How To Make Vape Cartridges
Page Currently in Progress. Making the internets most complete guide for making vape cartridges - Last updated 6/29/18
If you've been wondering how to turn your shatter, wax, and any other hash oil concentrate into vape oil / e-juice it's easer than you might think.
Step 1 - Base Oil
It's not a cannabis oil vape pen without the cannabis oil. The choice we make here for our base oil will have a heavy influence over future choices we will have to make for our finished product.
In many ways distillates are the blank canvas of base oils. Distillates gives us the most options in terms of the final products we can make - would you like a vape pen that taste like fresh squeezed orange juice or your favorite cannabis strain, the choice is yours.
When made correctly distillates offer us a high purity, high potency, blank start to then flavor, mix, and fill our cartridges. The blank canvas is both an advantage, and disadvantage. During the distillation process the blend of unique terpenes that made that particular strain will be lost in the process; those terpenes that you started with will be degraded to a point where they will be entirely undesirable to keep. This means that you will have to replace the terpenes/flavor lost in the process of distillation with new terpenes/flavor. More on this in Step 3.
This choice will also require the most upfront cost due to the required equipment to produce a distillate.
BHO (Cured | Live Resin | Sauce)
Widely accessible, most flavorful (opinion), and easiest way to get started. Depending on which state you're you can visit a local dispensary to pick it up, or at a minimum know a guy.
If using BHO it's best to use a product that has been either winterized or dewaxed to remove any potential plant wax that may be present. Plants wax is an impurity that would be undesirable in our final vape cartridge in terms of taste, appearance, and functionality. This will appear as a cloudy vape cartridge, and may be prone to clogs.
Heres a tip! We suggest you partially decarboxylate your oil before mixing, and filling vape carts. If you don't there will be a risk of crystallization happening inside the final vape cartridge. I suggest a partial decarb over a full decarb for the simple fact that is will take less time under heat. Less time under heat means you get to retain more of the terpenes in your starting BHO. One of the nice things about distillate is that it has already gone though decarboxylation in the distillation process, and is not at risk for crystalization.
Many would consider this a great option for those that want a vape cartridge that is solvent free. However solvent free is not just limited to Co2 oil. By nature distillate is also solvent free. Also, the solvent free category could fall over BHO, Rosin, and QWET if made correctly. Even in the case of an under purged BHO the act of partially decarbing the BHO, and the heat/agitation necessary when mixing the vape oil would complete the purge - butanes boiling point (30.2°F) is incredibly low after all.
I believe the greatest utility for Co2 falls in its terpene extraction, and isolation ability. This isn't about terpene extraction though, it's about making vape oil.
This is the option that will be most accessible to most individuals. Even if you don't have a source to acquire BHO, or C02 oil you can at least make your own base oil with Rosin.
Also, like C02 it's considered a solventess hash oil.
As mentioned before winterizing would be recommended to achieve the highest purity possible. If we were to do that with Rosin it wouldn't be a solvent-less hash oil though - catch 22.
Quick Wash Ethanol (aka QWET) would be easiest way to get started with a solvent based extraction. It won't produce the same high terpenes extraction results BHO can produce however. This is due to the higher temperatures necessary to purge a ethanol as opposed to a butane extraction - with that being said It would be considered the "safer" of the two in terms of producing. As of the time when writing this page ethanol extraction is considered a non-volatile extraction as far as the governing bodies controlling California's recreational cannabis market are concerned.
Ethanol extraction would be a better choice for crude extraction to feed to distillation in my opinion. Could you make a vape pen with QWET? Yes. Would it leave you with the tastiest result? Probably not.
What's the best base oil?
For us the choice is distillate due to it's purity, potency, and the versatility of vape pen cartridges it can make. BHO would come in at a close second option due to it's availability, and ease to get started.
Step 2 - Flavoring
Depending on which base oil option you selected this your oil base may already be flavored. If you're starting off with the blank canvas of distillate, or perhaps another hash oil with a low amount of terpenes to begin with you're going to need some kind of flavoring though. The majority of most flavoring sources can be divided into two categories:
Like other parts of the cannabis industry terpene sources come with a fair amount of controversy. Terpene sources can be split of into two camps: Cannabis derived terpenes vs terpenes sourced from other plant sources exogenous to the cannabis plant.
Cannabis derived terpenes are by far the most desirable, but are also the hardest to isolate and scale to a large scale production without a significant investment - C02 extraction. The nice things about choosing quality BHO, Co2, or a Rosin base oil is that you already have your cannabis derived terpenes right there so there's no need to add any extra terpenes or flavoring. If you're not starting with a particularly high terpene concentrate adding flavor will be something you have to do, assuming you want your vape cart to taste like something.
To flavor with terpenes you'll need the ability to produce a high terpene extract - HTE. HTE's can be produced with Butane, Co2, Microwave, Steam, and even with Rosin by some skilled producers.
Non-cannabis derived terpenes on the other hand are much easier to scale. They do not require the large upfront equipment cost that extracting cannabis derived terpenes requires, they can simple be purchased. Cannabis derived terpenes can also be purchased…at a much greater cost. The cost difference might be roughly $2 - $5/ml for non-cannabis terpene (True Terpenes) vs $100 - $600/ml for cannabis derived terpenes (Blue river Extracts).
Personally, we use terpenes from both cannabis derived source, and non-cannabis derived sources for deferent types of pens marketed to different types of customers. Historically the highest selling cartridge we’ve made was one that tasted like strawberries and bananas - the terpenes used were all natural, food grade, organic, non-GMO, and also non-cannabis.
Step 3 - Diluents
There is controversy surrounding many of the diluents used in vape cartridges today. A lot of that controversy stems from a study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine - Carbonyl Compounds Produced by Vaporizing Cannabis Oil Thinning Agents an experiment was performed that heated PG, VG, PEG 400, and MCT to 230°C to examine possible conversions to carcinogens. The results of the study showed “PG and PEG 400 produced high levels of acetaldehyde and formaldehyde when heated to 230°C. Formaldehyde production from PEG 400 isolate was particularly high, with one inhalation accounting for 1.12% of the daily exposure limit, nearly the same exposure as smoking one cigarette. Because PG and PEG 400 are often mixed with cannabis oil, individuals who vaporize cannabis oil products may risk exposure to harmful formaldehyde levels. Although more research is needed, consumers and policy makers should consider these potential health effects before use and when drafting cannabis-related legislation”.
PEG (Polyethylene glycol)
Common PEG based diluents
PG (Propylene Glycol)
Common PG based diluents
- Wax Liquidizer
- Vapeur Extract
VG (vegetable glycerin)
Common VG based diluents
- Vapeur Extract
MCT (Medium-chain triglycerides)
Terpene based diluents:
Out off all the options available to us, the option with the fewest downsides would be a terpene based diluent such as "VISCOSITY" - a flavorless odorless diluent made from a blend of 100% organic terpenes.
If there is a downside i could think of it could be the cost. In terms of ml per dollar, a terpene based diluent will be more expensive compared to more commonly used diluents such as PEG, or MCT.
Step 4 - Ratios & Recipes
People seem to think vape oil recipes, and ratios are harder then they actually are. Depending on what your initial base oil was vape oil is essential a recipe is two or three ingredients. The following two recipes types are what we see most commonly used in the industry today:
Recipe Type 1 - Base Oil + Terpenes
Recipe Type 2 - Base Oil + Terpenes + Diluent
It's as simple as that.
As mentioned is part 1 of this guide distillate is typically the base oil of choice for most commercial vape cartridge brands.
When using a distillate to make your vape oil we recommend using terpenes to flavor your vape oil in 4-12% range. This means that terpenes should make up 4-12% of the final weight batch weight for the final vape oil.
When measuring all the ingredients for vape oil we do all calculations by weight. The following equation is what you would use to determine the quantity of terpenes you'd weigh out to mix with your distillate to create a vape oil:
Final Batch Weight - Base Oil Weight = Terpenes Weight
In order to complete this equation however, you must determine what the final batch weight will be. The following equation is what you would use to determine what the final will be:
Base Oil Weight / (100 - Desired Terpenes Percentage) = Final Batch Weight
Example (Recipe Type 1):
For our example we'll be starting with 12 grams of distillate for or initial base oil. For this particular example recipe we'll be using 9% for the amount of terpenes we want in our final vape oil.
First, subtract 9 (Desired Terpenes Percentage) from 100.
100 - 9 = 91
Second, divide that value by 100.
91 / 100 = 0.91
Third, divide the base oil weight by that value.
12 / 0.91 = 13.186
The final result is 13.186, meaning are final batch weight will be 13.186g total.
12 / (100 - 9) = 13.186
Now that we have the final batch weight we can complete the first equation.
Final Batch Weight - Base Oil Weight = Terpenes Weight
Continuing with our example, subtract the base oil weight from the final batch oil weight.
13.186 - 12 = 1.186
The final result is 1.186, meaning the toal terpenes weight will be 1.186g total. The final recipe will consist of 12g of distillate and 1.186g of terpenes for a total of 13.186g of vape oil.
12 (Distillate) + 1.186 (Terpenes) = 13.18 (Vape oil)
(Writing in Progress)
BHO & Rosin
Step 5 - Mixing
Now that we have determine what the recipe for our vape oil will be making it's time to mix everything together. This step is as simple as lightly heating all the ingredients, and blending them to a homogeneous consistency.
We recommend first heating your base oil separately from the other ingredients such as terpenes which are more temperature sensitive.
- Weigh out the base oil into beaker using a scale. This beaker should be large enough to hold the entire final batch of vape oil once terpenes are added.
- Heat base oil beaker using a hot plate stirrer, or microwave (yes, a regular microwave). Since different types of base oil come with different starting stabilities you will have to heat some more than others. Typically base oil such as distillate that is already decarbed will have to be heated less than oil that may not be such as a BHO shatter. When heating you simply want to get the base oil to a consistency where it can be easily stirred without much effort - think of a honey consistency.
- Weigh terpenes (other ingredients) in separate beaker using a scale. It's better to use a separate beaker when weighing so that you can remove remove any extra weight that may have been added.
- Added weighed terpenes to heated base oil beaker.
- Lightly stir with stainless steel tool to roughly mix ingredients together so that the terpenes aren't just sitting on top of the oil.
- Add magnetic stir bar into beaker, then place beaker on hot plate stirrer. Turn the stir bar on, and set it to a low setting such as 200 RPM. Don't be surprised if your stir bar does not move spin freely, it must be heated further.
- Begin heating beaker. Again, the amount of heat you will need to apply will vary depending on the stability of the base oil, as well as the amount of terpenes added. The lower the amount of terpenes in the mixture the more heat will need to be applied. The Higher the amount of terpenes in the mixture the less heat will need to be applied. Start at 40C and slowly dial your heat up until the stir bar begins to rotate freely - you should not have to heat the oil past 70C.
- Slowly ramp the speed of your stir bar up until you stir bar is mixing the entire volume of the beaker.
- Allow the beaker to mix until you no longer see striations, or separation of ingrdients.
Magnetic Hot Plate Stirrer
The magnetic hot plate stirrer is going to be your greatest tool when it comes to mixing vape oil.
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Mixing Vessels - Beakers
Used for mixing your blend of terpenes, and oil. Beakers will be placed on your hot plate, and stirred with a magnetic stir bar, or over head mixer.
Precision Scale - 0.001g
We recommend measuring terpenes by weight instead of volume. Measuring by weight will provide you with the most accuracy. Because of how important accuracy is we recommend you use a scale capable to measuring to the thousandths decimal place (0.001) of a gram. This scale is one os the best value for scales that we've found that meet these requirements. Another important feature is that it won't auto power-off like many battery powered scales - this is an issue when you're in the middle of weighing out a terpene blend.
Stainless Steel Stir Tool
This is the preferred stirring utensil. We use these for stirring, as well handling when transferring vessels for weighing.
Step 6 - Cartridge Hardware
It doesn't matter how good the vape oil in the cartridge is unless the cartridge actually works. Making the right choice here will define if you have an enjoyable vape pen, or find yourself asking questions like "how to fix a leaking vape cartridge", "my cartridge taste burnt what do i do", "how to get vape oil out of broken vape pen".
To order these cartridges click here.
Step 7 - Filling
Beginner - Intermediate
For beginners the simplest filling solution will consist of the use of a hot plate stirrer, and a syringe with blunt tip needle.
- Heater beaker containing vape oil up to a consistency where it can easily be pulled into a syringe. This might range from 35-65C depending on the thickness of the final vape oil.
- Set stir bar to light spin to keep in order keep the entire volume of the beaker warm.
- Alternate between loading the syringe and dispensing the vape oil into cartridge until complete.
Tip: The longer your oil in under heat the more it will oxidize, and darken over time. For large batches (hundreds to thousands of grams) it might be best to heat small amounts of oil at a time such as 250-500ml beakers. In addition to duration, the higher the heat the faster the oil will oxidize as well.