If you’ve ever been interested in making your own cannabis-infused edibles, oils, or tinctures, you probably already know that Decarboxylating your cannabis is an un-skippable part of any recipe.
Decarboxylation or “de-carbing” is a complicated-sounding name for a relatively simple process. Decarboxylation is a chemical change that occurs when you apply low heat to your cannabis for an extended period. The heat converts the (non-psychoactive) THCA compounds in the plant into the more intoxicating, psychoactive THC cannabinoid compound.
When smoked, the lighter flame or smoldering end of your joint supplies sufficient heat for this conversion to take place. If you want to consume your greens in other ways and still feel the effects, you will need to de-carb in advance. Without this crucial step, the desired THC compounds are simply not available in a way that our bodies can absorb.
Once de-carbed, cannabis is typically paired with a fat or oil base, helping further aid absorption.
The two factors involved in decarboxylating cannabis are heat & time. By keeping your heat source low, you allow the THC to convert without burning or otherwise compromising the actual plant material you plan to infuse in your recipes.
The generally accepted rule-of-thumb is that cannabis begins to decarboxylate around 220° Fahrenheit (104° Celcius) after about 30-45 minutes of exposure.
De-carbing your cannabis at even lower temps for more extended times can help preserve the plant material’s terpenes. Terpenes are the oils that provide each cannabis strain its unique flavor and aroma profile.
At higher temps, terpenes tend to evaporate and can leave behind an unpleasant taste/smell. If you plan on cooking with your de-carbed greens, this is probably something you want to keep in mind.
The easiest and most common method for DIY decarboxylation involves baking your cannabis material in your kitchen oven. Yup, it’s pretty much that easy.
- Baking pan
- Aluminum Foil or Parchment Paper
- Oven Thermometer (optional)
STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 220° Fahrenheit and make sure you have a free rack in the oven center (this is where the heat will be most consistent/ accurate).
STEP 2: Place a lightly crinkled sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper on your baking pan. Lightly crinkling the sheet allows you to minimize direct contact between the cannabis and the baking pan and prevent burning.
STEP 3: Grind your cannabis into small but not too-fine pieces. Spread out evenly on your baking sheet & foil or parchment, and cover that with another sheet of foil or parchment. Place in the oven for 30-45 minutes (minimum).
Step 4: Remove from oven, and let cool at room temperature for half an hour or so. The cannabis will look slightly toasted and have browned a bit.
Congratulations, your cannabis is now de-carbed and ready to use in your recipe!
ALTERNATIVE DECARBOXYLATION METHODS
While the steps laid out above couldn’t be more simple and accessible, it isn’t the only way to decarboxylate cannabis. One alternative method involves all of the same steps as above; however, instead of de-carbing directly on the baking pan, you de-carb in a sealed mason jar.
This method prevents the burning of plant matter and traps evaporating terpenes within the jar.
If you have chosen a strain for specific flavors and aromas you wish to infuse, this is the best way to preserve those qualities.
If you don’t have access to an oven or wish to de-carb a little more discreetly (spoiler alert: baking weed in the oven does tend to make your kitchen smell a bit dank), there are solutions.
The Magical Butter Decarb Box is an excellent tool that allows you precise control over your temperature to preserve and utilize the maximum amount of plant material. This is crucial when you want to influence how potent your de-carbed weed will ultimately be.
DECARBOXYLATION TIPS & TRICKS
- Kitchen ovens can fluctuate in temperature, sometimes by 20 degrees or more. Always keep an eye on your cannabis throughout the process. If the plant begins to turn brown quickly or smell like it is burning, turn the oven down. An oven thermometer is a safe bet here to monitor temps.
- Using weed that is too finely ground will most likely result in burning the plant matter and should be avoided when possible.
- De-carbing at a higher temp for a shorter time will result in a higher THC content, while de-carbing at lower temps for longer times will better preserve the plant’s qualities (i.e., terpenes). It’s a give-and-take, depending on what you’re after!
- Your de-carbed cannabis will only be as potent and flavorful as the strain you started with allows- quality matters here!
- Decarboxylation is a great way to find a use for your leftover plant matter (such as stems, leaves, and scraps)!