One of the joys of growing your own cannabis is having enough material to experiment with different forms of consumption. Most of us begin our cannabis journey by smoking dried flowers as it is relatively inexpensive and the results are instant. Smoking can get boring after awhile and some of us want to protect the health of our throats and lungs but edibles and tinctures at the dispensary are expensive and the results are unpredictable. Did you have a successful harvest this year? It’s time to make your first tincture.
What is Tincture?
A tincture is simply an extract from a plant or animal that is typically consumed orally, either straight or diluted into a beverage. In this sense, tincture is very similar to tea; eating dry tea leaves is difficult and unpleasant so we dip tea bags into hot water to extract the flavors (terpenes) and chemicals (caffeine) in order to make the qualities of the plant more accessible. Unlike the tea leaf, the qualities of the cannabis plant we desire are not water-soluble; we will have to use something stronger.
Solvents for Tincture
Cannabis is not water-soluble but it is both alcohol-soluble and fat-soluble; our material for extraction must contain one of these elements.
Alcohol is by far the most common solvent used as it is readily available, it is highly effective, and the final product can last for years if properly stored. Your alcohol should be at least 80 proof (40%) which is the standard proof for most hard liquors such as vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, or brandy; the higher your proof, the more efficient the extraction. Use a flavorless liquor such as vodka or grain alcohol (everclear) if you want to taste the natural cannabis flavors, use an inexpensive brandy if you want to mask it.
Vinegar works as an alternative to alcohol for those with dietary restrictions. There are many disadvantages to vinegar; it is not as efficient as alcohol, the flavor is a turn-off to most people, and the end product will not have the shelf-life of an alcohol based tincture. Any vinegar will work for a tincture but apple-cider vinegar is the preferred material as it creates the least offensive flavor for the end product.
Glycerin is a liquid made from either animal fats or vegetable oils that has many commercial uses and is frequently used in commercial tinctures that you find in cannabis dispensaries. Tinctures made from glycerin will have a relatively short shelf-life (a few months at best) which makes it unsuitable for long-term storage and will have a thick consistency which makes it harder to work with and messy. Glycerin is also harder to find and you will most likely have to order it online so make sure you plan ahead!
Plant Materials for Tincture
Because we are removing the trichomes and terpenes from the plant material, it is unnecessary to use your prime buds in production. Instead, use the trimmings from your cannabis; this is usually thrown out but the trimmed leaves surrounding the buds do contain a substantial amount of cannabinoids that can be salvaged. Immature buds and “cotton candy” buds are also great to use for processing; if it looks too good to throw out but not good enough to smoke than use it!
A Simple Tincture Recipe
Now that you’ve got your plant material and your solvent ready, it’s time for a simple tincture recipe! For this recipe we will use grain alcohol as it is the most efficient solvent; any strain of cannabis can be used so experiment and find out what works best for you!
- 1 ounce of cannabis
- grain alcohol
- oven bag
- mason jar
Step 1: Decarb Your Cannabis
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees fahrenheit. Place cannabis in oven bag, place bag in oven, bake for 30 minutes.
Decarbing your cannabis will convert the THCa into THC and activate the CBD; if you skip this step your tincture will not be psychoactive and the overall effects will be diminished.
Step 2: Combine Cannabis with Solvent
Place decarbed cannabis into a mason jar; the cannabis should almost fill the jar. Fill the remainder of the jar with grain alcohol. Seal jar, shake it for a few minutes, then place jar in freezer.
Step 3: Agitate your Tincture
Store your tincture in the freezer; trichomes fall off much easier when it’s cold! Take the mason jar out everyday and shake the jar for 5-15 minutes; the agitation will help strip the trichomes and terpenes from the plant material. Do this for at least a month and your mixture should be ready to strain.
Step 4: Strain
After a month in the freezer and daily shakes your tincture is ready! Strain the mix through cheese cloth or a coffee filter and make sure to squeeze every last drop. Store your tincture in an amber glass bottle to protect it from direct light which will damage the cannabinoids. The leftover plant material can be re-used to make a less potent, second-pressing of tincture.
Grain alcohol tincture is too strong to be taken sublingually on it’s own, it’s best to mix it into tea or a cannabis-cocktail. FECO (full extract cannabis oil) can be made from tincture simply by leaving the tincture out an allowing the grain alcohol to evaporate. Enjoy tincture and feel like mass-producing it? You may want to invest in the Magical Butter Machine.