If you’re interested in edibles, and have considered making them yourself, you’ve probably heard about cannabutter by now. It’s one of the easiest ways to infuse cannabis into food at home, and can be done with minimal-to-no special equipment.
Whether you plan to use a decarboxylator or do things the old school way, learn all about cannabutter in our extensive guide.
What Is Cannabutter?
A mash-up of the words cannabis and butter, “cannabutter” is cannabis-infused butter, typically used for the purpose of making edible cannabis products. Beloved favourites emerged in the late 1960s such as pot cookies and weed brownies. Popularized by the 1968 film starring Peter Sellers, “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas”, pot brownies became a staple of hippie culture throughout the 1970s and beyond. Today’s burgeoning cannabis market is inundated with new cannabis-infused “edibles” every day, from gourmet chocolates to soda pop and chewing gum. You may wish to explore the side effects of cannabis use before trying these tantalizing popular confectioneries.
There are several ways that these edible marijuana products can be infused with cannabis. Cannabis is lipophilic, which means it requires some form of fat for its active ingredients (chemical compounds called “cannabinoids”) to bind to. Commercially, the most efficient and cost-effective method is through highly concentrated cannabis extracts, which requires expensive extraction equipment. But you can make your own cannabis infused edibles by making cannabutter at home. Every granny can tell you that butter is the single most important ingredient that elevates homemade baked goods to that next finger-licking good level of comforting satisfaction!
The most important thing to learn about infusing butter with cannabis, is that the plant’s sought after chemical compounds, namely THC and CBD, are activated by applying heat in a process called decarboxylation, which can be done in a number of ways.
Decarboxylation describes a chemical reaction in which a carbon atom is removed from a carbon chain. This process is so named due to a reaction of carbolic acids. In the case of cannabis, upon slow heating at a relatively low temperature, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) undergoes a chemical reaction through which THCA (the acid precursor to THC) is converted into the psychoactive chemical compound universally known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. The same goes for CBDA-dominant strains of cannabis, which are converted to non-psychoactive cannabidiol or CBD upon decarboxylation. In short, when heat is applied to THCA or CBDA, a carboxyl group is removed from its molecular structure, resulting in the cannabinoids called THC and CBD, respectively.
How To Decarboxylate Cannabis
The easiest way to decarboxylate cannabis is to crumble your weed into the consistency of granola, spread it evenly on a cookie sheet pan and bake it in the oven for 30 minutes at about 250 degrees. Shuffle the contents around every ten minutes or so to maintain an even surface area. Some people like to use a piece of parchment paper. If you have a notoriously hot oven then compensate by lowering the temperature by a few degrees. The important thing is to take care not to overheat the herb as its valuable chemical compounds can be damaged.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set aside to cool. Note that the cannabis will have turned from green to brown. Be careful. The herb will be hot and the consistency will be more crumbly. Your previously benign cannabis is now decarboxylated, which means that it may now possess potent potential psychoactivity, depending on the strain’s THC content.
Alternatively, especially for those that make regular large quantities of edibles, there are commercial decarboxylators available.
You can use high grade THC-dominant buds for this process or high-CBD strains, but some people prefer to use plant trimmings following harvest, otherwise known as “shake”, which can still contain significant active ingredients. The potency of your decarboxylated cannabis is directly proportional to the potential chemical content of the particular cultivar you are working with ie. the ratio of CBD to THC.
A word of caution: if you buy your weed from anywhere other than a government regulated source, then take care to avoid product that has been grown using harmful pesticides and chemical residues that can end up in your butter. The better quality the herb, the better quality the cannabis butter.
Note that some people prefer to skip the decarboxylation stage altogether and just heat their weed in butter for longer to activate the chemical compounds, but it typically results in less potent cannabutter.
How To Make Cannabutter
Now that you have activated the phytochemicals in your herb, you are ready to make cannabutter.
What you'll need:
- 1/4 oz cannabis (7 grams – decarbed)
- 1 cup water
- 1 lb unsalted butter (Vegans can substitute coconut oil.)
- Shallow cooking pot or deep saucepan
- Cooking spoon
- Sterilized 16 oz wide-mouthed Mason jar
- Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer
- Baking bowl (stainless steel is ideal)
Step-by-step instructions for making cannabutter:
- Grind cannabis in a weed grinder, cut it up with scissors or break it up as fine as you can with clean fingers. It should be the consistency of brown sugar, not powder.
- Pour the water into the pot and begin to heat on stovetop at medium heat.
- Add butter before the water begins to boil.
- Stir in ground cannabis and reduce to low heat.
- Simmer mixture for 2 hours and stir occasionally, ensuring not to boil.
- After 2 hours remove from heat.
- Place Mason jar in baking bowl. (To catch the drips!)
- Place funnel in Mason jar.
- Place cheesecloth over funnel (or hold strainer over funnel).
- Using oven mitts, gently pour cannabutter mixture through strainer or cheesecloth, straining the butter into the jar and retaining the plant matter.
- Allow cannabutter to rest at room temperature until cool enough to seal and place in fridge. Once refrigerated it will take a couple of hours to congeal, but the oil in the cannabis-infused butter will float on the top of any remaining water. Once this happens you can scoop out the butter and store it in a sterilized food-safe container in the fridge for up to six weeks, or in the freezer for up to six months.
Some cannabis cooks use the ‘trash’ or remaining oily plant matter for a variety of cooking preparations, but that’s up to you. You can find plenty recipes online.
An alternate method of creating cannabutter is using a slow cooker or crockpot. Simply fill the bottom of either pot with water and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce to low heat and place a 16 oz widemouthed-Mason jar (or two smaller ones if it doesn’t fit) containing 1 lb butter and 1/4 oz (7 g) ground cannabis. The butter will melt and the cannabis will infuse its oil into the butter over approximately 4 hours. Add water periodically to ensure that the pot doesn’t boil dry. Take care not to break your glass jars in the process!
If you are feeling overwhelmed you can try a cannabis butter making machine!
Remember that the potency of your cannabutter will be directly proportional to the strength of the herb you used to make it. In other words, if your marijuana is 20% THC then you will have some pretty strong weed butter.
What is more, the human body processes cannabinoids differently when they are eaten as opposed to smoked, vaped or taken sublingually. Ingesting cannabis in the form of food is metabolized by the digestive system and converted by the liver into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is up to four times more potent than THC. It takes significantly longer to “kick in”, but corresponding psychoactive effects can last up to three times longer.
Most people have heard the industry moniker: “Start low and go slow”. Inexperienced or cannabis naive users would be well advised to proceed with caution. There are countless tales of beginners and even seasoned users who eat a weed cookie, wait a while and think that “nothing is happening” and decide to eat more, only to later regret it when they’re too high to function and can’t come down. If this happens to you, find a comfortable spot (preferably cozy and familiar) around people you like and trust, breathe slowly and relax as best you can. It will wear off over time and you will feel normal again.
Different strains and phenotypes vary widely in their chemical composition with respect to potency. Some “chronic” users can handle edibles in excess of 150 mg of THC, then smoke a joint and still function. Canadian law stipulates that edibles can only be sold at 10 mg THC. Everyone’s endocannabinoid system is as unique as we are and most people enjoy somewhere in between these amounts.
For perspective, 1 g = 1000 mg @ 15% THC = 150 mg THC. So if a person smokes a half gram joint then they are consuming 75 mg of THC, which is more than enough to get your average user feeling pretty high.
If you are making weed butter using 1/4 ounce (7 g) of decarboxylated herb at a strength of 15% THC in one pound of butter, then you will get approximately 1000 mg of THC. One pound of butter will produce just under 2 cups of cannabutter. Most brownie recipes call for around 1/2 cup, equalling about 250 mg of THC. Therefore, a tray of weed brownies, cut into 12 squares will deliver approximately 20 mg per square.
If you are a seasoned cannabis user, you can double or quadruple the strength, using a half ounce or an ounce of herb per pound of butter for a total of 40 or 80 mg of THC per square, respectively.
You may wish to reference the following suggested guidelines:
Beginners: 2.5 – 10 mg THC
Occasional users: 30 – 50 mg THC
Heavy users: 100 mg THC
If you’re not a baker or you don’t enjoy the taste of spreading cannabis butter on a toasted bagel, you can use this information to help you determine the right dose when choosing other edibles, including incredibly popular cannabis gummies.