How to Decarboxylate Your Cannabis Buds
Decarboxylating your weed before infusing it into edibles is essential if you want to transfer those active cannabinoids into your products.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the dominant cannabinoids found in cannabis. They supply us with psychoactive and medicinal benefits, respectively.
Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA) is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid version of THC that is present in raw, live cannabis. Likewise, cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA) is the non-active version of CBD. As the mature harvested cannabis plant dries and is exposed to the air, THCA, CBDA, and the minor cannabinoids slowly convert into their active forms.
Application of heat aids this process known as decarboxylation. THCA and CBDA in raw cannabis have an extra carboxyl ring in their chemical structure. The application of heat removes that ring or decarboxylates the compound.
The flame you light your joint or bong with heats the cannabis and decarboxylates it instantaneously. It turns the non-psychoactive compound THCA into the psychoactive compound THC, which is then taken into your bloodstream. Without decarboxylation, you would not get any of the psychoactive benefits of THC.
How to Decarboxylate Your Cannabis Flower
- Pre-heat your oven to 245°F with your oven thermometer.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper and chop up your adequately dried and cured flower into small pea-sized chunks. Do not cut up your weed too fine or use a grinder, as this will make the bud too fine and more prone to burning.
- Bake in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes. You want to achieve an even toasting and a green/gold shade.
- Leave the bud to cool down completely.
- Finely chop the decarbed bud and transfer it to an airtight container. Keep it stored out of sunlight.
The Importance of Decarboxylating Cannabis
When you want to use your cannabis flower to make edibles or to make an infusion of butter or oil, you must decarboxylate your plant material before cooking with it. Heating your weed in an oven before infusion is essential if you want the cannabinoids transferred into the infusion and the finished dish.
Cooking non-decarboxylated cannabis as just another ingredient in your recipe may activate some cannabinoids. However, as the cannabis is combined with other ingredients of different chemical makeup, you will be reducing the cannabinoid transfer rate. Also, if you cook at too high a temperature, you will lose any cannabinoids altogether.
Low Decarboxylating Temps for Best Terpenes
Decarboxylation occurs in the range of 200-245°F. Compared to the temperatures of a burning joint or a vape pen, decarboxylation for edibles is completed at a lower temperature for a more extended period. This is to try and keep as many cannabinoids and terpenes intact and infused as possible. Terpenes are exceptionally volatile and can evaporate at high temperatures. This could leave flavors and aromas behind that could ruin your food.
Suppose you put cannabis in the oven at over 300°F. In that case, you will be burning off all the cannabinoids and terpenes, losing all psychoactive and medicinal qualities. Therefore, you must decarboxylate your weed correctly before using it in a recipe.
Decarboxylating in a Domestic Oven
When decarboxylating cannabis at home in a domestic oven, it is important to remember that the temperature shown to you is not exact and is more of an average. A standard oven can fluctuate up and down by 20 degrees. The best thing to do is invest in an oven thermometer to combat this.
You can heat the oven and get it to a constant sweet spot of 245°F before putting your cannabis in. This may take a good 30 minutes of playing around with the temperature dial on your oven. Still, getting it right before you start decarboxylation is worth it.
Make sure you put the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Ovens are often hotter at the top and cooler toward the bottom, so the middle should ensure the most stable decarboxylation temperature. It goes without saying that when you put your weed in the oven for decarboxylation that this should be on the middle shelf too.
What Parts of the Plant can I Decarboxylate?
You can use all flower parts when decarboxylating, including stems and shake. If you want reliable, predictable results, stick to one strain so you know what to expect from the effects. However, nothing is stopping you from using a mix of strains if that is what you want or have on hand.
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How Long will Decarboxylated Weed Keep?
You should aim to use your decarbed cannabis within three to six months, a year tops! After this, the THC will begin to naturally degrade and transform into the sleepy cannabinoid cannabinol (CBN), which will give you a very tired high.
What About Odors while Decarboxylating?
Decarboxylating cannabis will produce an unavoidable and potent odor, like anything you put in an oven. If you are trying to do it discreetly, this can be a problem. Obviously, you can open windows and doors, but this is not an option if you have close neighbors who may catch a whiff and object.
It is possible to buy silicon baking boxes that you can seal and put in the oven, especially for decarbing cannabis. These are an excellent option to reduce tell-tale smells significantly. Additionally, turn on your extractor fan over your oven if you have one and invest in an indoor air filter or some heavy-duty odor neutralizers.
Oxygen can contribute to some decarboxylation occurring naturally over time when you are drying and curing homegrown cannabis. If you do not intend to cook with your weed, once you have dried and cured your flower to the required standard, store it in an airtight container. This will stop further decarboxylation before consuming it. Otherwise, you will find it lacks freshness and potency over time.
Now you know how to decarboxylate cannabis properly. You are ready to use it in any recipe or make topical applications. A final word of warning here, though. Approach with caution whenever you consume homemade cannabis products. Although you can decarb your cannabis well, you still have no definitive proof of how strong your final product will be.
It is very challenging to determine the exact potency of cannabis edibles due to the number of variables involved. I highly recommend microdosing until you have experienced the effects and understand the potency of what you have made.
Written by Rich Hamilton | Writer, Consultant, Author of The Growers Guide
Rich Hamilton has been in the hydroponics industry for more than 20 years, working originally as a general manager in a hydroponics retail outlet before becoming an account manager at Century Growsystems. He enjoys working on a daily basis with shop owners, manufacturers, distributors, and end users to develop premium products.