If you visit the Elevated Edibles food science lab, there’s a lot to take in. We have innumerable gadgets and special machines for developing the best recipes possible; for any kind of edible you can imagine.
But first: How about a nice cold glass of sparkling water on tap?
And this is sparkling water like you’ve never tasted it…highly carbonated, crystal clear, and very refreshing on the palate.
Well that’s just one of the unique features that makes our food science lab stand out from most cannabis food and beverage consultants.
We’re here to serve.
But did we install a multi-thousand dollar system just to make the best, cleanest, perfect pH club soda for visitors?
No, of course not. It also serves a much deeper purpose…
Why do we have a state-of-the-art water purification system for cannabis beverage R&D?
The main reason we set up this complex water station is to help with our initial prototyping stages of beverage formulation.
This is where we test flavor combinations, mouthfeel, bitterness, etc, when developing a cannabis beverage concept.
And we want to start with water that’s totally pure. Cleared of any naturally occurring compounds (e.g., minerals) or added compounds (e.g., chloramine) besides pure H2O that might affect how it tastes and how it interacts with other ingredients.
So here’s what happens to our water before it flows out of the tap:
First we pass the very hard municipal water through a water softener. This gets rid of calcium, iron, and other minerals that might impact pH, flavor, etc.
You may not think of minerals as impacting flavor—but consider the experience of drinking distilled water compared to a bottle of mineral water. Not only does it taste very different, but it feels different and quenches thirst differently too.
Trust the experts: we did a blind tasting of several market mineral waters, reverse-osmosis waters, and distilled water—and came to an important conclusion:
If you’re going to make a product that’s mostly water, then the mineral profile is a variable you definitely want full control over in the formulation and development process.
Then the soft water passes through an activated charcoal filter to remove any chlorine/chloramine, which can damage reverse osmosis membranes (where the water flows next).
Reverse osmosis (RO)
This process basically forces water through a specialized membrane that filters out even more than the activated charcoal does (but it’s also more delicate). Running the two methods in sequence results in water approaching ~95% the purity of distilled water—but without all the hassle and energy-inefficiency of heat-based distillation.
If we need even higher purity thresholds, we pass the RO water through a deionizing resin (DI) cartridge to remove the very last stragglers from the previous processes (e.g., silicas, nitrates, phosphates) attaining 99.9%+ pure water.
Now we have the equivalent of unlimited distilled water on-demand, cutting out plastic containers and deliveries and wasted energy and materials.
Then once we’ve put in all that hard work to create pure water, we can start adding things back in to build the foundations we want for our R&D projects.
In this step we add pressurized CO2, which dissolves in the water. This is called “forced” carbonation, as opposed to byproduct carbonation (like in fermentation).
It’s set to extra high carbonation pressures; both because we like the taste and mouthfeel of it that way—but also because it will result in a prototype that’s actually characteristic of your final product, compared to starting with regular carbonated water which would turn out something kind of flat and lifeless.
This part of our beverage station is optional, and there are plenty of instances where we wouldn’t add carbonation.
For example, we recently worked on a line of cannabis “mocktails” which were designed to mimic the classics—but instead of alcohol, deliver a warm uplifting dose of THC.
For something like a Magic Manhattan, we’d bypass the forced carbonator to get that smooth, silky classic-cocktail mouthfeel.
So, like everything else we offer, it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
Before it hits the tap, our clear cool water runs through multiple circuits of a chilling plate to get it quickly and quite literally as cold as ice and ready to serve.
This way we can develop prototypes that match the conditions of consumption. Because even if your cannabis beverage is shelf-stable, chances are American consumers will still want to enjoy it cold. It’s just so much more refreshing that way.
This step means that we’re getting into the shoes of your consumer—from the earliest stages of beverage formulation. Which ultimately results in a tastier, more enjoyable product for your customers.
What our formulation beverage station means for you
Why should you care about any of this?
Well, if we didn’t take all these steps, and just used regular filtered water for prototyping, there would be slight differences in the final recipe, depending on the water used for production. This would undermine consistency, which is the key to successful production and scaling.
But more important than that, it’s because cannabis beverages can be finicky—especially when you can’t trust that dispensaries will have fridge space available—so precision is key when it comes to emulsifying cannabis extracts and other natural flavor ingredients.
We’ve all heard horror stories about cannabis beverages that separate into a floating fat-soluble layer and sediment in the bottom of the bottle. It’s unpleasant in appearance and flavor, and underscores the notion that cannabis beverages aren’t worth the squeeze.
But they can be…trust us.
All this precision helps us formulate a recipe that guarantees your emulsions don’t break or other ugly outcomes—by testing and controlling things like pH, brix, turbidity (cloudiness), and viscosity/mouthfeel, as well as assuring that ingredient profiles allow for shelf-life expectations and labeling targets.
Not a lot of beverage R&D labs can offer that kind of comprehensive prototyping and precision beverage formulation. But if you want to develop a scalable cannabis beverage that’s ready for market and comparable to any of the top brands, it’s a critical investment that will save time and money later down the line.
Contact us to see how we can help your cannabis beverage ideas succeed.