Categories: Basics

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.

Exclusive bonus: Download a free dosage guide that will show you the exact step-by-step process Dr. Dustin Sulak used to successfully treat more than 18,000 patients with cannabis.

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

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

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.

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.

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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 from 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…

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 in 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.

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.

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:

Alex

Experienced cannabis user, interested in the latest cannabis news, stock market updates and cannabis culture.

View Comments

  • I have a butter maker and I put my oz in and added the prior batch to it. Probably too much but that first batch is a little stronger THC. While squeezing out the liquid it held back a lot of butter. Can you tell me how to extract more of the butter out of the processed cannabis

    • The best thing that I personally have found is once you have the mix in a cheesecloth or strainer, you take a half to a full cup of hot almost boiling water and pour it over the top. It will separate the butter from the bud and will collect in the bowl. Also the water will do 2 things; 1 it will make sure you get all the butter. 2 the water will separate at the bottom of the bowl and also any setament that slipped through will collect there. The THC connects to the fat in the butter, so water will not effect it at all. Hope this helps.

      • This actually may be the best way to do it. By pressing and squeezing the cheesecloth strongly you will also get a lot of the chlorophyll out and that's the stuff you don't want because it gives the butter a funky taste...

    • you can make some sort of makeshift press by squeezing it between two bowls or something of similar sort that will keep the butter once it is squeezed out

  • While I appreciate the reply, I don't think you understood my question.
    "I am using a sealed silicone box with an inserted oven thermometer to decarb my supply. I plan to preheat the oven to 250F and decarb for 25 minutes. Should I wait until the internal temperature in the box reaches the target temperature before starting my timer?" It took over 15 minutes for the inside of the box, and therefore my product, to reach 250F after putting it into the pre-heated oven. I decided to wait until the temp in the box was reached and then left it for another 20 minutes, which is the low end of the time range shown in the graph above. In all, the box was in the oven for probably over 40 minutes.

    • oh I'm sorry, I totally misunderstood. So yeah, the weed is supposed to be exposed to the 250F temperature for nearly 20 min right, no matter in which dish you keep it whether it's on a plate or a metal pan or a silicon box. I hope that helps.

  • Hey there! I'm wondering- once the bud has been decarbed, is it necessary to use it right away (finish making oil/ tincture etc) or can it safely be stored for any amount of time, and then finish making final product at a later date without losing any of the potency? (Day/week etc) Thanks for all the wonderful info!

    • Hi! You don't have to use it right away. Store it in a ziploc bag and I've heard people saying it holds potency for up to 8 weeks.

  • Hey, I was wondering something. I have kids, and I was wondering how bad the smell would be if we decarb in the oven? Would the smell effect the kids? Should I wait until they are at school or in bed?

    • It's not the smell that gets people high, it's the cannabinoids in the weed. When you decarb you don't release those in the air, you just activate them to their full potential. Your kids should be good around the oven, it's up to you whether to save them from the smell or not, but the smell itself won't do a thing.

  • How to decarb with a Hot oil bath?

    Some articles say not to submerger weed in oil to decarb it.

    I want to decarb BHO but don't have access to an oven.

    • just toss the BHO in a dish which you will be able to scrape it out from, such as a glass dish or some type of bow. Put it in a pot filled with water. Bring the water to a boil. Leave it in there for at least an hour. I strongly suggest you look up videos on youtube as it is much more descriptive and easier to follow when it comes to complex things such as hot oil baths and stuff.

  • Hello, thank you for the great article! Do you have any suggestions for those decarbing an already very dry product? For example, I have 28g of very dry Blue Dream. Do I need to adjust your method at all?

    Also, if a strain is tested at 19% THC, how can I know the % after decarbing? Is there a way to estimate what % THC will be in butter?

    Thank you!

    • There isn't anything that makes me happier than when someone like my writing and finds it to be a great read. Thank you for that.
      As for your problem, there aren't any differences. I would strongly suggest that you don't break up the weed too much before putting it in the oven if it is already too dry. If you break down too much it will become ashy and hard to work with.

  • Hi! I used to make cannabudder all the time using my Magical Butter machine after the decarb. I used to decarb in a small Pyrex dish at 250* for 30 mins. Everything worked as expected. I’ve recently moved to a house that has an electric oven as opposed to the natural gas I used to have.
    Since moving, I’ve tried to make 3 batches of butter. All the same process, all the same way, except for the different stove. And it just doesn’t work. I could eat the whole batch and feel nothing. Does it maybe take longer in an electric oven for some reason? I’m stumped. I’ve calibrated the stove, it gets to temp, but somethkngvis ovbiously different. Any idea as to what could be the problem?

    • Hi Ron, I honestly have no idea what could be going wrong. Are you using the same weed as before? Maybe try keeping it a bit longer in the over. I really have no clue what could be going wrong because it's a rather simple process. You heat up the oven to 250F, once it reaches that temperature, toss in the dish and weed, pull it out in about 25-30 minutes.

      I suggest that you separate a little bit of weed, and not make butter from it, but just try it and see if you get high after the decarboxylation. Try the decarbed weed with something on the side because it will taste ashy, maybe it's not even getting decarbed due to something weird...

  • Hello, thank you for your article. I am having a devil of a time finding out how to decarb tp maximize the CBD rather than the THC in homegrown. I have no idea what strains these are or how potent they are, but I want to maximize the cbd and whatever thc is left is fine, but we're not looking to get high, just relaxed.

    Would I just decarb a little longer? Any suggestions or ideas ?

    • Hi, from what I've read, CBD and THC get decarboxylated at the same time because this reaction happens at a certain temperature, and then a carboxyl group and CO2 (carbon dioxide) get released.

      Preheat your oven to 230° F and bake the cannabis for up to 40 minutes, stirring every 10. This way you'll get to keep more terpenes than decarbing for a shorter time at a higher temperature. That should do the trick.

      The only thing you could do to maximize your CBD intake that way is to go for strains with higher CBD content. Good luck!

  • Hello great article, just had a quick question. The decarb graph suggests that you should decarb the weed for 7min at 300F, however every other reference in the article and comments was to do it for 25min at 250F. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to do it at 300 instead of 250 or is there a benefit to decarbing at a lower temperature like conserving terpens?

    • Hi, decarbing at lower temps preserves terpenes, as you said yourself. So, if you care about the taste go with lower temps

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Alex