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Do you want to get the most out of your herb? You’ve most likely heard that in order to enjoy the psychoactive effects of marijuana, it must first go through a process of decarboxylation before it is ready to be enjoyed fully. To understand the process behind decarboxylation, what exactly it is and why and when we decarboxylate cannabis, we’ll go into the basic science behind the concept. Our helpful guide to decarbing will introduced you to the various methods and procedures for how to decarboxylate weed as well as answer any of your burning questions around the topic. Curious about the best decarboxylation method or finding out what the ideal decarboxylation temperature is? We’ll deep dive into it this and more to bring you loads of information on decarboxylating weed.
What Is Decarboxylation?
Despite its hard to pronounce name, the process of decarboxylation is relatively simple to understand and carry out. The process of decarboxylation involves heating or drying/aging the product in order to activate the psychoactive effects of the marijuana. Decarboxylation through heating is the most effective way to release the full potential of the cannabis. At the point of harvest, marijuana doesn’t contain THC, the component responsible for the psychoactive effects induced by cannabis. It is the process of activation by heat or drying and aging, otherwise known as decarboxylation that converts THCA (THC acid) to THC.
De – Removal
Carboxyl – The radical group that is found in organic substances
Ation – Action
When you break down the actual word, as shown above, decarboxylation is simply the removal of a carboxyl group through the action of either heating or drying and aging.
Why We Decarboxylate Weed?
The process of decarboxylation naturally occurs through combustion when either smoking or vaporizing marijuana however, if you plan to make tinctures or edibles, you must decarboxylate the cannabis first. If you don’t decarb your weed before cooking, it may loose potency. If you want to get the most out of your weed, decarbing is essential! The purpose of the decarboxylation process is not solely to activate the THCA and convert it to THC. We also decarboxylate weed in order to remove moisture from the cannabis so that botulism bacteria cannot grow.
When cannabis undergoes decarboxylation, the chemical process occurring is the removal of a carboxyl group from the acid form of THC. When the carboxyl group is removed, the cannabinoids acids are converted into a form more readily available to the body. THC in the readily available form is able to bind to your brain and bodies cell receptors in order to induce effects.
Skipped the science?
Here’s the summary of why we decarboxylate weed…
- To receive the highest possible THC content when converting THCA
- Prevent botulism bacteria from growing on tinctures and cannabutter
How To Decarboxylate Weed
There are many ways to decarboxylate weed; the easiest and most well know is by infusing cannabis into a solvent such as oil, a process which can be done using a kitchen appliance. We recommend purchasing a machine such as the MagicalButter which essentially is like a slow cooker for making herbal infusions. Machines such as these, allow you to control the temperature so that you can make oils, butter, and tinctures. There are also simple to use and hassle free ways to decarboxylate weed. Depending on who you ask, the answer to the best decarboxylation method will differ from one to another for the fact that many different methods of decarboxylation will provide slightly different results.
Some methods of decarboxylation will extract more or less THC from the cannabis and depending on your preference, you may prefer one to another. Also, one method may be better for making edibles while another could be better for making tinctures. We’ll share various methods of how to decarboxylate weed so you can decide for yourself, which method is best for you.
Weed Decarboxylation Methods
If you’re simply looking for a basic way to decarb your cannabis for use in edibles, any one of the two methods below will suit.
- Oven Decarboxylation
- Decarb On The Stove
Although you can use the decarbing on the stove method to make tinctures or cannabutter, the best decarboxylation methods for these applications will be the following:
- Solvent Extraction
- Ice-water Extraction
Decarbing in your oven is one of the most common and simple methods of how to decarboxylate weed. After oven decarboxylation, your cannabis can easily be added to edibles such as cakes and brownies (read how to make pot brownies).
- Rimmed Baking tray
- Parchment paper
- Depending on your particular oven, you’ll need to preheat to between 225° F and 240° F.
- Cover a baking tray with parchment paper
- Break up your cannabis buds and spread them evenly over the tray to ensure even cooking.
- Depending on the time you have and how much you want to retain the terpenes, you can bake the cannabis anywhere from 30-40 min at 250 F, 50 min at 225 F or 75 min at 200 F
- Stir the mixture every 10 min so there is even toasting.
- Pay attention to the color. When the cannabis is darker green, an almost light to medium brown color and appears to be dry, remove the tray from the oven and let the cannabis cool. If you try handling it, the cannabis will feel crumbly.
- If you want a coarser grind, place the toasted cannabis in a food processor. Make sure not to grind it up to fine.
- Store in a airtight container
Decarb On The Stove
This is a great method for cooking use if you plan on using oil in your recipes. Rather then using regular oil, you can substitute cannabis infused oil instead. Once you’ve made your oil, there are a number of applications for which you can use it. Simply add your oil to soups, dressings, toss over your popcorn, or add it to your baking.
* This method should only be used by those more experienced with how to decarb cannabis. The length of time you’ll cook the mixture will depend on various factors such as the ratio used, the potency of your desired end product and the exact temperature. Due to the number of factors, it will take time to perfect your batch with this method but once you do, you’ll never go back.
- Large bowl
- Medium sized pot
- Fine strainer
- Chosen Oil (You can use any kind of oil whether it be coconut oil, sesame oil, olive oil, whatever is your preferred oil)
- Cooking thermometer
- Make sure your cannabis is evenly and coarsely ground.
- Place 1 cup of your chosen oil into a saucepan with 1 cup of cannabis. In general, a 1:1 ratio of oil to cannabis is best to use.
- The ratio can be adjusted slightly depending on the potency of your cannabis or the desired strength of your overall end product. If you want a stronger solution, add less oil however if you’d like a slightly weaker solution, increase the oil to cannabis ratio. Make sure that the cannabis is floating in the oil freely. If there is too much cannabis in comparison to oil, the product could easily burn.
- Cook on low heat for a few hours, stirring frequently as the mixture is highly likely to scorch if left unattended. Use a thermometer to ensure that the mixture doesn’t exceed 245 F.
- Cook the mixture for up to 8 hours. A pungent and very hemp smell will result from this method. If you don’t want the smell throughout your living space, you can also cook on the stove by the waterbath method.
- Remove from the stove, let cool.
- Once cool, strain with a fine strainer and cheesecloth.
- After you’ve strained your mixture, it’s ready to use!
Cannabutter & Oil
In order to make Cannabutter oil from cannabis, the best decarboxylation method is either by solvent extraction or ice-water extraction. Both methods produce a concentrate which can be either hardened or kept in a liquid oil state; either is great for use in cooking! These methods require much more experience to prepare which is why if you’re just starting out, we’d suggest trying the methods found below first.
Decarbing To Make Cannabutter
Making cannabutter is quite simple to do and can be substituted into any recipe that calls for regular butter; you can even spread cannabutter over your toast!
- Fine Strainer
- Mix 1 ounce of coarsely ground cannabis with one pound of butter and one cup of water
- On low heat, simmer for 2-3 hours. * You’ll notice that the cannabinoids will detach from the plant material and latch on to the fats in the butter.
- Remove the mixture and let cool slightly.
- Strain mixture into a bowl.
- Set in the fridge overnight. The now cannabutter mixture will separate from the water and form a solid mass. Once this happens, remove the solid, wrap it and store in the fridge or freezer for use when needed
Decarboxylation Before Making Oil
If you would like to decarboxylate your weed before making oil, the best decarboxylation method is decarbing on the stove with water, also called the waterbath method. The procedure is similar to that of the method, cooking on the stove with oil, as mentioned above but does no involve mixing the cannabis with oil. Materials required are boil safe bags, a grinder, pot with lid, water and your cannabis. Basically, the cannabis is put into the bags, with enough room to allow for air expansion once they are placed in the boiling water. You will boil on low heat for roughly 90 min. This is the best odorless decarboxylation method!
Let’s talk temperature
The temperature at which we decarboxylate weed is vitally important. At a high temperature, you could risk burning the cannabis, destroying terpenes, and altering and diminishing the strength of the flavor complex. Although decarboxylating weed at a low temperature may mean that the process will take longer, resulting in a lower amount of THCA being converted to THC, decarboxylating at a low temperature isn’t all that bad.
The main benefit of decarbing at a lower temperature is that fewer terpenes are lost. When departing at temperatures over 400°F, the terpenes are likely to burn, resulting in a loss of flavor and reduced medical benefits. In order to maintain more of the terpenes, decarbing at a lower temperature is always advised.
So, what is the ideal decarboxylation temperature?
The ideal temperature to decarboxylate cannabis will depend on the method used but in general, if you want to ensure maximum retention of terpenes, the ideal temperature to decarboxylate your cannabis is anywhere from between 200°F and 225°F.
- If my weed isn’t decarboxylated, does that mean that it doesn’t contain any psychoactive properties?
Weed that hasn’t been decarboxylated can otherwise be referred to as raw. Contrary to what many believe, raw cannabis doesn’t contain psychoactive compounds. This is because the THC present in the marijuana only becomes active once it has been heated or is dried and aged.
When the herb is left raw, after being picked from fresh buds, as it ages, it undergoes a slight decarboxylation process. Raw cannabis has many health benefits, the most notable is that the cannabinoids acids act as incredibly powerful anti inflammatories and are packed full of vitamins and nutrients.
- Is it more effective to decarboxylate weed by heating it or drying and aging it?
When weed is heated, the decarboxylation effect is significantly stronger than if it is simply dried and aged; because of this, you can make the conclusion that weed that is decarboxylated by heat, with have more psychoactive properties.
- Is the decarboxylation of Kief necessary?
In case you don’t already know, Kief are the tiny, crystal like substances that grow on the flowers of the cannabis plant. They are highly potent and are great for use in making edibles. Kief is often overlooked but definitely shouldn’t as it contains many valuable terpenes and cannabinoids that add to the dynamics of the end product. Decarboxylation of Kief is essential if you want to activate the THC, as well as increase its overall potency.
- Can you decarboxylate cannabis in your microwave?
The answer isn’t so simple. Yes you can decarb with a microwave but do you want to…we’d say it’s a no. Even a short amount of heating, 2 min for example, can raise the overall temperature too rapidly to the point where you’ll begin to over-process the THC. Once you go past the temperature of 400 F, you will definitely destroy the potency and effectiveness of your product.
- What are terpenes?
Terpenes are the oils in the cannabis plant and flower that give it its unique flavor and smell. Terpenes also act together with cannabinoids to amplify the plants benefits. Different strains will have varying levels of terpenes; this explains why each strains has its unique characteristics.
There are mono and sesquiterpenes that are very volatile, meaning that they’ll evaporate if heated too high. Along with the risk of evaporation, heating these terpenes too high will result in undesirable flavors and aromas being transferred to the end product.
- No matter the method, the best temperature to decarb is ideally between 200°F and 225° F
- If you’re decarbing on the stove with oil, remember that some oils burn at lower temperatures; keep this in mind before beginning with whichever procedure you’re working off of
- To check the moisture content of your decarboxylated weed, you can use a hygrometer
- The ratios used of cannabis to other ingredients will vary based on several factors. Ex. Potency. The higher the desired potency, the greater ratio of cannabis to other ingredients that will be used.
- Grind your cannabis evenly into a coarse grind before beginning to decarb
- Always set a timer!
By now, you should be equipped with the knowledge and procedure for various ways to decarboxylate weed. Always remember that it’s not only necessary to decarboxylate weed to activate the THC compound but also, and more importantly, to get rid of moisture on the cannabis which can cause botulism bacteria to grow. The easiest and best way to decarboxylate weed, is by using the decarboxylation by oven method. If you want to decarb on the stove without the risk of a scent wafting through your apartment then using the waterbath method will be the best decarboxylation method for you. Whatever method you plan to use, remember that it will take time to perfect as there are a number of factors that will affect your batch. Follow the procedures above closely, as well as the tips provided and you will be well on your way to becoming a master of how to decarboxylate weed.