New Tools for Cannabis Infusion: THC Powders and Beverages

Recent innovations in cannabis science have produced new THC products that vastly expand the possibilities for cannabinoid delivery.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Chefs, mixologists and amateur bartenders alike are exploring new ways to infuse nearly anything with cannabinoids. THC has been the primary focus, associated with the fun and inhibition that so 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.

Water-soluble THC?

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 the production of many oil- and alcohol-based beverages on the current cannabis market.

For those seeking to drink THC 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 over the years, but they remain nonetheless an additive.

Traditionally, these emulsified oils did not hide well, often dictating the flavor and mouthfeel of the final product. Like raw milk or a vinaigrette, these mixtures 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 had 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.

lemon water
Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash

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 be used to ‘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 employ carbonation and familiar archetypes, like cider or beer, to forego even minimal additives.

A few other brands take this microencapsulation a step further by drying the final product into a fine powder. This is the most advanced form of water-soluble THC beverages so far, with the option to add it directly to any drink or food. 

powder, white green
Photo by Gesina Kunkel on Unsplash

The (very near) future of water-soluble THC products

While they’re not yet available, some products will soon be released that removes the need for additives or emulsifiers entirely. In their purest forms, they are nothing more than flavorless THC in purified water. The approaches being pursued are innovative and much more advanced than your average emulsion. 

Trait Biosciences solves the problem of solubility by learning from our own 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’ both 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, in the near future.

cannabis coffee
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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 products both savory and sweet. While convenient, long-lasting, discrete and tasty, this booming form of consumption brings along 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 equally accelerated duration can be appealing for those that have 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.

green cocktail
Photo by Varshesh Joshi on Unsplash

Water-soluble THC products

Powders

Stillwater’sCannabis Kitchen Guide: Ripple

– Powdered THC is packaged in individual-serving pouches for convenient dosing in both food and drink

Le Herbe

– Powdered THC in both flavorless and flavored, strain-specific options

Beverages

Alkaline88 Soothe Hemp Water

– Alkaline water with APP-extracted cannabis, in partnership with Infusion Bio. 

Dixie Elixirs

– Pre-mixed and dosed drinks in a variety of flavors

Cannabis Quencher

– Pre-mixed and dosed drinks in a variety of low-calorie, fruity flavors

Keef Sparkling Water

– Pre-mixed and dosed sparkling water, citrus and berry flavors with zero calories. Perfect for soda-based cocktails

Happy Apple Cider

– A twist on the classic apple cider with SöRSE THC nano-emulsion. An exciting substitution for any cider-based recipe

Lagunitas Hi-Fi Hop

– A hops-heavy, beer-inspired, zero calorie beverage from the Lagunitas Brewery. All the flavor of beer without the alcohol

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