How to Make a Cannabis Tincture: Easy Cold Alcohol Extraction
Come learn how to make your own homemade cannabis tincture using a simple cold alcohol (ethanol) extraction method with our step-by-step guide. I’ve included plenty of photos to make the process as clear and easy to follow as possible. There is also a printable summary at the end – though I don’t think you’ll want to miss the extra tips in the body of the post.
Tinctures are a convenient, discreet, and easy way to enjoy your plant medicine. It’s kinder to your lungs than smoking or vaporizing, and offers more controlled and consistent dosing compared to smoking or homemade edibles. (I love that I can take just a few drops if needed.) You can use this homemade cannabis tincture recipe with any of your favorite cannabis strains, with CBD hemp only, or like we do – with homegrown herb!
What is a cannabis tincture?
A cannabis tincture is a concentrated alcohol-based cannabis extract, often referred to as “Green Dragon” among the cannabis community. High percentage alcohol is used as a solvent to extract the medicinal compounds (cannabinoids and terpenes) from the plant flower or “buds”. Though tinctures are essentially cannabis-infused alcohol, you do not get drunk since only a tiny amount is consumed.
Cannabis tinctures are highly therapeutic. Studies show that cannabis can be used to soothe a wide variety of physical and mental ailments, including sleep disorders, stress, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, muscle tension, joint pain, migraine headaches, inflammation, seizures, cancer, chronic pain and more. Cannabis tinctures can contain THC only (such as THC isolate), a blend of THC and CBD, or CBD alone.
When it comes to CBD, I always use my favorite certified organic full-spectrum CBD oil from NuVita. It’s federally-legal and is the most effective, potent and pure CBD oil I’ve ever tried. It does wonders for my anxiety, TMJ, and sleep issues! (Use code “deannacat” or this link to save 10% off) But if we want something with THC, we make our own tinctures using homegrown cannabis. It’s fun, rewarding, and a great way to save money!
What type of alcohol to make homemade cannabis tincture?
It is best to use either 200-proof food grade ethanol (aka ethyl alcohol) or 190-proof Everclear alcohol for this cannabis tincture recipe. Both are strong natural solvents that will effectively strip and separate the desired cannabinoids from the plant material. We use USDA organic ethanol from Culinary Solvent. It is pure food-grade grain alcohol, and doesn’t contain any additives or water.
**Use code “deannacat” to save 10% off pints, quarts, and gallons of regular and organic ethanol from Culinary Solvent here!**
Lower-proof alcohol (e.g. 80 proof vodka) is a weaker solvent and also has a higher water content than ethanol, which can interfere with the extraction and tincture-making process. You technically can make homemade cannabis tincture with vodka or other lower proof liquor, but it requires additional steps that we aren’t going to cover in this article.
Do not use rubbing alcohol.
What type of cannabis should I use?
It’s important to use decarbed cannabis in this homemade cannabis tincture recipe. If you’re not familiar with decarboxylation, it’s essentially the process of heating cannabis to “activate” it (explained more below). When exposed to heat, raw forms of THCA, CBDA, and other cannabinoids are converted to their active forms of THC and CBD – making it psychoactive as well as more therapeutic. (It’s the same reaction that occurs when you heat cannabis via smoking or vaporizing, and why eating raw bud doesn’t get you high).
Aside from that, use whatever cannabis you prefer or have on hand! Choose a strain (or combination of a couple) with traits you personally desire from your homemade cannabis tincture. We use what we grow: well-rounded sativa/indica hybrids that also offer a good amount of CBD. Learn how to grow your own organic cannabis at home here, and shop for seeds here.
For the most therapeutic tincture, I recommend using strains with a well-balanced THC to CBD ratio. If you’re looking for daytime relief with less mental effects, choose a CBD-dominant strain. Yes, you can totally use this cannabis tincture recipe with CBD hemp alone!
Why freeze alcohol and cannabis for extraction?
This homemade cannabis tincture recipe uses a cold ethanol extraction method, also referred to as quick wash ethanol extraction or “QWET”. Freezing the cannabis makes the trichomes detach from the plant material more efficiently. When mixed with cold ethanol, the desirable cannabinoids and terpenes readily extract and combine with the alcohol – resulting in a stronger, better tincture.
Furthermore, keeping the mixture at a very low temperature helps reduce the amount of undesirable compounds in your tincture, such as lipids and chlorophyll. It’s a chemistry thing, but basically the freezing temperature influences the polarity of the lipids and chlorophyll so they’re more likely to stay bound to the plant material (and therefore get filtered out) rather than combining with the ethanol.
When done right, the resulting filtered tincture wash will be clear and golden in color rather than cloudy or green.
Supplies Needed to Make a Homemade Cannabis Tincture
- 8 grams of decarbed cannabis
- 6 ounces of 200-proof food grade ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or 190 proof Everclear
- Freezer-safe glass containers, such as wide-mouth pint mason jars or half-pint jars with lids.
- Small unbleached coffee filters, like these ones
- Digital Scale
- Dropper bottles to store your finished tincture. We like these 2-ounce amber bottles; the droppers have mL markers on them for accurate dosing.
Yields: 2 ounces of homemade cannabis tincture
Please note that this is a two-day process, though ingredients are just sitting in the freezer for 97% of that time.
Step 1: Decarb your cannabis
To decarb cannabis, start by tearing up the buds into fairly small pieces. Then spread it out evenly on a baking sheet. For THC-dominant strains, heat the cannabis in the oven at 250°F for 25 to 30 minutes. For high-CBD strains, bake it for 40 to 50 minutes at the same temperature. (It takes slightly longer for CBDA to convert to CBD than THCA to THC does.) If you’re using a well-balanced THC:CBD strain, meet in the middle at 30 to 35 minutes. See this article for a more in-depth look at decarbing cannabis.
Don’t want to stink up the house? Consider using an Ardent Nova device for an easy, nearly odor-free decarboxylation experience. We just got one recently and love it!
Note that your cannabis will decrease in weight slightly during the decarb process (as it gets more dry). So, start with a few extra grams so you’ll end up with the 8 grams needed for this cannabis tincture recipe. Or, bake plenty so you have enough leftover to make homemade cannabis oil or topical salve!
Step 2: Freeze Cannabis and Alcohol (separately)
Use a scale to weigh out 8 grams of decarbed cannabis. Add the cannabis to a freezer-safe glass container with a lid. We like to use a wide-mouth pint glass jar. (Even though it seems more than large enough, the extra room in the jar makes it easier to shake compared to a half-pint jar.) Next add 6 ounces of ethanol to a separate freezer-safe container. Do not mix the alcohol and cannabis yet. Put both containers in the freezer for at least 24 hours.
Step 3: Combine Cannabis and Alcohol (First Wash)
After the initial 24 hours (or longer) is up, remove the cannabis and alcohol from the freezer. Pour ONLY HALF of the cold alcohol (3 ounces) into the container of frozen cannabis. Add a lid and shake vigorously for 5 minutes. Wrap the jar in a kitchen towel if it’s too cold to comfortably hold.
This process extracts the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material, and is considered the “first wash”. We’ll do two rounds total.
Now return the cannabis-alcohol mixture as well as the separate remaining 3 ounces of plain alcohol to the freezer for an additional 2 hours.
Step 4: Shake and Strain
Once the two hours are up, it’s time for another shake – and then we strain! Remove the jar of mixed cannabis and alcohol from the freezer, and shake it again for an additional 5 minutes. (We don’t need the jar of plain alcohol at this time.)
Next we’re going to strain the tincture through two mediums: cheesecloth first to filter the larger plant material, and then a finer coffee filter to further remove unwanted lipids and other residue.
First set up the coffee filter straining station. We find it easiest to set a small coffee filter in the top of a separate clean pint glass jar, fold it over the rim of the jar, and then screw on a lid ring to hold it in place. The cannabis tincture takes a while to seep through the filter, so holding it by hand isn’t fun.
Next, put cheesecloth over the jar that contains the cannabis-alcohol mixture (we use the ring trick again) and slowly pour it through the cheesecloth and into the coffee filter jar. See the photos below.
Now return the jar of remaining cannabis to the freezer while the first wash liquid is straining through the coffee filter (about 10 minutes).
Step 5: Second Wash & Strain
Now it’s time for the second and final wash. This step helps extract any final remaining cannabinoids from the plant material into your homemade cannabis tincture.
Grab the jar of cannabis that was in the freezer while the first wash strained (for about 10 minutes) and then repeat the washing/straining process from steps 3 and 4. Add the remaining 3 ounces of cold plain alcohol to the cannabis jar, add a lid, shake vigorously for 5 minutes, and strain through the cheesecloth and coffee filter once again – pouring it into the same filter and jar as the first wash.
Step 6: Reduce
After all the liquid has strained through the coffee filter into the jar, it’s time to reduce it by about half the volume. Excess alcohol will easily evaporate off, and the result is a more concentrated and effective homemade cannabis texture.
Do this by simply allowing the jar to sit out at room temperature with the lid off for several hours. We place the jar in front of a fan to help expedite the process. Note the volume of liquid in the container when you start (use a rubber band around the jar, or a glass marking pen). Keep an eye on it! Once it reduces by half, add a lid to stop further evaporation – or go ahead and bottle your final homemade cannabis tincture.
Step 7: Bottle and Store
Once it’s reduced by half, transfer the strained cannabis extract to a final storage bottle – such as these amber glass dropper bottles. Amber bottles are ideal since they reduce light exposure, which degrades cannabinoids. Store the bottle in the refrigerator for the best long-lasting quality. Congratulations, you just made a homemade cannabis tincture! Keep reading for usage and dosing information.
How to Use or Take a Cannabis Tincture
You can consume your cannabis tincture either under your tongue (sublingually) or mixed with a beverage (oral ingestion). Sublingual consumption will result in more immediate effects, while oral ingestion will have a slower onset but longer-lasting results. See the graphic below.
However, proceed with some caution! 200 proof ethanol is very strong, and I find it causes a burning sensation when applied straight under my tongue. To avoid that, I put a very small amount of water in my mouth first, squirt in the tincture, hold the diluted mixture in my mouth for a few minutes, and then swallow. Therefore my intake is mostly sublingual, but with a little oral ingestion too.
Strength and Dosing for Homemade Cannabis Tincture
When first trying your tincture, I suggest to start low and go slow. Without lab testing, it’s difficult to say exactly how potent a homemade cannabis tincture is. There are simply too many factors: the initial cannabinoid concentration and strain you used, how long and hot you decarbed it, the efficacy of your ethanol extraction process, and how much it was reduced at the end.
Start with a few drops, and then gradually increase the amount to find your “sweet spot” and desired results. (But wait a couple hours to see how you feel before taking more.) With this recipe, a quarter dropper is a fairly conservative starting point. I personally like to take .25 mL or a quarter dropper (though I’ve taken more just fine) while Aaron prefers about .5 mL or half a dropper. That’s just enough to take the edge off, relax our muscles, and help us sleep better without being too stony.
That was fairly simple, right?
Well folks, I hope this tutorial was easy to follow – and will enable you to successfully make your own cannabis tinctures at home now. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below. If you found this information useful, please consider leaving a rating/review and pinning or sharing this post. We greatly appreciate you tuning in today. Now go have fun making your own medicinal Green Dragon!
Don’t miss these related posts:
- How to Grow Organic Cannabis at Home: Seeds, Soil, Containers, and Care
- Homemade Cannabis Oil Recipe
- Homemade Cannabis Salve Recipe
- How to Feed Cannabis, Organically: Top-Dressings, Teas & More
- Organic Cannabis Pest Control: How to Keep the Bugs Off Your Nugs
- How to Harvest, Dry, Trim, Cure and Store Cannabis
Homemade Cannabis Tincture Recipe
- 2 freezer-safe glass containers, such as wide-mouth pint mason jars or half-pint jars
- 1 small unbleached coffee filter
- digital scale
- Baking sheet
- bottle for final storage, such as 2-ounce amber dropper bottles
- 8 grams decarbed cannabis
- 6 ounces 200-proof food grade eylth alcohol (ethanol) or 190-proof Everclear alcohol
- Decarb your raw cannabis. Tear it up into fairly small pieces and spread on a baking sheet. For THC-dominant strains, heat the cannabis in the oven at 250°F for 25 to 30 minutes. For high-CBD strains, bake for 40 to 50 minutes and 30 to 35 minutes for a well-balanced THC:CBD strain. (I suggest starting with a few more than 8 grams since it will get lighter as it dries.)
- Add 8 grams of decarbed cannabis to a freezer-safe glass container with a lid, and 6 ounces of ethanol to a separate freezer-safe container. Put both containers in the freezer for at least 24 hours.
- First Wash: After the initial 24 hours (or longer), remove the cannabis and alcohol from the freezer. Pour only HALF of the cold alcohol (3 ounces) into the container of frozen cannabis. Add a lid and shake vigorously for 5 minutes. Now return the cannabis-alcohol mixture as well as the separate remaining 3 ounces of plain alcohol to the freezer for an additional 2 hours.
- After two hours, remove the jar of mixed cannabis and alcohol from the freezer and shake it again for an additional 5 minutes. Then strain the mixture twice: first through a cheesecloth and then through a coffee filter into a separate clean container (as shown in this article). Return the jar of remaining cannabis to the freezer while the liquid is straining through the coffee filter (about 10 minutes).
- Second Wash: Grab the jar of cannabis that was in the freezer while the first wash strained (for about 10 minutes) and then repeat the washing/straining process from steps 3 and 4. Add the remaining 3 ounces of cold plain alcohol to the cannabis jar, add a lid, shake vigorously for 5 minutes, and strain through the cheesecloth and coffee filter once again – pouring it into the same filter and jar as the first wash.
- Reduce the liquid by half via evaporation. Simply set the jar out at room temperature with the lid off for several hours, or place in front of a fan to expedite the process. Note the volume of liquid in the container when you start. Once it reduces by half, add a lid to stop further evaporation – and/or transfer your finished tincture into it's final storage bottle.
- Store your homemade cannabis tincture in an opaque glass bottle in the refrigerator. We recommend 2-ounce amber dropper bottles.
- Consume the tincture either under your tongue (sublingually) or mixed with a beverage (oral ingestion). Sublingual consumption will result in more immediate effects, while oral ingestion will have a slower onset but longer-lasting effects. **Please see notes of caution and additional information on usage/dosing below.
- **Ethanol alcohol is very strong and may cause a burning sensation when applied straight under the tongue. To avoid that, I put a very small amount of water in my mouth first, squirt in the tincture, hold the diluted mixture in my mouth for a few minutes, and then swallow. Therefore my intake is mostly sublingual, but with a little oral ingestion too.
- Re: Dosage, start low and go slow. Start with a few drops, and then gradually increase the amount to find your “sweet spot” and desired results. (But wait a couple hours to see how you feel before taking more.) With this recipe, a quarter dropper is a fairly conservative starting point.
Love the concept, just ordered the 200 proof food grade ethenol. But I’ll be using this recipe on rosin pucks (what’s left after pressing flower for rosin) – the material will already be decarbed, but any remaining trichomes will be in a rough state (specifically regarding freezing the flower to help detach trichomes.) Would you still recommend this recipe, or should I look to another method for harvesting the remaining THC?
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Ben, I would absolutely give the tincture a try with your left over rosin pucks. I am not sure how much THC or cannabinoids would be left in the pucks after pressing so the amount you use in the tincture and the dosing will be a trial basis so use caution until you know how strong the final product is as you do not want to over do it. You can still follow the recipe as described, just using your spent rosin pucks in place of the flower, you may want to break up the pucks slightly to increase the surface area although once the material is left in the freezer along with the alcohol, it breaks down fairly well once mixed together. Maybe start off doubling the amount of cannabis we recommend in the recipe and see how potent it is or not after evaporating the tincture down to 2 ounces. If it isn’t potent enough at that point, you could let it reduce further, evaporating down to 1 ounce would then double the potency you had with 2 ounces. If it fully evaporates you will be left with full-spectrum cannabis oil, hope that helps and good luck!
I followed the recipe to a T I did not have a problem until I got to the reduced phase. For some reason for the life of me I do not understand it just simply will not reduce. I even had to leave it out overnight and it has not reduced. Do you have any recommendations? should I just bottle it?
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Michael, did you set your jar in front of a fan to allow for airflow to blow over the top of the tincture as this greatly increases the rate of evaporation. Assuming you used high proof alcohol and set the jar in front of a fan and it still hasn’t reduced, you can create a water bath by filling an electric crock pot or slow cooker with water, placing the jar inside the bath and heat the water to increase evaporation. The boiling temperature of high proof alcohol is close to 178 degrees F so the water doesn’t have to come to a boil (212 degrees F) for it to reduce, hope that helps and good luck!
Can you multiply the recipe for larger batches. I want to make a large batch to evaporate in to infused sugar
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Alex, yes you can make larger batches and increase the recipe. It may be useful to strain (through coffee filters) into two jars to expedite your process in making the tincture as the filtering process can take the most time. Hope that helps and good luck!
Hello.When you decarb, how fine is your flower? Is it ground or just crumbled? Thank you!
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Tom, we would typically just break it down into a crumble when we would use our oven, we now have an Ardent FX decarboxylator that is very easy to use and we can place whole buds inside and don’t have to bother with breaking everything down, plus it cuts down on the smell inside the house dramatically.
Followed the instructions pretty precisely. I got back almost 5 ounces of infused alcohol. However, the “reduction” part did not go as suggested in the instructions, in that the finished product definitely did not reduce by a factor of two within a few hours sitting in an open container at room temperature; in fact, after close to 48 hours less than one ounce out of almost five has evaporated. Not sure whatto make of this. (N.b. the alcohol was 190 proof…)
I have not yetsampled the product.
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Joe, did you set the jar directly in front of a fan? Air flow moving across the top of the container will help it reduce at a much quicker rate than just letting it sit in an open container at room temperature. If you have an electric crockpot, you can make a water bath for the jar of tincture, once the water heats up, it will evaporate the alcohol at a quicker rate. Hope that helps and good luck!
No, I don’t happen to have an approrpriate fan, but I have placed it in a hot water bath as per your suggestion. It should work. Thanks.
Thank for posting, my first run is in the freezer. A few questions if you don’t mind – What do you find the shelf life is in the refrigerator for these tinctures? Would refreezing allow for longer storage? Do you find the typical final volume is still 3oz after reducing by half?
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Aaron, we typically get the final tincture volume down to 2 ounces after evaporation as it fits nicely inside a 2 ounce dropper bottle, we also expect a loss of an ounce or two during the straining/filtering steps so you don’t end up with the 6 ounces you first started with anyway. As far as the storage life of the tincture, I would safely say at least a couple of years if stored in the fridge, you could store it in the freezer if you like but if it is something you are going to consume within a year or two, keeping it in the freezer isn’t necessary. Hope that helps and good luck on your tincture!
So I’ve gone through every step, and am on the evaporation process. How long does it usually take you to reduce by half? It’s been sitting out for about 17 hours and has not gone down at all.
Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)
Hi Wilder, the evaporation time can vary depending on your temperature and humidity, for us, we always get it reduced by half within 3-5 hours and it doesn’t seem to matter what time of year we make the tincture. What proof alcohol are you using for the tincture and is the jar sitting directly in front of a fan? If you used anything less than 190 proof it will definitely take a longer time to evaporate as the alcohol will contain water which doesn’t evaporate nearly as well as high proof alcohol. Let us know the specifics and we can better help you complete your tincture process.