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We recently offered a step-by-step method of creating CBD-infused olive oil with basic kitchen supplies – namely, a couple of pots, cheesecloth, and a stovetop. While effective, the process demands a lot of time and attention from the preparer.

Which begs the following question: is there a way to infuse CBD and other cannabinoids into various oils that doesn’t require a lot of hands-on activity?

The answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” but should be further qualified by the fact that you will need a few new kitchen supplies to pull this off. However, those supplies can also be used to make everyday cooking and meal preparations just as hands-free as infusing CBD and other cannabinoids through this process, making them worthwhile investments.

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Meet Sous Vide

It’s not the best-kept secret in the world of cooking but unless you are a master chef or a well-versed amateur culinary artist you may not have heard of, much less used, sous vide in your cooking endeavors. But since the 1960s, sous vide (pronounced “Sue Veed”) has graced the kitchens of many great chefs and renowned restaurants.

For cooks who hate seeing one side of meat overcooked while the other side is still bleeding red, sous vide is a miracle worker. Likewise, making the perfect hard-boiled or soft-boiled eggs is a snap, and even preparing a variety of veggies is simple, easy, and hands-free (once the preparation is finished).

The concept is astonishingly basic and the results are amazingly consistent. Meats prepared in this fashion are typically juicier, tenderer, and more flavorful. If you have ever dreamed of the perfect piece of meat, it likely involves preparing it sous vide-style to end up with an evenly and properly cooked meat dripping in its own juices.

Sous vide is a French term meaning “under vacuum” and refers to the common practice of sealing food in vacuum-wrapped plastic before cooking it. (Technically, foods do not require a vacuum seal in order to cook them via the sous vide method; any water-tight container will do the trick, as you will learn when infusing CBD or CBG into oils).

The process of cooking using the sous vide method involves creating a water bath that is temperature-controlled by a precision cooker able to set and maintain a fixed temperature over an extended time period. The sealed (or otherwise waterproofed) food is immersed into the water bath where the precision cooker will perfectly and thoroughly cook the selected food item.

Even though the heated water bath never reaches a boil it can cook a 1-inch thick steak; in fact, most steaks require a water bath temperature of about 125°F to 130°F for about an hour, whereas water generally boils at 212°F. 

(We say water “generally” will boil at 212°F because it really is a generalization. To be accurate, water will boil at 212°F at sea level; at higher altitudes, water boils at lower heat levels because of the lower air pressure. For instance, in the “mile-high” city of Denver, Colorado, water can boil at 202°F, about a 5% differential from sea level.)

Usually, the precision cooker is shaped like a cylinder; the core contains a water-proof heating coil making it easy to fully immerse in a tub of water and radiate its heat. The heater can be set for a fixed temperature and time, after which you can walk away and let it do its job.

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Sous Vide Temperature Guide

Before we learn about infusing CBD into oil using the sous vide method, here is a general temperature guide you can reference for a variety of foods:

  • Steak (1” thickness) – 125°F (rare) to 130°F (medium) for 1 hour
  • Pork Chops (2” thickness) – 140°F for 2 hours
  • Poultry (2” thickness, boneless) – 150°F for 1 hour
  • Salmon (1-2” thickness) – 125°F for 30-40 minutes
  • Root Vegetables (1” thickness) – 183°F for 1 hour
  • Eggs (Soft Boiled) – 143°F for 45 minutes
  • Eggs (Hard Boiled) – 170°F for 1 hour

Most people who use sous vide to cook their meats like to finish them off on the grill or griddle to give it that just cooked look, leaving telltale grill markings to make it appear as if you know how to perfectly grill or broil meats over direct heat. In actuality, the improved flavor, the lush juiciness, and uniformly soft texture have nothing to do with the final touch over a flame or coals and everything to do with the sous vide cooking method.

Some people may believe that sous vide precision cookers are only suitable for those into cooking but once you learn about the hands-free aspect and simplicity of the process, you may agree that a sous vide precision cooker may likely be the very best kitchen tool for the person who hates cooking but loves perfectly prepared home-cooked meals.

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CBD-Infusion the Sous Vide Way

Now that you understand the basics of sous vide cooking, let’s dive into CBD-infusion the sous vide way!

For starters, let’s talk about temperatures. We see that a steak only needs to be immersed into water heated at 125°F to 130°F for an hour. Even pork (140°F) and poultry (150°F) require much lower temps than if put into an oven or cooked on a stovetop. The tender texture of meats means they will soften and become more chewable just by exposing them to continuous low heat levels. Imagine if you soaked in a hot tub at 130°F for an hour or two; your body would definitely feel “cooked” and the “meat” on your bones will be more tender than before. One of the reasons we love hot baths is how it relaxes our muscles, but we can only take so much hot water. The same thing holds true for the meats we love to eat!

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Boosting the Heat for Infusing Cannabinoids

The above sous vide temperature guide also indicates that root vegetables (carrots, beets, potatoes, etc.) demand higher heat levels (180-185°F) than meats. Oils and root vegetables can take the heat, each for different reasons. 

Root vegetables are by nature hard and dense; only prolonged exposure to high heat will soften them and allow their texture to transform to a state where they could be mashed or pureed if desired. Oils, on the other hand, are more able to absorb other materials added to them by heating up the concoction. 

While the laws of diminishing returns do apply here, the longer time materials are directly exposed to oils under heat, the more compounds and flavors will translate directly into the oil from the substance being infused. Many experts estimate that after 6 hours the majority of the compounds and flavors have been absorbed into the targeted oil.

In our stovetop guide for infusing CBD into olive oil (you could easily substitute butter, vegetable oil, or other common cooking oils to obtain the same result), we used a double boiler to heat the oil without ever reaching the boiling point. In a sense, we are employing the same concept as sous vide but in a more primitive manner. We dump oil and decarboxylated plant materials together into the top pan of the double boiler and manually control the heat. It is recommended to perform the infusion process for 6 hours to ensure most of the cannabinoids soak into the oil. Regular checks on its progress are also recommended and your stove is heating up the kitchen throughout the process, which can be trying during a hot summer day.

In contrast, by choosing the sous vide method of infusing CBD into the oil of your choice, it’s as close to a plug-and-play process as you will find for accomplishing your cannabinoid-infusion goal. You can even place your water bath in another room to perform the infusion process, thus freeing up your kitchen for other, more immediate activities.

This time around, we are going to use coconut oil as our base oil for several reasons:

  • It is a healthy cooking oil
  • Its flavor offers a tropical accent
  • It is an excellent carrier oil for cannabinoids
  • As a non-dairy oil, it passes most dietary restrictions

We’ll also wind up this article with some specific praises for coconut oil, as it does offer its own array of benefits.

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Required Equipment

As you review the list of required equipment, you probably already have all the stuff you need, except for the sous vide precision cooker. 

Before investing in your own sous vide precision cooker, performing due diligence can help ensure you find the right equipment for your needs. Of course, you can find some impressive high-end models running $250 or more, but with a little research (including reading user reviews) you can find a basic model for around $100 that will suit your needs. 

Here are the minimum items you need to successfully infuse cannabinoids with the oil of your choice when using the sous vide method:

  • Cooking Sheet – used for decarboxylating your materials before the infusion process
  • Herb Grinder – decarboxylation is more effective when materials are ground up
  • 16-ounce Mason Jar – the water-tight container used for the infusion process
  • Cheesecloth – separates plant materials from infused oil
  • String – to tie up the cheesecloth
  • Sous Vide Precision Cooker – the “magic wand” that performs the infusion process
  • Water Container – deep enough to fully immerse the sous vide heating element 

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup of Coconut Oil
  • ¼ ounce of Fern Valley Farm Hemp CBD Smalls 

For this example, we decided to use ¼ ounce of Sour Lifter CBD smalls containing 16.91% CBD;  as a Sativa strain, it can offer a lift to your day while also delivering relief and calmness. You can just as easily use larger portions, a different strain of smalls, or opt for one of our Fern Valley Trim/Shake strains. By the time you finish this article, you will also know how to determine the potency of your cannabinoid-infused coconut oil. This helps you plan your infusion session in advance so you know which materials you want to use and how much you need.

Once you learn this concept, you will find that you have a lot of leeway in determining the amount of oil and cannabinoids you wish to infuse. In fact, once you get the hang of this process, you can infuse different oils with various strains of hemp or cannabis plants all at the same time. Your biggest challenge will be to keep track of the different oils and potencies you prepared in one cooking session (we have some tips to help you with that).

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Directions

  1. Your materials need to be decarboxylated before infusing them into the coconut oil. If your materials are already fine enough, proceed to the next step. If you are using small buds or other materials not yet broken up, be sure to grind them so there are no large chunks of plant material remaining. A hand grinder will do the job but if you find that decarboxylation becomes a regular activity for you, consider getting an electric grinder (coffee grinders work great for grinding plant material!).
  2. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a cooking sheet and spread your shredded materials evenly across it. Set the oven temperature to about 250˚F and place the cooking sheet on the middle rack of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. When removed from the oven, the material should be brown and crunchy; this is the sign that your materials have been properly decarboxylated. (We arbitrarily chose a temperature and baking time for this process; our article, Decarboxylation Demystified, offers a deeper dive into this process and provides alternate temperature and time ranges for your consideration.)
  3. While you are decarboxylating your plant materials, prepare your water bath. Fill an appropriately sized container about ¾ full with water. Set your precision cooker to 185˚F and the timer for 6 hours, more than enough time to fully infuse the cannabinoids from your plant materials into the coconut oil.
  4. Cut a swatch of cheesecloth large enough to pour your decarboxylated materials into the center of the cheesecloth. Pull the four corners together and tie them up with a piece of string so you end up with a large homemade tea bag of sorts. Place this into the bottom of your mason jar.
  5. Next, add coconut oil to the mason jar. It can be in either a solid or liquid state at this stage (once the sous vide process begins, it will quickly liquefy). Screw the lid tightly onto the mason jar to ensure it will not leak. You can place it into the water bath even if the temperature has not yet reached 185˚F. The timer will automatically kick on once the water hits the right temperature and the precision cooker will continuously monitor the water temperature to maintain an even temperature for the duration of the infusion process.
  6. You now have 6 hours with which to enjoy yourself. Get some shopping done, watch a movie, take a nap, or do all of the above. (Actually, you have six-plus hours because you can’t “overcook” your infused oil. Instead, the mason jar will happily float about as the water slowly cools down.)
  7. When the infusion process is complete, take care in removing the mason jar, as it will remain too hot to handle with bare hands. The best approach is to scoop it out using a large strainer with a handle. Set it on a countertop to cool down.
  8. While the mason jar is still warm, your CBD-infused coconut oil will remain in a liquid state. When the mason jar has cooled down enough to handle with bare hands, unscrew the lid. Using a pair of tongs, pull out the cheesecloth-wrapped plant materials. Gently squeeze any remaining oil that accumulated in the plant materials (wear disposable gloves so you don’t have to wash your hands when done). You can now toss the used plant materials, as you have extracted all the valuable cannabinoids contained in them.
  9. Pour your CBD-infused coconut oil into an attractive serving container or, if you plan to cook with it, save it in your mason jar for later use. You should also measure the end product to see how much oil dissipated during the infusion process. It is not uncommon for ¼ of the oil to be lost in the process as some oil will remain in the used plant materials and cheesecloth. 

See how simple it is to perform cannabinoid infusions using the sous vide method? Your time and energy involvement is minimized but the results are reliably perfect each time.

Honestly, preparing any food item with sous vide can be just as easy and hands-free which makes the decision to purchase this valuable kitchen tool even easier. You may begin to actually enjoy cooking as much as eating once you learn how a precision cooker can perform all the challenging cooking work while you get all the glory.

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Estimating the Potency of Your CBD-Infused Coconut Oil

Perhaps just as important as learning how to make CBD-infused oils with minimal effort is knowing how to estimate the potency of the cannabinoids you just added to your infused oil. With a calculator and using simple generalized assumptions, we can hone in on the potency of your newly created oils within an accuracy range of about 10%.

We will work with the assumed ingredients used in our above example for preparing your CBD-infused oil: ¼ ounce of Sour Lifter CBD smalls. The product page for Sour Lifter CBD smalls shows a total of 16.91% CBD content (169.1mg per gram). 

We decided to use a ¼ ounce, or 7 grams, of Sour Lifter CBD smalls. Therefore, the total original milligrams of CBD we start with is 1183.7mg (169.1mg multiplied by 7); to simplify calculations, we will round this down to 1180mg.

As explained in fuller detail in our article Decarboxylation Demystified, the process of decarboxylation not only changes the molecular structure of the plant material but also eliminates some moisture. That moisture loss results in overall weight loss; that lighter load means the total CBD content will be slightly higher than before decarboxylation. In the case of the Sour Lifter CBD smalls, we can safely bump the CBD content from 16.91% to 17%.

We also mentioned that some weight is lost due to the removal of moisture. This can amount to as much as 10%-12%. We will assume a 12% weight loss which is slightly less than a gram. To simplify calculations, we’ll round our 7 grams down to 6 grams.

Consequently, after decarboxylation, you should have about 6 grams (6,000 milligrams) with an approximate potency of 17%. Multiply your 6,000mg by 17% and you get a total of 1,020mg of CBD going into your oil.

We also mentioned in Step 9 above that some oil will be dissipated in the infusion process. Again, using the most conservative estimates, let’s assume that ¾ of a cup of oil remains after the infusion process and contains 1,020mg of CBD.

There are 16 tablespoons in a cup; therefore, there are 12 tablespoons in the remaining ¾ cup of coconut oil. Here are three valuable measures you would likely use when preparing foods using coconut oil, along with the estimated amount of CBD: 

  • One tablespoon of CBD-Infused Coconut Oil – contains 85mg of CBD 
  • ¼ cup of CBD-Infused Coconut Oil – contains 340mg of CBD
  • ½ cup of CBD-Infused Coconut Oil – contains 680mg of CBD

If you bake cookies using 1⁄2 cup of CBD-infused coconut oil (containing 680mg of CBD), it’s pretty easy to figure out the CBD content per cookie by dividing that 680mg by the number of cookies made. For instance, if your batch produces…

  • 24 cookies – each cookie contains 28.33mg of CBD (680mg/24)
  • 30 cookies – each cookie contains 22.66mg of CBD (680mg/30)
  • 36 cookies – each cookie contains 18.88mg of CBD (680mg/36)

Even when making 3 dozen cookies, each cookie contains a healthy amount of CBD! 

If you wish to boost that CBD potency even higher, you might consider replacing some flour with decarboxylated kief since they have a similar consistency. Our article, Empower Your Flour, walks you through the process of combining kief and flour; it also shows you how to perform potency calculations for your finished product. Then you simply add that result to the calculations demonstrated above and you can estimate the total potency of your double-barrel CBD-powered edibles. 

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CBD-Infused Coconut Oil Care Tips

When properly stored, coconut oil can retain its freshness for as long as two years. Because coconut oil has a low melting point (75°F), exposure to light or warmth will turn it into a liquid state. That same exposure also means that its freshness and fragrance also begins degrading, so protecting your coconut oil from direct light should be your highest priority.

Storage

Here are a few tips you can use to keep your coconut oil fresher for a longer time:

  • Constant Temperature – it’s better to store your coconut oil in a spot where the temperatures do not fluctuate much; frequent heating and cooling will cause it to lose freshness faster
  • Cool Dry Area – if you have a cupboard or pantry, store your oil inside it; it is best to keep it closer to ground level since those areas stay cooler even during hot seasons and temperatures fluctuate less than higher spaces where house heat can infiltrate
  • Dark Container – if you have tinted glass containers, store your coconut oil in them for extra protection from light; darker tinted containers are best but never use metal containers as the oil could pick up a nasty metallic flavor
  • Refrigerate – the only disadvantage to refrigeration is that coconut oil remains solid, making it a little more challenging for accurate measurements; a fridge is also useful if your coconut oil has liquefied and you need it to be solid 

While storage is key to retaining freshness longer, each time you use it, you expose it to the elements. Learning a few preservation techniques will help your CBD-infused coconut oil last longer once it is put into use. 

Preservation

Employ these useful tips whenever using your stored coconut oil to keep it fresher longer:

  • Clean Dry Utensils – by using dry and clean scoops or measurers, you reduce the possibility of introducing outside bacteria and other nasty microbes that could harm or deteriorate the quality of your CBD-infused coconut oil
  • Secure Lid – each time you close the lid or top of the container, make sure it is airtight and leak-proof to prevent oxygen and moisture from gaining entry; once the container holds less than half of your remaining oil, switch to a smaller container to reduce the amount of oxygen sharing space with your precious oil 

Before using previously-opened coconut oil, you should:

  • Check Oil Regularly – even the best-preserved oil can go bad, so a periodic review of your stored oil is important; particularly check for the following (and toss the oil if found):
    • Bad Odor
    • Curdling
    • Mold (brown or green flecks)
    • Yellowing
  • Track Data – this informs you of the age of your CBD-infused coconut oil and the products used to create it; the following data should be put on a label:
    • Date Prepared
    • Estimated CBD Potency (in mg per tbsp)
    • Strain and Type (Indica/Hybrid/Sativa)

While storing and preserving your CBD-infused coconut oil is important information to have on file, what we are really about is using coconut oil to our benefit, so let’s quickly examine some popular uses for coconut oil.

Usage

Coconut oil is amazing since it can serve both the interior and exterior of our bodies. Then, when you add CBD into the formula, all we can say is “Wow!”

Here are four popular (and healthy) ways you can use your CBD-infused coconut oil:

  • Bake – a perfect replacement for both butter and cooking oil, CBD-infused coconut oil is healthier but delivers the same consistency you need when preparing baked goods such as biscuits, cakes, cookies, or muffins
  • Fry – instead of canola, peanut, or vegetable oil, use your CBD-infused coconut oil to fry chicken strips, fish, french fries, or any other popular fried dishes; you can even reuse the coconut oil a few times before tossing it 
  • Sauté – the next time you pull out a pan to cook or saute something, use CBD-infused coconut oil in place of ho-hum standards like vegetable or cooking oil; stir coconut oil instead of butter in your mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes for a tropical twist
  • Whole Body Treatment – not only is CBD-infused coconut oil fantastic for moisturizing your skin but rub a dab of melted coconut oil between your palms, comb it through your hair, and then rinse out in a shower for shinier, healthier hair

Whenever using your CBD-infused coconut oil in the kitchen, keep it away from the heat of the oven or stove. As already cautioned in our storage tips, fluctuating temperatures will more quickly denigrate the quality of your CBD-infused coconut oil.

If you decide to use some of your CBD-infused coconut oil as part of your daily body care regimen, you may want to use a smaller container that holds about a week’s worth of oil. That way, even when exposed to light and air more often, it’s not long enough for your oil to go bad. Simply refill your container each week and you’re good to go with healthier hair and smoother skin.

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Infusing Different Oils and Cannabinoids in One Session

The final advantage that the sous vide method offers is the ability to infuse a variety of oils with different hemp flower strains, kief, and even cannabis strains all at the same time. Since they all require the same temperature and time to perform the infusion process, and since you can use a large water container to hold more than one jar for infusion, you can infuse as much oil as your water container can hold.

For instance, a 12-quart container measuring 10” by 12” and 8” deep is commonly used as a sous vide container. With such dimensions, you can easily accommodate six 16-ounce mason jars in one session. If you are particularly adventuresome and enthusiastic, you can make six entirely different batches of CBD and CBG oils for different purposes.

Here is one example of  the different oils and strains you can use to end up with six completely different cannabinoid-infused oils to put to various uses:

Granted, you will be in the kitchen for a while preparing each of these batches, since you will need to decarboxylate the different strains of hemp flower. But if you have two cooking sheets, and you work with higher heats for shorter times, you can decarboxylate two strains in about 20 minutes or all six strains in just one hour. 

Then all you need to do is wrap each decarboxylated strain in its own cheesecloth, put each one in a jar, and then add the oil or butter you choose for each infusion process.

The obvious question that follows is: how can you identify the different jars of oils you made, especially when they are still in their warm liquid state?

Here’s a simple answer to that question: use marbles or other glass objects.

Marbles are great because they are small, you can add them to each wrapped cheesecloth, and they won’t change the chemical composition of the materials being infused, even under high heat. Use a different number of marbles for each jar and note how many marbles each jar has.

Prepare labels in advance for the six different infusions. Then, as you remove the cheesecloth, untie them, count the marbles, match them to the right concoction, and slap on the label you prepared in advance.

Alternatively, a series of small glass figurines can also do the trick. Just make sure you are using materials that won’t deteriorate in prolonged heat conditions and are easy to clean when done. In such a case, note which figurine went into each concoction. 

With either method, it’s a great way to create a mini-mass production cannabinoid infusion system right in your home! 

One Comment

  • Tom says:

    Clears up many ? I had when creating edibles , very easy read with precise directions . Both article Sous Vide-infusion & Decarboxylation Demystified are exactly what I was looking for.- THANK YOU

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