Traditionally, cannabutter is the basis for marijuana cookery and as the author of The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook, I’ve been approached by people touting literally dozens of different recipes for “the ultimate cannabutter.”
To find out which was best for myself, I took butters into my own hands by testing four top methods side-by-side using the same basic ingredients in each batch.
Using a 1/2 ounce of the same kind of cannabis and 8 ounces of clarified butter as our ingredients, we tested four different methods from well-known cannabis cooks and had the finished butters analyzed by SC Labs and Steep Hill in California. The lab results revealed how much THCa remained in the butter, showing us the potential THC that was not successfully activated, along with other useful information.
The Ultimate Cannabutter Experiment was repeated twice, with different types of cannabis used for each batch, for eight total butter samples. Two different laboratories analyzed each set of samples along with the cannabis used to create the infusions, allowing us to confirm trends by comparing the data sets.
Batch A Results
Across the board, the lab results from SC Labs and Steep Hill closely mirrored each other, confirming the validity of the experimental method and providing us with evidence of consistent results from each cannabutter method.
Just because your cannabis has been in storage for a long time doesn’t mean it won’t make a potent cannabutter!
Batch A used old cannabis shake from a harvest of Nepalese several years prior, and results for the cannabinoid profile from SC Labs and Steep Hill came back nearly identical, with SC reporting 4.82 percent THC, 11.84 percent THCa and 0.58 percent CBN. Steep Hill found 4.6 percent THC, 12 percent THCa and 0.91 percent CBN.
THC: 9.58 mg/g
THCa: 0.14 mg/g
CBN: 0.8 mg/g
Yield: 116 grams
The Scientific Cannabutter, AKA Method #1, appears to be the most efficient in this trial, with SC Labs reporting 9.58 milligrams of THC per gram and a negligible 0.14 mg/g of THCa. Levels of CBN were the highest with this method, but still relatively small at 0.66 mg/g. Steep Hill Halent confirmed this trend, reporting 11 milligrams of THC per gram, zero THCa and 0.8 mg/g of CBN. To reduce the CBN levels, I would recommend cutting the simmering time to 4 or 5 hours in the Crock-Pot.
My yield for Batch A was the lowest of the bunch—perhaps too much butter remained in the cheesecloth and wasn’t squeezed enough? Batch B yielded on par with the other butters.
THC: 6.84 mg/g
THCa: 3.03 mg/g
CBN: 0.37 mg/g
Yield: 170 grams
The Bioavailable Cannabutter method left more THCa than hoped for, with 3.03 mg/g and only 6.84 mg/g of THC, but some patients like THCa for its medicinal qualities. I’d recommend increasing the time of the first toasting step from 20 minutes to one hour to see if THC levels increase while THCa levels decrease, along with raising the oven temperature to 240ºF from 220ºF.
THC: 5.18 mg/g
THCa: 6.22 mg/g
CBN: 0.45 mg/g
Yield: 153 grams
The traditional Water Simmered Cannabutter lacks a decarb step, which, not unsurprisingly, left the most THC inactive with relatively high levels of THCa at 6.22 mg/g according to SC Labs and 6.9 mg/g according to Steep Hill. THC potency lagged behind at about 5 mg/g. If you want more THCa than THC in your cannabutter, use the water-simmering method, but for those of us who would like to increase THC potency, toast your cannabis in the oven at 240ºF for 60 minutes before simmering in the water.
THC: 8.08 mg/g
THCa: 1.38 mg/g
CBN: 0.35 mg/g
Yield: 144 grams
Following close behind Method 1, the Scentless Cannabutter returned rather favorable results, especially for a new technique that uses easy countertop technology. The butter wasn’t quite scentless or tasteless, but it had less of a pronounced flavor than the others. SC Labs reported 8.08 milligrams of THC per gram, with 1.38 mg/g of THCa and CBN levels of 0.35 mg/g. Steep Hill found similar results, 8.8 milligrams of THC per gram, 1.3 mg/g of THCa and 0.55 mg/g of CBN.
Batch B Results
The overall potency trends in Batch B were not quite the same as seen in Batch A, with Methods 3 and 4 coming close to the same amounts of THC, but still leaving more THCa behind than Method 1.
This OG Kush trim was relatively low in THC, but nevertheless created potent cannabutter.
Batch B used OG Kush trim testing at 6.41 percent THC and about 4.83 percent THCa, with 0.25 percent CBN. Overall, similar trends were observed in Batch B, but the lower level of THCa in the cannabis trim seems to have generally resulted in less potent cannabutter, with the milligrams per gram concentration at lower levels.
The Scientific Cannabutter performed well in the Batch B trial, with a higher overall yield and no measurable THCa at all, but still with a relatively high level of CBN.
The Bioavailable Cannabutter still left behind a significant portion of THCa and had the lowest THC concentration of the group, however, it also returned the most cannabutter in volume, due to the addition of lecithin.
The Water-Simmered Cannabutter performed much better in Batch B than it did in the first trial, which is the only anomaly observed so far. The concentration of THC was 5.42 mg/g, the highest of any cannabutter in this batch, even though a decent bit of THCa was still present, about 1.12 mg/g. Analysis from Steep Hill confirmed this anomaly, leading me to wonder if this method works better for salvaging THC from low-potency trim.
The Scentless Cannabutter also performed well in Batch B, with a winning combination of high THC levels, low THCa and CBN levels, but a lower yield than the first trial.
Measuring your Dosage
Obviously, with this type of information, measuring your dose becomes much easier. For example, with Sample A1, the THC concentration is 9.58 milligrams per gram, so figuring out how much THC is in a tablespoon requires simple math. A tablespoon of butter is 14.18 grams, multiplied by 9.58 equals 135.8 milligrams. A teaspoon of the same cannabutter would contain 45.31 mg of THC.
If you were baking a batch of peanut butter cookies that yielded 24, and required 8 tablespoons of butter, substituting 2 tablespoons for this cannabutter would result in cookies with 11.3 mg of THC each.
Another conundrum worth considering is the relative yield from each method. The most potent cannabutter might return less total quantity; conversely, the least potent cannabutter yielded more total THC, but it’s less concentrated in the butter.
Each method yielded different amounts of finished cannabutter, with Method 1 returning the least at 116 grams; Method 2 returning 170 grams; Method 3 giving 152 grams; and Method 4 yielding 144 grams.
Batch B showed a different trend on yield amounts, with Method 2 yielding the most cannabutter and Method 4 returning the least. But in terms of actual THC yield, the Water-Simmered Cannabutter returned the most at 850 milligrams.
When straining your finished cannabutter through cheesecloth, always let it cool first so you can squeeze thoroughly by hand to wring every drop of precious THC-laden fat out of the vegetative matter.
As you can see, it’s tough to pick a clear winner. All of the methods have their advantages and disadvantages, so the procedure you may favor depends on personal preferences, available time and equipment, the scarcity and value of cannabis where you live and the intended use for the cannabutter.
Both the Scientific Cannabutter and the Scentless Cannabutter efficiently converted the raw acidic THCa into psychoactive THC, creating only trace amounts of CBN. Reducing the amount of time spent in the Crock-Pot for Method 1 could lessen CBN levels and create the perfect cannabutter, but patients may prefer the “grass-less” taste of the cannabutter created through using Method 4.
The Water-Simmered Cannabutter returned a high yield, but left much THCa remaining. Adding a toasting step to decarb your cannabis before simmering in the water could change that result. Likewise, it seems the Bioavailable Cannabutter method could benefit from slightly higher temperatures in the oven and a longer toasting step to thoroughly decarb the cannabis.
As usual, our scientific inquiry opens up more questions to answer. Why did the Water-Simmered Cannabutter perform so much better in Batch B than Batch A? How can this method, which lacks a decarb step, return more actual THC than the others, while still leaving behind considerable amounts of THCa? Further study will be necessary.
We encourage others to repeat this experiment and share your results, after all, scientific progress is only made by open, earnest inquiry!
Check Out The Other Methods And Results From The Ultimate Cannabutter Experiment:
Method 1: Scientific Cannabutter
Method 2: Bioavailable Cannabutter
Method 3: Water-Simmered Cannabutter
Method 4: Scentless Cannabutter
Results from the Ultimate Cannabutter Experiment