Cannabis Decarboxylation: A how to guide

Raw cannabis flower contains all the active ingredients, but in their non-psychoactive forms, i.e. THC – the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis – as well as CBD exist in the plant as THCA and CBDA respectively. These compounds contain an extra carboxyl ring that prevents them from appropriately binding with the endocannabinoid receptors in our brain, therefore will not get you high if consumed as is. To make the THCA available in it’s psychoactive form, THC, the cannabis flower/oil will need to go through a heating process called decarboxylation.

This process is easily facilitated when the cannabis is heated during smoking or vaping, however if you are planning to do an infusion of some sort – be it baked edibles, meats, infused juices etc. – you will need to perform the decarboxylation process separately to activate the THC before infusing it into your cooking medium.

Below I outline the best methods I have come across for “decarbing” your bud.

Some Considerations:

Unlike smoking and vaping, decarboxylation for edibles needs to be done at lower temperatures for longer periods of time. This helps keep the cannabinoids intact during infusion, thus preventing the loss of valuable cannabinoid matter and terpenes which can happen at higher temperatures. Cannabis decarboxylation occurs between 200-245ºF, with the lower end requiring more decarb time. Based on personal experience and research, my recommendation for edibles is to heat the buds at 240ºF for 25-30minutes.

Oven Decarboxylation Method:

Using the oven to decarb your cannabis is one of the most popular methods out there. It is easily accessible as most of the equipment is readily available in a regular kitchen setup. One thing to keep in mind when using an oven though, is that the temperature dial is more of an average temperature than an exact one. Some ovens can fluctuate by up to 20 degrees, therefore it is important to always keep an eye on your cannabis, making sure it does not turn brown too quickly or smell like its burning. Might be helpful to invest in an oven thermometer as well if you plan on cooking with cannabis on a regular basis.

Materials:

  • Baking Sheet
  • Mason Jar / **Decarboxylator Box
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Oven
  • Cannabis Flower
  • Herb Grinder (Optional)

Directions:

  1. You want to preheat your oven to 240ºF, with the oven rack in the middle position. This will help distribute the heat more evenly during the decarb process as ovens are generally hotter at the top and cooler at the bottom.
  2. Lightly break up or grind the cannabis, but not too fine as it will burn easily. Place it into a mason jar no more than 3 quarters of the way full and cover the jar with aluminum foil to prevent an excess of cannabis smell escaping the oven during the process.
  3. Place the jar on a baking sheet (for stability) and heat for 25-30minutes, shaking it at least once. Make sure to use oven gloves when handling the hot mason jar.
  4. Leave it to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes. The cannabis should look lightly toasted and golden brown.
  5. After it has cooled enough to handle, feel free to add the decarboxylated cannabis to butter, oil, or another base for an infusion, or just carefully place it in a storage container for future use.

**Using a Decarboxylator box

A variation of the above method I have been seeing in the cannabis community involves the use of a decarboxylator box in place of the mason jar. This is a silicon container that can be shut air tight to prevent any odors from escaping the oven during the decarboxylation process. A new set on Amazon comes with an oven thermometer that is used to monitor temperatures inside the box. This is particularly useful when “decarbing” a larger amount of cannabis at a time, and if you require a bit more accuracy with your decarboxylation process.

Decarb Box Notes:

  • Preheat oven with the decarb box inside to allow the silicone to heat up before the cannabis is added. Since the box will be shut air tight, more time will be required to heat up the inside of the box if it is not preheated. No need to close the box at this stage.
  • When oven is preheated take out the box, add your cannabis and close it air tight before placing the thermometer.
  • Place the box back in the oven and continue with step 3 above.

Automatic Decarb Machine:

These are by far the easiest and most efficient way to get your flowers decarboxylated. A high quality machine can be costly to secure, however, depending on your budget and the frequency at which you make your infused foods, it might be worth it. The ones I have used before generally come with an easy how-to guide, requiring just two clicks of a button to get started.

With the science backing some of these machines you can essentially guarantee the same level of decarboxylation on every batch. No need to worry about your flowers not fully “decarbing” or getting burnt in the process, which can really have an impact on the potency of your edibles.

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