Not a fan of the smoking/vaping experience, but still want to try cannabis for yourself? Ever considered making edibles but didn't know where to start? Look no further! We'll talk about the process of decarboxylation, and how it opens up the possibilities of cannabis consumption!
Now, decarboxylation sounds like a complicated process, but it is in fact very simple! Decarbing your weed is something that you should be able to do with some of the basic things you should be able to find in your kitchen.
What is Decarboxylation?
You may not know it yet, but you've probably decarbed weed before, even if you didn't realize it. Basically, if you've ever heated your weed enough for it to be consumed, you've decarbed it. The main thing to consider when trying to cook with cannabis, is to not overheat the marijuana during the decarboxylation process. By heating up the herb, you are changing, or "activating" the beneficial compounds like THC that exist throughout the plant.
When to Decarb Marijuana
The simplest way to explain it, is to say that the decarbing process is necessary to get the most out of your weed, that is, the most THC and CBD. The cannabis plant on its own has very minute amounts of each of these compounds, but not really enough to get the effects that people are usually searching for when they use marijuana. The CBD and the THC that many look for are produced through decarboxylation of the original CBDA and THCA compounds.
The decarbing process can be simple, most people do it by introducing flame (lighter) to a prepared bowl or joint that has ground herb in it. However, for the best effects and the least waste it is important to take the proper steps. Also, if you are looking to use your cannabis for edibles, the decarbing process is basically an essential step. If you don't, the effects will be less pronounced, and you may end up wasting your weed. You probably won't feel the euphoric effects, and you'll make all your food taste like weed.
Why Do People Decarb Weed?
The main topic that people focus on when they are taking the time to decarboxylate their weed, is cooking. Smoking or vaping can have undesired adverse affects on a person's health when not done in moderation. As such, many people look to edibles to enjoy the noted benefits of cannabis without subjecting their lungs to any new influences.
Decarbed cannabis is perfect for preparing edibles and "tinctures" AKA infused drinks. Inhaling the THC and CBD provides a more immediate and powerful response, albeit more short-lived. This is why it's important to make up the difference in potency by fully decarbing the marijuana when preparing edibles.
It is also important to start small and understand how your body handles marijuana that has been processed through your digestive system. Many veteran smokers will find that even smaller doses of THC/CBD in edibles can have a more pronounced affect then smoking does.
Each person is different, so it's important to figure out what works the best for you!
How Does Decarbing Work?
Like I said, when you're consuming cannabis, you are looking to get the benefits from the CBD and THC compounds that are present during the process. Now, those compounds only exist in very small amounts naturally on the cannabis plant. In order to get the most benefit from the plant, the THCA and CBDA need to be heated and "activated" in order to turn the much more prominent compounds into the THC and CBD that your body responds to. The CBDA and THCA are mostly concentrated in the trichomes, the sticky crystal covered glands that cover the flower. The compounds along with other cannabinoids and terpenes are all present in the trichomes.
This is why it's important to pay attention to how you handle your flower as well! Using an outdated grinder could result in stripping many of the beneficial trichomes away from the flower, and providing a diminished result. Using the Grynder from Stache is sure to provide the best grind while preserving the quality of your flower.
Cannabis Decarboxylation Temperature
The decarbing process typically takes a decent amount of time if you want to reduce the waste that comes from using flame. Decarboxylation typically begins at around the 240 degree Fahrenheit mark, and usually takes around 30 minutes to happen. It is not guaranteed that all of the THCA and CBDA will make the transformation into THC and CBD after just 30 minutes, so it takes some proper monitoring and experience to provide the best results throughout the process. The high intensity flame or heat options still produce the decarbing effect, but it is much less efficient, and always results in wasted product and a harsher effect on the body. Even when taking the proper steps to try and maximize the efficiency of the process, you will always have some wasted/lost compounds either due to the flame or the compounds that failed to properly "activate" throughout whatever decarbing method you choose.
Throughout the process of decarboxylation, it is important to make sure that the heat is evenly distributed and to make sure that the heat isn't sapping too much of the moisture from the buds. Even if the flower isn't burnt, the buds becoming dry and brittle will also cause the plant to lose potency.
Terpenes can be considered as the flavor providers for cannabis. Terpenes vary greatly, and are what give different strains their different aromas and tastes. They are also very diverse, and can break down at various temperature, some lower than the standard decarbing temperatures.
The Terpenes that are found in different cannabis strains are also found naturally in plants that we consume across the board. Terpenes are responsible for the familiar scents that we associate with various stronger smelling plants, fruits, and spices.
There are over a dozen recognizable terpenes that can be commonly found in marijuana strains, with many of them falling under similar smell categories as the more prominent terpenes listed above. Each one can be associated with different feelings and affects, and helps influence whether a strain is classified as a sativa or an indica. Understanding the affects your choice of marijuana can have in your food's flavor and influence can be the difference in your edible experience being enjoyable and amazing.
If you plan on making edibles with your decarbed weed, it can be very important to understand the profiles of the cannabis strain you plan on using, as too many boiled and broken down terpenes can ruin the taste of your cannabis consumables.
Decarbing is a Necessary Step for Edibles
If you're preparing to make edibles, decarbing is one of the most essential steps. Decarboxylation is one of the most important steps in the process of consuming marijuana in any form. Without it, you likely won't feel any of the euphoric or therapeutic affects. For food, canna-butter or canna-oil are the most common applications. By starting with these as the bases for the infusion, a wide variety of food applications are opened up. You can blend them into various recipes, or simply apply them to a dish once it's prepared to add the benefits.
Properly straining the ingredients and taking the proper time to allow the cannabis to decarb are important factors to remember! Leaving excess materials and leftover buds that haven't been properly decarbed can leave room for bacteria and mold to grow, especially if the food that is made isn't stored properly. Just like with any food or perishable, being properly prepared and stored can make all the difference in how long a product lasts and how it tastes.
If you are looking for recipes and some classic edible options, check out this amazing cookbook published by the team at RISE. They'll teach you more about the process of making Canna-Butter and other classic options that have a number of uses!
Methods of Decarboxylation
The most common method to decarb weed is the regular ignition method. Basically, using a lighter to smoke some ground buds. For cooking however, it is important to follow some basic steps depending on what you are using to introduce heat to your cannabis. The goal is to get the buds to about 240 degrees for a decent period of time to properly "activate" the beneficial compounds that are present in the cannabis. Typically a time of 30-60 minutes is recommended, however it's important to make sure that the flower doesn't burn or dry out too much. There are steps you can take during the decarbing process to ensure the best results, but you can also speed up the process or lengthen it depending on the method you choose and what you have available.
The natural process of "curing" cannabis has a certain element of randomness to it. As a natural, living thing, it will have it's differences in how it looks, smells, and how it develops over time. There will be more similarities between the same species (or in this case strains of cannabis) but even among those same strains there are slight differences in each plant. As such, it's impossible to perfectly predict when the curing process will finish. However, one things is basically guaranteed, it will take a long time. And when I say long, I mean at least a year, or maybe even longer if you really want to get the best results
Basically, we wouldn't recommend going for the natural curing method unless you have both time and weed to spare.
The easiest method and the most commonly used method is to simply bake the marijuana in order to decarb it. You can place a baking sheet in the oven. Then you'll want to grind up the flower and spread it out on a sheet of parchment paper or other non-stick and oven-safe surface that can fit in the baking sheet.
Set your oven to 220- and 240-degrees Fahrenheit (105-115 C) and bake for 30 minutes.
You'll be able to tell when the process is essentially done when the flower has lost it's green color and has taken on a more golden brown hue.
If it gets too dark, you can assume that it has lost some potency as some of the compounds may have cooked/boiled off after getting too hot for too long.
It is important to monitor the decarbing process in the latter half to avoid unnecessary loss. Again, even if the flower isn't burnt or burning, losing too much moisture will ultimately mean less potency, so be careful not to overdue it.
Baking With a Mason Jar
A less common method would be to substitute the baking sheet for a standard glass mason jar. This is an especially useful method if you are looking to contain the odor from the baking process, as it is more than likely to make your kitchen and potentially entire home smell should you use the standard baking sheet method.
You'll want to set the oven to the regular 220-240 degrees Fahrenheit range. (105-115 C)
Place a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper on top into the middle section of the oven, and then place a wet kitchen towel on top.
Grind your cannabis and place it into the jar, make sure to not pack it too tightly if you are using larger quantities as you want an even heat distribution.
You'll want some space to allow for some shaking/shifting of the contents of the jar to allow for an even bake!
Also, when sealing the jar before placing it in the oven, it is important to not screw it on too tightly, the heat will cause it to expand a little bit, and the jar may break if the lid is on too tight.
Place the jar into the oven onto the wet towel, and bake for about 60 minutes.
For the best results, basically the most even bake, you'll want to carefully take out the jar and shake it up every 15-20 minutes during the baking process.
The jar will need about 25-30 minutes to cool after it has been baked and safely removed from the oven.
As always, you should exercise extreme caution when handling products that are high temperature, and also that have a risk of breaking and becoming dangerous in other ways.
The microwave isn't something I'd recommend unless you are pressed for time. It is effective sure, but it could be considered the hardest to get right.
You'll want to grind up your flower and put it in a microwave-safe container/bowl and cook for about 90 seconds at the highest setting to start.
You'll want to check the flower to see if the smell has become richer, and if you smell a more pungent, burning smell, you can stop.
If you haven't reached the desired effect, continue at 45-60 second intervals at the highest power setting until you get the result you want, or until you begin to smell the burning flower and can be sure that it's time to stop.
A less conventional method that is probably only available to those with some prior cooking experience, or that are willing to make the investment, is to use a cooking bag to decarb the marijuana.
The process isn't overly complicated, basically you can use the regular baking method, and you'll simply have the ground up flower in the oven bag, rather than on the baking sheet.
You can also use a method similar to the sous vide cooking technique, and boil the oven bag in water. You'll want to boil the bag for about 90 minutes, and though this takes longer, there is no chance that the flower in the bag will burn. The main difference between this and a normal sous vide, is that the bag needs to have extra air space to expand as it heats up, while traditionally the technique uses a vacuum-sealed oven bag.
- Decarboxylation is the method of preparing your cannabis to "activate" or transform the THCA and CBDA that are widely present into THC and CBD that provide a majority of the benefits that people seek when consuming cannabis.
- There are several available methods to decarb your weed. Some should be easy to do with the basic things you have in your kitchen.
- Decarboxylation is a necessary step to preparing cannabis for edible use. Most of the THCA and CBDA won't properly convert to THC/CBD unless it is properly decarbed.
According to articles from our friends at Herb.co
According to reports scientific reports published by Perkin Elmer
Roggen, Dr.M. et al. (2018) Cannabis Decarboxylation (THCA) Reaction Optimization in Cannabis Extract. publication. PerkinElmer Incorporated. Available at: https://resources.perkinelmer.com/lab-solutions/resources/docs/app_optimization_of_the_decarboxylation_reaction_in_cannabis_extract_014330_01.pdf (Accessed: 2023).
According to articles published by the Rise Cannabis Insider