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Curing, Drying, Temperature, THC extraction

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AutisticMerit View Drop Down
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  Quote AutisticMerit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Curing, Drying, Temperature, THC extraction
    Posted: 07 March 2010 at 14:09
Hello Everyone,

I've been looking around the web for information about making cannabis butter. There are huge variations in the recipes and advice, so I am asking some questions here. Please only answer if you actually know the answers. (I appreciate the desire to help, but don't care how your buddy did it, unless your buddy has a clue. One thing I've noticed here in internet-land: Lots of people have buddies and they all do shit differently and they can't all be right. Please don't answer unless you know what you're doing and can explain why.)

Basically it all comes down to this: I'd like to make cannabis butter from dried marijuana. I'd like to understand the role temperature has in either improving (good) or degrading (bad) the THC though the processes of drying, curing, butter-making/extraction, and cooking.

1) Does normal drying alone maximize the conversion of the cannibinoids to THC, or (if it is to be cooked not smoked) is some additional heat-treatment required before making the butter/cooking with it?

2)When heating the butter/cannabis mixture, to best extract the THC without harming it, how long should it be allowed to simmer in the double boiler? On the web I've seen everything proposed form 5 minutes to 24 hours!

3)Why does it have to be butter and not other oils? Many recipes warn against using margarine, for example, but don't say why. I can't use olive oil or pork fat?

4)There are also huge variations in the proposed ratios of marijuana to butter. If I have decent quality pot, and want to come close to maximizing the THC in solution in the oil... what are good approximate numbers?

5)Does anyone have actual techniques/recipes used by the NL coffee shops?

Thanks in advance!
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  Quote AutisticMerit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 March 2010 at 18:24
Here's one that inspired some confidence:

http://www.chelseagreen.com/content/recipe-extracting-cannabis-into-oil-or-butter/

Although I think a double boiler would be neater than the oil/butter mix, and would offer the same protection from overheating.
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  Quote fwqqqaa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 March 2010 at 07:18
Hi AutisticMerit

Honestly I don’t know how to make cannabis butter. But because of you I asked help from my mom to give you some advice. So I showed her some recipes’ from the internet and she was pleased with one recipe.

So she asked me to post that link to you and told you to try that recipe. The link is given below.

http://www.synchronium.net/2008/12/11/how-to-make-cannabis-butter/

Hope that I helped you in your matter.

Thank you.
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  Quote Ganja Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 April 2010 at 16:42
Originally posted by AutisticMerit

1) Does normal drying alone maximize the conversion of the cannibinoids to THC, or (if it is to be cooked not smoked) is some additional heat-treatment required before making the butter/cooking with it?

A few things here -  THC is a cannabinoid, but I'm assuming you mean the conversion from CBD to THC to CBN.

The only way CBD converts to THC is on the living plant.
THC on both living and dried plants can degrade into CBN. One of the main ways this happens is with heat, so cannabis should always be dried at room temperature or lower. Speeding up the process with additional heat will reduce potency.

Dried cannabis will never be improved by heating it (unless you're vaporising and inhaling the vapour!)

In answer to your main question, properly dried cannabis is fine for cooking.

Originally posted by AutisticMerit

2)When heating the butter/cannabis mixture, to best extract the THC without harming it, how long should it be allowed to simmer in the double boiler? On the web I've seen everything proposed form 5 minutes to 24 hours!

I've never used a double boiler. At first glance, using one might be a way to reduce the danger of burning or overheating the canna-butter mixture, but I'm not really sure. Steam will keep the bottom of the inner container a fairly uniform 100 degrees, which could be considered too hot and might encourage faster breakdown.
In any case, I would never leave canna-butter to simmer, I'd always keep stirring while it was being heated.

It's been a while since I made any butter, but the way I was taught was to use a normal pan on a stove at the lowest setting. Keep the mixture over the heat for anything from 40 minutes to 2hrs, stirring constantly - keep the mixture moving. Remove from the heat if you see any signs of boiling or overheating.

A gas flame on the lowest setting is hotter than 100C, but the area of the pan it heats is relatively small, so with constant stirring there should be less danger to the mixture.


Originally posted by AutisticMerit

3)Why does it have to be butter and not other oils? Many recipes warn against using margarine, for example, but don't say why. I can't use olive oil or pork fat?

It think margarine and other butter-like spreads act strangely if you try to heat them. The vegetable oil heats up and the other components either start spitting (water content), burning or looking weird.
Other, pure, vegetable-based fats are fine for making canna-oil.
No idea about animal-derived fats. They're probably okay, but the thought of canna-lard is a bit nasty. That's just my opinion though.

Originally posted by AutisticMerit

4)There are also huge variations in the proposed ratios of marijuana to butter. If I have decent quality pot, and want to come close to maximizing the THC in solution in the oil... what are good approximate numbers?

Very hard to answer. One ounce (25-30g) per half-kilo stick of butter is a normal ratio, but the amount of weed needed decreases greatly when using more potent weed. Much canna-cookery is done with unsmokeable stuff like leaf, male plants, etc. If using only leaf, then 50g of plant matter per stick of butter is probably advisable.

As to when butter reaches its cannabinoid saturation point, that's very hard to say. Colour is a decent indicator of potency. The butter will go green quite rapidly, and deepen to rich yellow-brown (even blackish) when it's getting full of oil.

One way to test this would be to mix an ounce of clip material (with a fair bit of visible resin and 'popcorn' buds) with a stick of butter, heat and stir until a satisfyingly rich colour is achieved, then strain off the plant matter and save it in the fridge. When the first lot of canna-butter runs out, try making more with the used weed, and see if it's possible to make another round of satisfyingly strong butter.

Originally posted by AutisticMerit

5)Does anyone have actual techniques/recipes used by the NL coffee shops?

No, they don't make their own. They're not really supposed to sell edible cannabis at all, and when they do, the cakes and cookies are made by private individuals, most of whom probably get their info from the web.
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  Quote AutisticMerit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 April 2010 at 16:49
Thanks for these very clear answers to my questions!
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  Quote Ganja Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 April 2010 at 16:59
No problem, sorry for the delay.

I guess you had an email alert on answers to this thread?
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  Quote AutisticMerit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 April 2010 at 19:34
Yes I got the e-mail alert, thanks.

I'm not surprised that coffeeshops don't make baked goods on the premises, but still figure "their" recipes (or their suppliers') must represent a lot of accumulated wisdom.

The surprise for me was that THC can only be lost to heat... I think I'd somehow gotten the impression that drying only partly converted the (other) cannibinoids into THC, and that the act of smoking of course did the final bit. I am glad to have that cleared up.

Not planning on making any THC-laden pork fat... but "Canna-lard" would be a great nickname for a certain kind of stoner with a weakness for snack-foods and video games, don't you think?.
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  Quote AutisticMerit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 August 2010 at 11:48
Hello to anyone reading this.

I may start a new thread with a specific question, but will also ask a more general question here.

The general question is, as the thread title suggests, on the subject of temperature, chemical changes in the important compounds in cannabis, and thc extraction.

I suppose because marijuana remains a socially and legally marginalized subject, really rock-solid information is harder to come by than it is in other areas. There are just tonnes of bullshit on the various forums, and even among the stuff that isn't just clueless know-it-all stoners repeating stuff they've maybe overheard, there is a lot of contradictory information.

There are a few forums that seem pretty reliable (sensi-seeds is one of them. But among those forums I have harvested completely incompatible advice. Should one make cannabutter with green undried cuttings or does that stuff need to be dried? At what temperatures does THC begin to break down? Is some heating (cooking, smoking) required to activate THC in the plant in some way? I have gotten authoritative-sounding answers to these questions... but in these and other cases, I have gotten more than one answer... not just different styles or approaches but incompatible answers that cannot all be true.

Especially fraught with contradictory information are the subjects of how the psychoactive compounds in the plant are produced and/or degraded, and made accessible and/or inaccessible to the body, through plant development, drying and heating, etc.

I just don't know who to trust. Is there some book/website/coptic-temple-gardening-guide/wiki-entry that was put together by a team--a team including fulltime growers, potheads, and PhDs in botany and agricultural engineering and organic chemistry--who actually *know* what the answers actually *are*? I mean, is there a place I can go to, and the kinds of questions that can only have one answer will, in fact, only have one answer?

Just wondering.
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  Quote Ganja Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 August 2010 at 16:37
There are certainly books with reliable information by well-respected authors such as Robert Connell Clarke (his Marijuana Botany and Hashish! are definitive reference books), Ed Rosenthal, Jorge Cervantes and Mel Frank. However, even these authors and books will disagree with each other over some of the finer points of cannabis botany and cultivation.

As to the other questions in that final paragraph, the answer is a pretty uniform 'no'. There's no single site or group that has the final definitive answer on everything (or anything, really, IMHO). Nor are there many questions in the world of cannabis that have only one answer.

This is a really important point and something that vexed me for many years - every time I was sure of some subtle piece of cannabis information, the plant would surprise me and show me that there were exceptions to every rule. Now I just go with what works for me and don't try to refute other methods or points of view (assuming they're sane and based on some form of actual information, rather than superstition and magical thinking).

Personally, I'd always be suspicious of any group or person claiming to possess the Revealed Truth about cannabis (or almost any other subject, for that matter).

One of the problems with defining the answer for a given cannabis question is that so many of the questions are based on subjective experience, so a definitive answer is not really possible - this covers questions of potency, ripeness, smell and flavour, physical structure and perceived genetic history.

"That plant doesn't look like strain x" (translation: "this plant doesn't conform to my memory of  what I believe was strain x when I grew it"), "when I grew this, it was much more potent" ("my tolerance is based on a number of changing variables"), "this strain is always ready in 65 days" ("that's how long it took in my particular set-up to reach the point which I think of as mature"), "this doesn't smell like Skunk x Big Bud x Mango Apocalypse" ("etc").

This kind of thing is just as true for cooking with cannabis. From personal experience I know that tolerance for digested cannbinoids can ramp up massively in a short time and, in some cases, permanently. I honestly can't get much of an effect when eating cannabis, even when eating multiple grams of water hash dissolved in a suitable medium; however, my first experience with eating cannabis, around 20 years ago, sent me into orbit.

I've never heard of anyone who had a reliable method for measuring the amount of cannabinoids in their baked goods - knowing how much was extracted from the cannabis into the butter in the first place, knowing how evenly the cannabinoids were distributed through the cake mix, knowing how much the cannabinoids broke down during the initial extraction or during the process of baking.

Add to that the hugely subjective experience of being high on cannabis, of differing tolerance (between individuals and even for one individual at different times), the nature of digestion vs intoxication (how much food in the stomach beforehand, different metabolisms putting cannabinoids into the bloodstream at different rates), how much a person might have smoked on the day they ate the cake in question, etc, and you can see how it's virtually impossible for home bakers to compile meaningful data about their creations.

Maybe when cannabis cakes are made by commercial businesses, they'll have to find a way to make sure each unit has a standard cannabinoid content, but even this will only be a single objective figure in a world of subjective experience.
If there was such a thing as a scientifically dosed hash brownie, I still think you could give identical cakes to 10 different people and get a minimum of three opinions of how powerful they were (and more likely, ten different opinions).

The only useful measure of the quality of one's cannabis cakes is sample them oneself, and with people whose tolerance of and experience with cannabis one knows. Even this will give highly subjective results, but at least there will be some basis upon which to form a personal opinion (even if that opinion only goes as far as 'these cakes are potent'). That opinion may or may not be useful to a third party...

There are a couple of questions in your post to which I can give an almost-definitive answer (in my mind, at least):

Should one make cannabutter with green undried cuttings or does that stuff need to be dried?

Cannabis should always be dried before cooking with it. Aside from questions of decarboxylation (see below), wet cannabis is full of chlorophyll and other plant juices, which taste disgusting; drying removes many of these. Also, putting moisture-filled cannabis into hot oil is not a good idea for obvious reasons.
It's likely that psychoactive food can be made by using wet cannabis (so the above is still not a definitive 'no'), but I'm certain that food in question would always be more pleasant to eat and more potent in effect if the cannabis was dried first.

At what temperatures does THC begin to break down?

Hard to answer. Anything above freezing, really. It's just a question of how fast it's breaking down. Over time, THC on a harvested plant breaks down at room temperature (and also as a result of light). It's a bit like asking at what temperature a puddle starts evaporate. Water's boiling point is 100*C but small amounts of water evaporate completely at much lower temps over time, presumably due to differences between surface temp and the overall temp of the water (otherwise, nothing would ever dry).

So, heating cannabis with butter will break down and destroy some cannabinoids, same for the heat used in subsequent baking or cookery; this is unavoidable. Of course, the fact that the cannabis is mixed with another medium slows the destruction. Cannabinoids are volatile oils, so they can evaporate when left by themselves. When heated in another medium, they will not disappear into thin air, at least.

In practical terms, don't let the cannabutter mixture reach 100C (this is why i prefer not to use a double boiler), and if it does start to boil, remove it from the heat straight away and allow it to cool a little before returning it to the heat. On the very lowest setting, with constant stirring most hotplates/burners won't make cannabutter boil very quickly.

IIRC, the Afghani hash makers have a good rule for working collected resin and pressing it into hashish - if it's too hot for your skin, it's too hot for the hash. So, working temps of up to about 50C, while not ideal, are acceptable for the relatively short time hash is being pressed.

Is some heating (cooking, smoking) required to activate THC in the plant in some way?

No. Or, more specifically, not in a way where you have to do anything. I'm pretty sure this idea comes from a semi-understood part of RC Clarke's Marijuana Botany.
In it, he points out that cannabinoids are originally synthesised on the living plant as an acid form of the oils we know and love. THC and CBD are actually THCA (THC acid) and CBDA (CBD acid), and Clarke states that these substances are not psychoactive. They have to decarboxylate (lose an acidic carboxylate group) in order to become the active components THC and CBD. Decarboxylation happens on the living plant, as resin glands become mature, and any acids that haven't converted by harvest time do so during the drying process.

Once cannabis is dry, there's nothing growers can (or need to) do to help the process. Any heating of the weed after drying will not convert any more acids to active cannabinoids, but will degrade the cannabinoids already present.
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  Quote AutisticMerit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 August 2010 at 17:20
Thanks for the education, Mr. Ganga!

By the way, I think I understand the difference between questions that could or should have a definite answer, and those that can't.

For example, I have a healthy looking Super Skunk going on 9 weeks into flowering, and I've been looking at all kinds of forums and other sources of information about when to harvest. Of course there is no way to take all the advice, guidelines, rules-of-thumb etc, and then reduce it all to definite times, numbers, or unambiguous signs. As a beginner, I can tell you it's hard to 'get a feel' for it though html and jpegs, but that's what I have to try to do and I accept that. For example, SS is supposed to take less than 50 days... But this plant is not a statistic. It's a living thing, and it's decided to take its time. Maybe it's the lighting. Maybe it's the ley lines. Or maybe SS doesn't like the kinds of books stacked up next to the enclosure. Less short stories and more poetry maybe?

On the other hand: stuff like vapour pressures, solubility, melting temperatures, the various series of chemical processes that turn stuff into THC and then turn THC into other stuff, and how those processes depend on light and temperature... those are (or could be) known, measurable, communicatable, objective facts.

Anyway, I am learning a lot. I am finding the decision about when to harvest, and how to decide when to harvest, to be kind of stressful. But on the whole I am enjoying the ride.

thanks again and until next time!
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