Using Cured Cannabis Flower

Summer 2020
Figure 1 – Weighing flower for decarboxylation. Note the 62% moisture packet in the bell jar container, and tart cherry concentrate.
Figure 2 – Molds ready to receive gummy mixture.  Note the eye dropper with the mixture.
Figure 3 – Cooking gummy mixtures

By John Jemison
University of Maine Cooperative Extension Soil and Water Quality Specialist
Photos by the author

Now that you have adequately cured your harvested and trimmed flower, you are ready to dive into making edibles. In cured flowers, most cannabinoids are not in a form your body can use best unless you smoke or vaporize the flower. I am not a fan of smoking anything, so I suggest that you consider cooking with your flower to make healthy edibles.

Decarboxylation – What, Why and How

All cannabinoids occur in the flower in both their regular form (THC, CBD) and an acid form (THCa and CBDa). Preparing your flower for making edibles involves using the heat of cooking, smoking or vaping to convert the CBD in the acid form to the base form – a process called decarboxylation. Heat converts CBCa to CBC, CBGa to CBG and THCa to THC.

This happens through a controlled, slow, low-temperature baking. You can put a half ounce of flower on a cookie sheet, cover it with foil and bake it at 240 F for about 45 minutes. Your kitchen will fill with the characteristic cannabis aroma that may or may not please others in your household. Small thermos-like cookers (decarboxylators), available online, can decarboxylate flower in half-ounce batches; these have a rubber lid that keeps most of the smell in the container. If you intend to do this frequently, the Ardent company sells such products. I use one of these decarboxylators, but your oven can do this perfectly well.

The next step involves extracting cannabinoids and terpenes from “decarbed” flower. The trichomes that contain these chemicals predominantly are soluble in both oil and alcohol, so, depending on your preference, you could use either. I like to make my own edible gummies since I am confident about the ingredients I choose, the edible strength, and I enjoy the time in the kitchen. Since I boil my extract at a low simmer for at least 30 minutes, I am confident that I have boiled off the residual alcohol. If you do not want to work with or consume even trace amounts of alcohol, you can certainly extract flower in oil.

Preparing Tinctures

My goal for gummies is to make the healthiest product I can. I don’t know that I can’t make my gummies with an oil infusion; I just have always used alcohol as my solvent of choice. Since trichomes don’t dissolve in water, the stronger the alcohol source, the better. Again, as I am going to boil off all of the alcohol that I put into the gummy mixture, I want to extract the cannabinoids and terpenes in the flower efficiently. Some Maine-based companies sell culinary solvents (100% pure ethanol) for this purpose. Adults can order these online and have them shipped to their home. Or you can purchase 151 proof grain alcohol at a liquor store for this purpose, but this is 25% water, which reduces extraction efficiency. The alcohol will cost $10 to $20 per tincture batch.

I put my solvent in the freezer so that it is ice cold to start. I also place my cooked cannabis in a plastic Ziploc bag in the freezer to improve extraction efficiency. Since the amount of flower I work with is not a limiting ingredient, I often extract a half ounce of cooked flower and a half ounce of uncooked flower in the same 16-ounce solvent extraction to benefit from both CBD and CBDa, which is also reportedly healthy.

I place the chilled, decarboxylated cannabis in a 16-ounce bell jar, add ice-cold alcohol almost to the top of the jar, and screw on the jar lid. I shake the mixture by hand for five minutes and then filter it into another jar. Once all the alcohol has drained from the cannabis, I discard the flower and then add the other half-ounce of uncooked cannabis to the same alcohol. I shake that for another five minutes and filter that as well. This is my tincture recipe.

Gummy CBD Strength

I have never tested my cannabis for CBD or THC concentration, but a friend’s ‘Mae’s Cannatonic’ cultivar (the one I have grown) had a total CBD (CBD + CBDa) content of 21% and a total THC (THCa + THC) of 0.77%. The extraction efficiency with alcohol is reportedly 15% to 20%, depending on alcohol strength. So if your cannabis contained 21% total CBD, and the alcohol extraction efficiency was 15% to 20%, and if your tincture was made from 14 grams of decarboxylated cannabis and 14 grams of uncooked cannabis, the alcohol extract should contain between 2 and 2.5 mg total CBD/ml of tincture.

I put one-third cup (80 ml) of tincture into each batch of gummies that I make, and each batch creates about 750 grams of gummies. I use an eye dropper that comes with the gummy molds to fill each shape, and each edible weighs about 7 grams (Figure 2). So I consume 1.4 to 1.8 mg of total CBD (CBD + CBDa) with each gummy each day. With one in the morning and one at night, my CBD intake is about 3 to 4 mg/day. Most CBD gummies sold on the market are said to contain 5 or 10 mg each, but up to now, there has been little oversight of how the flower is extracted, how the edibles are produced or their actual CBD concentration. Most are coated with granular sugar, which I would rather not consume. I could test my gummies for their CBD concentration, but because they are for my own consumption, I think I am on track. One day, I’ll test to be sure.

Making Gummies

This should be the fun part. To make gummies, you need a blender (I use a Vitamix), heavy sauce pan, whisk, culinary silicone gummy molds and an eye dropper. Again my goal is to create the healthiest, super-antioxidant-rich gummy I can. For each batch you will need 16 ounces elderberry or blueberry juice concentrate, 1 cup frozen blueberries, zest of two lemons and the juice of one lemon, a large chunk of ginger (15 to 20 grams), one small piece of turmeric root (2 grams; this will stain everything it contacts yellow, so be sure you are committed to turmeric), honey to taste and grass-fed beef gelatin. You will also need about one-eighth cup of olive oil to lubricate the molds. Put the juice, berries, lemon zest and lemon juice, ginger (chopped as much as possible), turmeric and 1 tablespoon of honey into the blender and blend for 5 minutes. Pour this into a heavy saucepan, add one-third cup of tincture and then start to heat the mixture (Figure 3). Do not add the alcohol while the burner is on! Promise me that you will not under any circumstance leave the saucepan unattended until you turn off the heat. Reread the previous sentence. If you let this solution boil over, you will not be happy with me. Everything will look fine, your mixture will be simmering nicely, and boom, it starts to rise up and boil over … so please don’t leave the saucepan unattended even for a minute.

Now cook the liquid over medium-low heat until little bubbles start forming. Very, very slowly, add gelatin to the mixture in the saucepan while whisking constantly to avoid clumps. Eating clumps of gelatin in your gummy will not please you. The amount of gelatin to add depends on your taste and how firm a gummy you want. If you like them to dissolve in your mouth and not be terribly chewy, add approximately 50 grams (3 tablespoons) of gelatin for the volume of liquid described above. Once completely mixed into the liquid, continue to simmer the liquid for about 20 to 30 minutes to blow off any residual alcohol. This cooking will convert some but not all of the CBDa to CBD. That is why I talk about total CBD and total THC in my gummies.

Preparing Gummy Molds

Purchase silicone molds designed for culinary purposes to make your gummies. While your mixture cools (for 15 minutes or so), place the molds on a cookie sheet on your kitchen table or an appropriate workspace. Rub the inside of each cavity with good olive oil – just enough so that the gummies will pop out when cool and firm. Squeeze the ball of an eye dropper to fill the dropper with gummy liquid, and fill each mold cavity. Place the filled molds in a cool area. In spring, fall and winter, I cool molds on my screen porch or in the cellar to let them set. In summer I might have to place them in the refrigerator, which is less desirable, as spilled elderberry juice is as popular as boiled over gummy liquid.

When firm, pop the gummies out, place them into silicon storage bags or Ziploc plastic bags and store them in the refrigerator. Because of the low pH (thanks to the lemon juice), gummies will keep for up to a couple of months in the refrigerator.

Cost to Produce

My homemade gummies cost approximately $32 per roughly 750-gram batch to make. At 7 grams per gummy, that’s about 100 doses, or enough for 50 days at a cost of about $0.60 per day for 3 to 4 mg of total CBD. Prices online for gummies vary, but many companies sell 60 gummies per container at 5 mg per gummy for $50 or roughly $1.20/day. I expect the Food and Drug Administration to publish guidelines on CBD extraction, testing and allowable variance in product concentration, but very little industry oversight exists now. When I make my own, I have all the control. I have to believe my edibles are healthier than anything sold commercially today. Again, I don’t coat gummies with granular sugar, and I’d guess that the antioxidant content can’t be beat. I have also made sour cherry gummies by replacing the elderberry concentrate with an equal volume sour cherry concentrate. These are delicious too.

Other Extraction Methods

Plenty of other means exist to extract cannabinoids from “decarbed” flower. Many people extract with coconut oil, medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil or butter. When making CBD-based chocolates, cookies, salad dressings or whatever, fats and oils are preferred extractants. Tools such as the MagicalButter machine or other infusion devices allow people to select how long they want to extract the flower and may influence the concentration. After cooking, the flower residue is filtered out and the oils can be put into edible products. I made CBD chocolate truffles once that were quite good, but my goal with CBD flower production is to make super-healthy, antioxidant-rich edibles.

This article is for informational purposes only. Please consult a health care practitioner about serious medical issues. Any product endorsement is unintended.

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