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A worker looks through a bag of marijuana that will be used to make marijuana infused chocolate edibles at Kiva Confections. To make your own infused edibles you'll have to know how to decarb weed.
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How to Decarb Weed for the Perfect Edibles

Before you can begin making infused treats, you need to know how to decarb weed. We’ve got you covered.

Nov 14, 2018 - Anna Wilcox

OAKLAND, CA – JANUARY 16: A worker looks through a bag of marijuana that will be used to make marijuana infused chocolate edibles at Kiva Confections on January 16, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan via Getty Images)

A worker looks through a bag of marijuana that will be used to make marijuana infused chocolate edibles at Kiva Confections. To make your own infused edibles you'll have to know how to decarb weed.

OAKLAND, CA – JANUARY 16: A worker looks through a bag of marijuana that will be used to make marijuana infused chocolate edibles at Kiva Confections on January 16, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan via Getty Images)

There’s a reason people don’t just eat dried cannabis bud. Whether fresh or dried, cannabis won’t get you high unless it’s heated. The act of transforming a sticky herb into a mind-bending medicinal plant relies on a process called decarboxylation. In chemistry terms, decarboxylation is the process of removing an acid (carboxyl) group from a fatty molecule. But, what is decarboxylation in simple terms? This article tells you everything you need to know about decarboxylation and how to decarb weed properly.

What is Decarboxylation?

One way to think about decarboxylation is as an activation. In order to “activate” your herb, you’ll need to break down the components of cannabis resin from fatty acids into their more potent and medicinal formats. Marijuana causes a psychoactive “high” thanks to a compound called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This THC, however, is not found on fresh cannabis plants. In fact, the psychoactive only shows up on fresh plants in trace amounts. Instead, trichome-coated flowers are rich in THCA, the acid form of THC.

Believe it or not, THC is actually a breakdown product of THC-Acid. As THCA ages, it loses some of its chemical bonds. When cannabis flowers are dried and cured, small amounts of THCA are converted to THC. Yet, the trace amounts of THC present in dried buds are not quite enough to produce a substantial psychoactive effect. To speed up the process and ensure that more THCA is converted into its more psychoactive relative, you need heat. Smoking, vaporizing, and otherwise heating the herb unlocks the plant’s psychoactive potential.

The process of converting THC-Acid into psychoactive THC is called decarboxylation. Often abbreviated to “decarbing”, understanding this simple science is useful for herb smokers and culinary artists alike. Not only does decarboxylation explain why smoking is one of the most popular ways to consume the cannabis plant, but decarbing your herb and concentrates prior to cooking is a surefire way to make for potent and effective edibles.

Decarboxylation What It Is Why You Should Decarb Your Weed 01 How to Decarb Weed for the Perfect Edibles
Photography by Jonathan Coward for Herb

Knowing When to Decarb Weed

If you’re hoping to get the most from your cannabis, decarbing is essential. Decarboxylation is the only way to achieve a strong psychoactive effect from your herb. Yet, apart from simply taking a lighter to a bowl, where’s when it’s useful to decarb:

  • Prior to making infused oils, edibles, drinks and foods.
  • Prior to making tinctures.
  • Prior to adding cannabis concentrates to edibles and drinks.
  • After making full-extract extractions at home.

While decarbing is necessary to tap into the cannabis plant’s mind-altering nature, a psychoactive experience isn’t always appropriate for everyone. Fortunately, for those hoping to tap into the healing potential of cannabis without the high, there is some benefit to keeping things raw. The cannabinoid acids found in uncured and unheated cannabis plants may not be as well-researched as THC, but they are not without their benefit.

Early research in the lab suggests that THCA may be useful as an anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory aid. Virtually no human trials, however, examine just how effective THC-acid can be. Though, many medical patients use fresh cannabis in juices and smoothies to take full advantage of the potential benefits cannabinoid acids may provide.

Do You Decarboxylate CBD?

The Ultimate Guide on How to Decarb Weed3 How to Decarb Weed for the Perfect Edibles
EVERGREEN, CO – APRIL 18: Kurt Levy, senior formulations scientist and inventor for Ebbu, holds up a sample of 95% purified CBD oil that is almost completely crystallized before it is ground into a pure compound in the R&D lab at Ebbu, on April 18, 2018 in Evergreen, Colorado. Ebbu, an Evergreen-based company, develops cannabinoid formulations tailored for specific effects and specific consumer products goods. The company shed its marijuana licenses with the state to become a marijuana technology licensing and research company that serves a global marketplace. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Just like THC, only trace amounts of activated CBD exists on the fresh cannabis plant. Instead, consumers can expect high quantities of CBD-acid. Like THC-acid, the acid form of CBD is less bioavailable than the decarboxylated stuff. While there may be many undiscovered benefits of CBDA, it’s the decarboxylated stuff that you’ll find in the tinctures and infused oils often sold online.

The exception is often isolated CBDA crystalline, which is a purified extraction of CBD. Like all cannabinoid acids, CBDA crystalline will transform into CBD when heated via baking, dabbing, vaporization, and smoking. Those hoping to supplement with the raw extraction, however, may be able to melt CBDA crystals in a warm beverage like coffee or tea without triggering a full decarboxylation reaction.

A full decarboxylation can happen at various temperatures over prolonged periods of time. CBDA crystalline can melt in your average cup of coffee, but that won’t equate to a cup full of CBD. In order to decarboxylate CBDA at such a low temperature, you would need to heat the crystals in your coffee for several hours. With a hotter temperature, like those achieved with a vaporizer, you can expect a fast decarboxylation reaction with any CBDA extraction.

How to Decarb Weed

Decarboxylation What It Is Why You Should Decarb Your Weed 05 How to Decarb Weed for the Perfect Edibles
Photography by Jonathan Coward for Herb

When you’re smoking and vaporizing cannabis, decarboxylation occurs as soon as you add heat. If you’re hoping to decarboxylate before cooking, however, some additional steps are required. But, don’t worry. Decarbing right in your own kitchen is easy!

Decarboxylating your herb prior to cooking is a must for those hoping to make truly high-quality edibles. The good news? You can decarboxylate both cannabis flower and concentrates in your oven. Once the cannabis material has been activated, you can use it to infuse butter, oils, alcohols, fatty beverages, or simply use it as a psychoactive spice the next time you make some pasta. Here’s what to do:

Materials:

  • Coarsely ground cannabis (chunks should be on the larger side).
  • Baking tray with raised edges
  • Parchment paper
  • Wooden spoon or spatula
  • Oven mitt
  • Oven thermometer

How To Decarboxylate Marijuana:

  1. Preheat your oven to 240◦F (approximately 115.5◦C).
  2. Make sure you have an oven thermometer to give you an exact reading of the internal oven temperature. This is very important. Depending on the type of cannabis, your timing may vary, so stay close to the oven to look for signs of high heat and burning. A difference of 10◦ could burn the cannabis.
  3. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Evenly distribute your coarsely ground cannabis on your baking pan. Spacing the cannabis out is necessary to ensure the heat is evenly distributed.
  5. Toast the cannabis for a total of 40 minutes. Check on your herb at 20 minutes and gently stir. Check again at 30 minutes and take the herb out as soon as soon as it begins to develop a light, toasted coloration.

As a general rule of thumb, make sure not to leave the oven door open for too long when checking your cannabis. The heat will quickly escape and you decrease your likelihood of developing an even decarboxylation reaction. Your herb will gradually change color as it toasts. The cannabis should go from a vibrant green to a golden brown or dark green color.

As simple as this recipe sounds, if you want to completely cut down on the hassle, we recommend the MagicalButter machine, the easiest way to make cannabutter at home.

Decarboxylation What It Is Why You Should Decarb Your Weed 03 How to Decarb Weed for the Perfect Edibles
Photography by Jonathan Coward for Herb

How to Decarboxylate BHO

Just as you can decarb cannabis flower, you can decarboxylate cannabis concentrates. Of all of the cannabis extracts, decarbing butane hash oil (BHO) is perhaps one of the easiest. All you need is a sheet pan, an oven, and some time! Here’s the quick and easy way to decarboxylate BHO.

Materials:

  • Your desired amount of BHO
  • Baking tray with raised edges
  • Parchment paper
  • Oven mitt
  • Oven thermometer

Directions for Decarbing BHO:

  1. Preheat your oven to 240◦F (approximately 115.5◦C).
  2. Make sure you have an oven thermometer to give you an exact reading of the internal oven temperature.
  3. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Place your crumble, wax, shatter, or budder on the center of your baking sheet.
  5. Bake your concentrate for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it has melted and substantial bubbling has occurred.
  6. You can then let your decarbed concentrate cool to make it easier to handle before mixing it in with melted butter, oils, or other edible creations.

How to Decarboxylate Cannabis Oil

Whether its an RSO or a CO2 oil, you can use an oil or hot water bath to successfully decarboxylate cannabis oils. Fair warning: if using the cooking oil method, be mindful not to heat oils to a boil. This creates more opportunity for burns and accidents.

Materials:

  • Cooking oil bath or large stock pot
  • Inexpensive cooking oil
  • Small heat-proof container for cannabis oil
  • Your desired amount of cannabis oil
  • Candy thermometer
  • Stir stick or small spoon

Directions for Decarbing Cannabis Oil

  1. Place a small heat-proof container of cannabis oil into a larger cooking oil bath (canola oil works well).
  2. Slowly heat cooking oil to 240◦F (115.5◦C) and use a candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature.
  3. As the cannabis oil heats, stir the oil to break up bubbles.
  4. Remove cannabis oil from heat when bubble formation starts to slow down — or leave on heat until all bubbles stop for increased sedative effect.

How to Decarboxylate Kief or Hash

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Photography by Jonathan Coward for Herb

Kief is another simple extraction that is easy to use as a general cooking spice. Unlike dried cannabis flower, decarboxylated kief does not add a substantial weedy taste to infused-foods. When throwing together a simple dinner, adding a half teaspoon of decarboxylated kief or hash makes for a fun treat.

Materials:

  • Kief.
  • Baking tray with raised edges
  • Parchment paper
  • Wooden spoon or spatula
  • Oven mitt
  • Oven thermometer

Directions for Decarbing Kief:

  1. Preheat oven to 240◦F (115.5◦C).
  2. Make sure you have an oven thermometer to give you an exact reading of the internal oven temperature.
  3. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Evenly spread your kief in the center of the baking sheet.
  5. Bake kief for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring gently with a wooden spoon half-way through.

How to Decarboxylate Cannabis Using a Sealed Bag

Decarboxylation What It Is Why You Should Decarb Your Weed 07 How to Decarb Weed for the Perfect Edibles
Photography by Jonathan Coward for Herb

Looking for an ultra-simple way to decarb your flower? Simply throw a heat-safe cooking pouch into some boiling water and let it simmer for 90 minutes. End result? Some decarbed material that you can use for your next cooking adventure.

  1. Place the cannabis flower/keif/hash into a boilable cooking pouch. Seal it.
  2. Place in boiling water for 90 minutes. Make sure water does not boil dry.
  3. Take the bag out of the water. Let it slowly cool before opening.

Tips for Properly Decarboxylating Cannabis

In general, decarboxylation is a simple process. After all, when you take your lighter to some ground herb, you can count on a psychoactive experience. When it comes to vaporization and the culinary arts, however, there are some nuances to decarbing to keep in mind. Decarboxylating your cannabis well requires steady heat, a controlled temperature, and time. If you heat your herb too little, the process will not take place. With too much heat, you may accidentally evaporate away the oils, flavors, and THC in the plant material.

The boiling points of the major cannabinoids, aroma molecules, and flavor compounds in cannabis range from 246.2° to 435.2° Fahrenheit. However, boiling points do not always equate to decarboxylation. The ideal temperature for decarboxylating marijuana in an oven is just below the standard boiling points, at 240°F. To properly decarboxylate, it’s useful to decarb at low temperatures for a long period of time.

If you’re using an oven to decarb, you may run into a few complications. It is important to note that most ovens heat in a cycle, so a varying internal temperature can occur. This is especially true in gas ovens and older models with inaccurate thermostats. Fortunately, there are a couple of tricks you can use to ensure that your precious herb is described correctly.

The best way to stay as accurate as possible when decarbing in an oven is to use a digital thermostat and a baking stone. To maintain a more consistent temperature, you can use a baking stone under your baking tray to promote consistency while avoiding opening the oven unless necessary. You can also decarboxylate at lower temperatures to safeguard your herb, as long as you increase your baking time accordingly.

How to Decarb Weed Like an Expert

If you’re a cannabis aficionado, it’s easy to get real scientific with your herb. To help you dial in the perfect temperature for your decarbing process, here is a list of major cannabinoids, flavor molecules, and aroma molecules found in cannabis. All of their individual boiling points are listed. If you’d like to get geeky about it, you can use this information to optimize your decarboxylation process for the particular flavors and aromas you would like to enhance.

Phytocannabinoids

There’s more to cannabis than just THC and CBD. Phytocannabinoids are a family of compounds produced only by the marijuana plant. Different cannabis strains can produce varying ratios of phytocannabinoids, giving cultivars their unique effects. Here are some of the most important cannabinoids to know about.

 

THC (Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)

Boiling point: 157° C / 314.6° Fahrenheit

Properties: Euphoriant, Analgesic, Anti Inflammatory, Antioxidant, Antiemetic

 

CBD (cannabidiol)

Boiling point: 160-180°C / 320-356° Fahrenheit

Properties: Anxiolytic, Analgesic, Antipsychotic, Anti Inflammatory, Antioxidant, Antispasmodic

 

CBN (Cannabinol)

Boiling point: 185°C / 365° Fahrenheit

Properties: Oxidation, breakdown, product, Sedative, Antibiotic

 

CBC (cannabichromene)

Boiling point: 220° / 428° Fahrenheit

Properties: Anti Inflammatory, Antibiotic, Antifungal

 

Δ-8-THC (Δ-8-tetrahydrocannabinol)

Boiling point: 175-178°C / 347-352.4° Fahrenheit

Properties: Resembles Δ-9-THC, Less psychoactive, More stable Antiemetic

 

THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)

Boiling point: < 220°C / <428° Fahrenheit

Properties: Analgesic, Euphoriant

Terpenoid Essential Oil Components of Cannabis

If you consider yourself a cannabis enthusiast, chances are you’ve heard a thing or two about terpenes. Terpenes are the aroma molecules that give different strains their distinct aromas. You have terpenes to thank for the musky sweetness of DJ Short’s Blueberry and the pungent umami in UK Cheese. Like cannabinoids, terpenes all have different boiling points. To avoid losing your terpene content, consider keeping temperatures low.

 

β-Myrcene

Boiling point: 166-168°C / 330.8-334.4° Fahrenheit

Properties: Analgesic. Anti Inflammatory, Antibiotic, Antimutagenic

 

β-Caryophyllene

Boiling point: 119°C / 246.2° Fahrenheit

Aroma: Pepper

Properties: Anti Inflammatory, Cytoprotective (gastric mucosa), Antimalarial

 

d-Limonene

Boiling point: 177°C / 350.6° Fahrenheit

Aroma: Citrus

Properties: Immune potentiator, Antidepressant, Antimutagenic

 

Linalool

Boiling point: 198°C / 388.4° Fahrenheit

Aroma: Floral

Properties: Sedative, Antidepressant, Anxiolytic, Immune potentiator

 

1,8-Cineole (Eucalyptol)

Boiling point: 176°C / 348.8° Fahrenheit

Aroma:

Properties: AChE inhibitor, Increases cerebral, blood flow, Stimulant, Antibiotic, Antiviral, Anti-inflammatory, Antinociceptive

 

α-Pinene

Boiling point: 156°C / 312.8° Fahrenheit

Aroma: Pine

Properties: Anti Inflammatory, Bronchodilator, Stimulant, Antibiotic,

 

α-Terpineol

Boiling point: 217-218°C / 422.6-424.4° Fahrenheit

Aroma: Woody

Properties: Sedative, Antibiotic, AChE inhibitor, Antioxidant, Antimalarial

 

Borneol

Boiling point: 210°C / 410° Fahrenheit

Properties: Antibiotic

 

Δ-3-Carene

Boiling point: 168*C / 334.4° Fahrenheit

Aroma:

Properties: Anti-inflammatory

Flavonoid and Phytosterol Components of Cannabis

The Ultimate Guide on How to Decarb Weed How to Decarb Weed for the Perfect Edibles
Photo by Brian Shamblen via Flickr

Apart from fragrance, cannabis plants also produce flavor molecules that give different varieties unique tastes. Since cannabis is a leafy herb, many of the flavors the plant produces can be quite bitter. These bitter flavors are responsible for the herb’s controversial and distinct taste. If you’re hoping to keep a gnarly weed flavor out of your edibles, consider decarbing cannabis oil instead of dried flower.

Apigenin

Boiling point: 178°C / 352.4° Fahrenheit

Taste: Bitter

Properties: Anxiolytic, Anti Inflammatory, Estrogenic

Quercetin

Boiling point: 250°C / 482° Fahrenheit

Flavor: Bitter

Properties: Antioxidant, Antimutagenic, Antiviral, Antineoplastic

β-Sitosterol

Boiling point: 134°C / 273.2° Fahrenheit

Properties: Anti-inflammatory

Recipes Using Decarboxylated Cannabis

Decarboxylated cannabis is most often used to infuse cooking oils and butter. However, you can also use decarbed cannabis products in topicals, soups, sauces, edibles, tinctures, and beverages. To get you started with your own cannabis creations, here are a few recipes worth trying.

How to Make Cannabutter

How to Make Cannabutter Fast How to Decarb Weed for the Perfect Edibles
Photo by Jonathan Coward/HERB

Nothing is as essential as a solid cannabutter recipe. Cannabis butter is the cornerstone of cooking with marijuana. You can use cannabutter in everything from sauces to baked desserts, making it one of the most versatile cannabis infusions.

How to Make Cannabis-Infused Coconut Oil

Hoping to avoid animal products? Cannabis-Infused coconut oil is an excellent butter replacement. A jar of infused oil can also be used as a simple topical, making this a multi-purpose infusion.

How to Make Cannabis Milk

Another way to consume your decarbed cannabis is in a cannabis milk. It’s an easy recipe that makes a milk that’s a great addition to your tea, coffee, or baked goods. Fair warning: your milk will still expire, so drink before the expiration date.

How to Make Cannabis Almond Milk

Vegan or lactose intolerant? Don’t worry, you can easily make cannabis almond milk to drink or use for any of your recipes. Recommended for the true do-it-yourself types, this recipe walks you through making your milk from scratch.

How to Make Cannaflour

Wouldn’t it be nice to get baked after tasting everything you, well, baked? Cannaflour keeps just as well as regular flour and is extremely easy to make, so you can mix a batch & store it for the future.

How to Make Homemade CBD Lotion

CBD Lotion Recipe How to Make CBD Cream At Home 01 How to Decarb Weed for the Perfect Edibles
Take your skincare routine into your own hands with this CBD lotion recipe. (Photo by Jonathan Coward/HERB)

Want to make your own DIY topicals? Cannabis lotion can be used to soothe the skin and provide minor first-aid relief for general aches and pains. You can use decarboxylated cannabis or CBD oil to infuse your own natural beauty products.


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