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The process of creating a consistent cannabis edible, topical or inhalable product is a unique challenge facing modern product producers. Fortunately advancements in modern technology give us the capacity to meet this challenge like no other period in history.
Where cannabis is prohibited, producers are less likely to invest in equipment that can be seized by authorities. Jurisdictions that permit productions, processing and sale of cannabis are getting kick-started by the inclusion of modern scientific lab equipment. The sudden introduction of cannabis concrete resins known as rosin, shatter or BHO absolute can be attributed to this advancement.
New challenges arise when seeking to dilute a resinous concentrated oil into a carrier liquid. Every possible carrier for a cannabis infusion will require individual fine tuning to suit the qualities of the medium. I will be exploring some basic equipment that can make a big difference in the overall consistency of the end products, especially when making large batches.
A prime example of a product that offers definite challenges to produce is E-Juice or E-Liquid, a glycerin infusion used in vapor pens. Vapor pens have risen quickly in popularity and are cheap, discrete and easy to use. Vapor Accessory outlets often feature a wall of E-Juice flavors that is more diverse than an ice cream shop. However, like ice cream shops, the vapor outlets don’t carry a cannabis infused product.
There is a two hour process for making E-Juice for your vapor pen with cannabis oil and vegetable glycerin. These two substances separate rapidly in a container, the cannabis oil settling to the bottom. The process outlined uses a Homogenizer to combine the two very different substances into one. This process of mechanical emulsification with the Homogenizer removes the need for additive surfactants such as lecithin. This can cut down on long-term costs as the money saved on additives will quickly pay back the few hundred dollars that the device cost.
A magnetic hotplate stirrer can be used to very carefully heat, melt and mix samples. The Homogenizer, that looks like a cross between a drill and a hand blender, provides the necessary torque needed to merge the glycerin and melted resin. A CAT X1000D Homogenizer drive with a G-20 (N) Normal Generator Shaft spins at up to 33000 RPM. The Generator Shaft is lowered into the centre of the liquid where the internal blade pulls the material through spinning shears, splicing it into micron sized droplets. The homogenizer attaches to a tabletop stand and is quick to assemble. It is not very loud even at it’s highest speed.
The manual contains numerous cautions that the device only be turned on when submerged in a liquid to avoid the risk of fire or damage to the device. It is a precision instrument that makes using an ordinary kitchen blender look like a beating fork. The shaft is sealed to prevent materials from entering the shaft tube. This helps avoid cross contamination and makes it easier to clean.
The process described below (adapted from here CAT Scientific) infuses 25 grams of winterized and decarboxylated cannabis resin into 500ml of kosher vegetable glycerin. You can use the suggested proportions in the example or tweak them to suit your needs; however the solution cannot exceed 30% by weight, cannabis oil to vegetable glycerin or it will begin to separate. For the experiment, 500ml of kosher vegetable glycerin was placed in a one litre beaker and heated to 80°C on the CAT MCS78 Magnetic Hotplate Stirrer. 25 grams of BHO absolute was heated in a separate vessel.
When the vegetable glycerin reaches 80°C, the beaker is moved over to the X1000D Homogenizer. The Homogenizer is clamped on its drive stand so that the Generator Shaft can be immersed in the vegetable glycerin about 1/16th of an inch from the bottom of the beaker. The device is powered on at the lowest setting, 4,000 rpm’s, and increased to 8,000. The BHO is then poured into the vegetable glycerin and the vessel is moved around the shaft for about 45 seconds to one minute. The device is then powered off.
The beaker is removed from the Homogenizer and placed back on the Hotplate Stirrer. The VG-BHO emulsion is heated to 80°C for ½ an hour. During that time, whatever BHO separates within the solution will appear in the centre of the beaker. The beaker is then moved back to the Homogenizer and emulsified again, as described above. The beaker is again placed on the MCS78 Hotplate Stirrer and the solution heated to 80°C for ½ an hour. If any separation occurs, homogenize again. After this you’ll have a stable VG-BHO Emulsion for about 90 days.
If you are not vaping your E-Juice, but choose to eat it instead, avoid the use of rubber droppers as the rubber will cause the mixture to polarize and separate. This is only one simplified process for making a cannabis-infused E-Juice, an art which is quickly catching fire. Find all the equipment mentioned in the article at www.catscientific.com.
I will be performing some experiments with the homogenizer and other equipment to help the growing number of craft cannabis producers to improve their products as they compete to supply the emerging legal cannabis industry.