Chefs, mixologists, and amateur bartenders are exploring new ways to infuse nearly anything with cannabinoids, especially THC beverages. THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis plants. As result of cannabis use, it produces a euphoria known as the “high.” Due to growers’ efforts to create hybrids with higher concentrations of THC, the levels have increased. The most commonly known THC compounds are Delta 9 and Delta 8. They differ chemically because of the place where their double bonds are located on the carbon chain. THC beverages have been the primary focus, associated with the fun and inhibition that often typifies alcohol. For decades, the fat-soluble molecule hasn’t played very well in low-fat or alcohol-free recipes and drinks. Recent innovations in cannabis science have produced new THC products that vastly expand the possibilities for cannabinoid delivery.
THC is a lipid with incredibly low solubility in water: 0.003mg/ml. For perspective, a ‘standard’ edible dose of 10mg THC would require over three liters of water to dissolve.
Like other aromatic terpenoids, THC readily dissolves in alcohol and other lipids, hence the popularity of cannabutter. This has also been exploited for producing many oil- and alcohol-based beverages on the cannabis market.
For those seeking THC beverages without alcohol, the options are limited to beverages that attempt to mix oils with water. Inevitably, emulsifiers have been required for this task. Molecular gastronomy has significantly improved these tools, but they remain an additive.
Traditionally, these emulsified oils did not hide well, often dictating the flavor and mouthfeel of the final product. These mixtures, like raw milk or a vinaigrette, can settle and separate, requiring a vigorous shake or stir.
Recent advances in ‘emulsion science,’ genetic modification, and cannabis chemistry have resulted in near-completely water-soluble THC solutions. Few are on the market, but many more are coming for use in both food and drink.
This opens the door to entirely new products that have so far been out of reach. Given the infant status of this new field, many companies and brands are coming to market with wildly different approaches to the same goal.
How Does an Oil Dissolve in Water?
Current products take advantage of new and innovative oil-based delivery methods. They have learned from molecular gastronomy and modernist cuisine, employing technology to rethink food.
These micro-emulsions are often achieved by packaging cannabis extracts into tiny ‘bubbles’ or micelles. Vegetable starches like maltodextrin and ‘carrier oils’ mediate this process. Maltodextrin can ‘powder’ lipids like olive oil, while brominated carrier oils are used in American Mountain Dew to dissolve citrus essences.
These ‘micro-bubbles’ can easily be dissolved into water or other liquids with a little shake or stir.
Current THC Beverages
This process is employed for prepared and packaged beverages. Some examples are listed below with a wide range of available formulations. Some are more suited to cocktails or cooking than others.
Many are low- or zero-calorie and make use of different approaches to mask the minimal remaining flavor and texture. Some use carbonation and familiar archetypes, like cider or beer, to forego minimal additives.
Other brands take this microencapsulation further by drying the final product into a fine powder. This is the most advanced form of water-soluble THC beverages, with the option to add it directly to any drink or food.
The (Very Near) Future of Water-Soluble THC Beverages and Powders
While they’re not yet available, some products that remove the need for additives or emulsifiers entirely will soon be released. In their purest forms, they are nothing more than flavorless THC in purified water. The pursued approaches are innovative and much more advanced than your average emulsion.
Trait Biosciences solves the problem of solubility by learning from our bodies and the cannabis plant itself. By attaching a sugar molecule to THC, something organisms naturally do, the compound instantly becomes water-soluble. They accomplish this ‘glycosylation’ directly in genetically-modified plants and after the fact through enzymatic fermentation.
Others are working on proprietary methods on which many experts can only speculate. Infusion Biosciences claim their ‘Aqueous Phytorecovery Process’(APP) produces a whole-plant extract dissolved in only water, THC, and all. While Infusion Bio. doesn’t intend to release products directly, they have already started partnerships; one with Alkaline88 can be seen below.
Expect new and exciting products from these modern cannabis alchemists and their collaborators soon.
Why Is It the Perfect Choice for Cannabis Cuisine and Mixology?
Fewer people are smoking cannabis, turning to other alternatives for their THC infusions. The edibles market has exploded to fill the gap with savory and sweet products. While convenient, long-lasting, discrete, and tasty, this booming form of consumption brings new challenges.
The nature of eating cannabis both delays and extends the effects, progressing through digestion before hitting the bloodstream. This often results in variable and unpredictable time-frames for the experience. These unforeseen consequences are one of the primary reasons people report avoiding edibles. Water-soluble THC can usually be in full effect within 15 minutes unless incorporated into a big meal.
From a medicinal perspective, this fast onset is incredibly useful for prompt relief. Recreationally, the accelerated duration can appeal to those with things to do later in the day. Chefs can experiment with faster dining experiences, and mixologists have new and powerful tools at their disposal.
Further, liquid or powder delivery allows for precise mixing and dosing: no more surprises from a ‘strong corner of the brownie.’
Finally, something most edibles can’t claim: water-soluble THC rarely has more calories than if it had been smoked. Many of the products listed below have very low-calorie counts, owing only to added sugars, oils, or other ingredients. Along with the calories, the characteristic cannabis flavor that imbues so many edibles is nowhere to be seen.
Water-Soluble THC Products
Stillwater’sCannabis Kitchen Guide: Ripple
– Powdered THC is packaged in individual-serving pouches for convenient dosing in both food and drink
– Powdered THC in both flavorless and flavored, strain-specific options
– Alkaline water with APP-extracted cannabis, in partnership with Infusion Bio.
– Pre-mixed and dosed drinks in a variety of flavors
– Pre-mixed and dosed drinks in a variety of low-calorie, fruity flavors
– Pre-mixed and dosed sparkling water, citrus, and berry flavors with zero calories. Perfect for soda-based cocktails
– A twist on the classic apple cider with SöRSE THC nano-emulsion. An exciting substitution for any cider-based recipe
– A hops-heavy, beer-inspired, zero-calorie beverage from the Lagunitas Brewery. All the flavor of beer without the alcohol