Keys to decarbing weed
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- What is decarboxylation?
- Why you should decarb your weed
- How to decarb your weed at home
- How long should I decarb my weed?
- Bottom line
Many cannabis newcomers wonder if you can eat the raw cannabis plant and feel its intoxicating or psychoactive effects. Pop culture references to eating a big bag of raw weed and getting super stoned have no basis in the reality of how cannabis works, specifically how cannabinoids elicit effects in humans. For example, to exhibit the intoxicating effects associated with the cannabis high, THCA must be transformed into THC through a heating process called decarboxylation.
THCA must be transformed into THC through a heating process called decarboxylation. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Here is a quick summary of everything you need to know about decarbing weed — what decarbing is, when you should decarb, and how to best decarb your weed at home.
What is decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that results from two main factors: heat and time. When a cannabinoid decarboxylates, it loses a carboxyl group, which gives it the ability to interact with the body’s receptors through which therapeutic and recreational effects are elicited. Over a long period of exposure to the elements, cannabinoids will decarboxylate on their own which is why proper cannabis storage is so important. Without airtight storage in a sufficiently sturdy container, cannabis will lose potency as cannabinoids slowly decarboxylate and activate prematurely.
Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that results from two main factors: heat and time. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
To speed up the decarbing process, you’ll need to activate cannabinoids such as THC by heating them. When cannabis is smoked or vaporized, for example, the THCA loses a carboxyl group and converts to THC. Likewise, the cannabinoid CBDA must decarboxylate to turn into CBD.
A crucial step in making edibles or cannabis topicals at home is decarbing weed to make sure all the cannabinoids you want to experience are fully activated. When cannabis is cooked or baked, its active cannabinoids are absorbed through digestion. Decarbing weed also helps reduce the risk of microbiological contaminants. When weed decarboxylates, it loses moisture, which in turn decreases the chance of bacterial growth. Weed is dried and cured for the same reason, though some unwanted activation of cannabinoid, and therefore loss of potency, is inevitable during the curing process.
Why you should decarb your weed
In a nutshell, weed won’t get you high unless it’s decarbed. Marijuana’s most sought after cannabinoids — THC and CBD — need to be converted from THCA and CBDA over time to deliver the coveted recreational and therapeutic benefits. When making edibles and topicals, decarbing improves the function of these products by allowing for faster cannabinoid absorption. Edibles in particular have a reputation for delivering incredibly potent, long-lasting effects, but an edible won’t be as potent as its reputation suggests if the cannabis inside isn’t decarbed properly.
When making edibles and topicals, decarbing improves the function of these products by allowing for faster cannabinoid absorption. Photo by: Gine Coleman/Weedmaps
Cannabis is a complex plant with a wide variety of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds that contribute to its effects, including intoxication. But when it comes to the cannabis high, THC still reigns supreme. If you don’t decarb your weed, it won’t have active THC, which is a huge problem when making any cannabis product that isn’t immediately combusted and requires slow absorption through other avenues, such as the digestive tract.
How to decarb your weed at home
There are a variety of methods for decarbing weed at home, and the method you choose depends largely on what you want to do with your weed. Here are a few of the most common methods of decarbing and when you might want to try them:
If you’re baking edibles, your best bet for proper decarbing may be making cannabis oil or cannabutter to infuse into the final product. If you, it won’t need to be decarbed because it’s already been through the process. Well-made cannabutter, which involves heating butter and cannabis together, will decarboxylate the cannabis material while ensuring that active cannabinoids bind to the fats in the butter.
If you’re baking edibles, your best bet for proper decarbing may be making cannabis oil or cannabutter to infuse into the final product. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
If you’re planning on infusing foods with dried plant matter, baking your weed is a sufficient decarbing method. Here are 4 steps to follow to bake and decarb your weed.
- Step 1: Break your buds into small pieces and spread in a thin, even layer across a sheet of parchment paper.
- Step 2: Cover the paper with aluminum foil.
- Step 3: Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 230 degrees Fahrenheit, or 110 degrees Celsius.
- Step 4: Let your decarbed weed cool before using.
Baking your weed is a sufficient decarbing method. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
If you want to make potent cannabis tea, simply put your weed in a tea bag and immerse in simmering water. The temperature should be around 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and you can add a small amount of butter to help draw out cannabinoids.
If you want to make potent cannabis tea, simply put your weed in a tea bag and immerse in simmering water. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The Sous-Vide method is optimal for decarbing dried plant matter without releasing an odor that could get you in hot water with your landlord or neighbors. To decarb your weed Sous-Vide, grind your cannabis and enclose it in a heat-safe, vacuum-sealed bag. Then, fill a large pot with water and place it on your stovetop. Insert a Sous-Vide precision cooker into the pot and set the temperature to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, or 110 degrees Celsius. Once your precision cooker reaches the right temperature, cook your sealed cannabis for 1½ hours.
To make a cannabis-infused oil, you can decarb weed using a slow cooker and coconut or olive oil. For this recipe, you’ll need 64 ounces of dry cannabis plant matter and 433 milliliters of olive oil. Cover the ingredients and cook them on high in a slow cooker for 1 hour, then turn the slow cooker to low and cook for 2-3 more hours. Let the mixture cool, then strain it through a cheesecloth.
To make a cannabis-infused oil, you can decarb weed using a slow cooker and coconut or olive oil. Photo by: Gine Coleman/Weedmaps
How long should I decarb my weed?
The amount of time you let your weed decarb depends on the temperature at which you’re heating it. The lower the heat, the longer your weed will take to decarb. It’s always better to err on the side of slow decarbing, as too high a temperature will scorch your plant material. Heating cannabis over 300 degrees Fahrenheit will cause too much degradation too quickly. According to a 2011 study from the Journal of Molecular Structure, the optimal yield of active THC occurs when weed is heated at 110 degrees Celsius for 110 minutes.
Baking, boiling, and slow cooking are a few ways you can decarb your weed at home to release the full therapeutic potential of vital cannabinoids such as CBD and THC.
Keys to decarbing weed Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What is decarboxylation? Why you should decarb your weed How to decarb your weed
Best temperature to decarboxylate weed
The word “decarboxylation” may seem intimidating at first glance, but in reality, the process by which you eliminate a carboxylic acid group from an organic compound is one that all stoners undertake on a daily basis. In fact, every time you put your flame up to a packed bowl of raw herb or hit the button on your vaporizer, you’re effectively decarboxylating cannabis. It’s the critical step to unearthing the psychoactive effects within cannabis, and without it, there are no cannabinoid acids being produced, and thus, no high.
The Chemical Process
Decarboxylation is a simple chemical process involving raw cannabis and a heat source, but within this simple process is a complex and ever-evolving art, one that has been slowly gaining prominence as cannabis use has become more socially acceptable as a medicinal and recreational substance.
Related: Edibles That Look Like Real Food Products
Before the flame of your lighter “decarbs” your bud, the marijuana is packed with a tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), a chemical compound that is stored within the trichomes of raw cannabis flower, and is not psychoactive in the slightest. To get the effect that cannabis is known for, we must first transform this THCA into the good old tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis.
There are two primary stages in which decarboxylation can happen: when the flower is drying and afterward, when it is heated. When smoking or vaporizing, the process is far from artisanal or intensive. The extreme heat instantly activates the THC, which is absorbed into our bodies via our cannabinoid receptors, producing that beloved high. However, when decarboxylating cannabis for edibles or extractions, we must activate these psychoactive cannabinoids on our own before consumption takes place.
How to Decarboxylate for Cooking
Though I’m far from a culinary expert myself, I’ve had the fortune to have met renowned cannabis chefs such as Miguel Trinidad of 99th Floor and Michael Cirino of A Razor/ A Shiny Knife, both of whom spoke about the decarboxylation process as a delicate art form. The two most common methods of decarboxylation are through the oven or with a boiling process.
Cannabis begins to decarboxylate at around 220 degrees Fahrenheit. For the optimal oven method, you should preheat to 220–245 degrees, and bake the ground-up flower for about 30–45 minutes, depending on your preferences and the cannabis being utilized. It’s recommended that you grind up your cannabis finely before spreading it evenly upon a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Kief can also be decarboxylated with the oven method, but in half the time that it would take flower.
It’s important to note that a household oven doesn’t always match the exact temperature that it’s dialed to, thus it’s essential to constantly check the temperature and the oven itself throughout the process. Once your decarboxylated cannabis is dry and brown in color, let it cool down and pulse it within a food grinder. From here, you can start thinking about binding your decarboxylated cannabis with the fats in certain oils or alcohol.
Another method that is a bit more intensive, but also quite popular amongst cannabis chefs, is the boiler method. For this, you must place the cannabis in a vacuum-sealed boiling bag. Then, you must submerge the cannabis-filled bag into boiling water for about 90 minutes, ensuring that the water does not evaporate from the high temperature. After 90 minutes, the bag is removed from the water and cooled before opening. Like the oven method, you should be sure to moderate the temperature throughout the process (which should be at around 212 degrees Fahrenheit for the boiling water bath). This method can also be performed with a hot oil bath, but at higher temperatures (250 degrees) and until the bubbles begin to taper off.
Preserve Your Terps and THC
Although cooking at higher temperatures might help your cannabis decarboxylate at a faster rate, slowing down the process has some immense benefits as well. When it comes to extracting THC and that distinctive flavor of each cannabis strain, which comes from pungent, naturally occurring oils called terpenes, decarboxylation must be performed more slowly. Once temperatures get up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, both the cannabinoids and terpenes become compromised, so even if you’re in a rush to decarboxylate, beware of letting your heat source get too hot.
Now that you’ve successfully decarboxylated your cannabis, you can now infuse it with various cooking oils, butter, lecithin, and also create potent alcohol or vegetable glycerine tinctures. Although you can technically still get a high from skipping the decarboxylation process and throwing your bud right into a heated solvent, you’re severely hindering both the integrity and potency of the cannabinoids and terpenes by doing so. Decarboxylation can be a lengthy and trying process, but your body and mind will certainly thank you for it once you ingest a fully activated edible infusion.
Get the most out of your marijuana.