Decarboxylation Weed - Everything You Need to Know & More!

Oct 26 , 2018

Decarboxylation Weed - Everything You Need to Know & More!

Alright, friends! Buckle up for this one because there's lots to learn about decarboxylation. What it does for your weed, and, more importantly, the edibles you dream of making with your buds, is worth the time it will take for you to master the process! In this article you'll find details on four different types of decarboxylation: oven, microwave, sous vide and ardent nova. At the bottom you'll find a list of FAQ's and a summary. 
Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that does two things: it removes a carboxyl group, and it releases carbon dioxide. This is usually a reference to a reaction of carboxylic acids, where a carbon atom is removed from a carbon chain. In weed terms, it’s a necessary process to make your weed potent when making edibles. Without this process, a lot of the chemicals will remain deactivated, a.k.a. your edibles won't carry the high that make them fun to consume in the first place!

What is the point of decarboxylation?

  • You must activate the active ingredients in cannabis before making edibles.
  • Without doing so, only partial decarboxylation will take place during the cooking.
  • This means that the goodies you make will not be as potent.
  • You want max potency with edibles in controlled dosages.
  • This is the most efficient and most likely the healthiest way of taking cannabis.
  • There is no combustion when eating weed, so it’s very healthy.
The marijuana plant itself is not actually psychoactive. In its natural form, it doesn't actually contain THC (delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis. It's the chemical that gives you the high feeling. Instead, a raw marijuana plant contains tetrahydrocannabinolic acid or THCA. So what exactly is decarboxylation (decarbing)? Decarbing is when you heat the raw marijuana flower in order to activate it. This is why you smoke cannabis, because by heating it you are essentially activating it. Simple enough!

decarboxylation weed marijuana highToasty buds mean toasty highs! Photo: @sweetgrasskitchen

The reason nuggets are normally used for smoking and the rest of the plant is used for other things, is because you need more THC when simply smoking it than when you're using oil or edibles. The buds of the plant contain the highest amount of THCA, and, thus, they make for the best smoke. Making edibles and oils with the other parts of the plants (trimmings etc.) is very popular, as this is an incredibly inexpensive method of creating Butane Hash Oil (BHO), edibles, wax, shatters, concentrates, etc.
Decarboxylation is necessary regardless of whether you're eventually going to cook the recipe, so don't just use raw cannabis when making cannabutter for example. This is because the cannabutter decarboxylation temperature is met during the process of making the butter on a stove. Decarbing beforehand makes the edible a lot more potent, and is definitely worth it. The heat removes the carboxyl group from the raw THCA, creating the psychoactive chemical THC. The exact same thing happens in the plant with the other most well-known chemical, CBD. CBD becomes CBD after you heat the marijuana plant, changing it from CBDA into CBD.

decarboxylation cannabis high infoThe down and dirty details of decarboxylation. Photo: @viridesco.oil4life


Decarbed weed vs. Raw weed

decarbed weed stashDecarbed weed, photo: @bestapplicationinworld
In order to get the psychoactive ingredients from cannabis, you must first heat it. However, that doesn't mean that the raw marijuana plant does not have any medical benefits. Both THCA and CBDA have anti-inflammatory properties, and more information and research is happening on all of these chemicals everyday. It's a very popular treatment in the US. You can simply take some buds straight from the plant, do not dry or cure them. Simply refrigerate and make a weed smoothie or tea. Be careful with tea, however, as (obviously) you may feel a little bit high from it. The fact that these raw compounds (THCA & CBDA) are non-psychoactive makes them a great treatment for children. This means that you can safely give children with severe treatment resistance problems raw cannabis, and they will not get high. They will also (providing that their illness reacts to treatment) have symptom relief. As soon as you decarboxylate the weed, this is when it becomes psychoactive. Just be careful of this should you attempt to administer a dosage of THCA/CBDA to children. This should also only be done with proper medical observers.  


Cannabis Flower Decarboxylation temperature chart

Compound

Before Decarb

30 Minutes marijuana Decarboxylation. Trim or flower

60 Minutes marijuana trim Decarboxylation.

Trim or flower

THCA

6.5%

2.9%

.2%

THC

.6%

4.8%

6.9%

CBDA

.2%

.2%

.1%

CBD

0%

0%

.1%

CBN

0

0

0

Moisture

3.4%

4.5%

0%

Total Cannabinoids

7.3%

7.9%

7.3%

 
This table shows that 30 minutes of decarboxylation is not enough. You do not activate the full potential of your plant unless you heat it for 60 minutes. It may seems strange to whack your weed in an oven and smash up the temperature for 60 minutes, but just remember you’re activating the juicy THC and CBD chemicals inside for you to create marijuana edibles later.


Kief decarboxylation temperature chart

Compound

Before Decarb

30 minutes marijuana decarboxylation Kief

60 minutes marijuana decarboxylation Kief

THCA

24.5%

2.6%

.1%

THC

3.8%

25.4%

25.5%

CBDA

.6%

.3%

.3%

CBD

0%

1%

.1%

CBN

.4%

1%

1.4%

Moisture

0%

0%

0%

Total Cannabinoids

29.3%

30.3%

27.4%

 

What is Kief?

Kief is the term used to refer to the small, dusty parts of weed that collect at the bottom of certain 3 or 4 piece grinders. This is why most people favour 3+ piece grinders, as they have what is known as a kief-catcher at the bottom.

You can use this kief for many different things, you can sprinkle it on-top of joints or blunts, you can add it to your trusty flower vaporiser, or you can decarboxylate it and use it to make edibles. As you can see from the tables above, Kief has a much higher percentage of THCA and, after decarbing, THC.

How to decarb weed

Well, now we get down to the nitty gritty:

How to decarboxylate your weed

Decarboxylation temperature and time

Decarboxylation temperature degrees

  • Oven

60 minutes

115 degrees celsius

  • Microwave

2 minutes

High

  • Sous Vide Decarboxylation

1.5 hours

100 degrees celsius

  • Ardent Nova Decarboxylator

120 minutes

Automatic


Decarbed weed oil marijuana

What you see here is CO2 oil that is almost finished, and is undergoing a final decarboxylation step to ensure complete activation of the cannabinoids that remain acidic (ie CBDA to CBD). Photo & text: @valensgroworks

How to decarboxylate weed in an oven

decarboxylation kush heartFull of love for the decarboxylation process, photo: @malora.rd
  • Preheat the oven up to 115 degrees celsius.
  • Grind your weed once, and then again. Keep going until it’s fine.
  • Spread the ground up weed onto a baking tray, baking dish, baking paper, etc.
  • Place it into the oven.
  • Do not take it out after 30 minutes because you’re high and worried!
  • Leave it for no less than an hour.
  • After an hour has passed take it out.
  • Mix with with an oil or a fat and create an edible.
If this is your first time decarbing then just remember that the weed is supposed to go brown/less green than it is now. The whole objective is to cook it! The number one piece of advice you can have for your first decarb attempt is to avoid undercooking it. You want the full potency to be unlocked. Don’t worry about questions such as “what temperature does THC burn at;” just let it do its thing in there!

How to decarboxylate weed in a microwave

decarboxylation microwave cannabisDon’t have time for the oven? Try microwaving it instead! Photo: @dabtown
  • Preheat your microwave (jk don't do this, if you did you’re definitely high)
  • Grind up your weed
  • Place it on a microwaveable dish
  • Put it on high
  • Pray for the best...
  • This works and is quicker, but isn’t great potency-wise in comparison to an oven
This will probably not work particularly well with kief because there’s very little moisture in there, but you can try it with a little bit and find out. Just experiment with what works for you. Remember that edibles take a hell of a long time to kick in though! Sometimes up to 3 hours for the full effects, so be patient.

Microwave weed butter can be made this way, but you will have to mix the butter and the weed afterwards using a pan. The video here is a great example of how to easily make cannabutter using a microwave.

How to make decarboxylated hash oil

decarboxylation oil weedSome tasty oil to use as you please! Photo: @iamsmudgegirl
  • Heat oven to 120 degrees celsius
  • Place the amount of BHO you want to consume on a silicone liner onto an oven-safe dish
  • Cook in the oven for about 25 minutes
  • Monitor the shatter. It’s much more difficult to predict what will happen due to different methods of creating concentrates
  • Let it cool or just simply dissolve straight away into a fat or oil
When you cook your shatter in the oven watch the bubbles. At first you'll see large, voluminous bubbles, but you'll want to wait until they look smaller, like this image below, before you consider them done.

decarb weed shatter

Sous Vide decarboxylation temperature

This method was created by Sir Benjamin Thompson for this exact reason. Okay, we're joking. SBT was known for his perfectly, evenly cooked mutton shoulder, not his decarb techniques. The evenness of his roast inspired cooking tokers though, as SBT's method has been adopted in the cannabis world. Today, stoners across the globe use the Sous Vide decarboxylation method to make their beautifully decarbed weed.

You will need:
  • Vacuum sealed bags/machine
  • Weed grinder
  • Sous vide precision cooker
  • A pot
  • Some pot (weed)


Grind up the weed first, then put it in a vacuum-sealed bag. The idea is to cook your weed evenly using water, so make sure you protect the weed from the water by sealing the bag as tightly as possible. Heat some water up using a heating element. Put the temperature of the heating element at 100 degrees and then place the weed inside once the water hits the correct temperature (which you can tell by using a thermometer). Leave the sealed bag in the hot water for around 1.5 hours.
This should decarboxylate the weed nicely, and give you a very potent decarboxylated ingredient to use to make brownies. 

decarboxylation science weedWhen science becomes the stuff dreams are made of! Photo: @muv_chemist

Ardent Nova Decarboxylator

ardent nova decarboxylator weedThe Adent Nova, photo: @xoticsmokeshop
The Ardent Nova Decarboxylator is one of the best automatic decarboxylator on the market. Its cannabis decarboxylation abilities are second to none, and the best thing about it is how simple and easy it is. However, they are very expensive, and although they simplify the process, you'll want to weigh what sort of investment you want to make, as decarbing your weed isn't all that challenging to do on your own.

How to use an Ardent Nova Decarboxylator

  • Place cannabis into your NOVA Decarboxylator.
  • Press the start button to begin decarboxylation process.
  • Use your now activated cannabis to create whatever you feel like.


Why buy an auto-decarboxylator like the Ardent Nova
 

  • Quiet and odourless (decarbing weed normally smells. A LOT)
  • Is very herb-efficient because you activate all of the THCA/CBDA
  • You can use this decarbed weed to make practically anything
  • Make edibles the way you want, strain specific
  • Get a consistent dosage so you know how strong your edibles will be


Drying weed in the oven

It is not recommended to dry your weed in the oven. Unless you’re attempting to decarboxylate it, it will ruin the potency. That is likely because of the decarboxylation process that will happen to some of the THCA already.
However, what happens when you put weed in a microwave for a short period of time, on very short bursts for like 30 seconds each, is that you can make freshly picked marijuana dry enough to smoke. This is different from decarboxylation, and only has a very niche use. You could probably dry out weed which has become damp for whatever reason, be it rain or falling in water or whatever.
If you want to dry your weed by microwaving it:
  • 30 second blasts, quick
  • Potency suffers
  • Taste suffers
  • Smokeable
  • Wait patiently for the rest of your weed to cure
This is the only use (apart from decarboxylation) for microwaving weed.

Can you decarboxylate stems?

Yes. You can decarboxylate stems. You can either make stem tea right away, or make edibles using decarboxylated stems. It’s definitely better to simply make tea, but try it out and see what you get. You can instantly make stem tea by doing the following:
  • Grind or cut up your stems
  • Put some butter into boiling water
  • Chuck your stems in (the more the better)
  • TURN THE HEAT DOWN VERY LOW
  • Leave it boiling for about 10 minutes
  • At this point you can either take it out and wait for it to set (for cannabutter)
  • Or you can add tea to this mix at let it get some flavour
  • Finally, strain the tea and enjoy.

    weed stem teaSlow down and relax. Enjoy a fresh pot of stem tea! Photo: @hipptravels

    Frequently Asked Questions about decarboxylation

    Do you need to decarboxylate weed before making cannabutter?

    It’s not 100% necessary, but you'll get a better end product if you decarb beforehand. If you’re immediately melting the weed into the butter (as this gives it partial decarboxylation), you'll be okay. However, the potency goes right down unless the flower is completely decarbed. 

    What happens if you microwave weed?

    As mentioned in the article, when you microwave weed it decarboxylates it to some extent. However, an oven works a lot better, as do the auto-cannabutter makers.

    How to Decarb shatter?

    You only need to decarb shatter if you’re intending on putting into an edible. For instructions on how to actually decarb shatter, see the article above.

    Do you need to decarboxylate hash?

    Not really, no. You can simply dissolve it into butter on a stove and this is enough. 

    You can also drop it into a coffee or a tea. Some types of hash may need decarboxylation, and you do need some heat and something for the cannabinoids to dissolve into (fat or oil).

    Is smoking decarbed weed possible?

    You can. But it’s not recommended at all. Most of the potency is gone. It’s probably not safe to do. If you insist on doing it regardless, it makes a decent substitute for tobacco if you want to smoke without tobacco. There are lots of reasons not to smoke decarbed weed: it tastes completely awful, it will make you cough, and it is almost certainly not good for you. But you do you!

    What is already vaped bud (AVB)? 

    Already vaped bud is marijuana which has already been vaporised. You can effectively use your bud twice, which makes for a great and cost-efficient way of smoking weed. It’s also healthier, provided that your buds are certified organic. Simply mix your cannabis with oil or fat and eat it. The easiest and fastest way of doing this is putting it on some toast with butter or margarine on and eating it. To increase potency, use the bud originally on a lower setting.


    Summary

    Decarboxylation marijuana is vital for the edible making process. Decarboxylating weed is simple and easy, provided that you follow a few key steps:
    1. Temperature: You should always have your bud at 115 degrees celsius
    2. Time: You should always cook your bud for minimum one hour
    3. Mix: Ensure to mix your decarboxylated weed with oil or fat before eating
    You can use either an oven, a microwave, or a vaporiser to decarboxylate your bud. If you’re using a vaporiser, ensure that it’s on a low heat.

    Whew, that was a lot of info! Too stoned to read any of it? Check out this video for the lowdown:

    Written by Hamish

    What have your experiences with the decarboxylation process been like? Tell us in the comments below!

     


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