What Is Decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation, also called ‘decarbing,’ is a process in which inactive cannabinoids become active and ready for human consumption.
Raw cannabis produces high concentrations of acidic cannabinoids like CBDa, THCa, and CBGa among others. These acidic cannabinoids are:
- Carrying an extra carboxyl ring (COOH) group
- Not ready for human consumption
- Considered inactive cannabinoids
To prepare acidic cannabinoids for human consumption, we must first detach the carboxyl ring group. The name “de-carboxyl-ation” literally means the process of removing the carboxyl group from the cannabinoid.
How Does Decarboxylation Work?
Decarboxylating is a function of time, heat, and sometimes oxygen. When you smoke or vape cannabis flower, you’re subjecting your flower to rapid decarboxylation and inhaling the activated cannabinoids.
Decarboxylation can also occur slowly over time if your cannabis flower is exposed to oxygen. Often times this type of decarboxylation isn’t preferred and is why many folks choose to keep their cannabis in air-tight containers.
Is Decarboxylation Necessary For Edibles?
Yes. In order to properly infuse active cannabinoids into a fat or oil prior to making homemade edibles, you need to decarboxylate your cannabis. Without proper decarboxylation, you’ll end up leaving a ton of cannabinoids and potency behind during your infusion.
How To Decarboxylate Your Cannabis Flower: The Basics
While some of the details may change based on what kind of edibles you want to make, the basics of how to decarboxylate your cannabis flower stay the same. You need two things: heat and time.
Assuming you have both, follow these four easy steps for flawless decarboxylation. Be advised that this is a very aromatic process and will make your living space smell like cannabis.
- Preheat your oven to 230 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn your overhead hood fan on (if you have one.)
- Line a baking sheet or glass baking dish with parchment paper. Lay your cannabis flower out evenly on the parchment paper. If you have any larger buds, rip them into small pieces before laying them out.
- Put your baking sheet or glass dish in your preheated oven for 40 minutes.
- After 40 minutes, pull your baking sheet from the oven and let your cannabis flower cool. It should be browned and brittle to the touch.
What’s the Best Decarboxylation Temperature?
While the above steps called for a temperature of 230F, the best decarboxylation temperature depends on the cannabinoid you’re trying to optimize. That optimal decarboxylation temperature is different for CBDa, THCa, and others. Take a look at this handy chart below.
Should You Grind Your Cannabis Before Decarboxylation?
Grinding your cannabis flower down before decarboxylation doesn’t matter much. Assuming you’re using a convection oven for decarboxylation, the difference is going to be marginal.
Grinding your cannabis does matter for infusion though. After you’re done with decarboxylation, you’ll want to grind your cannabis if you plan on infusing it into an oil. Doing so will increase your flower’s surface area and optimize your infusion.
Yes, You Can Decarboxylate
If you’ve just finished up a home grow and have fresh trim, why not turn them into edibles? You can decarboxylate fresh trim the same way you would decarboxylate cannabis flower.
In the same vein as the fresh trim, if you have fresh buds that you don’t want to cure up, go ahead and throw them in the oven and decarboxylate them. Small buds are great for infusions— they’re already small, manageable, and great for infusions.
You can also decarboxylate kief. Be advised that this process works better if you decarboxylate kief with cannabis flower. Decarbing kief by itself works exactly the same as flower, but it can become overly sticky and harder to work with.
How To Decarboxylate Your Cannabis Flower: Advanced
What are “the basics” unless you also have some more advanced techniques? In this next section, we’ll help you step your decarboxylation techniques up to the next level.
How To Decarboxylate Your Flower With Less Smell
Remember when we said earlier that decarboxylation was an aromatic process? Well, it doesn’t have to be. This is an especially nice tip for folks trying to decarb their cannabis flower inconspicuously.
You’ll still need an oven preheated to 230F and some time, but instead of a baking sheet, you must use a baking dish. You’ll also need heavy-duty tin foil.
Line the bottom of the baking dish with parchment paper as you would normally. Lay out all of your small buds or trim in the dish, but before you pop that dish in the oven, cover it completely with the heavy-duty tinfoil, preferably more than once.
Once your dish is covered completely with tin foil, put it in your preheated oven and wait. After the 40 minutes are up, don’t remove the dish from the oven. Let it cool in the oven— this may take upwards of an hour or so.
Note: this method is not smell-proof, but it will drastically curb the cannabis smell.
How To Decarboxylate Your Flower With No Smell
There is a more involved way to decarboxylate your cannabis flower with no smell if you’re willing to stick it out.
- A stovetop
- Heat-safe cooking bag (like a food-safe vacuum-sealed bag)
- A soup pot
- Fill your soup pot with water and bring it to a boil.
- Place your cannabis flower, trim, or kief into a heat-safe cooking bag. It’s important that this bag be able to withstand temperatures of up to 220F.
- Place the bag into the boiling water for 90 minutes. Make sure that your pot doesn’t boil dry.
- Remove your bag from the water and let it cool before you remove the flower from the bag.
This process takes longer than your traditional oven decarboxylation because boiling water maintains a temperature of 212F. Properly decarbing cannabis at lower temperatures takes more time.
How To Skip The Decarboxylation Process
After a full piece on decarboxylation, we find out there’s a way to skip the process altogether?
Yes. Sort of. Out of all of the methods laid out in this piece, this takes the most patience.
If you don’t want to decarboxylate your cannabis flower prior to an edible infusion, there is another option. You’ll need a vaporizer for your cannabis flower.
You may notice that after you vaporize your cannabis flower, it will come out brown and smelling of stale popcorn— reminiscent of decarboxylated cannabis. That’s no coincidence. When you vape your cannabis flower, you’re decarboxylating it. Save the flower that you vaporize. When you collect enough of this post-vaped flower, you can use it to infuse it into oil.
What’s The Best Decarboxylation Method?
There is no best decarboxylation method. There are only optimal temperatures and times. As long as you can adhere to them, you’ll unlock the true potential of your cannabis flower.
That’s not to say that there aren’t bad ways to decarboxylate your flower. Try not to use a microwave to decarboxylate your flower. There’s a good chance that you could completely nuke the cannabinoids you’re trying to activate.