Lets Talk About Trim: All The Good Things

Soft Secrets
07 Dec 2013

One of the perks to being a grower is having crystally leaf trim left over after you manicure your harvest to nuggety perfection. Growers across the globe have been coming up with creative ways to turn these leftover trimmed pieces into a desirable product.

One of the perks to being a grower is having crystally leaf trim left over after you manicure your harvest to nuggety perfection. Growers across the globe have been coming up with creative ways to turn these leftover trimmed pieces into a desirable product. One of the perks to being a grower is having crystally leaf trim left over after you manicure your harvest to nuggety perfection.

Growers across the globe have been coming up with creative ways to turn these leftover trimmed pieces into a desirable product.  Typically, access to these extras requires being a grower or knowing one.  Your ability to make goodies and hash with the stuff can make you a favorite person in your circle of friends. There are a lot of options for what you can do with it and some of them only take a few minutes.

There really is no excuse for any trimmings ending up in the trash. The desirable cannabinoids that we find in marijuana plants is the most concentrated in the mature flowers, but it’s also found in copious amounts in the leaves and trimmed pieces (even small amounts in the stems).  By using extraction methods on these ‘leftover’ parts, we’re able to make candies, tinctures, hash, baked goods, oils, lotions, etc. (all the while controlling the flavors and potency of these treats).   Creativity is thriving in this department, as can be seen by the abundance of recipes and how-to videos online.  

Here, I’ll share a few of the most popular, and provide instructions on these fan-favorite extraction techniques. Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way first. Cannabis used in making tinctures and other edibles requires decarboxylation. Most people are not fluent in organic chemistry so I’ll give the basics of one the science’s oldest organic reactions. THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is the biosynthetic precursor of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). It is found abundantly in growing and harvested cannabis.  

Contrast this with the notion that very little to none of the THC cannabinoid is found in growing or harvested plants. Research has shown THCA to have some neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects but it doesn’t produce the psychoactive effect that makes you feel “high” like THC does.

BHO- Butane Honey Oil Step-by-step pictures. What isn’t shown are the goggles I am wearing, if you don’t have chemistry ones a pair of snowboarding goggles will do the trick.

Decarboxylation occurs when carboxylic acids lose a carbon atom from a carbon chain effectively releasing carbon dioxide (CO2), thus converting THCA to THC. This happens naturally (but very, very slowly) during the drying process; it could take years to complete convert THCA to THC this way.  Fortunately, a heat source or flame causes the decarboxylation to happen rapidly, which explains why smoking it (likely the most commonly preferred method of consumption) exposes us to the converted THC (and, of course, its effects we all know and love).

 This conversion also occurs when cannabis is heated into mixtures such as the tincture or butter. Let’s start with the most obvious use of our trim – making hash. There are several different ways to achieve hash as your end product, but the cleanest and most effective is the cold extraction method used for bubble hash. It’s called ‘bubble’ hash because the higher purity stuff, when it’s heated and smoked, will bubble as it burns. Cold Extraction – Bubble hash is made using cold extraction, done using either regular ice or dry ice. The basis behind this method is that you are freezing the THCA-producing resin glands (trichromes) that are left on the trim and then agitating them off of the leaf.

You then collect them in a very fine micron screen or you can use a set of different size micron screens to get the most out of your extraction. After drying, it will leave you with clean, extracted trichromes fused together.

Bubble Hash 5 gallon batch, step-by-step

Begin by putting the trim material in the freezer for at least two hours to accelerate the freezing process.  This procedure requires ice, water, a set of micron screen bags (bubble bags), and a container that is sized to fit your bags.  It can be done with as many bags as you wish, with a minimum of two: one for the material and one for the extract.  I am using a set of four 5-gallon bubble bags, and therefore my container for the extraction is a 5-gallon plastic bucket.  Line your bucket with the bags.  The smallest micron goes in first, the next size micron next, and so on.

The largest micron bag will hold the material and ice. I used a plastic grocery bag half-full of trim that I just took out of the freezer (ultimately, you can use as much trim as will comfortably fill the container) and about 5 lbs of ice. This technique can be done using dry ice as well, but that will require some additional safety precautions to be able to handle, so I’m just going to stick with regular ice.  In the top bag (a 220 micron bag), arrange alternating layers of trim and ice (trim, ice, trim, ice, trim). Then add cold water (about 4 cups at a time), stirring vigorously while the trim and ice are submerged. The stirring is agitating the frozen trichromes off of the leaf and into the water.

Continue this process until the water reaches the bag level. I like to use a bucket with a spigot on the bottom so I can drain the water and use it as the rinse again. The reasoning behind this is that it’s already very cold from being in the ice and it allows me more stir time. If you don’t have a spigot then you can stop adding water at this point and continue to stir. After approximately 15minutes, stop stirring and let gravity take over.  Leave the bucket to sit so that the trichromes can settle down to the screens below. Wait at least 30 minutes (longer if you wish) before pulling up the bags, one at a time. Start by removing the top 220m bag that contains the trim and ice and squeeze out any excess water to the bag below.

Then go down to the next bag, squeeze the excess water out and use a scrapping tool to collect the extract from the bottom of the bag. Place the extracted bubble hash onto a piece of clear plastic wrap to dry. The extracted hash will resemble silt or mud (like something you would expect to find at the bottom of a lake) and the color and texture changes depending on which screen it was extracted from. Don’t be fooled though, it’s all pure bubble gold! IPA Extraction – IPA refers to isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), which can be used for extractions by employing the alcohol as the carrier. 99% IPA is used as a solvent because it’s fairly cheap and easy to obtain. The trick with IPA extraction is quickness.

The longer the ISO is in contact with the trim the more chlorophyll and other unwanted things will be soaked up with it. People like to grade the quality based on which rinse it is, referring to this as A-grade for the first rinse, B-grade for the second rinse and C-grade for the last rinse. The B & C rinses will most likely have more impurities than the A grade, due to the fact that the solvent was in contact with the trim longer. How to: Freeze everything! Put the IPA, trim, shaker and collection jar (mason canning jars work great for this) and any other container or instrument you are going to use here into the freezer for a couple hours before extraction.

 Again, this helps to freeze the resin glands and break them off gently during the mix. Timing needs to be quick and precise here to avoid any impurities ending up in your hash, so use a timer to be sure. Take the glass jar and fill with trim material, then add the alcohol and shake very lightly for approximately 30 seconds. Vigorous shaking can pull out chlorophyll as well, so be gentle. The problem with using IPA comes when trying to remove the solvent from the extract.

 Isopropyl alcohol has a higher boiling point relative to some other solvents, making it difficult to remove all of it from the finished product. A double boiler is the best method employed to control the temperature and avoid direct heat contact with the IPA/trim jar. Our noses can pick up the strong smell of alcohol to tell us if it needs more time or not. Over-heating will cause the ‘evaporation’ of our desired cannabinoids too. This method needs to be done with extreme care being that the solvent we are using is flammable. The amount of time this will take depends on how much solvent was used and what temperature you’re evaporating at.

BHO (Butane Honey Oil)-

Flavored vodka tincture before straining. Try also to burn off some of the alcohol by heating the mixture within the canna-cooking ‘safe zone’

*** Warning: This extraction technique is dangerous and should be performed outside or in an area with lots of ventilation. No smoking, flames or heat sources should be present at the time of extraction***  With that warning in mind, honey oil is a very concentrated liquid essence and an amazing way to use every bit of foliage from your girls. It can either be smoked or used in recipes to make edibles. Butane – Because it is a gas at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, we use butane as the extract carrier (as it will readily evaporate after extracting the cannabinoids).

 However, not all butane is created equal; there are 2-types readily available, isobutene (boiling point or BP -11.7°C) and n-butane (BP -0.5°C), and within these 2 types the ingredients vary by manufacturer.  For making honey oil the n-butane is what works best and it’s also the most likely version we’ll find on the store shelves. It extracts and evaporates better due to its lower BP and leaves very little to no taste or residues in the oil. Look for the ‘near zero’ impurity label on the container, which usually means less than 15 parts per million (ppm) of impurities.

The only brands that I advise against using are the manufacturers who add odors or additives to the butane.  If you’re unsure, use a home test method of checking your butane for impurities called the mirror test. Take a mirror and spray a good amount of liquid butane onto it and wait about 5-10 minutes for the butane to evaporate. Then check the mirror after for a white residue (which may also have an odor to it). Be sure not to confuse condensation for residue; the spot must stay white after it evaporates and most likely will have an odor if it’s the bad stuff. For this batch I bought ‘Dodo’ brand 7x refined butane, in a 330ml (187g) can and will use one can per 12” tube of trim. Material- The most important factor when doing an extraction is to use good, fresh, uncured trim or bud.

The quality of your material is the biggest variable growers face when making canna-treats. Butane will extract the smell from the plant material as well, so the quality of the oil depends on the quality of the material you are using. How to:  To build the extractor tube you will need a piece of PVC or metal pipe 8-12” long and at least 1” wide and (2) end caps in the same width. For mine I used a  12” long piece of 1 ½” PVC (sch 40) and (2) 1 ½” end caps. I chose PVC because the cost is very low and you can purchase PVC in short lengths.

You can also buy extractor tubes already made from several different companies, but they are so easy to make, why not just build one! You just want to make sure it’s large enough to hold approximately 1 ounce of ground up trim. In one end cap drill (1) hole dead center that is just big enough for the butane tip to fit in, and the other end cap drill several smaller holes clustered in the center for the butane to drip out of. I chose to drill 7 small holes in mine. This end cap can be glued on permanently using an epoxy for the material of your tube.

The other end cap needs to be removable to fill with trim material. Add a lining of coffee filter to the inside of the bottom cap to catch any loose material before it drips down into your extracted final product. Make sure to wash and rinse all of these parts very thoroughly before use to ensure no drill shavings or dirt end up in your extract. Once they are clean then we are ready to extract!

Ganja- Gummies, step-by-step pictures. Make sure to use premium honey oil for these to obtain the potency they should have.

Using a coffee grinder or chopper, grain your trim down to a uniform size and pack your tube full of trim material (without pressing too hard), then replace the end cap. You will need 2 glass dishes to put under your tube; one to collect the dripping butane extract and another bigger dish that fits your collector dish inside of it. Set this up double-boiler style, with the smaller glass dish inside the larger dish and add hot water to the bottom one to keep the butane dripping from freezing. The butane comes out of the can so cold that it will frost up the receiving dish without hot water and it also help the evaporation process along a little quicker.

If you used metal or glass pipe to build your extractor tube you will need to build a stand to hold it vertically when expelling the can, the metal or glass will get too cold to hold in your hand. The stand can be built with any materials you have laying around: scrap wood pieces, 2 eye hooks, some metal wire and duct tape was what I’ve use in the past. Channel your inner MacGyver and see what you can come up with! I used plastic for honey tube so I was able to hold it in hand during the process.  A place outdoors with a slight breeze is the best environmental setting to do this in, guaranteeing that the butane fumes are carried up and away but don a pair of safety goggles and leather work gloves for this next part just to err on the side of caution.

To begin the extraction process, fit the tip of your butane can into the hole on the top of your tube and press down hard to expel the butane fuel. After the can is empty, step back and let your tube do its work. Within 30-45 seconds you should see the butane drip out the bottom holes and into your collector dish. A few good shakes when the dripping starts to subside will help you get every last little bit of goodness from your tube set up. Your top collection dish should contain a glowing, pale yellowish-green liquid, that is bubbling as if it was carbonated, which is exactly what we are looking for.

It will be bubbling until the last bit of fuel evaporates and leaves you with sticky solid bubbles lining the bottom of the dish. Full evaporation seems to happen quickly as you’re watching it, but to be sure we aren’t consuming any solvent let it sit out for a couple hours before moving it to a container. If you rush the stuff into a small vial or container while it’s still in the liquid state you might experience the volatile temperament of the butane extraction as it bubbles over and out onto the counter. Patience! There should be no odor left from the solvent.

If there is, then the mixture needs more time to evaporate. It is easier to scrape your BHO from the glass when it’s slightly warm so popping it into a warm oven for literally just a minute or two can get it to the more malleable honey texture. Using the aforementioned butane can, and the PVC tube packed with 30 grams of ground up trim, I was able to extract 1.2-1.4 grams of BHO. It may not sound like much but it is super potent. Honey oil can be very tricky to smoke - usually ending up with more on your hands than in the bowl because of the sticky honey texture.

They do, however, make special glass pieces and tools that allow you to get the most from it when smoking.  These special glass pieces, some wax paper and the freezer can be your best friends when working with BHO. A great way to utilize this is to heat it until melted and add it to any recipe. It’s one of the most potent ways to impart medicinal qualities to your edibles so it rarely affects the recipe as just an addition. Tincture- Tincture is one method that extracts a great number of the known cannabinoids by infusing the cannabis essence into a carrier liquid.

Traditionally done with liquor as the carrier, indoor gardeners have thrown traditional out the window and now infuse cannabis into a plethora of liquid carriers. Vegetable Glycerin (food grade) –Vegetable glycerin is a simple sugar alcohol (polyol) compound. It is a viscous, odorless, naturally sweet tasting, clear liquid, that is used in soap and craft making. It makes your tincture into something of a candy gel. You can then use candy flavorings to take your tincture to the next level. These you can find anywhere online.  LorAnn candy flavorings work great and they come in every flavor imaginable: strawberry, pineapple, cinnamon roll, mango, apple, etc. The list is endless.

Adding just a few drops into the final product as it’s poured into a bottle will make it into any flavored candy gel you want. For this process I like to use my crock pot. It keeps the temperature even for the duration of the cook, which can be tricky on a stove. Pour your glycerin in first, and then add your trim until 2/3 of the glycerin is absorbed. The ratios are not set in stone for this process so use your best judgment; leaving the mixture with some liquid will help maintain the temperature and prevent burning.

Using a candy thermometer is always a good idea because we don’t want to burn off any of the goodness we are trying to impart here. The ‘safe zone’ for cooking tinctures or any marijuana infused liquid for that matter is between 76 and 115°C (170-240° F).

Making and flavoring vegetable glycerin tincture. Use candy flavorings to flavor the mixture after straining but before bottling.

Alcohol – For an alcohol tincture it can be as simple to make as opening your favorite bottle of liquor and stuffing it with trim.  Let it sit for approximately 45-60 days.  Placing it near a window on sunny days to warm the bottle can speed up the process to as quickly as 30 days.  But if you don’t care to get drunk and stoned at the same time (from the same beverage), you can lightly burn off the majority of the alcohol.  Put the tincture mixture into a pan with the burner on low until you don’t smell a strong alcohol odor (approximately 1-2 hours). Tip: Using a flavored vodka or rum for this tincture will leave you with some of the bottle’s flavoring in the final product. Cannabutter - This is something I think we are all familiar with - infusing butter with weed for use in baking recipes, toast spread or anywhere you would normally use butter. This turns almost anything into an edible cannabis treat, and the possibilities are endless. Brownies, cookies, muffins, cakes, rice krispie treats (marshmallow treats can be done with any cereal). How to: You simply need to melt a pound of butter and add your trim; approximately ¾- to 1-ounce of trim or until the butter is almost all the way soaked up. Then let the mixture steep over low heat for at least an hour. Be careful with the temperature, making sure to stay in the ‘safe zone’ of 76-115°C (170-240° F). This is another place to use our good old crock pot on the lowest setting!

Candies & Chocolates-

Hard Candy – Hard candies and sucker recipes can be easily converted into edibles, mostly by replacing the ‘butter’ part of the recipe with canna-butter. Or adding melted honey oil to the butter ratio in the recipe. Same goes for chocolate candy recipes. Simply replace some or all of the butter with a canna-infused product. Gummies- Out of all the candy recipes this is the probably the most delicious and fun to make. They combine the fun texture of gummies infused with the potency of BHO (butane honey oil) to make my absolute favorite edible.

The honey oil can be made from the recipe above. You will also need to purchase some candy molds for this one. They come in all shapes, sizes and designs, and you can usually find them in craft stores. You will need: (4) - 9” x 10” plastic molds varying in shapes for this recipe. Approximately 4 grams of BHO (you can adjust this amount based on how potent you want to make them), (4) packets of unflavored gelatin, (1) box of JellO (any flavor you wish), a few drops of food coloring if you wish to impart color to your candies (optional), (5) drops of food grade vegetable glycerin (tip: use some tincture you made with glycerin for added potency), 57 grams (¼ cup) of sugar, 120ml (½ cup) of cold water, a can of non-stick spray, a spatula, a whisk and a plastic 100cc syringe for filling the molds. The glycerin in this recipe helps the BHO incorporate into your edibles so there won’t be any uneven distribution.

This is what your Canna-Butter should look like after it has been put intot the fridge for 30mins. You can even see some trichromes that settled at the bottom of the bag.

Prepare the molds by spraying non-stick spray on a piece of paper towel and greasing each individual mold evenly. Start the recipe in a small cold sauce pan and set the burner on med-low, add your dry ingredients (sugar, jell-o and gelatin packets) and mix together until evenly blended. Mix in the water and whisk until the mixture becomes a slurry, then add the food coloring and glycerin.

In another sauce pan set up a double boiler to quickly heat the honey oil to a liquid state and then add it to the slurry mixture. Whisk thoroughly for 1 minute or until all ingredients are evenly incorporated and heated through (we don’t want it to boil). Turn off the heat but leave the pan on the still warm burner, being careful not to leave the cooking cannabis temperature ‘safe zone’. Now we are ready to fill the molds and timing is crucial here as the mixture will begin to set just as soon as it begins to cool. Work quickly to suck the mixture up into the plastic syringe and then squeeze it out into the individual molds, stirring the slurry in between each filling of the syringe.

You can use any instrument you want to fill the molds but I have found the syringe works best for this (plus they are inexpensive and washable). Within a few minutes they will be cool and set; no need to refrigerate. The gummies should come out easily from the molds. Now go get growing, trim some buds and try some out!

Soft Secrets