We've updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data.

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience, read our Cookie Policy

Analytical Cannabis Logo
Home > Articles > Extraction & Processing > Content Piece

Cannabis Beverages Are Finally Taking Off, Thanks to Emulsification Technologies

By Ruth Fisher

Published: Jun 12, 2023   
Two jam-jar glasses of green liquid next to some cannabis leaves.

Image credit: iStock

Listen with
Register for FREE to listen to this article
Thank you. Listen to this article using the player above.

While cannabis beverages have been available for years, they are just recently starting to gain traction in the market. Cannabis is being infused into coffee, teas, waters, juices, soft drinks, energy drinks, and non-alcoholic beer and wine. Sales of cannabis beverages are still a small segment of the overall market, but they’re among the fastest growing.

Early cannabis beverages were unappealing, to say the least. They were bitter in taste, and the cannabis extract didn’t blend well into the liquid. Instead, it tended to pool at the top or stick to the sides or bottom of the container. The gloppy nature of the extract meant that dosing and effects were generally inconsistent and unpredictable: If you drink half the can, will you get half the dose? How long will it take to feel the effects?

So, then, why are sales of beverages now starting to rise? The answer is that new technologies have been developed, enabling a new class of beverages that are well-blended, palatable, and consistent in dosing and effects.


Most tinctures tend to be alcohol-based (hydrophilic). Cannabis tinctures, on the other hand, tend to be oil-based (often coconut oil) because cannabis concentrates dissolve in oil, not water (lipophilic). Since cannabis extracts don’t dissolve in water, cannabis concentrates added to beverages (which are generally water-based) tend to pool into globs suspended in the beverage solution, just as oil tends to separate into layers or globs in vinegar-based salad dressings.

While oil and water normally don’t mix, you can force them to do so by creating an emulsion. An oil in water (o/w) emulsion is a mixture in which the oil is evenly dispersed throughout the water. Emulsification can be achieved temporarily using agitation, or more permanently using an emulsifier (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Image credit: Ruth Fisher.

To create a stable emulsion, the oil solution is broken down into tiny particles, which are then coated with an emulsifier that acts as a physical barrier between the oil and water to keep the oil from re-combining.

Emulsifiers are a type of surfactant, or surface-active agent, that stabilize liquid-in-liquid mixtures. They contain hydrophilic heads together with hydrophobic tails, and when added to an o/w emulsion, they surround the oil droplet with their tails extending into the oil and their heads extending into the water (see Figure 2). Emulsifiers thus lower the interfacial tension between the oil and water, which stabilizes the droplets and prevents them from coalescing.

Figure 2. Image credit: Ruth Fisher.

Emulsifiers thus achieve two ends:

(i)     They mix the two immiscible liquids, dispersing one liquid throughout the other.

(ii)   They stabilize the emulsion formation by preventing the oil and water from separating back into their natural states.

Emulsifiers are nothing new in the food industry. According to the European Food Emulsion Manufacturers Association, egg yolks were first used as emulsifiers in early 19th century foods, but were largely replaced by soy lecithin in the 1920s, due to the latter’s greater shelf life. The first commercial applications of synthetic emulsifiers were introduced in the 1930s, initially used in margarine, but then later extended to baked goods. Emulsifiers have become a “crucial food ingredient” in today’s world for enhancing the texture of many food products. Emulsifiers are also used in pharmaceuticals, health and beauty, cleaning, and other industrial products.


Emulsification technologies that have been around since the 1960s or so. Microemulsion technologies enabled very small particle sizes, but stability was problematic, and the need for large amounts of surfactants created harsh tastes. Nanoemulsion technologies have been around since the mid-1990s. These technologies theoretically enabled both small particle sizes (< 200 nanometers in diameter) and stability. However, it’s only been recently that nanoemulsion technologies have enabled very, very small particle sizes (under 50 nm) that generate the solubility and stability needed to make good cannabis beverages.

The newly developed nanoemulsification of cannabis extracts solves the problems that prevented early cannabis beverages from taking hold, as summarized in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Image credit: Ruth Fisher.


[1] Gunjan P. Malode et al (2022). A Critical Review on Nanoemulsion: Advantages, Techniques and Characterization. Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/88f1/e57517f17cfcce277450e58f4f41c6ee6b1b.pdf   

[2] Yuanyuan Wang et al (2020). The Influence of Nanoparticle Properties on Oral Bioavailability of Drug. International Journal of Nanomedicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7455773/pdf/ijn-15-6295.pdf   

[3] David Julian McClements (2021). Advances in edible nanoemulsions: Digestion, bioavailability, and potential toxicity. Progress in Lipid Research. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0163782720300618                  

[4] David Julian Mcclements (2012, Jan). Nanoemulsions versus microemulsions: Terminology, differences, and similarities. Soft Matter. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/255765585               

[5] Dana Perkins (2021, Oct 12). A Guide to Emulsification & Its Role in Infused Food & Beverage Products. Sorse Technology. https://sorsetech.com/guide-emulsification-cannabis-infused-food-beverage-products/                   

[6] Chelsea Cebara (2021, Sep 16). Why Do Most Cannabis Products Taste So Bad? Sorse Technology. https://sorsetech.com/why-do-most-cannabis-products-taste-so-bad/             

[7] Tomas Skrinskas and Sarah Roberts. Introduction to Nanoemulsions. Ascension Sciences. https://ascensionsciences.com/newsroom/technical-articles/introduction-to-nanoemulsions/          

Notably, the long-term effects of nanoparticles in the body are still unknown. The potential dangers expressed by researchers are summarized in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Image credit: Ruth Fisher.


[1] David Julian McClements (2021). Advances in edible nanoemulsions: Digestion, bioavailability, and potential toxicity. Progress in Lipid Research. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0163782720300618                  

[2] Sarah Friedman (2020). Precise Cures – How Nanotechnology Enhances Cannabis Products. Cannadelics. https://cannadelics.com/2021/04/14/precise-cures-how-nanotechnology-enhances-cannabis-products/           

[3] Jessica McKeil (2020, May 19). Nanotechnology in Cannabis: Hot Technology, but is it Safe? Cannabis Tech. https://www.cannabistech.com/articles/nanotechnology-in-cannabis-hot-technology-but-is-it-safe/                   

The particular types of solutions (technologies) that companies use to solve the homogenization, stability, dosing, bioavailability, and taste issues will help suppliers of cannabis beverages differentiate their products in increasingly crowded markets. There are already hundreds of patents on these technologies as they specifically relate to cannabis, which support not only beverages, but also many other cannabis products, including tinctures, topicals, and edibles. Emulsification technologies should thus continue to be a large technology area in cannabis.

Ruth Fisher

Ruth Fisher, PhD, is a systems design researcher and analyst. She examines markets to determine how environments shape outcomes. She is co-founder of CannDynamics and author of The Medical Cannabis Primer.


Like what you just read? You can find similar content on the topic tags shown below.

Extraction & Processing Science & Health

Stay connected with the latest news in cannabis extraction, science and testing

Get the latest news with the FREE weekly Analytical Cannabis newsletter