High tech: the science behind Floating Islands’ cannabis infused beverages
Everybody seems to know something about cannabis. How it’s made, how much it costs, which strain is the best for anxiety or sleeplessness. The topics are endless, and there’s plenty of knowledge to share.
But while cannabis education continues to spread, one area has managed to maintain an element of mystery: cannabis beverages.
How are cannabis drinks made? Do they really work? What’s the difference between a drink and an edible?
Friends, if you’re bursting with curiosity, you’ve come to the right place. Here at the high-tech lab we call Floating Islands Research Group (FIRG), we’re obsessed with the science of concocting delicious drinks with cannabis. Sit back, relax, and we’ll let you in on a few secrets of how it all happens.
The challenge of making cannabis drinks (and how FIRG came to be)
The process of making a cannabis infused beverage is complex. To start, you need special technology to achieve the best possible flavor, consistency, and effects. The key here is emulsion, which is the process of breaking down cannabis oil into tiny molecules to increase its bioavailability — in other words, its ability to be absorbed by your body.
When you consume an edible like a chocolate bar, you want to know the same amount of cannabis is in every piece, right? This helps you familiarize yourself with the effect produced by a single dose (one piece of the chocolate bar) and ensures you have a similar experience each time you eat that amount. When it comes to cannabis smoothies, it’s much more difficult to achieve consistent, repeatable dosage.
Cannabis emulsions are not created equal. They often degrade quickly, or stick to other ingredients and settle at the bottom of the tank. With this in mind, we gathered a team of experts to truly elevate our product line. After reaching out to some super smart scientists to guide us through our quest for the perfect cannabis smoothie, we headed to the FIRG laboratory and dove straight into work.
Behind the scenes of our canna-beverage production facility
Have you ever toured a brewery? When you step inside our production facility, you’ll see what looks like a brewery without the brewhouse. We have to admit, it’s pretty cool!
Think back to the breweries you’ve seen and the equipment you saw there, and you’ll have a basic idea of our production infrastructure. You’ll find pumps and hoses, as well as glycol jacketed tanks for blending, storing, and carbonating our cannabis drinks prior to packaging.
There’ll be a few friendly faces there too. Most days, you’ll find our founder, Gordon Whelpley, and one or two other team members to help package our product.
Intro to emulsification
OK, let’s get down to details. You’ve probably been told that oil and water don’t mix, like those two friends who just don’t get along. So, what do you do if you need to blend the two? The answer comes back to emulsification.
Here’s one way to break it down, so to speak. See what we did there? Imagine you’re making a simple vinaigrette of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dijon mustard. The dijon has a naturally viscous network of polysaccharides (or carbohydrates), which help lower the surface tension between the oil and vinegar. Shake it up, and the ingredients blend to create a delicious salad dressing. Set it back on the table, and once again, you’ll see the ingredients separate as they settle.
For a stable emulsion, the latter (separation) is the part we want to avoid. So, in combination with our emulsifiers, we use mechanical force in the form of a sonicator (an industrial-strength vibrator) to shake the oil at turbo speed and keep it suspended in tiny, nano-sized molecules.
Why emulsification works
A traditional, lipid-extracted edible like a chocolate bar or cookie takes time to digest. It’s only after the lipids are broken down that the cannabis from the edible can cross into your bloodstream and take effect. If you’ve ever forgotten you took a gummy, then felt it hit you like a ton of bricks two hours later, well, you get the gist!
Emulsion technology removes the “waiting game” from our cannabis infused drinks. For most users, it will take about 10-30 minutes to notice effects (versus roughly 1-2 hours for most edibles). The benefit: since you don’t have to wait for your body to metabolize cannabis, you have a unique ability to adjust your intake in real time.
However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s body is different. The way you experience cannabis is completely unique to your endocannabinoid system. There are also factors like diet, exercise, and mood. We recommend taking your time, especially if it’s your first edible cannabis experience!
How we make a cannabis smoothie
Now that you know how to emulsify cannabis oil, this next part is easy. To make our cannabis smoothies, we use a handful of high quality ingredients*:
- 100% real fruit juice and/or fruit puree
- Filtered water
- Real Extracts, like vanilla, that come from actual ingredients and not from a lab.
- Locally grown, nano-emulsified THC and CBD extract
- Hemp and cannabis-derived terpenes
The fruit juice, puree, filtered water, and active cannabinoids are blended in a tank, carbonated, and packaged. Then they’re sent out for testing, and finally, shipped off to your local dispensary.
*Many companies use ingredients labeled as “natural,” but still contain additives. At Floating Islands, we only use products we can verify as deriving from real, whole ingredients. You can be sure you’re making a healthy choice!
The sweet taste of science
They say ignorance is bliss. But when it comes to your canna-beverages, we disagree. We’re firm believers in gaining insight into how your products are made. Understanding the science behind your drink makes it a bit less mysterious, allowing you to exhale after you take a sip. Plus, doesn’t your newfound knowledge make our cannabis smoothies more delicious?