There are numerous ways to create cannabis infusions and what you end up doing should depend on your form of cannabis, available equipment, time, and what your final product, food or oil will be.
Before cannabis can be used for infusion it must be activated. This activation occurs via heat in incineration for flowers and vaporization for concentrates. The heat changes the THCA or CBDA from their acid form into their bio active non acid form. This is called decarboxylation. Without it your cannabis won’t be usable by your body.
There are, as I mentioned, many ways to decarb. There may even be others yet to emerge. Here are our current options:
Oven Decarb- this will be the most simple of the set and requires the least specialized tools. It will also slightly lower cannabinoid content and cook off many volatile terpenes. It’s easy but not perfect and produces a notable smell.
Sous Vide- a slightly more recent method which utilizes the proper temperature water and a vacuum sealed bag or something similar to activate your cannabis while preserving essential compounds. There is a slight learning curve but not too steep.
Decarb Machine- It’s definitely the “future” and there is definitely some tech for those who can afford it. These small countertop appliances provide smell proof, quick, effective decarbing. They are generally well reviewed and will offer consistent results.
Mason Jar- This method can be done one of two ways. In a shallow bath of water in a well watched pot, or in the oven. The former involves keeping a pot full with water kept in a certain range for a period of time. The latter involves baking the jar at the appropriate temperature on a baking sheet and removing it with the proper handling tools and agitating it before returning it. This is a good smell containing option and is fairly safe and easy.
Once your cannabis is activated then it’s ready to be infused into your desired medium. Cannabis is not a water soluble molecule but it is very fat soluble. That is why infusions usually use a base oil with a high fat content.
Choosing an oil is very personal and will differ based on dish and application.
The most popular oils are: coconut, butter, canola, olive, and avocado.
The choice of oil should depend on your style of cooking, tastes, and planned uses as they all have different smoke points and other variables. My favorite is coconut oil. Do your own research and experiment with your own tastes.
Next, we move to the method of infusion.
There are a few ways to do this as well!
Mason Jar (yes again)- This is my preferred method. It is easy and requires some diligence but provides a consistent product which is easy to store and smell proof. The mason jar is immersed halfway in a pot of water atop a small towel usually and burped every 30 or so minutes. I tend to shoot for minimum three hours and maximum eight. For this method you’ll need a cheesecloth as a strainer or a sachet.
Crock Pot- The same as above but in a crockpot. This method is favored for those who don’t want to watch a stove. This is usually done for 8-12hrs. The crockpot method is also generally smell proof.
In a jar over a long period of time in a warmish dark place for 4- 6 weeks.
Infusion Machine- This one is self explanatory but if there's confusion these machine infuse oils and other things on behalf of you. Set it and forget it but also very precise.
All of these methods should produce more less similar products and are really personal preferences
Infusion may also be done with 200 (Everclear) proof alcohol to create a tincture which can also be used in edibles or taken as is. This can be done in a few hours or old school style with a longer maturation.
One could also cook directly with the cannabis once it's activated or with parts of the cannabis which have been prepared for cooking or cooked at the right temperature (depending on context and material).
These infusions can all also be made with various cannabis concentrates. The cooking and activation methods used will vary from form to form. The easiest concentrates to cook with are distillate, Sauce, and kief.
Distillate in particular has gained a great deal of popularity as a highly refined product which is already activated by its processing and easy to incorporate into edibles.
Hot water baths are perfect for decarbing or softening extracts/concentrates.
All the same methods used to decarb flower will work on concentrates although it can help to have an intermediate container for the concentrate .
Many popular modern edibles concentrate over flowers and many of the original cannabis products are such hashish based treats.
The cleaner flavor and more potent effects are only some of the reasons which these edibles are favored to their flower based counterparts.
There is a lot of niche cannabis cooking which is not often explored but the ceiling is whatever you can imagine and if you can access water soluble thc products you can put cannabis in anything. But even without there are dozens of cannabis forms and dishes you can use them and configurations in which you can add those infusions.
Once the basics have been mastered, you can introduce the wonder of cannabis to any food.
It's in my opinion a cannabis user's right of passage to make their own oil and cook almost any and everything in it at least once. It’s a wonderful experience.
Depending on which cannabinoid being activated you’ll need to use a particular temperature.
For THC I use: 200-220 degrees for 30-45 minutes no more than 245
For CBD I use: 230-290 degrees and about the same time.
Look for the boiling point of your dominant cannabinoid and try to stay far under it by about 80-120 degrees.
If you’re using concentrates in the oven it is not a perfect process and requires a watchful eye. Aim for 45 minutes and bake at no more than 250 degrees. Different extracts may need more or less time to reach the necessary point.
If you’re doing concentrates in the hot water bath you use the same temp as above and for 30-45 minutes.
Some other concentrates favored for edibles are full spectrum products like RSO and FECO. RSO is an ethanol based extraction named for its creator and touted as a miracle cure. Miracle or not, it's a powerful medicine. F.E.C.O. is Full Spectrum Extract Cannabis Oil. It is like RSO but generally cleaner and a bit newer. FECO usually has a coconut oil base. These products along with hash rosin edibles are quickly over taking distillate as the favored concentrate.
It really depends on one’s personal interests and preferences. There is a difference in the way all the different infusions feel and it will vary greatly from person to person body to body infusion to infusion.
Once you have activated material and it's been added to a usable medium or you have decided to infuse directly without an oil or alcohol base using only concentrate or flower then you can craft your edible masterpiece.
Potency is determined by cannabinoid content percentage times grams and then worked into the amount of oil plus the amount used in the dish divided on a per serving basis.
Example: for every one gram of 20% THC material there will be at least 200mg of thc.
Lastly, if you’re worried about smells I recommend strong incense, sage, or other powerfully scented burning smells to cancel out the powerful cannabis scents possibly released during these processes.