]
- 30 ml (1 oz) Gin
- 30 ml (1 oz) Sweet Vermouth
- 15 ml (1/2 oz) Campari
- 2.5 ml (50 drops) Strong-flavored cannabitters from trim (Purple Kush is what I have made up now)
Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of orange or lemon.
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