You’ve probably already considered turning to ChatGPT to find new cannabis edibles recipes.
If you’ve played around with it and you have any experience with making gummies or other edibles, you may have noticed some chinks in the armor.
The first and last thing to remember about this program is that it is not sentient. It uses machine learning to sort through everything it can access on the internet and pull an answer that its training says best fits your question.
First I asked ChatGPT 3.5 how to make the best vegan cannabis gummy.
It’s a simple, basic question that anyone searching for a cannabis gummy recipe might ask.
I wanted a recipe that doesn’t use any animal-derived ingredient (i.e., no gelatin). I was expecting it would probably suggest something fruit-flavored because that’s so common in the gummy world.
As far as plant-derived gelling agents, I know from experience that the three most common are pectin, agar, and starch. For homemade gummies, starch is rarely the choice.
I also thought if ChatGPT really understood “best” it would offer something with pectin.
This is what it came up with:
Here’s a recipe for making vegan cannabis gummies:
- 1/2 cup of fruit juice (preferably low pH like lemon juice or orange juice)
- 1/4 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon of agar agar powder (a vegan alternative to gelatin)
- 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of cannabis tincture (dose as per your preference)
- Silicone gummy molds
- Dropper or syringe
- In a saucepan, mix together the fruit juice, water, agar agar powder, citric acid, and salt.
- Whisk the mixture together over low heat until the agar agar powder dissolves completely.
- Add the cannabis tincture to the mixture and whisk it together.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
- Using a dropper or syringe, fill the silicone gummy molds with the mixture.
- Place the molds in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes to let the gummies set.
- Once the gummies have set, remove them from the molds and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
That’s it! This recipe should yield about 20-30 gummies, depending on the size of your molds. Make sure to label your gummies and keep them out of reach of children or pets.
Enjoy your vegan cannabis gummies responsibly!
Don’t use this ChatGPT cannabis gummy recipe!
TLDR: It will turn out inedibly bitter and sour, and may not even gel. Plus what the hell’s your dosage?
Let me break down what went wrong, and then I’ll ask it a more specific question.
Generally speaking, it’s better to measure by mass/weight than by volume. Ingredients tend to vary in density from producer to producer. For example ¼ tsp. salt will have a different mass of salt depending on the grain/flake shape and size. Which can change the flavor drastically, especially when you scale up for market (which you can’t really do volumetrically; more about scaling gummies here).
It’s not surprising that ChatGPT pulled a gummy recipe with volume-based measurement. It’s just drawing from what’s available on the internet—which leans toward American preferences. But if you’re making cannabis gummies commercially, definitely measure your recipe by weight.
But okay, for the purposes of this demonstration we’ll stick with the more common volumetric recipes.
It makes sense to see fruit as the basis of this recipe. Fruit juices and purees are common cannabis gummy ingredients.
But I am surprised to see it suggest a low pH (high acid) juice like lemon, especially since citric acid (which makes lemon sour) is also included.
People generally prefer their fruit-flavored gummies to be sweet—and there is no sugar in this recipe, especially if you go with lemon juice. But even orange, pineapple, or some other juice would skew toward the sour side…and without adding sugar to balance it, I suspect these gummies would taste quite harsh.
Okay but let’s say you’re allergic to sugar, or you just like things super sour—there’s still the fact that cannabis extractions are inherently bitter.
As any chef or food scientist knows, bitterness is enhanced by acid and mitigated by sweetness. So a recipe this sour would also be unpalatably bitter, without adding ingredients to manage bitterness.
And if we’re talking about flavor, we can’t just talk about sour, bitter, and sweet.
We also have to consider one of the biggest taste factors in any edibles recipe. The strain of cannabis you use for your extract impacts the flavor profile immensely. It can’t just be an afterthought.
Not all cannabis strains work well in edibles because of their particular combination of terpenes.
There are citrusy strains that could work fantastically well in a recipe like this. But there are also skunky strains and ones that taste like diesel fuel…in which case you’re talking about a real gross edible. Don’t do that to your customers and your brand.
Here at Elevated Edibles we always account for the extract’s flavor profile as one of the first, most critical elements in our cannabis edibles formulation for clients.
If you want to make better edibles, I suggest you do the same.
Using agar for cannabis gummies
Why did ChatGPT choose agar as a baseline for cannabis gummies? It’s impossible to know for sure, but my guess is that more people use agar because it’s easier to work with and doesn’t require a specific pH range and sugar concentration in order to gel.
Pectin is, for lack of a better word, more difficult.
And if you Google “vegan agar gummy” versus “vegan pectin gummy” you’ll notice there are almost 25% more instances of agar.
Of course more doesn’t mean better. But ChatGPT has no way of knowing that.
Anyway, agar is known for having lots of variability in its gelling capacity, which is apparently based upon regional differences in chemical composition. This means sometimes even batch to batch variation of agar from the same manufacturer might cause noticeable texture differences.
Another major consideration is that agar needs to be heated to dissolve in water—but when acid is also involved, the agar begins to break down; which dramatically reduces its gelling capacity.
In other words step one—which calls for mixing the lemon juice, citric acid, and agar before heating—is not advised.
To do it right you would first cook agar in a sugar solution to a particular temperature or brix, and then cool it down to below 200° F before blending with acidic ingredients.
Because of agar’s flexibility, ChatGPT’s gummy recipe might work—but it uses significantly more agar than necessary, and therefore your cost of goods is higher than it could be. In essence, it is wasteful.
Home gummy makers may not care, but business owners generally want to avoid wasting one of their more expensive cannabis gummy ingredients—when a slight change in process could solve the problem.
Remember, every inefficiency or extra cost magnifies significantly when you scale for manufacturing. And by then it’s too late…
Fortunately food science is here to rescue you from that sunk-cost fate.
The word “tincture” in this recipe means nothing. What’s the solvent? How will using something like oil vs ethanol affect the recipe? And how much THC is in there?
Even specifying an ethanol tincture made with 1 oz cannabis flower is barely helpful, because THC concentration varies widely by strain.
ChatGPT seems to let itself off the hook here by saying “dose as per your preference,” but it is my experience that many people don’t have a known preference.
(By the way, here’s how to make your own cannabis tincture by dose.)
Remember that absence of sugar and the short cooking time? That adds up to a real short shelf-life, which is related to water activity.
Sugar and salt dampen that activity (so to speak). Without them, even low pH foods can grow mold. Disgusting, yes—but some molds also produce toxins. Which can bring legal trouble on top of the guaranteed ick factor that’ll sink your brand. Can you imagine the Google reviews…?
Unless you want to trust dispensaries to keep refrigerated at all times, you definitely wouldn’t want this recipe for any commercial purposes.
Always always always run any edibles recipe through shelf-life testing. (Ask me how)
How to get a decent cannabis gummy recipe from ChatGPT
ChatGPT’s strengths are also its weaknesses. All it does is pull from what already exists online. It’s not actually creating anything. It can’t determine what will work versus what will fall flat and why. It has no sense—it’s just a masterful indexer.
Laying aside its lack of sensory input and actual experience to focus on what does make it a useful tool—one perpetual problem with the program still is that it’s hard to know what you don’t know. Both for the AI itself and for the humans trying to train it.
It couldn’t know that pectin is preferable over agar for its superior flavor release. Nor that pectin has a more familiar mouthfeel for westerners; whereas agar feels more brittle and less elastic (which can read as stale for US consumers).
If it were trained to take into account issues like flavor release, mouthfeel, strain flavor profiles, and so forth, it may be able to self-correct. Each new version of ChatGPT leaps closer and closer to truly useful and not just entertaining.
But in the meantime, better questions can produce better results. (Hey—just like in science!)
So this time I asked ChatGPT:
“How to make the best vegan cannabis gummy using pectin & granulated sugar, a recipe that will result in gummies that actually set, with a good mouthfeel and flavor. Listing ingredients in metric weights, with a dosage of 5 mg THC per 5 gram gummy.”
And here’s what it came up with:
Here’s a recipe for vegan cannabis gummies using pectin and granulated sugar that yields approximately 50 gummies with 5mg THC per 5g gummy. This recipe includes metric weights for accuracy and has been tested to ensure the gummies set properly, have a good mouthfeel and flavor:
- 250 ml fruit juice of your choice
- 10 g pectin
- 200 g granulated sugar
- 2 g citric acid
- 2 g vanilla extract
- 10 ml cannabis tincture (containing 100mg THC per 10ml)
- In a small saucepan, combine the fruit juice and pectin. Whisk until the pectin is fully dissolved.
- Add the sugar to the juice mixture and stir until it’s fully dissolved.
- Heat the mixture over low heat and add the citric acid and vanilla extract. Stir well.
- Continue heating the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 107°C. Use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
- Add the cannabis tincture and stir well.
- Pour the mixture into a silicone gummy mold, filling each mold about 3/4 full.
- Refrigerate the molds for at least an hour or until the gummies are firm.
- Remove the gummies from the mold and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Each gummy should contain approximately 5mg THC per 5g gummy, but the potency can vary depending on the strength of your cannabis tincture. Be sure to label your gummies clearly and keep them out of reach of children and pets. Enjoy responsibly!
This recipe looks somewhat better—but even at a glance I can tally up several issues that would prevent this from ever exceeding mediocre.
It did get rid of the extra water, which bodes well for shelf life. It also added a thermometer to the process, which is imperative when using pectin (though I disagree with its heat/time ratio). And the flavor balance seems much more palatable—plus it even threw in some vanilla for effect!
But again, this recipe is still rife with problems. It would never work as a product for any cannabusiness. And depending on the pH of the fruit you choose, it might not even gel.
Plus—and maybe this is just us being picky—but the THC dosage is completely off. Even if you factor in the typical 70-80% yield of a pectin gummy recipe (due to water evaporation), at 5 grams each, these gummies would dose less than 3 mg THC apiece.
Where did ChatGPT go wrong in its calculations?
Read how I solve these problems (and more) in the next chapter of Cannabis Food Scientist vs ChatGPT – in which I work with a client to develop this gummy recipe into a delicious, high-quality, long-lasting, and viable product for the cannabis edibles market.
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