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Decarboxylate Cannabis
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Why And How To Decarboxylate Your Cannabis

4 min
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Decarboxylation is required to activate cannabis before cooking and extraction. This process involves heating weed until it chemically changes cannabinoids from their precursor form to their active form. Without this process, your edibles won't be effective.

It may come as a surprise to many cannabis users that the raw cannabis plants contains little to no psychoactive substances. If you were to eat a handful of raw cannabis flowers or put them through a juicer, you wouldn’t feel any noticeable high. This is because cannabinoids in raw cannabis exist in their acid form, meaning the molecule has an extra carboxyl group. So, instead of churning out tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), the trichomes instead produce tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).

Cannabinoid acids have been shown to have some medicinal benefits of their own, but to become their better known active forms, including THC and CBD, they must go through a process called decarboxylation.

WHAT IS DECARBOXYLATION?

WHAT IS DECARBOXYLATION?

Decarboxylation, or decarbing, refers to the process of exposing cannabis to heat, such as when flowers are vaporized or smoked. During the process of lighting and smoking a joint, the plant material inside is exposed to temperatures hot enough to release the carboxyl group from cannabinoid acids such as THCA and CBDA. During this process, THCA becomes the psychotropic cannabinoid THC and is able to interface with endocannabinoid receptors with ease. CBDA, on the other hand, becomes the well-respected and researched medicinal cannabinoid CBD.

Decarboxylation THCA & THC

WHY DOES CANNABIS NEED TO BE DECARBED?

WHY DOES CANNABIS NEED TO BE DECARBED?

During smoking and vaping, decarboxylation happens automatically. However, if you are looking to cook with cannabis or make a variety of extracts such as oils and tinctures, you need to be sure to decarb your plant material first to end up with an “active” final product. It’s true that some cannabinoid acids have unique and powerful benefits, and implementing raw cannabis in the form of juice is on the rise, but decarbed cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are much more well-researched and have more applications. Plus, if you are planning on using cannabis to experience a high, your bud must be decarbed in order to create adequate levels of THC.

HOW TO DECARB YOUR WEED AT HOME

HOW TO DECARB YOUR WEED AT HOME

Decarbing your weed requires exposing it to rather hot temperatures for specific periods of time. For example, to ensure THCA converts into THC, you’ll need to expose your cannabis flowers to temperatures of around 105–116°C for 30–45 minutes. Some publications suggest temperatures as high as 120°C, but this is usually considered the ceiling. It’s important not to decarb your weed much longer than this (or at higher temperatures) in order to preserve the aromatic terpenes that give cannabis its flavour. Both cannabinoids and terpenes will start to degrade at temperatures above 150°C, so temperatures around 105°C will ensure preserved taste and potency.

These temperatures can be reached using various different methods, and largely depend on what you favour or have access to. Below are two different tried and tested methods of decarbing weed.

METHOD 1 - DECARB USING YOUR OVEN

DECARB USING YOUR OVEN

Most people have an oven installed in their kitchen, making this method one of the most practical. By the end of it, your stash will be fully psychoactive and ready to cook with or make extracts.

Option 1. On a Baking Sheet

  1. To begin, preheat your oven to around 105°C (the exact figure will depend on your oven). Whilst waiting for the oven to warm up, take your plant matter and break it up into smaller pieces with your hands or use scissors to form small chunks.

  2. Next, place a sheet of baking paper over a baking tray and spread your weed out evenly over it. Place it into the oven for 30–45 minutes.

  3. After time passed, remove your weed from the oven. It should appear golden brown in colour and should be crumbly to the touch. Once cooled, use a grinder or food processor to turn your THC-rich weed into a coarse grain ready for cooking or extraction.

Option 2. In a Mason Jar

The baking sheet method is one of the simplest and easiest to do, but it can stink up your kitchen for days. Introducing just a couple extra pieces of equipment could save you some cleaning and preserve your relationship with your roommate!

  1. Preheat your oven to 110ºC. While you wait for the oven to reach temperature, prepare your oven-safe glass jar and place your strain of choice inside. Close the lid. 

    Tip: You can use the same jar to prepare your cannabutter or canna-oil. Less washing up for you!

  2. Wet a kitchen towel (this will prevent the glass jar from overheating). Once the oven is ready, place your kitchen towel on a baking tray, and lay the jar horizontally on the towel.

  3. Cook for 1 hour, making sure to turn and shake the jar every 15 minutes. Make sure to wear oven gloves!

  4. Let it cool, and store accordingly.

METHOD 2 - THE SOUS VIDE METHOD DECARBS WEED EVENLY

THE SOUS VIDE METHOD DECARBS WEED EVENLY

The sous vide method involves vacuum-sealing your cannabis in plastic bags and placing them within a cooking pot filled with water. It’s known to evenly and thoroughly decarb cannabis and protect it from becoming burnt in the process. For this method, you will need a vacuum sealing machine, weed grinder, sous vide precision cooker, and a cooking pot.

  1. To begin the process, grind your weed up to a coarse grain, but not a fine powder.

  2. Next, seal your ground flowers in a heat-safe plastic bag using your vacuum sealer.

  3. Fill the pot with water and place the sous vide precision cooker within the pot, setting the temperature at 95°C.

  4. Once the water has reached the desired temperature, add the sealed bag of weed into the pot for 1 hour.

  5. From here, all you must do is carefully remove your bag from the pot, then remove your buds from the bag!

Important Decarboxylation Tips

Important Decarboxylation Tips

Now that you’ve learned a little bit more about the decarboxylation process and how you can do it in the comfort of your own home, let’s explore some useful tips to bring your edibles experience to the next level!

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Don’t Overgrind Your Buds

We always say that grinding your weed before decarboxylation will ensure the maximum surface area available, which will guarantee more components are released in the process. That’s true. But, there is such a thing as “overgrinding”. Milling your cannabis into a fine powder might seem like the smartest thing to do, but you could easily overheat your plant material and burn it. Use your fingers or scissors to prevent this, or do a coarse grind with a grinder.

Related article

10 Ways To Grind Cannabis Without A Grinder [2021 Update]

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Don’t Overheat Your Weed

You might be tempted to push that cooking time a little further, or to crank up the heat in your oven to save yourself 10 minutes. Cannabis’ compounds are released at specific temperature ranges, and overheating might destroy them. The guidelines offered in this article are designed to preserve cannabinoids and volatile terpenes.

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You Can Skip Curing if You’re Making Edibles

If you already know you’ll use the cannabis in your grow box to make your next batch of cannabutter, there’s no need to dry and cure your buds. Drying and curing are performed primarily to remove moisture from the herb so it has less potential to develop mould. Since you’re decarboxylating and infusing your buds, there’s no need for this step. Another benefit is that fresh cannabis contains more terpenes. Decarb your fresh weed as you would with cured bud.

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Concentrates Need Decarboxylation Too

It might come as a surprise to some, but concentrates (like kief) are not yet decarboxylated! Because cannabis concentrates like wax and budder are already manipulated, one might think they are also “ready to use”. Nope! You need to decarb them first. When doing so, make sure to regularly check on them (especially kief) as they can burn easily.

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Be Careful When Looking Up Decarboxylation Charts

Be Careful When Looking Up Decarboxylation Charts

These charts are not uncommon, and you might find them while scrolling through different articles and blogs. Although they might look handy, decarb charts are often outdated and based on specific parameters. The timing and temperatures listed there might differ completely from the product and equipment you are working with. We always try to gather information that will work for the standard reader with standard equipment!

Luke S

Written by: Luke S.
Luke S. is a journalist based in the United Kingdom, specialising in health, alternative medicine, herbs and psychedelic healing. He has written for outlets such as Reset.me, Medical Daily and The Mind Unleashed, covering these and other areas.

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