As the legalization of medical cannabis gathers pace across the United States, so does research into the safest and most effective consumption methods. However, after years of control and criminalization, many people are understandably confused about their options.
Many patients who use medical cannabis are interested in smoke-free, cannabis-derived alternatives such as edibles or oils, which people often don’t realize can easily be made at home. Of course, consuming cannabis in edible form isn’t possible everywhere, as state rules vary. But in states like Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia, where weed is fully legal and edibles are permitted, decarbing weed is becoming an increasingly popular talking point.
Looking for info on how to decarb weed yourself? Then you’re in the right place!
In this handy guide, we’ll fully explain the decarboxylation process, including essential considerations for optimum decarb temp and time, and some easy-to-follow DIY steps for decarboxylation in ovens and other household appliances.
What is Decarboxylation?
Although sharing knowledge about cannabis products is now commonplace, one simple but essential process in making edibles is not yet common — how to decarb weed.
Decarboxylation, the scientific name for decarbing weed, allows cannabis products to reach maximum potency without smoking. However, it sounds like a process more suitable for a science lab than a kitchen. Luckily, making cannabis decarboxylate at home is a relatively straightforward process.
Let’s start with the basics. Have you ever seen a person eat a cannabis leaf salad? Most likely not, and with good reason. In its raw form, cannabis doesn’t produce any intoxicating effects. That’s because without any additional processing, the active components in cannabis —THC and CBD — exist in their non-reactive, acid forms THC-A and CBD-A.
Decarboxylation is the chemical reaction that activates the cannabis plant to facilitate the release of psychoactive compounds to the highest degree of potency. The process removes the carboxyl (COOH) group from THC-A and CBD-A, converting them to their active compounds, THC and CBD.
After the reaction, these decarboxylated cannabinoids are ready to bind with your body’s cannabinoid receptors, allowing you to feel the effects. All you have to do is add heat.
We’ll discuss exactly how much heat, including a recommended decarb temp, a little later. But for now, let’s look at the importance of decarbing weed before consumption.
Why is Decarbing Weed Important?
As we’ve already mentioned, decarbing weed to activate cannabis potency requires heat. So, consumers who smoke cannabis automatically decarb weed as they light each joint.
However, if patients wish to consume cannabis in other ways, like ingesting an edible or topical cream, an extra step is required to activate the decarbing process before consumption/application. And no, we’re not suggesting you deliberately burn your brownies before eating them. Instead, you can follow a simple method to activate your cannabis and maximize its beneficial properties.
Decarbing Weed: Considerations
Cannabis will naturally decarboxylate over time. However, the process is extremely slow, so a helping hand is often advantageous. Once you’ve thoroughly understood the decarboxylation process, you can apply the principles to a wide range of products you can make and use at home. Let’s take a look at the most essential considerations.
The most crucial consideration when decarbing weed is achieving the correct temperature. Insufficient heat will only unlock a small portion of cannabinoids, leaving most of the potential potency of your medical cannabis untapped.
That means your body is missing out on optimal consumption benefits. On the other hand, excessive temperatures will burn your cannabis, effectively vaporizing the THC and CBD while decarbing it, rendering the active properties useless/unusable.
Weed will typically decarboxylate naturally over several months. But as soon as the correct amount of heat is applied to the raw plant, the process begins. Therefore, when decarbing at home, we must also consider the time.
Too short a time means not enough of the cannabinoids are converted. Conversely, too long a time means the active products will start to burn off. Either way, the effectiveness of the resulting weed is significantly reduced.
Optimizing Temperature and Time
The key to faster decarboxylation is to increase heat (to a point) for sufficient time. Active compounds and terpenes in cannabis decarb at different rates. A 2016 study made a comparison to show how THC-A and CBD-A convert in different conditions. Their results can be summarized as follows:
Additionally, domestic oven temperatures can fluctuate by 10 - 20 degrees. Considering this, decarbing weed at around 220 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes should effectively preserve the maximum possible amount of THC. However, remember it’s not an exact science, and some trial and error may be necessary to perfect your methodology.
Several decarbing methods can be used at home. Let’s discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each so you can settle on the best option.
Decarboxylation in an oven is the most popular and effective method because you can easily control the time and temperature. Due to the simplicity and popularity of this method, we’ve provided a more detailed explanation of the process below for you. But don't worry if you don't have an oven at home. There are a few alternative options:
Decarbing Weed on a Stovetop
Using a pot on the stove is the least likely to burn cannabis. Conversely, it’s the method most likely to produce uneven decarbing. You should also remember that a stovetop methodology is very slow and not the most efficient because water boils at 212 degrees (100 degrees C), meaning reaching the maximum temperature for complete decarboxylation is impossible.
Decarbing Weed in a Microwave
Although certainly the fastest way to decarb weed without smoking it, the challenge when using a microwave is the lack of control over the exact temperature, which increases the chance of burning. So, a fair degree of experimentation may be required to find the perfect formula for optimum results using your specific microwave — along with lots of attention and care.
Using a Decarbing Machine
This made-for-purpose machine yields impressive results since the device does all of the work for you. The downside is that they typically come with a hefty price tag.
In summary, decarbing weed in the oven is the easiest, fastest, and least laborious decarbing methodology without investing in a specialist product.
How to Decarb Weed in the Oven
Here is our easy-to-follow guide for producing your cannabis decarboxylate in the oven at home. Before running through a step-by-step guide, let’s start with what you’ll need.
- An oven
- A baking sheet (or oven bag)
- Some parchment, baking paper, or aluminum foil
- Your cannabis flower
- A spatula
- An airtight container
- Preheat your oven to 220 degrees and set your rack to the middle shelf.
- Place the parchment, baking paper, or foil on your baking sheet.
- Prepare your cannabis by carefully breaking up the product. Take care not to grind too finely, or you’ll increase the risk of it burning.
- Spread your weed evenly over the baking sheet and bake at 220 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes.
- At the halfway point, gently stir the weed with a spatula.
- Your flower is baked when it turns light brown or golden.
- Once baked, remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the cannabis flower to cool.
- Store in a safe place inside an airtight container.
Additional Tips for Decarbing Weed
Now you’ve got the instructions and methodology for foolproof decarboxylation firmly in hand, let’s look at some of our most frequently asked questions so you can refine your process with helpful tips and advice.
How Do I Prepare My Bud for Decarboxylation?
It’s essential to break up the cannabis to guarantee an even and thorough decarbing process. However, beware of overgrinding. Smaller pieces that are too fine are more likely to burn, which produces an unpleasant bitter aftertaste.
What Can I Do About the Smell?
Cannabis produces a distinctive odor when heated; although many people love it, it can be off putting to some. A faint aroma is a normal byproduct of decarbing weed. However, if your oven smells like a smoking joint, that’s a telltale sign that your precious weed is burning rather than simply decarbing. So check the temperature frequently and turn your oven down if you think your cannabis is burning.
If you’re doing everything right and smell is still an issue, try decarbing weed in a mason jar. Simply prepare your weed as usual, but place it in a jar inside the oven rather than directly onto the baking sheet.
Why Does My Decarbed Weed Taste Different?
As we’ve seen, THC-A and CBD-A decarb at different temperatures. Terpenes, the flavor compounds in cannabis, will also decarb, often at a lower temperature than THC or CBD. Reducing the temperature makes you more likely to preserve your favorite terpenes and maintain the flavor. Remember, you may need to adjust the time as you decrease the temperature.
How Do I Store My Decarbed Weed?
Weed that has undergone decarboxylation should be stored safely in an air-tight container. That will help slow down any further decarboxylation and preserve the potency of your product. Keep your stash away from sunlight, which can speed up degradation.
How Long Can I Keep Decarbed Weed?
Weed does lose its effectiveness over time, but it can be stored for 3 - 6 months before it begins to lose potency. Decarbing in smaller batches is recommended to avoid wasting your cannabis resources. If your weed has been in storage for a while before use, check it carefully for mold before consumption. Unfortunately, decarbed weed is more prone to mold.
What Edibles Can I Make With My Weed?
The sky is pretty much the limit regarding ways to use your weed. One of the most popular tactics is adding it to butter to make what is commonly known as cannabutter. You can use this for baking or spread it directly onto bread or toast. It’s also possible to make oils. Cannabis infuses cooking oils and coconut oil well, opening up many savory cooking options, from frying eggs to salad dressings.
What Else Can I Make With My Weed?
Oils with higher fat contents allow the cannabis to bind better. For example, coconut oil infused with cannabis can be used as a topical cream and applied to a specific area for targeted relief.
Get Your Medical Marijuana Card Today with CannabisRxHealth
The medical cannabis industry has witnessed rapid growth in recent years, fuelled by the prohibitive cost of mainstream medical treatment and the growing interest in natural therapies. Although possession of weed remains a federal crime, holding a medical cannabis card allows patients legal access to cannabis for therapeutic purposes.
A wealth of information is available for patients looking to make their delicious homemade edibles and explore other smoke-free methods of cannabis consumption. So, there’s never been a better time to sign up for a medical cannabis card. Just ask the population of 3.8 million medical cannabis users — and growing — across the country.
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