Decarboxylation: How to Decarb Weed for Maximum Potency

Welcome back to another edition of Stoner Science, where today we will be explaining the process of decarboxylation from the Physics and Chemistry end of it.

We will also get into detail on:

  • How to decarb weed at home
  • Why you should decarb weed before making edibles, and..
  • What you can make with marijuana once you have decarbed it.

Let’s jump right in, without any further ado.

Decarboxylation definition

The Greencamp definition of decarboxylation is as follows:

Magic behind making weed a potent additive to food.

As none of us here are a certified chemist, or any other type of certified scientist for that matter, you might want to check out Quora’s definition:

“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 process

Decarboxylation process

Decarboxylation process

Decarbing weed means that you need to heat up your raw weed to a certain temperature, at which it will release a carboxyl group and become potent.

Since raw cannabis doesn’t have any THC prior to this process, all those stories of people eating a gram or a handful of weed and instantly fall through, unless it was the placebo effect.

As you can see on the image above, the THCA (which is an acronym for Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid) is the active component in raw cannabis, which turns to THC under the influence of increased temperature.

Chemistry of cannabinoids

THC and CBD chemical structure

Chemical structure of THC and CBD

All cannabinoids contained within the raw cannabis flowers have an extra carboxyl ring or group (COOH) attached to their chain.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the two most prevalent: THC and CBD.

You can see their structure on the image above. As you can see, they do not have an extra carboxyl (COOH) group attached to them.

The extra carboxyl group is lost in the process of carboxylation due to the effect heat has on the molecule’s chemical structure. Once a certain degree of heat has been reached and applied, the molecule will release the carboxyl group. The carboxyl group is then replaced with a hydrogen molecule.

This process is pretty much the same when it comes to CBD as with THC. Both CBD and THC acids are carboxylic acids which tend to decompose directly on heating.

However, not all carboxylic acids are decomposed in this manner, as only complex carboxylic acids decompose under the influence of heat solely.

Simple carboxylic acids are harder to decarboxylate. Their sodium salts do undergo decarboxylation when heated with soda lime but a complex mixture evolves. Although this is a very interesting process, it is not related to decarbing THCA and CBDA so we will leave it at that.

Now, decarbing is nothing new to mankind.

We have mastered the process of decarboxylation thousands of years ago when man first started making bronze and iron weapons.

Sure, we didn’t understand or know the chemistry behind it at that time, but we 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.

Decarb chart

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 high temperature, but determining how high of a temperature and how long to keep it at that temperature is the key.

Luckily for us, there is a chart.

Decarb chart

This is called a decarboxylation chart.

On this graph you can see how the desired THC content is reached by heating the buds on a specific temperature and keeping them there for a certain period of time.

As this chart was based on a strain that can have a maximum of 15% THC content, you can see that the easiest way to reach that amount is by decarbing you 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 on the buds through the oven glass in order to make sure it is not burning too fast.

In case you don’t have a see-through glass on your oven, try not to open the oven door too much, especially if you are decarbing weed at a high temperature. Opening the door will cool down the oven temperature, thus changing important factors when it comes to the decarbing process.

Find the right strain for you

Whether you want to relieve anxiety, pain or depression, the right strain is out there. Use our online tool to narrow the search.

Get Started

Here is how to decarb weed in 8 steps

So far, we’ve learned that cannabis can be decarboxylated in several ways when it comes to the temperature and the length of time for which it is being baked.

We found that the easiest way to decarb weed is at a relatively low temperature for about 30 minutes.

Here’s a step by step guide on how to do decarb cannabis:

  1. 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.
  2. If you haven’t already, break up the dried buds into small pieces with your hands. Don’t grind it down, just break it into smaller bits and don’t leave any nugs out.
  3. 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.
  4. Bake the cannabis at 250℉ for 25-30 minutes. As mentioned before, make sure you don’t open the oven too often. We recommend you open it only once around the time 25 minutes have passed. The result of this should be a change of color from green to light brown.
  5. After 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 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on everything so it doesn’t burn.
  6. 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.
  7. When the cannabis has cooled sufficiently, put it in a food processor and pulse until the weed is thoroughly ground (like oregano).
  8. 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 before making edibles is a must

I’ve said it before and I will say it again — it is literally impossible to get high from raw weed. It is nature’s way of preventing bad things happening to us and the animals around us.

So if someone tells you they had to eat a handful while running from the cops and got super high once they caught them, they are most likely lying.

Sure, you could make a batch of weed muffins by making the muffin mix and just throwing in a couple handfuls of ground down weed. Toss it in the oven, hope for the best…

But that batch would be a nasty, burnt out cake that looks and tastes nothing like weed muffins.

Maybe you would get a little bit high if the temperature in the oven hasn’t destroyed all the THC molecules remaining…

Decarboxylation temperatures times

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 that never made cannabis infused foods think this is the legit way to go.

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 on the image above, decarboxylating can be done in 3 different ways when decarbing THC and CBD. The basic and 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 it is 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 we provided you with. 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.

Cannabutter cookbook

Bonus: 5 Delicious Cannabis Recipes

We are giving away a free ebook that’ll teach you 5 ways to use decarbed cannabis (in the form of cannabutter) in regular meals. Just let us know where to send it.

 

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 can be hardened and most often it is used for dabbing, although it can be kept in an oily state as well. The important point of all this is that the cannabinoids in the 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.

Categories Basics

Writing how-to’s and consumption tutorials. Experienced cannabis user who is also in great love with Amsterdam. Ancient meme overlord.

29 thoughts on “Decarboxylation: How to Decarb Weed for Maximum Potency

  1. Hi there, I am a beginner with making edibles, just needed a few tips… Last night I decarbed my weed in toaster oven. i chopped up a quarter (7 grams) and laid it out on tray, put into preheated toaster oven . I had originally planned to go for an hour at 120C, but by ten minutes had already turned medium golden brown. I (stupidly) panicked and opened door to reduce heat but shut quickly again. Left it another five minutes and got scared and took it out! Very dry but no black. Put it into coconut oil in slow cooker for five n a half hours, strained it left it overnight in fridge. I haven’t tried it yet, just thought I should get info first?! I wanted to make chocolate. not sure on ratio. Also, Last time I decarbed in same for 30 minutes came out very green brown. Why such extreme difference in result. Toaster oven brand new. Thanks! 😻✌

    • Hey Pop,

      So, what I got from your story is that since your oven was brand new maybe you simply aren’t yet used to how it works since you were more familiar with the old one.

      Then again, it can be a lot of factors since some weed is more moist than other and it can take longer to decarb. It is a very weird process and results can vary…

      But it all comes down to this: you just need to keep the weed at this temperature for some time so that the THC-acid which, needs heat, turns to THC. 120C is a relatively high temperature so this process will usually happen after 10-15 min but just to make sure we like to recommend our readers to keep it inside a bit longer as nothing bad will really happen.

      As for the ratio, I would suggest keeping it low so that you can spread it out and this way you make sure you won’t take too high of a dose.

      Enjoy your treats!

  2. I make salve in small batches. And I was given apx 1/2 lb of trim/shake. ( I live in oregon) what I would like to know is can I decarb all of it and put it in glass jars for later use and how long will it last in decarbed form in the glass and how long shelf life is for the salve.

  3. Thanks for your reply! I’m going in for another round! I live in Australia and it’s not legal here so if you want edibles you gotta make them yourself! I’m determined to get this right! I will try to be more specific with my questions this time! (I just read my last question and couldn’t even understand it lol!) I will try your advice tonight and maybe lower temp, so like 20mins at 105c? Also, what colour should the weed be? I keep hearing conflicting info, done a golden brown others say dark green… Thanks 😸

    • Тhe color of the weed sometimes really depends on the strain. There’s really no rules when going about this, it’s just what you feel works best for you… It’s not an exact science you know 😀 anyway, I hope everything worked out for you!

  4. Oh by the way, I have two thermometers going on my oven now so the temperature is being monitored closely! One is a digital meat thermometer and the other an oven thermometer. They work brilliantly together lol!

  5. I am making cannabutter first time.
    I’m in a great deal of pain when standing. I was on my feet too long got anxious and the next thing I noticed I put my kief in my butter before decarbing it. What now
    Please help

    • You can activate it through cooking, baking , saute. Etc. mind your temps and time and you will be fine.

      The magic will still happen and all the medicinal terpenes are still present.

  6. I did a water wash to make my cannabis oil taste better. I didn’t dry it completely thinking it was going to dry in the oven when I decarbed it. It’s on 215, been in there for over an hours and its still wet. have I ruined it? Do I leave it in longer to dry and then decarb? Yikes, I can’t find my answer anywhere.

    • Hey Robin! I know I’m a bit too late, but I hope you didn’t dump the whole batch!

      I don’t think you ruined it. Water is ok, plants growing outside often get water all over them because of rainfall. This is no big issue.

      Keep it in the oven and it will decarb and dry out. Everything should be fine.

    • Hi Mariko!
      Unfortunately, THC isn’t water-solvable. There are ways to infuse water with THC, but those require industrial-grade machines for infusion.

      The next best thing would be weed tea, which is a fantastic way to take your medicine without having to smoke or drink.

  7. Hi there… I plan to decarb about 7 grams for a dessert. So after breaking up and putting in the oven for 25-30 minutes, I’m going to kind of “simmer” it into evaporated milk for about an hour – that’s how I planned to infuse my desert – THEN it needs to be baked for about another 40 minutes. Will all of this heat after decarbibg affect the thc in any way? I’m making a custard… any other suggestions?

    • Hey Lennette,

      That sounds about right to me. I’m not sure about mixing it with evaporated milk, I never heard of that. Maybe you should try using cannabis-infused butter instead?

      The additional heat afterward won’t affect the cannabinoids in the infused material as long as it doesn’t start evaporating, so try to keep the temp as low as possible.

    • Hey Jeffrey,

      I’m pretty sure you do not need to decarb it if you don’t want THCA to turn to THC. However, you do need to activate other cannabinoids such as CBD for making medical lotions and such. There is research being done in regards to the medical effects of THCA, but we just barely scraped the surface. So far, there are reported anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-emetic and anti-proliferative properties in THCA, however further research is needed on that topic.

  8. I am decarbing for the first time and I am using a toaster oven. I want to use a half but I need to know what temp should I set it to, and how long should it be in the oven?

  9. I don’t understand the logic behind all of this. When we vape weed, we have to exceed a certain temperature to release all the cannabinoids. Those temperatures are beyond 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, when we want to make edibles, why not just heat up the ground up a flower in an oil with a high smoking point for a couple of minutes? Why do we need to decarb for hours at lower temperatures? Also, why put the herb in the oven when you end up infusing oil or butter for brownies etc. anyway? This extra step doesn’t add up to me. Heat is heat so it shouldn’t matter whether the herb is exposed to eat in oil/butter or in the oven.

    • Hey dude, we didn’t invent this, we’re just saying how people have been doing it for years. If you don’t want to decarb, by all means dont do it…

      However, there is some science behind it. Through gradual warming, the cannabinoids are supposedly easily released into the solvent after you’ve decarbed the weed.

      Also, you are giving time for the THC-acid to turn into THC and increase the contents of THC in the herb you’re using.

Leave a Comment