5 methods for utilizing water-soluble cannabinoids in hashish drinks

(This is the fifth installment in an ongoing series of tips and advice for marijuana and hemp extraction companies. The fourth installment is available here.)

Cannabis activists have said for decades that the plant should be regulated like alcohol; Now science is helping to make cannabis work like alcohol.

Extraction scientists and formulators are looking for faster, cheaper ways to make cannabinoid molecules – which are inherently hydrophobic and therefore do not dissolve in water – suitable for incorporation into beverages.

Cannabis binds easily to fat but not water, which explains why people have long incorporated THC into buttery baked goods like brownies.

Alcohol, on the other hand, is water-soluble, so it is usually mixed into drinks and less so into food.

But technology offers cannabis producers better ways to change the fat-loving methods of cannabinoids and incorporate the molecules into water, sodas, and even energy drinks.

The innovations help cannabis beverages overcome taste and stability limitations that have long left consumers with a bad taste in their mouths – literally.

Booming sector

The cannabis beverage sector is downright crowded. Beer giants Pabst Blue Ribbon, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors are all testing cannabis drinks.

Analytics giant NielsenIQ reported a 25% increase in products sold in grocery, drug, and convenience stores that contain hemp-derived CBD, even though sales for CBD beverages were chilled overall.

And more cannabis drinks are coming. Just this month, the CBD extractor Becanex GmbH received a grant of 227,000 euros from the Federal Ministry of Economics for the development of a water-compatible THC-free cannabinoid emulsion.

Longtime cannabis product developers say the secret to success in the cannabis beverage game starts at the very beginning, when products are formulated.

MJBizDaily met with cannabis product manufacturing executives to find out what makes a successful water-friendly formula and what it costs to bring a product to market. Here are five of their top takeaways:

Start with the taste

Cannabinoids have to pair with water-friendly molecules in order to get into a liquid and stay suspended there. The challenge is to find the right emulsifier that will allow two liquids to mix.

“When we talk to a customer about water solubility, we talk to them about the consistency and flavor they want,” said Casey Flippo, CEO of Natvana, a contract hemp processor in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“You can use many different basic substances to encapsulate these cannabinoids and give them the ability to attach to the water molecule. They have different consistencies and lead to different end results, ”he said.

“It depends on what taste or aroma you prefer. For example, something with a milky consistency might be great for products that already have some form of discoloration in them, but not for a water. “

Think about the packaging

A liquid cannabis product can be judged by its coverage, as the packaging can have a significant impact on the product inside.

Some cannabis emulsions can “stick” to plastic bottles or the polymer linings in traditional aluminum cans, reducing their effectiveness. Others need opaque packaging to keep out light.

A product manufacturer must therefore consider how the liquid cannabinoid product will be sold.

If the packing plan is not flexible, this must be taken into account.

“The packaging compatibility is great,” said Harold Han, founder of Vertosa, an Oakland, Calif. Company that sells THC seltzer for Pabst Labs under the Pabst Blue Ribbon label.

“Do you put THC in an aluminum can? In a glass bottle? They are all different. “

The timing is flexible – up to a point

Think about a time horizon before developing a cannabis infused beverage.

Companies that make water-safe cannabis can either sell you a ready-made formula – a citrus blend, for example – or work with you to develop their own recipe.

Han says his company spent three years preparing the Pabst Blue Ribbon lemon seltzer for sale.

“We have a few things ready, like a unique apple cider or a unique rubber formula. (But) it’s just a formula. It’s not really a finished product, ”he said.

“As a large customer or a large company, we do a lot of research. We want something to be repeated so we can license this recipe to them. “

Han reminds customers that it’s not easy to make a cannabis drink that tastes good and stays homogeneous.

“I really encourage our customers to be patient. Nobody has the patience to wait and follow the dates because they need a decision tomorrow. But you have to make up for that. “

Watch out for new technology

A Colorado product manufacturer uses chelation, a process in which metal ions in water bind to other molecules, bypassing the emulsion, and making cannabinoids more compatible.

Chelation is commonly used to soften hard water and is used in Vantage Hemp to bind cannabinoid molecules.

According to Deepank Utkhede, Chief Operating Officer, cannabis emulsions always have problems with long-term storage stability. However, the chelation prevents settling.

“You create a complex in which you take this … water-hating molecule, and you basically embrace it. You basically put it in a complex that gives it an outer sphere. The outer part of it can dissolve in water. “

Confused about the difference between chelation and emulsification? This could be a sign to follow the fifth snack.

Don’t go alone

Seasoned product manufacturers admit that the internet is full of easy-to-order emulsifying powders and products that promise to make a cannabis extract water-soluble.

But they say the price of professionally formulated emulsions has dropped so much that DIY cannabis liquids are not worth the gamble.

“When we started doing research and development on concentrated water, we probably spent somewhere in the ballpark somewhere between $ 2,500 and $ 3,000 a pound to make the right product. And that was because the emulsifiers are so ridiculously expensive, ”said Flippo.

“We were able to develop the methods in our water-soluble concentrates for a fraction of them. You’re talking about taking something that was $ 2,500 a pound and making it for $ 200. “

Han agreed that outsourcing water compatibility makes sense for most product manufacturers.

“Don’t do it yourself,” said Han. “You’re buying software, right? Already done by the software company. They don’t hire 20 coders to code Excel for you. You just buy it and it can be customized for you. “

Kristen Nichols can be contacted at [email protected].

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