R&D Vape Formulation [Best Practices Guide]

Terpene Belt Farms
Terpene Belt Farms

For a more complete guide and a better user experience, download the full PDF.



R&D, Manufacturing, or Product Development teams that are…

  • Developing THC distillate and/or Liquid Diamond Vapes and looking for a guide on building best in class vape products
  • Developing new formulas with TBF oil for the first time
  • Evaluating TBF oil as a replacement for in-house cannabis terpenes
  • Evaluating TBF oil as a replacement for artificial terpenes
  • Looking to update in-market TBF oil formulas with current market trends

Required Materials

  • Cannabinoid Oil
  • Cannabis Essential Oil
  • Water or bead bath
  • Hot plate
  • 50mL glass beaker
  • 0.01g resolution balance
  • Thin stainless steel spatula Glass syringe
  • Personal protective equipment

Formulation Steps

1. Test one variable at a time. These variables may be: 

  • Essential oil for flavor
  • Essential oil incorporation rate
  • New cannabinoid oils

Pro-tip: Ensure that the battery used on a 510 thread cartridge is performing properly. (Evaluating the performance of your exciting new formulas on underperforming batteries may disappoint.) Try Vuber Pulse or Vuber Pulse Touch as an R&D tool to eliminate variance from entering the process.


2. Determine the viscosity of the Cannabinoid oil

THC distillate (∆8 or ∆9) varies dramatically in purity, a function of potency and constituents. Potency and viscosity have a positive correlation. The best option for vape formulation is Standard Viscosity (SV) THC distillate, which is above 90% purity. Low Viscosity (LV) THC distillate is under 90% purity and is less desirable, but may be the only available material.

Liquid Diamonds, referred to as High Viscosity (HV), is a term the industry has adopted to describe THC isolate that has been melted back into oil form. The highest quality THC isolate will contain little to no impurities, pushing potency towards 99%. Lower-grade materials will contain non-THC constituents, which can give your oil an off note.


3. Determine the appropriate batch size for formulation

Preserving the essential oil to flower-like experiences in manufactured goods is where consumer preference is trending. It’s where the national brands of tomorrow are headed. And, at Terpene Belt Farms, we’re building the supply chain to support that bright future.

Questions to consider:

  • How many vapes are needed to assess the formula? What size vape is going to be used for the trial?
  • How much formulated oil should be saved for reference?

Download the PDF for formulation chart.

Pro-tip: We do not suggest formulating with less than 2 grams of cannabinoid oil input because the likelihood of error is too great. We recommended formulating excess oil that can be stored as a batch specific retain. Oil that is allowed to steep after formulation is viewed by some as a premium experience.


4. Determine the incorporation rate

The amount of essential oil used can depend on many factors. For simplicity sake, we will be using the viscosity of your cannabinoid oil to ensure a properly wicking formulation. The batch size along with incorporation rate will define the amount of essential oil and cannabinoid oil needed for the formulation.

Download the PDF for formulation chart.


5. Prepare the Essential Oil

Ahead of formulation, it is recommended to bring the oil up to room temperature. Do not use a heat source or rush the process. See storage tips here.


6. Prepare the Cannabinoid Oil

Use a water bath or bead bath to warm the cannabinoid oil in its bulk storage container (glass or metal only) to a workable temperature. This usually falls between 55-65 degrees centigrade. Higher temperatures may be needed for high viscosity oils. Do not exceed 100°c under any circumstance.


7. Measure out the Cannabinoid Oil

Place the empty glass beaker on the balance and zero out the weight using the tare function. Carefully pour or syringe the desired amount of cannabinoid oil into the beaker. Be careful not to overshoot the target weight. A steady hand and patience goes a long way.


8. Adjust the Cannabinoid temperature

Once you have the oil target amount in your beaker, place it onto the hot plate to bring the oil back to the workable temperature (aim for 55-65° centigrade).


9. Measure Essential Oil

Move the cannabinoid oil filled beaker to the balance. Wait a few seconds to determine that the scale remains at equilibrium. Using the glass syringe slowly add in the target amount of essential oil until you reach your target batch size.


10. Homogenize the formulation

Once you weigh the essential oil in, use a small stainless steel spatula to thoroughly mix the formulation. The final product should be completely homogenous. If you find that the oil is not warm enough to mix properly, you can bring it back to the heat source to get the solution flowing better. Minimize the amount of heat that you subject the formulation to as essential oil even when formulated can be affected by small amounts of direct heat. Pro-tip: Use a round bottom flask and a roto-vap for a repeatable and consistent homogenization..


11. Transfer the formulation to vape hardware

Use a clean glass syringe to transfer the mixed oil from the beaker to your vape hardware. Do not overfill. Do not underfill. Most vape carts are designed to work with a fixed volume and unless you understand the impacts underfilling or overfilling may have, it is best to fill to the target volume. Most vape carts come with specific instructions on the time window for capping. As a general rule of thumb, you want to cap the carts before the oil cools down.


12. Prime vape carts

Let your filled carts prime standing upright for at least 24 hours (48 recommended) before trying them. This can not be stressed enough. If you rush the prime, you are likely to end up with feed issues causing a poor result. Without extensive experience, you may not know that the cart is not properly wicking oil from the tank and writing off the formulation due to poor taste.

Download the PDF for formulation chart.


13. Record observations

During sample review, use a scoring rubric to record your observations. Check out and feel free to use this Vape R&D Evaluation Guide.

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