Vape pens that contain oil cartridges are becoming increasingly popular, and it’s understandable as to why. One cartridge lasts a good amount of time, you don’t need to refill after each use, they’re compact, discreet and easy to use. There are a ton of different brands and varieties on the market, some being made with carbon dioxide cannabis extracts and others with distillates, and you can also find a variety of strains and potencies at any dispensary.
I’ve always been a do-it-yourself kind of gal, making my own homemade soaps, scrubs and lip balms. Plus, I love trying out new recipes, even if the end result isn’t always Top Chef worthy. With this DIY spirit in mind, I wanted to try my hand at homemade vaping oil. While I try to stick to vaping as it’s gentler on my lungs, I usually use the flower we grow at home, or I end up purchasing oil cartridges. Doing this regularly made me wonder just how tricky it is to make your own vape oil in your kitchen. Turns out, it’s not really that difficult at all!
I ended up going with a vape oil recipe that requires some form of slow cooker for two reasons. One, I already had a Magical Butter machine and was eager to test it out with vaping liquids, and two, it truly was a very “set it and forget it” adventure. The Magical Butter maker is basically a specialized slow cooker (with an internalized stirrer) that works particularly well for creating cannabis concoctions. While I highly recommend checking them out, you could also use any type of slow cooker or Instant Pot where you can set exact temperatures.
In addition, there are a variety of other methods one can use at home, from a process that utilizes high-proof alcohol, to one using resin, parchment paper and a hair straightener. Which method you use depends on what you have access to and your thoughts on various additives. Going the DIY route allows you to be selective in how your vape oil is created. Polyethylene glycol, a solvent found in many commercial vape oils, has been known to break down into carcinogenic compounds at extremely high temperatures, so folks may want to avoid it.
Being choosy about what goes into your mix is one of the benefits of the DIY process. I spoke more about this with Chris Whitener, executive director at MagicalButter.com. “Nowadays, consumers are more conscious of what they are inhaling and ingesting, but the only certainty is growing your own and using your own plant matter to make oils,” says Whitener. “There are several methods for infusing vegetable glycerin slow and low in the MB2e. You can also create a fully extracted cannabis oil [FECO] by creating an alcohol tincture and evaporating all of the alcohol. For the best results, press your own rosin, using squashed cannabis buds in the MB2e to make topical and edible oils, and use the rosin to make your own vape liquid.”
The fact that there are many different ways to make these oils is an exciting part of doing it yourself. It allows you to find the best mixture and potency that works for you and your endocannabinoid system. I’ll be honest, I started with this method because of the previously mentioned ease, but also because it’s an inexpensive way to run some trial and errors. Thankfully, now you can learn from my mistakes.
Homemade Vape Oil Recipe
- 1/2 ounce of cannabis
- 16 ounces of vegetable glycerin (about 2 cups)
- 2–4 ounces of propylene glycol
- Gather up your cannabis. I chose a recently harvested Sour Diesel. As someone who uses cannabis medically to combat anxiety, it’s one of my favorite strains that allows me to function normally without the physical and mental impact of anxiety or panic.
- Decarboxylation. This first step is probably one of the most important parts of the process. Decarbing your cannabis activates the non-psychoactive THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) in the raw buds, turning it into psychoactive THC. Basically, you’re warming up your cannabis low and slow to allow that awesome THC to power up its potency. Toast your buds at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes. You want them to be lightly browned, and nice and dry. You can grind the cannabis up before doing so, but you don’t really have to if you’re feeling lazy, as decarbed cannabis should essentially flake to the touch, breaking apart easily on its own. Allow it to cool before you continue.
- Mix together cannabis and vegetable glycerin. Take your decarbed cannabis and place it in your machine. Add 8 ounces of food-grade vegetable glycerin. You’re making something that will go into your body, after all, so you want to get the safest, cleanest version there is. Then slowly add the second 8 ounces of vegetable glycerin.
- Set it and forget it! One of the reasons I so happily used the Magical Butter machine is because you literally can set it and forget it as you would with a slow cooker. I allowed my mixture to cook at 160 degrees F for eight hours. The machine has a mechanism that self stirs every so often, helping the glycerin absorb the THC. If you’re using a crockpot, you will want to stir occasionally.
- Strain it out. Once your mixture has cooked and cooled, it’s time to strain. The glycerin is nice and potent, but it also has a ton of flower swimming around in it. My Magical Butter came with a cool mesh sieve that I used to strain out the liquid from the flower, but a good-quality cheesecloth will do in a pinch. Because of the toastiness of my cannabis and the length of my cooking time, my liquid ended up being a darker brown with a deeper flavor. You can play around with both those elements, depending on temperature and length of the decarb, and the processes of cooking with liquid.
- Mix with thinning agent. Now you need to decide if it’s the right consistency. If your mixture is too viscous, it can clog up your cartridges, making vaping a difficult task. This is where this method can become tricky. My vegetable glycerin concoction was actually fairly thin, so I didn’t have to cut it all that much, but I did use about an ounce of food-grade propylene glycol, an ingredient that may give off carcinogenic compounds at large amounts under excessive heat. I decided to take a small risk for the sake of this attempt, but obviously, use ingredients that you feel comfortable with.
- Fill cartridge. Using an adorable little pipette, I filled an Ultraflo X-Pro refillable cartridge. Attach to almost any battery and you’re good to go. One day of very little work and you’ve got your own homemade vape oil!