Which Fat Absorbs THC Best?
When extracting THC for use in cooking, both stoner lore and hard science tell us that fats make the best mediums for potent infusions. But what type of fat should you use to extract THC most efficiently?
To find out, I devised an experiment comparing the total potency of five different fats—butter, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and bacon fat—after they were infused with the same amount of cannabis in the same exact way.
Because cannabinoids and fats are both hydrophobic, THC molecules dissolve readily in lipids when they’re heated together in a solution. And this friendly relationship continues in your body, where everyone’s favorite psychedelic molecule takes up residence in your adipose tissue and remains there for 30 days or more. This long-term bonding in your “phatty” tissue is the reason you can still fail a drug test a full month after the last time you got high. It’s also the reason runners sometimes report copping a buzz from burning their own THC-laden fat for energy during a long run, making marijuana the gift that keeps on giving.
Among home cannabis cooks, butter is clearly the most common fat used for THC infusions, but over the last few years I’ve encountered (both in real life and online) an increasing number of amateur edibles-makers who espouse a strong preference for coconut oil, attributing their own most potent infusions to its unique chemical makeup. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that saturated fats, such as butter, bacon fat and coconut oil, absorb THC better than monounsaturated fats like olive oil and avocado oil, but to my knowledge this experiment is the first serious attempt to scientifically test that hypothesis.
Anyone who makes cannabis infusions at home knows that the process seriously stinks up the entire house with the unmistakably dank and earthy reek of weed, which can cause problems with your roommates, family or neighbors (who will either want to call the cops or gobble up all your THC treats!). So for this experiment, I used a clever odor-proof infusion method devised by Payton Curry of Marijuana Recipes, a dedicated chef and activist who teaches families with disabled children how to design cannabis-therapy treatment programs.
Curry’s method relies on using a Nomiku immersion circulator to heat the cannabis sufficiently to infuse into a fat, which not only eliminates the odors but also allows for perfectly even temperature control, as well as the ability to infuse several different types of oil or fat simultaneously. Designed for use in “sous vide” cooking, the immersion circulator heats up water to your desired temperature and then maintains it at that temp. It’s fantastic for making cannabis infusions because the telltale odors are contained within a Mason jar, which means you can simmer your infusions all day long and your neighbors will be none the wiser. Payton likes to call it “sous weed” cooking!
For the experiment, I started with identical amounts of cannabis trim that had been decarboxylated at 240ºF for an hour and infused that herb into identical volumes of each type of fat. Each of the five infusions was then sealed in its own Mason jar and submerged in the water simultaneously, with the Nomiku immersion circulator heating at its maximum temperature of 180ºF. All five jars stayed immersed for four hours, after which I strained the cannabis matter away and had each infusion lab-tested to determine its overall potency and unique cannabinoid profile.
The Pot Pantry
If you love experimenting with cannabis cuisine, or even just making simple THC treats, it’s always good to keep several different infusions in your pot pantry. THC-infused oils can be used for salad dressings, sauces or simply drizzled over a savory dish. Butter and coconut oil are more likely to find their way into sweet desserts or baked goods, while the bacon fat just seemed too decadent not to try!
Butter is the most common infusion medium because it’s used for baked goods and savory applications. Cannabis chefs favor European butter with its high butterfat content for more potent infusions that yield increased quantities compared to regular butter. For the experiment, I clarified the butter to remove the milk solids and water, enabling it to absorb THC more efficiently.
Chef Payton personally favors avocado oil because it’s anti-inflammatory, high in Vitamin E and easy to digest. Patients have also reported increased “bioavailability,” meaning that the dose feels more potent because the body is able to absorb and utilize it more readily.
Coconut oil, meanwhile, has become incredibly popular as a medium for infusions due to its health benefits and suitability for vegans. High in saturated fat and very nutrient-dense, coconut oil helps the body assimilate fat-soluble vitamins. And a simple infusion of THC into coconut oil can not only be ingested as food; you can also use it as a topical application to soothe sore muscles.
Also, while animal fats are composed of long-chain fatty acids, coconut oil contains a high amount of MCTs, or medium-chain fatty acids, also called triglycerides. These MCTs are harder for our bodies to store as fat and easier for us to burn off compared to long-chain fatty acids. So if you’re seeking to lose weight, converting to coconut oil for cooking could help boost your metabolism and shrink your waistline!
Extra-virgin olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which helps explain why people who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet have a low risk of heart attack or stroke. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, which are effective in reducing inflammation. And infusing cannabis into olive oil makes it an even healthier option, as well as an easy way to add a precisely measured THC dose to almost any meal.
And then there’s bacon fat, which isn’t exactly known for its health benefits but does lend a delicious smoky flavor to many dishes, from greens to baked goods. When you fry up bacon, collect the drippings in a jar and save them for use in a cannabis infusion. The resulting fat is great for brushing on roasted potatoes, sautéing kale or cabbage, or making bacon-maple chocolate-chip cookies!
To begin the experiment, I started by melting the solid fats (bacon grease, butter, coconut oil) into a liquid by microwaving them for one minute, and then transferred all five fats into identical 8-ounce Mason jars. To each 182-gram fat sample (about 1 cup), I added 3.5 grams of Jager cannabis trim, then screwed the tops of the jars tight and submerged them all at once into the Nomiku’s pre-heated tank. (If you don’t have an immersion circulator, you can also simmer your jars over low heat in a pot of water on the stovetop.) Remember, when using the immersion circulator, your jars need to be as full as possible so they sink to the bottom of the tank in order to keep the temperature consistent, which won’t happen if the jars have so much air in them that they float!
After letting the THC infusions simmer in the circulator for four hours, I removed them to cool for 15 minutes before unscrewing the tops. Then I strained each infusion through cheesecloth set into a mesh strainer, squeezing it firmly to get every last drop of the THC-infused fat out. Oils will go rancid more rapidly than usual when infused with plant material, so be sure to store your cannabis-infused fats in the fridge and use them within two months.
Our starting material was a low-potency cannabis trim, the kind favored by savvy edibles-makers because it’s economical and might otherwise be discarded. Testing by SC Labs revealed that the trim had a THC content of 101 milligrams per gram (about 10.1%), with additional acidic THCa measuring 50.2 mg per gram, bringing the total level of potential delta-9-THC to 145 mg per gram, or 14.5%.
After infusing 3.5 grams of this cannabis (with 507.5 milligrams of total potential THC) into each fat and testing the results thoroughly, we received sets of results from two different labs. Our first set of infused fats went to SC Labs, where results pointed to the olive oil as the most efficient absorption medium for THC. Chef Payton repeated the experiment and had the results tested by C4 Laboratories, who showed the clarified butter performing the best, followed by coconut oil.
Also important to note, lab testing revealed that many of the “finished” infusions still contained significant levels of THCa (a non-psychoactive precursor of THC) after a four hour simmering time, so we increased the simmering time in the immersion circulator to eight hours to see if we could yield more THC.
We wondered if saturated fats needed a longer period of time to absorb the most THC possible, but lab results showed that continuing to simmer has diminishing returns. Adding another four hours to our infusion yielded only 0.03 more mg. of THC in a gram of clarified butter, so it seems there is a limit to how much THC can be absorbed.
At first, the differences in THC absorption between the different fats might not seem too significant, but when multiplied by an entire cup you can yield much more THC by using clarified butter than another type of oil. According to C4 Labs, one gram of butter in Batch B absorbed 2.58 mg. of THC, compared to 2.15 mg. in the olive oil. that’s only a difference of 0.43 mg. but when multiplied by 182 grams (or 1 cup of fat), you see that the ultimate THC yield varies considerably across the different fats. One cup of the infused butter would contain 469.56 mg. of THC—almost 78.26 mg more than the olive oil in Batch B.
Clarified butter finished second-best in both tests at SC Labs, while coconut oil and bacon fat traded places for third. Avocado oil took fourth place, which was surprising because it, like olive oil, is a monounsaturated fat. I can’t explain why olive oil would get such glowing results from SC Labs, but that data wasn’t consistent when tested by C4.
It’s hard to get consistent results from different labs due to a lack of uniform standards and regulation, but there’s also a lot of variables when using cannabis flowers to create infusions. We plan on repeating this experiment using a concentrated hash oil to see how the absorption rate of THC varies based on using raw plant material versus extracts.
We’ll need to do more study, but in the meantime, all of you cannabis cooks at home can rest assured that using clarified butter or coconut oil for your cannabis infusions will result in a potent and cost-effective infusion.
How Cold Pressed CBD Oil is Made at Soulsome
Soulsome uses a holistic, artisanal approach to making our full-spectrum hemp extract. The challenge has always been to make the most effective full-spectrum CBD oil available, but also to make it in an environmentally friendly way with a focus on the people who make it and the customers who benefit from it. When it comes to making a premium cold-pressed oil that matches all of these criteria, you’ll see that we went to extraordinary lengths to create Soulsome cold-pressed CBD oil.
The entourage effect is important for us.
The most obvious step in making our cold-pressed oil was to avoid all the conventional CBD extraction methods. Why? Well, to start with we wanted Soulsome to be both a pure, and full-spectrum CBD oil. Full-spectrum oils come with all of the micronutrients, polyphenols, terpenes, and other micro-compounds which naturally occur in the hemp plant. When taken together these compounds work together in the human cannabinoid system to make the CBD dose more effective for the user–something called “The Entourage Effect.”
However, when the extraction process only extracts CBD or CBD and a few other compounds from the plant, the entourage effect is greatly reduced or worse, lost entirely. This is one of the principal effects of using CBD and, to make a CBD oil without the benefits of the full-spectrum entourage effect, seemed a little disingenuous to us.
To ensure that, in making our cold-pressed CBD oil, we did not lose this essential effect, we steered well clear of any extraction method which may harm or negate the entourage effect. This means that CO2 extraction, alcohol, and hexane gases were not good options for us to use.
Instead, we turned to an oil extraction method with is thousands of years old and, is still the safest, and most preferred method of extraction for many of the household oils you already have in your kitchen: Cold-pressing, just like the olive oil, palm oil, canola oil or sesame oil in your kitchen.
For us it was a simple choice and came down to one question: If we were offered a salad made with two kinds of olive oil, one made by traditional cold-pressing and the other, made with alcohol or butane gas extraction, which would we choose? For some reason, no one wanted the second one. We applied the same reasoning to the kind of CBD oil we would take if we were feeling stressed out, or perhaps weren’t sleeping well at night. Again, the answer seemed obvious–keep it simple, and keep it pure. Any other choice just made us feel more anxious about taking oil that may, or may not, contain contaminants or by-products from a chemical extraction process.
Use the best quality hemp available
Soulsome’s cold-pressed CBD oil uses the best possible hemp available for one simple reason: The quality of cold-pressed CBD oil depends entirely on the quality of the plant used for extraction. It is very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get process. Got a weak plant? You can’t expect to make a great oil. With cold pressing, there are no shortcuts and there’s definitely no cheating.
So conscious are we of the quality of our plants that we have taken three extraordinary steps to ensure that we only use the highest possible quality help to make our cold-pressed CBD oil.
Firstly, all our hemp is grown in an indoor, organic environment. Why indoor? It’s simple really, only in an indoor environment can we be 100% sure that our plants obtain the right amount of light, can be completely protected from most pests (so we won’t require pesticides) and can provide a consistent and predictable result every time. In this way, we can protect the quality of our oil and ensure that it is always consistent throughout the seasons.
Secondly, we only use hemp flowers to extract our oil from. We could use other parts of the plant but it is in the flower that the CBD oils and other micronutrients are strongest. We harvest our flowers by hand–having found that our growers are the best judge of ripeness, far better than any harvesting machine would be. This also ensures that we only use the flower and no other part of the plants.
Finally, to ensure that our flowers do not dry out during harvest, we even lower the lights in our indoor growing rooms to optimize the heat levels in the room for the preservation of the flower. In this way the flower stays optimally hydrated without drying out too much, ensuring that all the goodness of the hemp plant is at its very best by the time it gets to you.
Cold Pressed CBD Oil meet… Cold-Pressed Hemp Oil
Once we have harvested the flowers for our cold-pressed CBD oil extraction they are macerated to increase the available surface area and then placed in a mechanical press to squeeze the oils out of them–in much the same way that a good quality olive oil is made.
The result is a highly concentrated CBD hemp oil–a little too concentrated for human use at this point actually. To make our CBD oil consumable it is necessary to dilute the high concentration of CBD to acceptable levels and, for this, most cold-pressed oils mix their CBD oil with a carrier oil, typically MCT oil or medium-chain triglyceride oils. These oils are often made from coconut oil and are not without their benefits, principal among these is their price.
The focus at Soulsome has always been to create the best cold-pressed CBD oil we could afford to make, to cut no corners, and to provide the maximum benefit for our customers. For this reason, we chose not to use traditional carrier oils, but to look a little deeper at the problem of how best to dilute CBD oil for human use, without diminishing the quality of the final product.
Our carrier oil is organically grown hemp seed oil, rich in omegas 3, 6, and 9, along with a range of health benefits surpassing many other cold-pressed oils. The choice of carrier oil was an easy one, mixing our oils from the flower with oils from the seed of the same plant just made sense and reduced complications. Hemp seed oil is already a well-known and trusted oil, widely used. Combining CBD-rich hemp flower oil with oil extracted from the very same plant, one which we already use in foods for its incredible health benefits, was a fairly obvious choice.
No additives, No flavors, No funny stuff–Just Cold Pressed CBD
Soulsome cold-pressed CBD oil contains no additives, no contaminants, and no flavorings or sweeteners, just pure, raw, hemp flower oil. It has a rich earthy flavor to it, richly nutty with just a hit of spice a unique and natural flavor that shouldn’t be masked by artificial mint or strawberry. We’ve created an entirely pure oil by combining oils made by cold-press extraction from two different parts of the same plant. The taste is raw and natural, the flavor is nutty and earthy and the benefits really do speak for themselves. The whole point of Soulsome’s cold-pressed CBD oil is total transparency about our process and the contents of our oil. We will never need to cover something this good for you up with an artificial flavoring because we made Soulsome the right way, from the very start.
Oil Extraction Machine Complete Guide
From peanut butter and coconut oil to CBD products and fragrant soaps, oil extraction is the process behind many valuable items derived from agricultural products. Creating those products calls for an oil extraction machine. Oil extraction machines are a versatile type of machinery, helping agricultural businesses do more with their yields. These expeller pressers are typically based on a screw system, putting heat, friction and pressure to work as they squeeze oils out of different materials.
Let’s take a closer look at how oil extraction machines work, how they’re used and what they’re made of.
In This Article
What Is an Oil Extraction Machine?
An oil extraction machine, also called an oil press or expeller, uses high pressure and heat to “squeeze” the oils out of a plant product. Those products — including seeds, nuts, vegetables, fruits and leafy plants — release their oils through this mechanical process, which is often done without adding any chemicals.
Oil extraction machines typically use a screw press. Some products, like groundnuts, need to be shelled or peeled before moving through the screw press. The peeling process might use powerful centrifugal forces or airflow from a fan to separate lightweight shells from the heavier nut.
After peeling, the product is fed into the screw system, which comprises a screw inside a high-pressure cylindrical chamber. The material moves through the screw, generating friction and heat. While the high pressure squeezes out much of the oil, the heat contributes, too. It can denature some of the proteins in the product and increase the viscosity of the oil for easier movement.
As the oil is pressed out, it seeps through a screen or filter to ensure that no solids or fibers move with it. This creates a clean, smooth product. The leftover pressed seeds form a hard cake that is removed from the machine, and the oil flows out into a separate container.
The heat generated in this process can affect some materials in undesirable ways, and harder products like nuts generate more heat than softer products like fruits. To combat the extra heat, some users choose to cold-press certain materials by controlling the temperature in some way. They might use some additional chemicals or a centrifugal system to help draw the oils out without adding more pressure.
Uses of an Oil Extraction Machine
Oil extraction machines are very versatile. You can find different styles to accommodate various agricultural products, and the oils can be made into numerous items, like cooking oils, fragrances, cosmetics, soaps, pet food, biofuel, wood treatments and paint.
Some of the plant sources that work with oil extraction machines include:
- Seeds: Oils can come from seeds like cottonseed, sesame, hemp, sunflower, amaranth and canola. They’re often used for cooking applications, but they can also be found in items like fuel and paint.
- Nuts: The nut harvesting industry can create oils from peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews and many other nuts. These tend to be more expensive than other oils because the extraction process is more challenging. They take more pressure to crack, usually require peeling and produce more heat than other products do. Nut oils are common in food and cooking, with some applications in cosmetics, too.
- Vegetables and fruits: Oil extracted from fruits and vegetables like olives, palm fruit and avocados are also used in cooking, as well as in biofuels, cosmetics and soaps. Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges can also be pressed and used in essential oils.
- Other plants: Leafier plants like chamomile, eucalyptus, oregano, patchouli and peppermint also release oils. These products are often used as essential oils and in items like cosmetics, candles, perfumes and soap. Many people use the essential oils themselves as fragrance and for purported health benefits. Oil can even be extracted from algae and used in biofuel and nutritional supplementation.
The amount of oil you get from each product can vary. Peanuts, for instance, have a high oil content of 45-52%, while hemp seeds contain about 25-30% oil. In some cases, the leftover materials generated from the extraction process are valuable, too. Canola meal is the material left after the oil is extracted from the seeds, and it is 38-42% protein. It also contains a good balance of amino acids, making it a popular additive for livestock feed. Oil extraction machines can help expand one product in many different avenues.
The price of oil products makes them a great way to potentially get more value out of crops. Many types of oils, especially those that are used in biofuels, have seen significant price increases. If you’re looking for something else to do with a crop, such as new revenue channels or using up extra inventory, oil extraction could be a good option.
Parts of an Oil Extraction Machine
Oil extraction machines can come in several configurations, but here are some of the main components you’ll typically find:
- Hopper: The hopper is a metal structure that funnels the raw material into the screw press.
- Screw press: The screw press is the powerhouse of the oil expeller. The screw shaft rotates within a cylindrical cage, pushing the material forward in a high-pressure chamber. Friction is generated between the material, the screw shaft, the feedstock and the press chamber itself.
- Gear reduction unit: The gear reduction unit, or gearbox, converts the speed and torque of the electric motor to the right settings for the machine.
- Slots or screens: A screening surface allows oils to seep out while keeping the leftover materials moving through the screw, where they press into a “cake” for removal.
- Frame: The metal frame provides the support for and connects these components.
You’ll find various other parts in an oil extraction machine like lock nuts, rings, seals and gaskets that make up these larger components and link them together. These parts might be made of metals and elastomeric materials, both of which offer long-lasting durability in the tough, messy conditions of oil pressing.
Elastomeric Components for Oil Extraction Machines
Global Elastomeric Products creates a wide range of elastomeric products to support your oil-pressing operation. We produce a variety of tools, including custom rubber molding for the agricultural industry, and we can help you keep your equipment running smoothly or bring new machinery to life with custom rubber molding. Our company’s ISO certification and in-house engineering allow us to build high-quality components for your unique needs.
To learn more about our custom rubber molding process and how we can assist with oil extraction equipment, please reach out to us with any questions or to request a quote.