By Troy Ivan
Making your own cartridges (“carts”) for vaping has never been easier. You can make cannabis or hemp CBD based extractions and instead of using straight high potency extractions and becoming heavily medicated, a nicely balanced cart can be the perfect way to medicate lightly throughout the day or for a relaxing experience of sitting on the sofa to unwind without getting locked in.
Crafting carts and tailoring them to exactly what I wanted in terms of taste and potency was unexpectedly easy, rewarding, and so much fun. I was expecting complicated mixing instructions, danger warnings, and difficult to follow advice. Instead, the process was as easy as mixing three ingredients together. My first was composed of cannabis oil, MCT oil, and flavor extract. Since then many things have changed and there are now many more options. There’s a wide range of vape ready carrier mediums for cannabis, CBD and other vapable oils including propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), corn syrup, alcohol, medium chain triglyceride (MCT), wax liquidizer, and pure terpenes (terps). Most of the mentioned carriers have some kind of health drawback, but if you look deep enough at anything you’ll find something bad for you. Recently, MCT, wax liquidizer, and terpenes, or a combination of them, are the most popular ingredients for your mix.
Two or three components will be necessary depending on your preferences and intended end product. Two required components are an extract and a thinning agent. The extract is the base and main focus of the cart, while the thinning agents are used to add character and manage viscosity of the final product. You may decide to use a combination of a couple thinning agents to radically heighten the experience of your cart with beautiful sensory satisfying aromas and flavors. Crafting a mix with great balance, desired potency, and delicious flavor is an art and can become an obsession.
Cannbis Oil (CO) or CBD Oil
The starting place and base of the cartridge is a great CO or CBD Oil. I prefer to make my own extractions using the Source Turbo and EtOH PRO by Extractcraft (extractcraft.com) for three reasons. First, I can control exactly what’s going into my extract. Using food-grade ethanol extraction in a closed loop system is healthy and safe. Second, it’s WAY better quality in terms of potency, terpenes, and flavor. Third, trim can work great because using advanced filtering and adding terpene profiles can transform losing trim into a hero cart mix. Using trim to make quality vape cartridges is a huge value and the ExtractCraft products make it possible. Last, it is incredibly fun to craft your own carts exactly how you like them and blow peoples minds when you share them.
The cannabis or CBD oil is obviously the base material and primary factor in a cart’s quality. A key consideration in this component is if the natural acid form of the cannabinoids should be used or is decarboxylation (Decarboxylation (decarb) 101) necessary? For CBD carts (more accurately CBD-A carts), decarbing is not necessary but for cannabis it is debatable. Many don’t like to decarb cannabis because it compromises terpene content and flavor. However, THC-A can cause problems due to its more stable crystalline nature and can solidify or budder once in the cart. To ensure the cart stays in oil form, avoiding the problems of using THC-A, many opt to use decarbed oil, converting it to THC, then add terpenes later to make up for what is lost in the decarb process. An additional advantage to using decarbed CO is an increase in cannabinoid conversion and bioavailability, especially when a low power battery is used. You will have to experiment and see if decarbing for your carts and situation is preferable or not.
Unlike the decarb debate, there is no question that using very clean oil is absolutely required. The oil must be filtered and winterized (winterizing and polishing) exceptionally well. Any undesirables in the oil will ruin your cart with absolute certainty. Just remember, the quality of the oil you use will be determined by the care in your preparation and the key to having great carts.
Carriers, Liquidizers, and Terpenes
With the extract in hand the next step is determining how you’ll deal with thinning the viscosity and adding flavor if desired. It’s difficult to say exactly how much of each component should be included because each part of the mix influences the need for the others. For example, if the extraction is already in viscous oil form adding a carrier can be used to lower potency by choice. On the other hand, starting with shatter will require using something to increase viscosity out of necessity, resulting in a different set of considerations for how much carrier to include. PG and VG have fallen out of favor and are subject to debate over health concerns of those compounds when heat is applied and vapor inhaled. While it’s difficult to say anything’s “safe” when introducing foreign compounds into the lungs, even some of the crazy stuff in the air we breathe everyday, right now the best option for a carrier oil is pure caprylic acid triglyceride 8-carbon MCT oil. Absorption of these shorter chains is much more efficient and hopefully minimizes any long-term risks. Many people now forgo liquidizers and carriers and opt for using straight terpenes and terpene profiles to manage viscosity, flavor, and affect of a cart. Terpenes are a great tool and are amazingly fun to work with but they can quickly become overwhelming and harsh if too much is used, a very little amount of pure terpenes goes a very long way.
Balance of the Cart
Once you have an idea about the desired balance of extract, carrier, liquidizer, and/or terpenes you are ready to put it together. Each component will effect the cart viscosity differently so choosing a good combination and balance is important. Here are some great words of wisdom from some guys I know that work very hard at perfecting this and know what they are talking about:
“3 parts extraction to 1 part MCT then no more than 5% total weight terpene blend.. depending on strength of terpene some only 2% per total weight…”
“If 1 gram extraction use 1/3 MCT the 3% total weight.. if you use pipette total weight or really volume is in ul.. so that 1300ul is 39ul is less than 1 drop… 50ul = 1 drop”
“I do 1 gram oil .5 mct with 1 or 2 drops of terps from true terpenes and works out great…”
“You can fine tune with terpenes..best advice I can give you is never use more than 1 drop per gram until you know it’s strength”
Mixing It All Together
Some carriers, like MCT oil, require heating to ensure the CO binds well and won’t separate. To protect the integrity of the extract using only low heat is important, gentle heating under 150F and mixing well for 2-minutes works perfectly. If adding flavors or terps, after removing from heat, combine as the mixture cools. If everything is incorporated properly you should observe an even and uniform color throughout your cart. When the mix is just as you’d like, suck some up in a syringe and load into a clean cartridge, it’s that easy. Maturing of the cart is important if using terpenes. It will take at least a couple of days for the terpenes to settle and become most pleasant and flavorful.
BAAMM, you should have a beautiful, potent, and amazing cart for your enjoyment.