Today you will learn everything there is to know about decarboxylation.
We will also get into detail on:
- How to decarb weed at home
- Why you should decarb weed before making edibles
- What you can make with marijuana once you have decarbed it
Let’s jump right in, without any further ado.
Exclusive bonus: If you’re using cannabis for medical purposes, feel free to download our free dosage eBook which explains the exact step-by-step process Dr. Dustin Sulak used to successfully treat more than 18,000 patients with cannabis, including the day-by-day dosage charts.
What is decarboxylation?
Our definition of decarboxylation is as follows:
Decarboxylation is magic behind making weed a potent additive to food.
“Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide (CO2). Usually, decarboxylation refers to a reaction of carboxylic acids, removing a carbon atom from a carbon chain.”
Decarbing weed is a process of heating up raw cannabis to a certain temperature, at which it will release a carboxyl group and become potent.
As you can see on the image above, THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid) is the active component in raw cannabis and it’s not psychoactive.
Once it reaches a certain temperature, THCA gets converted to THC and THC is what gets you high.
Chemistry of cannabinoids
Chemical structure of THC and CBD
All cannabinoids contained within raw cannabis flowers have an extra carboxyl ring or group (COOH) attached to their chain.
You can see their structure on the image above. As you can see, they do not have an extra carboxyl (COOH) group attached.
The extra carboxyl group is lost in the process of decarboxylation due to the effect the heat has on their chemical structure.
Once enough heat has been applied, the molecule will release a carboxyl group. That carboxyl group then gets replaced with a hydrogen molecule.
This process is pretty much the same for CBD. Both CBD and THC acids are carboxylic acids which tend to decompose directly when heated.
Only complex carboxylic acids decompose under the influence of heat alone.
Simple carboxylic acids are harder to decarboxylate. Their sodium salts do undergo decarboxylation when heated with soda lime.
Now, decarbing is nothing new to mankind.
Humanity has mastered the process of decarboxylation thousands of years ago when we first started making bronze and iron weapons.
Sure, people didn’t understand or know the chemistry behind it at the time, but they didn’t have to know it for it to happen. When you stop to think about it, that is the true magic of science — you don’t need to know what is happening or how something is happening for it to have a massive impact on mankind.
As with any other chemical process, there are certain things that need to be done in order for the chemical components to change their structure.
We have found out previously that for this particular process we need to raise the temperature of the THCA molecules found in raw cannabis.
Decarbing is not a process that happens only at a certain temperature. It happens on a high temperature, but determining how high of a temperature and how long to keep the weed at that temperature is key.
Luckily for us, there is a chart.
This is called a decarboxylation chart.
On this graph, you can see how you can reach the desired THC by baking the buds on a specific temperature for a certain period of time.
As this chart was based on a strain that can have a maximum of 15% THC, you can see that the easiest way to reach that amount is by decarbing weed for about 7 minutes on 300°F (148°C), or for 20 minutes on about 250°F (121°C).
Keep in mind that you should always preheat the oven to this temperature when decarbing weed. You should check the buds through the oven glass in order to make sure they are not burning too fast.
Here is how to decarb weed in 8 steps
So far, we’ve learned that cannabis can be decarboxylated in several ways, depending on the temperature and the time you bake it at.
We also found out that the easiest way to decarb weed is to bake it at a relatively low temperature for about 30 minutes.
Here’s a step by step guide on how to decarb weed:
- Preheat the oven to 250℉. If you’ve never done this before, just turn the switch so that it points to 250. Once it has reached that temperature, the oven will turn off a small (usually orange) light.
- Break up the weed into small chunks. Don’t grind it down, just break it into smaller bits and don’t leave any nugs out.
- Spread the small pieces and flakes on a piece of baking paper (one with a rim works best). Make sure there are no overlapping pieces of weed.
- Bake the cannabis at 250℉ for 25-30 minutes. Make sure not to open the oven too often. Decarbed weed should be change its color from green to light brown.
- After 25-30 minutes, check your cannabis. It should be light to medium brown in color and should be very dry. If it’s not, put it back in the oven for an extra 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
- When finished baking, remove the cannabis from the baking sheet and let it cool for a while. Careful, it’s going to be very crumbly at this point so every nug you touch can easily turn to dust.
- When the cannabis has cooled down sufficiently, put it in a food processor and pulse until your weed is thoroughly ground (like oregano).
- If you’re going to use the cannabis you just decarbed in smoothies or drinks, you should continue grinding until you turn it to a powder. For food, there is no need to do this.
Decarboxylation temperatures chart
The consequences of cooking edibles without decarbing weed are terrible so trust my word when I say it’s a must. It is just not worth it, even though most people who never made cannabis-infused foods think this is a legit approach.
Even though science is very exact, cooking is not really a science. You can never really know what is the temperature inside of the oven other than hoping that your thermometer inside is working properly.
As you can see in the image above, decarbing weed can be done in 3 different ways. The basic and the most common way is decarbing cannabis inside an oven, but you can also do it in a boiling water bath.
Hot oil baths are reserved for making cannabis oil and that’s a bit different process than regular decarbing, so we will talk about that another time.
If you plan on decarbing kief or hash, you should always refer to the second chart in this post. You will notice that on higher temperatures, kief and hash tend to decarb a bit quicker than dried flowers.
You may also want to refer to this chart if you are decarbing weed strains that are higher in CBD or THC than others. Strains that have a high level of CBD tend to decarb a bit slower than those with high THC contents.
Other ways of processing weed
Cannabis can also be activated through solvent extraction and ice-water extraction, which are both complex chemical processes.
These methods produce a concentrate that ends up being used for dabbing, although it can be kept in an oily state as well. The important point of all this is that cannabinoids in marijuana need to be activated so that the body can get high.
It’s this activation that gives your weed the psychoactive and medical benefits you are looking to get, and you can thank decarboxylation for that.
Now that you know how to decarb weed…
It’s time to put it to good use. You can do so by following these guides: