If you want to make your own edibles, you’re going to need to know how to decarb weed. Decarboxylating cannabis is a chemical reaction that turns the non-psychoactive cannabinoid acids into cannabinoids (which have psychoactive effects) and carbon dioxide. Decarboxylation occurs when the cannabis is exposed to heat.
Let’s take a closer look at the decarbing process.
What Is Cannabis Decarboxylation?
You already know the chemical that gets you high is THC, and CBD is the chemical that relaxes you. The thing is, your cannabis buds don’t actually have that. They have very similar chemicals that are called tetrahydrocannabinolic acid and cannabidiolic acid, otherwise known as THCA and CBDA.
THCA and CBDA are not psychoactive compounds. THC and CBD are neutral cannabinoids that can bind to the cannabinoid receptors in your brain. If you want to experience the psychoactive effects of THC and CBD, you need to remove a carboxyl group from the chemicals in the plant. This chemical reaction occurs when you apply heat to the buds.
The easiest way to decarboxylate weed is to light it on fire. When you smoke a joint, the fire releases the carboxyl ring as carbon dioxide. That said, no one Google searching “how to decarb weed” is trying to learn how to smoke it.
When we’re talking about the decarboxylation process, we’re really talking about taking raw cannabis and turning it into something you can use to make cannabis products.
Why Do I Need To Decarb Cannabis?
A lot of medical cannabis products are for people who cannot smoke cannabis. They absolutely need products made with decarboxylated cannabis to be able to feel effects like pain relief. Cannabis edibles only have a proper cannabinoid content if you’re cooking with decarbed weed.
Here are some other products you can make with decarboxylated cannabis:
- Cannabis-infused butter
- Cannabis oil
- Cannabis tincture
- Topical products (like lotion)
Technically you can make homemade edibles by cooking raw cannabis into butter. That said, if you’re not decarbing first, they won’t be effective edibles. You’ll be eating cannabinoid acids which don’t have the intoxicating effects most people are looking for when making edibles.
How To Decarb Weed 4 Ways
There are several methods of decarbing cannabis. They all involve applying high temperatures, but not enough to risk burning.
The first step on all of these is the same. First, you need to grind up the cannabis flower. I like using a designated grinder like this one:
This might be a little difficult if you’re using raw weed because it will get sticky quickly. That’s why I say “designated”, because it will commandeer your spice grinder and you won’t be able to use it all that much with regular cooking. Still, you want to create as much surface area as possible. We’re going to be skipping this in our instructions because we don’t want to repeat ourselves too much.
Another thing that applies to all of this is the temperature. THCA converts to THC at around 220 degrees Fahrenheit. CBDA turns to CBD at around 245 degrees Fahrenheit. We will always say 220-250℉, use 220 if you want more THC, and 250 if you want more CBD.
The oven method of decarbing weed is by far the most common. Most people use the oven because it’s easy and faster than the other methods listed.
You Will Need:
- Preheat your oven to 220-245℉.
- Line your baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. If you have a Silpat pad for your baking tray, that will also work. You just need to keep it from sticking to the baking sheet. Do not spray the baking sheet with cooking oil, it’s going to make collecting your decarbed weed a huge mess when you’re done.
- Place the ground cannabis on the lined baking sheet. You want it spread evenly in one layer. If you have more cannabis than fits on your baking tray, either find an additional baking sheet or do this process twice.
- Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes. If you want more CBD or are using raw weed, cook it for longer. If you forgot to preheat your oven, just add another 15 minutes to your timer. It will be fine.
- Use an infrared thermometer so you know the actual temperature of your oven. Sometimes oven thermometers are skewed.
- Place the baking tray in the center of the oven. Rotate the tray midway through decarbing your weed in case your oven is unevenly heated.
- Temperatures above 250℉ will cause your weed to lose potency.
- The oven method will absolutely stink up whatever kitchen you’re cooking in. If smell is an issue, you can either place your ground weed in a jar before putting it in the oven, or use a different method.
When you are done, you will be left with golden brown buds or trim. You can cook this in some type of fat like butter, oil, or glycerin. Most people decarb weed in the oven because it’s fast and easy.
2. Sous Vide
The other methods for decarboxylating weed all involve the same principle. You will seal your weed in an airtight container, put it in water, and use water to bring it to the correct temperature.
The pros and cons of the following methods are roughly the same. They use a lower temperature for a longer time. This preserves the terpenes of the decarboxylated cannabis better. The cannabis is also less likely to burn if you decarb your cannabis if you use the sous vide, slow cooker, or double boiler method. That said, it takes longer.
The sous vide precision cooker is a smell-free and failsafe way to decarb weed. This cooking method involves sealing the cannabis flower into a vacuum sealed bag and submerging it in hot water for hours.
You Will Need:
- Cannabis flower
- Sous vide machine & Vacuum seal-bag
- Spread your cannabis evenly in the bag and vacuum seal it.
- Bring the water temperature to about 204 or 208 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the standard highest temperature on most sous vide machines.
- Clip your bag into place.
- Wait 1-2 hours
- Pull your bag out and let it completely cool before you pull out your decarbed weed. It will be a light brown color.
Tip: Raw cannabis flower is best if you’re going for terpene flavor.
This method is the slowest, but the lower temperatures let you preserve the terpene flavors. It’s best for topicals and glycerin tinctures which don’t get masked by other flavors.
3. Slow Cooker
The sous vide is probably the best water-based method to decarb weed. That said, more people have a slow cooker than sous vide. This is also a great method because after you decarb your cannabis in the slow cooker, you can use the same appliance to make cannabis-infused oils or butter.
The main downside of this is it takes about four hours. It can also get a little wonky if you overfill the jar with cannabis.
You Will Need:
- Put your cannabis in the mason jar. We recommend filling it halfway so you can shake it midway through the process. You also want to give it room for the carbon dioxide to release.
- Fill your slow cooker halfway with water and set it to High.
- Put in your jar, put the lid on the slow cooker, and wait four hours. For best results, take some tongs and pull out the jar to give it a shake.
4. Double Boiler
Finally, if all you’ve got is some pots and a stove, you can use that to decarb weed. This method is the most labor-intensive, stinks up your kitchen, and takes a minimum of 90 minutes.
That said, if you’re doing this really takes 3 or 4 hours. It just doesn’t make sense to stink up your kitchen again making your decarbed weed into whatever you want the end product to be. You can just put your butter in with the decarbed weed and keep going.
You Will Need:
- Double boiler pots
- Stove or hotplate
- Take your two pots. One goes inside the other.
- The outside pot gets halfway filled with water and brought to a boil.
- Do not let the inside pot touch the bottom of the other pot.
- Stir occasionally for 90-120 minutes. It’s done when it’s a nice light brown.
We recommend having some stoner movies ready. This method works well. It’s just long and boring.
Decarbing Weed: A Recap
The chemicals that naturally occur in the cannabis plant do not have psychoactive effects on their own. THCA needs to become THC to respond to the cannabis receptors in your brain. You need to remove a carboxyl ring to do that, you can do that by applying high heat. This process is called decarbing cannabis. Technically burning cannabis is the most common method to decarb cannabis.
But if you want to make a cannabis product like edibles, decarbing cannabis involves a slower heating process. The best way to do this at home is with an oven, it’s easy and fast.
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