How to Harvest and Dry Hemp for CBD Production
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Estoy de Acuerdo / I agree
There is a lot of interest in growing industrial hemp for CBD production, especially since hemp was legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill. Take a look at some of my previous articles regarding the potential risks and rewards in the CBD market as well as agronomic considerations for successful industrial hemp production.
Fresh cut hemp drying. Whole plants hung in this fashion during the drying phase may have humidity trapped in the center due to the ‘closed umbrella’ shape that an entire plant takes on. Breaking off and hanging individual branches is recommended. Photo by George Place.
CBD oil extraction process. Photo by George Place
Harvesting hemp is a critical stage for CBD production. The presence of molds and mildews will lower the value of hemp floral biomass so a timely harvest is essential. There are visual clues on the hemp bud that growers should monitor. When trichomes on the hemp bud shift from white to milky white it may be time to harvest.
Weekly testing of CBD content can inform the grower of when harvest should be initiated. This is in addition to the required THC test with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. While some of the tests for CBD, cannabinoids, terpenes, pesticide residue, mold, and heavy metals can cost as much as $300 the return on investment can be significant. For example, if 1000 lbs of biomass will be harvested on one acre the difference between harvesting when the crop is at 6% CBD versus when the crop is at 7%CBD is equivalent to 10 pounds of CBD oil. Current prices for CBD oil are $5 per gram. With 454 grams per pound, a 1% discrepancy in CBD content on one acre can be a $20,000 crop value difference. Growers need to test frequently to make the right decision regarding harvest timing.
Weather will also be a key factor in determining when to pull the harvest trigger. Harvest time for hemp coincides with the hurricane season. Growers will have an easier time drying and curing their hemp floral biomass if they can bring it in before the arrival of a storm. This is the time when adequate labor is crucial. The vast majority of hemp growers for the CBD market are relying on labor to cut the stalk (the machete is the current tool of choice) and load the biomass. This takes a lot of time and physical exertion. I have heard reports of growers that had an excellent crop of hemp floral biomass but suffered massive losses because they could not harvest it in time (their two-person harvest team was not adequate). The importance of measuring the labor requirement is a big reason why we recommend that first-year hemp growers for the CBD market start with 1 acre or less. Growers need to keep track of the amount of man and woman hours that it takes to bring in the harvest. Maintaining sharp tools during the harvest process will also save time and effort.
Drying and Curing Hemp
Hemp biomass made from chipping the entire hemp plant. This biomass is low quality and will receive a reduced price. Photo by George Place
Once hemp is harvested growers should immediately move the floral biomass to the drying facility. This could be a simple structure like a barn. The facility should be under roof, out of direct sunlight, and well ventilated. Growers need to set up several fans and have them blowing continuously. Significant ventilation is crucial! Ideal temperatures for drying and curing are 60 to 70 degrees F at 60% humidity. Some processors say that hemp growers should not dry their floral biomass at the same temperatures as flu-cured tobacco. Those temps are too high and dry the hemp too quickly. A slow drying with high airflow will cure the hemp, produce a higher quality end product (better cannabinoid and terpene spectrum), and fetch a higher price.
It is difficult to estimate the square footage of drying space needed per plant. Using a flu-cured tobacco with 800 square feet a grower was able to dry 1 acre worth of plants (approximately 1350 plants) in 3 days. Another grower was able to dry approximately 1.5 acres worth of hemp (plant number not stated) in a 2500 square foot barn.
Hanging entire plants upside down on wires in the drying barn is a common practice. Unfortunately, as those plants dry the branches droop down in the formation of a closing umbrella. That closing umbrella shape results in less airflow to the center of that entire hemp plant. Thus more mold and mildew will grow in that center portion. We advise growers to break off the individual branches from the hemp plant and hang branches on the drying wire, not whole plants. This step is more labor intensive but will help minimize mold and mildew.
Dry and shucked (stem removed) hemp flower biomass. Photo by George Place
Dry hemp biomass still on the stem, referred to as unshucked. Photo by George Place
How to Make CBD Oil at Home in Just 7 Easy Steps
If you want to know how to make CBD oil at home, you’ll be pleased to know it’s a lot easier than you think. Keep in mind. It won’t be the same quality and retention of plant compounds as professionally done by companies such as ourselves.
Sure, you can get it from an outside vendor, yet there’s something about homemade cannabis edibles that makes things fun. We all know there are different ways vendors do it. CO2 extraction is all the rage, but you’ll need a lot of money to buy the equipment and pay the technicians who operate it for you.
You may also have heard of alcohol extraction. While accessible, this isn’t the easiest way to do it. The method we’ll cover today means you probably won’t even have to don your mask and visit the grocery store. Everything you need is either in your cupboard, pantry or fridge. If you’re still missing something, you won’t drop more than a couple of bucks.
So if you:
- a) Own a stove
- b) Are on a budget
- c) Have no clue what you’re doing
…this is your chance to quickly and easily learn how to make CBD oil at home.
How to Make CBD Oil: The Full DIY Guide
Before we get to cooking, it’s important we understand some fundamentals about CBD and CBD oil. We could go on forever with the fine details, but all you need to know right now are the types of CBD products and some easy science.
Types of CBD
If you visit a CBD company’s website, you’ll likely come across the terms “full-spectrum,” “broad-spectrum,” or “CBD isolate.”
These labels refer to cannabinoid and terpene content – if any. Let’s take a quick look at what each product means.
Full-spectrum CBD oil (a.k.a. “whole plant extract”) contains all other cannabinoids and terpenes found in the source plant. Different plants contain different chemical profiles, but full-spectrum products will always contain some traces of THC.
However, THC won’t cause intoxication in such low doses, and even helps the overall potency of your CBD mixture, thanks to the “entourage effect.” This synergistic relationship between cannabinoids and terpenes effectively allows them to complement or improve the potency and effects of your CBD oil.
One complaint people have, though, is that full-spectrum maintains a strong cannabis or “hempy” taste.
Keep in mind, the homemade CBD oil method we cover doesn’t allow you to filter out any compounds, keeping your CBD rich in cannabinoids and terpenes – in other words, full-spectrum.
CBD isolate is a product containing up to 99% CBD, with all other compounds completely gone. It’s colorless, odorless, and flavorless. Some vendors who want their edibles or oils to be unaffected by any plant aroma often choose CBD isolate.
Although it’s almost pure CBD, isolate lacks any of the beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes that work to trigger the entourage effect. Consequently, the therapeutic benefits of CBD isolate are limited compared to other forms.
Broad-spectrum CBD is the middle ground between full-spectrum and CBD isolate. It retains the same compounds as full-spectrum CBD, but with all traces of THC removed.
This is handy if you’re worried about triggering a drug test (which is possible) or if you’re sensitive to THC.
What is Decarboxylation?
Ever wonder why you have to light cannabis on fire or heat it in a vaporizer? The simple answer is “decarboxylation.” It’s an essential step when making your own CBD oil.
Cannabinoids originally sit in an inert acidic form. For example, CBD is originally CBDA (cannabidiolic acid) prior to decarbing. When heated to a certain temperature, the CBDA undergoes a chemical change that turns it into CBD.
The process of decarboxylation of the acidic form of CBD (CBDa) to Cannabidiol (CBD) with heat.
How to Make CBD Oil at Home
Now that we better understand CBD oil, it’s time to dive in on making CBD oil. The method we’ll describe today is the same one people use with any cannabis oil. It involves the use of dried flower from either an industrial hemp variety or “marijuana.”
Today, plenty of vendors offer industrial hemp dry herb in a variety of different strains and strengths – all with less than 0.3% THC. You can also get high CBD, lower THC flower from a dispensary or medical provider, depending on the laws in your state.
The following recipe will net you about 2 cups (500 ml) of CBD oil. The potency depends on how much CBD is in the dry herb, and the type/amount of carrier oil chosen. We recommend coconut oil because it does an excellent job retaining CBD and other cannabinoids.
The amount of dry herb and oil you use isn’t written in stone. The less oil you use, the more cannabinoids get packed into it. The level of CBD in your dry herb also affects potency.
But enough prepping – let’s make some CBD oil.
Things You’ll Need on Making CBD Oil
- 1/2 oz (14 g) industrial hemp flower or another cannabis flower (if legal)
- Baking sheet
- Aluminum foil
- 1 cup (250 ml) coconut oil
- Oven and stove
- Oven thermometer (optional)
- Meat thermometer
- Pot or saucepan
- Paper towel or coffee filter
Calculating Dosage When Making CBD Oil
Got all your ingredients? Great! Now it’s time to figure out how strong your oil will be. This requires some simple math.
Whether it’s industrial hemp or high-CBD “marijuana,” CBD levels vary from strain to strain. So let’s pretend your flower contains 20.0% CBD:
- Take 20.0 and move the decimal to the right, which shows your herb has 200 mg/g of CBD.
- Multiply that 200 by the number of grams you’re using – in this case, 14.
- We see that the total CBD in your batch will equal 2800 mg prior to decarboxylation.
- Now, we need to know the CBD per milliliter (ml), so divide 2800 by the 250 ml of coconut oil we’re using, which comes to 11.2 mg/ml of CBD oil.
If you find this dose is too little or too much, increase/decrease the amount of dry herb as needed. You can also add more oil to dilute the mixture.
To know how much CBD potency the hemp flower has, make sure you have the third-party lab report to get that number.
Here is a visual of a lab report on a cannabis hemp flower rich in CBD. As you can see, this hemp flower has a potency of 16% CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), which CBDA would then be converted to CBD after decarboxylation. Every 1,000mg of oil will contain roughly 160mg of CBD.
7 Steps on How to Make CBD Oil
Step 1: Preheat the Oven
Preheat your oven to 225 o F. This is a solid middle-ground. But remember that oven temperature isn’t likely to reflect the exact number shown on your stove.
It’s handy to have a simple oven thermometer if you want to keep a more precise tab on temperature. Undercooking won’t properly activate the cannabinoids while overcooking evaporates them away.
Step 2: Grind the Flower
Using your grinder , coarsely grind your cannabis flower . A simple metal hand grinder is a great choice, as these tend to give you the consistency you need.
Don’t over-grind it. If the pieces are too small, you’ll burn them before you even start making your own CBD oil.
Step 3: Prepare the Ground Cannabis
Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil . Evenly lay out the ground cannabis flower on your baking sheet. It’s important to keep it in an even, single layer. Otherwise, the flower won’t cook evenly.
Finally, cover the sheet with aluminum foil .
Step 4: Decarboxylate the Hemp Flower
If you have an oven thermometer inside the appliance, check to make sure you have the right temperature. If the difference is more than 20 o F in either direction, adjust the heat as needed.
Bake for 30 minutes, then remove and let the hemp cool for 45 minutes. Once cool, lift the layer of aluminum foil. If everything went well, the herb will have golden brown, toasted color.
Below is an image of grinded cannabis flower on the left prior to decarboxylation, and decarbed flower on the right.
The picture was taken from Madison Cole from Herbal Dispatch.
Step 5: Mix CBD with Coconut Oil to Make Tincture
Turn your pot or saucepan to low heat, and add the coconut oil. DO NOT allow it to simmer or sizzle.
Use the meat thermometer to check the oil temperature. It should hover at around 150 o F. If the mixture exceeds 200 0 F, you could cause some cannabinoids to evaporate during cooking.
You can use an overhead stirrer like this to set it on automatic, and it will mix the CBD extract with coconut oil to make CBD oil tinctures.
Step 6: Complete the Oil Infusion to make CBD Oil Tinctures
Cook the mixture for 30 minutes to 4 hours. The longer you cook, the more cannabinoids get infused into the oil, and the stronger your final product will be.
Step 7: Strain
Place a coffee filter or paper towel above a cup, small pot, or another container. Carefully and slowly pour the oil onto the filter or paper towel to separate and discard the plant matter.
Pro tip: Use two or three paper towels layered together, as a single one could rip while you pour the oil.
CBD Oil Uses
Congratulations on your first batch! Now that you can make your own CBD oil, it’s time to put it to good use. Although oil is typically associated with straight oral ingestion, there are other things you can do with it.
For instance, you can use it in edible recipes to make an endless range of tasty CBD-rich treats, or mix it with moisturizer to create a soothing topical. Some people add it to smoothies or use it as a salad dressing.
Ultimately, there’s almost no limit to what you can do with CBD oil.
How to Make CBD Oil: Final Thoughts and Tips
While making CBD oil, it’s important to consider safety. There are also some tips we want to address that’ll make your CBD cooking experience much better.
Safety when Making CBD Oil
Fortunately, you won’t be working with explosive substances like butane, nor will you need to worry about leaving solvent traces behind (alcohol method). Aside from “don’t burn yourself,” there’s really nothing else to worry about during the cooking process.
CBD itself, however, is another story. The cannabinoid is known to interact with a broad range of medications . Talk to your doctor before adding CBD to your health routine.