Vaping is essentially modern smoking. Surely some cannabis lovers will always prefer actual smoking. But some users are ditching tar and carcinogens for a cleaner hit of cannabinoids. Instead of combustion, vaporizers use convection heating, conduction heating, or a combination of both to release cannabinoids and terpenes into an inhalable vapor.
Cartridges pre-filled with THC have been rapidly increasing in popularity due to their convenience and stealth factor. But if you do not have access to pre-filled cartridges and do not want to pay the premium price, you can make it at home. It might not be as smooth and tasty as some of the best vape pens on the market, but it will still get you high.
CBD users also appreciate this form of ingestion. Because vaporizing a CBD liquid can be more enjoyable than swallowing a capsule.
What is a vape pen?
There are many ways to consume concentrated cannabis, but a vape pen is becoming maybe the most popular. A vape pen or electronic cigarette (e-cig) is a relatively new technology that heats up cartridges or vials of concentrated cannabis. Many people believe that they are a healthy alternative to smoking, however, presently there is not enough research to understand the long-term effects.
Vape pens represent the pinnacle of portability. These sleek devices feature similar technology to tabletop vapes, just condensed into a pocket-friendly design. They share an appearance with standard pens and are therefore easy to store and conceal.
Vape pens are composed of four main parts:
- Battery: acts as a power source for the device.
- Cartridge (tank): holds the vape liquid.
- Atomizer: the component of your device that is responsible for heating up your vape juice to create the smokable vapor.
- Mouthpiece: where the vapor will come out.
Cheaper, disposable vape pens come with pre-filled cartridges. However, more expensive models allow users to refill cartridges with their own product.
What is vape juice?
Vape juice, also known as vape liquid, e-liquid, or e-juice, is traditionally a nicotine-containing product. However, cannabis users have put their own spin on things. Both THC and CBD e-liquids are available and feature a base of either propylene glycol (PG) or vegetable glycerin (VG).
PG is a colorless and odorless organic compound. It is not very viscous, which makes things easier when it comes to refilling cartridges and cleaning your device. VG is a completely natural liquid derived from plant oils. It is also odorless, yet has a slightly sweet taste with much more viscosity than PG. It is not ideal for cleaning, but it produces thick, satisfying clouds of vapor.
Vape liquid is loaded into the cartridge of an e-cigarette or vaporizer and heated to anywhere between 300-450 degrees Fahrenheit. Devices will need to be set to around 325 degrees Fahrenheit to effectively evaporate THC, whereas CBD requires slightly higher temperatures of around 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Temperatures may vary depending on how high you want to get; the higher the temperature, the higher you will get. Just never exceed 450 degrees as this is the level that cannabinoids begin to burn.
Why make your own vape juice?
Learning to make your own vape juice is a worthwhile endeavor. It offers the same level of satisfaction as cooking your own edibles or crafting your own concentrates. Making the liquid at home also contributes to your peace of mind because you will know exactly what you are inhaling with every hit.
Store-bought e-liquid from unreliable companies can become contaminated in the same way that cannabis flowers can be laden with pesticides. There is no way to tell exactly what is inside a formula unless you get it tested at a lab or simply make it yourself. You will also save money if you buy what you need in bulk or grow your own cannabis.
Take your time to grow and gather the best supplies you can find. By starting out with the best materials possible, you will achieve the best outcome. There is little point in going through the whole process to produce something substandard. Spend some time identifying the ideal source of vegetable glycerin and the best weed you can get your hands on.
3 different ways to make vape juice
There are a few simple ways to make it. And all of them carry the same principles of extracting the THC oil from the cannabis buds and mixing it with a carrier liquid such as PG, VG, or some form of Wax Liquidizer for extracts.
The three methods we will demonstrate will vary in difficulty and time, but they are all relatively easy if you can source the equipment. The methods are:
- Long-term THC extraction: with propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerine (VG). This process takes up to 3 months.
- Short-term THC extraction: with PG and VG. This process takes about 3 hours.
- Rosin extraction: which is then mixed with Wax Liquidizer, takes about 2 hours.
Overall these methods are pretty effective, but the rosin extraction is the quickest and safest if you already have the concentrates. However, if you are starting off with only flower, you would need a rosin press which most people do not have and are rather expensive. Luckily, it is possible to press your flower with a hair straightener in a pinch.
Using the rosin extraction with a hair straightener method is the highest recommended because the other two methods involve using potentially dangerous solvents that, when heated to high enough temperatures, may break down into carcinogenic formaldehyde that you definitely do not want to be inhaling.
Traditionally, a mix of polyethylene glycol (PEG), PG, and VG have been used. However, all of these, except for VG, have been shown to break down into carcinogenic compounds at extremely high temperatures. You can make a vape juice using only vegetable glycerin, but it tends to be a little lower in potency and overall quality.
Method #1: Rosin extraction
This method involves using a hair straightener to press rosin from raw weed buds and collecting the substance into parchment paper. Add in a few drops of “The Potion” Terpene Blend while heating it up to mix it together. The terpene blend is designed for use as a diluent for extracts, creating the perfect viscosity for vaporizing your extracts.
Supplies you will need:
- Cannabis (has to be dense nugs, ground-up buds will not work)
- Hair straightener
- Parchment paper
- Small glass vial for mixing
- 1 g bottle of “The Potion” Terpene Blend
- Vape pen cartridge syringe (for adding the liquid to your vape)
- Metal dab tool (for handling the concentrate)
- Dropper (for adding the terpene blend)
The end product you get is a little bit “gunkier” than most pre-packaged vape liquids or e-cig juices. If you are worried about “gunking up” your expensive concentrate vape, try using a cheaper disposable one.
Here are the steps:
- Select a good, dense nug to use for pressing out the resin. This is a crucial step, as it is imperative that the nug be dense and tightly-packed with almost no seeds or stems. To obtain enough e-liquid to use in your vape pen, use about an eighth of fresh buds. This should produce about 0.4-0.6 grams of rosin. You may have to press several different buds separately in order to get this much.
- Next, get your hair straightener ready. A good temperature to press rosin from nugs is about 250 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you know what temperature your hair straightener is operating at, you can adjust accordingly. If the minimum setting is a higher temperature than this, you can let it get hot, then unplug it and let it sit for several seconds to cool down.
- Set the nug on a good-sized piece of parchment paper, and fold the paper over the top so the nug is sandwiched between. Then, once the hair straightener is up to temperature, put the parchment paper in the straightener and press down with as much force as you can for a couple of minutes or until the nugs are a light golden brown color. If done correctly, you will be left with a small amount of resin on the parchment paper that you can later peel off.
- Repeat steps 2-3 until you have gone through an eighth of weed.
- Once you have pressed all of the eighth into rosin, collect the rosin off the parchment paper. It is best if you stick it in the refrigerator or freezer for a minute or two, as this helps it peel off the paper easier. Use whatever metal dabbing tool you should have to scrape off the rosin.
- Put all of the rosin into your small glass vial.
- Next, use a dropper bottle to add 8 drops of “The Potion” Terpene Blend to the vial (use 8 drops for approximately 0.5g of rosin).
- Once you have got the rosin and “The Potion” in the vial together, use a lighter to “flash heat” the glass, just until the liquid starts to bubble (this only takes about 3-4 seconds). Be very careful with this step, because if you let the solution get too hot, you will burn off all the terpenes and kill the flavor of the vape juice (not to mention risk burning the THC rosin itself).
- Immediately after “The Potion” liquid starts bubbling, use your metal dab tool to mix the solution up thoroughly. Then, use your syringe to suck out the liquid and add it to your vape pen. You are now ready to try your new creation!
Method #2: Vegetable glycerin extraction (long-term)
This method involves breaking apart raw cannabis flower and then saturating it with food-grade vegetable glycerin and letting it sit for a really, really long time (up to three months!) while stirring it every several weeks. Not a very popular method due to the amount of time it takes, but it is simple and hard to mess up (unlike the other two methods).
Here are the materials that are needed for this method:
- Cannabis (you can use as much or as little as you want, however, an eighth of weed will produce about 30-60 mL of vape juice. You can also use a high-grade cannabis concentrate, such as BHO wax, shatter, etc to produce a more potent e-liquid)
- Vegetable glycerin
- Baking sheet
- Aluminum foil
- 2 glass jars with a tight-sealing lid (like a Mini Hermes jar or Mason jar)
- Metal butter knife (for stirring)
- Wire mesh strainer
- Rubber spatula (small enough to fit inside the mesh strainer)
To start, break up your raw cannabis buds. It is not recommended to use an actual grinder, because if you get the flower too fine, a lot of it will not filter out during refinement and you will be left with a lot of ground-up herb in your final vape liquid. Most other methods to breaking up your buds will suffice.
Here are the steps:
- Break up the raw buds into smaller pieces.
- Cover your baking sheet with aluminum foil, and spread the buds out onto the sheet.
- Place the baking sheet into the oven at a temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. This step decarboxylates the THCA in the raw buds, into psychoactive THC.
- Take the buds out of the oven and let them cool off for a few minutes.
- Dump the buds into your glass jar with the sealing lid, and pour just enough vegetable glycerin over them so that it saturates the buds. You do not want to use too much VG, because your end product will end up becoming super diluted and will have almost no psychoactive effects. If you use the right amount of VG, you should be left with a thick, clumpy, gooey mixture that is easily stirrable but not too liquidy.
- Stir up the mixture, seal the lid, and put a label on it with the date. Let this sit in a cool, dark, and dry place for about a month.
- After a month or so, take the jar out and stir it up thoroughly. Add about a tablespoon of fresh VG in order to keep the THC extraction process moving along. Stir it up again, and set it aside for another month.
- Repeat this same process two more times.
- After the last month is up (3 months), take the mixture out and stir it up nicely with your butter knife. Then, place your small wire mesh strainer over a clean glass jar and dump the cannabis-VG mixture into the strainer. Let all of the VG drip through the strainer, using the rubber spatula to squeeze out as much remaining liquid as you can.
- Discard the raw cannabis material, clean off your mesh strainer, and then cover the strainer with about four layers of cheesecloth.
- Pour the liquid mixture through the cheesecloth, letting it drip through into a clean glass jar.
- Squeeze out any remaining liquid from the cheesecloth and then you are done! If everything went correctly, you should be left with a clean, debris-free VG liquid infused with THC extract, at which point you can use a syringe or dropper bottle to add to your vape cartridge.
Method #3: Vegetable glycerin extraction (short-term)
This method is pretty much the same process as the long-term method, although it involves heating the cannabis-VG mixture in an oil bath to drastically speed up the process.
Here are the materials needed:
- Vegetable glycerin
- Canola or vegetable oil (for oil bath heating)
- 2 Pyrex jars/dishes that can sit on a stove burner or hot plate (one large and one smaller)
- Two precise thermometers (cooking thermometers work)
- Wire mesh strainer
- Metal butter knife (for stirring)
- Rubber spatula
Here are the steps:
- Break up your raw cannabis buds and dump them into a Pyrex (or other heat-safe) glass jar.
- Pour just enough VG over the buds to saturate them, but be careful not to add an excessive amount. Stir the mixture up until it is evenly distributed. You should be left with a thick, clumpy, cannabis-VG mixture that is not too liquidy.
- Pour the vegetable oil into the large Pyrex dish; enough to submerge the bottom inch of the small Pyrex dish. Place the oil on the stove or a hot plate and place the thermometer sensor inside. Heat it up until it is at a consistent 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Once at temperature, place the glass jar with the cannabis-VG mixture into the hot oil bath. Use a separate thermometer for this jar, and try to maintain it at a temperature as close to 180 degrees as you can to diffuse the cannabis into the VG.
- Once your temperatures are stable and consistent, let sit for about 45 minutes, stirring the cannabis/VG mixture frequently.
- After 45 minutes, remove the glass jar from the oil bath and let it sit for a few minutes to cool down. Then, place your fine mesh strainer on top of a clean glass jar, and dump the cannabis-VG mixture through the strainer. Use the flexible rubber spatula to press out the liquid from the clumped-up buds. This is your “first-run”.
- Put those same cannabis buds back into a glass jar, adding more VG to repeat steps 2-7. Do this for two more runs, for a total of three runs.
- After three total runs, refine your VG mixture with cheesecloth to filter out any remaining plant debris. Clean off your mesh strainer, and lay about four layers of cheesecloth on top of it. Pour the VG mixture through the cheesecloth, letting it drip down into the clean glass jar. Use the rubber spatula to squeeze as much liquid out as possible (you can even use your hands to squeeze out any remaining liquid that you cannot get with the spatula).
- After you have filtered all of the liquid through the cheesecloth, cook the refined THC liquid in your oil bath at 220 degrees for about 30 minutes to fully decarboxylate the THCA into THC. To do this, increase the temperature of the larger bowl with the oil bath. Do not exceed 220 degrees for the THC liquid.
- After 30 minutes, take the THC liquid off the heat and let it cool down before adding it to your vape.