How To Decarb Weed For Edibles
Estimated 6-minute read
Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced smoker, you might have heard about “decarbing” your weed. If you haven’t, it’s alright! This article will explain everything about it, from what it is to the best way to decarb your cannabis. The term “to decarb” refers to a chemical process called decarboxylation. Now, that sounds really complicated, and maybe like something you’d do in a lab (which you could, if you had a lab). But it’s not that big of a deal, you can do it yourself in the comfort of your own home! Decarboxylation is the process necessary for the creation of edibles, salves, oils, tinctures and more.
What exactly is decarboxylation?
In simple terms, decarboxylation is a process through which the compounds in your weed become psychoactive (the effect of this is known as getting you high). Decarboxylation is not specific to weed, it’s actually one of the oldest known chemical reactions because it happens through pyrolysis (the fancy chemistry word for burning). It can also happen if you heat up your bud at high temperatures.
As Resident Science Writer (a title I just gave myself), I feel the need to write you a little chemistry refresher to make you sound like a smart stoner the next time you light up with your friends. If you just want the instructions without the fluff, feel free to skip over to the next section. To the nerds who love learning and random facts, continue reading.
Chemical compounds are made up of different combinations of distinct atoms. These atoms arrange themselves into molecules through different types of bonds. The shape of these molecules depend on the types of atoms and the different ways that they can arrange themselves. Cannabinoids (the molecules in our weed) are made up of three different types of atoms— Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen—, varying in number and arrangement.
Every stoner has heard about THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), which are two of the most well known cannabinoids as they create the effects we associate with a marijuana high. However, they are not present in cannabis before it’s smoked or decarbed. What the marijuana plant produces are actually cannabinoid precursors in an acid form, which we call THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid) respectively.
This acid form is what we call a “prodrug” in pharmacology, as it is an inactive compound. THCA and CBDA must go through a reaction before they become biologically active. This reaction is, you guessed it— decarboxylation. It happens when you heat up your cannabis. THCA and CBDA originally have 22 atoms of carbon, 30 hydrogens and 4 oxygens. After being exposed to heat, they lose a carboxyl ring from their chemical structure, which becomes carbon dioxide (CO2). It is after this that they become their active forms, THC and CBD, with 21 carbons, 30 hydrogens and 2 oxygen atoms.
With this new chemical structure, these molecules can now bind with the receptors in our brain cells that get us high. If we don’t decarb our weed before consuming it, the THCA and CBDA will remain in their original chemical form and will not get you high.
Best kind of weed to decarb
Depending on what you want your cannabis for, you may pick different kinds of strains to decarb. If you’re looking to get high with edibles or tinctures, you might want to use strains with a high percentage of THC. Meanwhile, if you want to make some salve for pain relief, you might benefit more from using buds with a higher CBD.
You don’t need to grind your weed to decarb it, though it is recommended. This is because the heat will be distributed evenly through the entirety of the bud when you bake it. This will give you the best results, and you will get the most out of your cannabis. If you don’t have a grinder, you could try to crumble your weed a little.
For edibles, you will get best results if you use kief, as this usually has a higher THC content. Kief is the powder that is left over from grinding marijuana, and it can be collected if you own a three tier grinder (like ours!)
Materials you need for decarbing cannabis
The things you need to decarb your cannabis aren’t many, and are all items that you can find in most households.
- Oven (just a heads up, this is going to make your house smell like marijuana)
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Grinded weed and/or kief
Baking your cannabis in an oven is the best way to get the most out of the decarboxylation. This is because the temperature in an oven is even and very easily controllable. Microwaving the weed will not bring the best results, as the temperature is uneven in different parts of the microwave, and it is also hard to know the actual temperature that your marijuana is receiving.
After you have your materials, you have to put your parchment paper on top of your baking sheet. You need to grab your grinded weed or kief, and spread it across your covered baking sheet. After this, you must preheat your oven before putting your baking sheet inside it on the middle rack. It’s best to use the middle rack as the temperature is the most even in that part of the oven. It tends to be hotter in the top rack, and colder in the bottom.
Best temperature to decarb your cannabis
Temperature is very important when decarbing your cannabis. You don’t want to heat it up too much, as it will burn off the cannabinoids and terpenes that give you the high and flavor. Anything over 148.9 °C (300 °F) will cause your cannabinoids to burn off and degrade. You should also not leave it in the oven too long for the same reason.
THCA and CBDA break down at different temperatures and at different rates. For THCA, the optimal temperature is around 110 °C (230 °F). For CBDA, you usually need a higher temperature since CBDA and a longer period of heating, so around 130 °C (265 °F). When baking your cannabis, you want to target both of these molecules without burning the other off, and it really depends on your weed and your strain. This is why you will find different recommendations for decarbing your weed all over the internet.
As a rule of thumb, regardless of strain, you should heat up your oven to 121 °C or 250°F for 25 min. If you’re using a CBDA dominant hemp for oils or salves, you should double the baking time at any given temperature. After your cannabis has been heated up, it will change in color from green to brown.
You have your decarbed cannabis, now what?
With your decarbed weed, you can nos make lots of things. You can use it to make cannabutter or cannaoil, or put it directly on chocolate for a quick edible. You could also try to make tinctures, salves and more.
The sky's the limit!
Iffland, K (2016) European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) paper on: - Decarboxylation of Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) to active THC. Retrieved from: https://eiha.org/media/2014/08/16-10-25-Decarboxylation-of-THCA-to-active-THC.pdf
Kurek, I (2021) Decarboxylation Explained with Temperature Charts | Weedmaps Retrieved from: https://weedmaps.com/learn/products-and-how-to-consume/decarboxylation-temperature-chart
McPartland, J (2017) Affinity and Efficacy Studies of Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid A at Cannabinoid Receptor Types One and Two - PMC. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5510775/
Wang, M (2016). Decarboxylation Study of Acidic Cannabinoids: A Novel Approach Using Ultra-High-Performance Supercritical Fluid Chromatography/Photodiode Array-Mass Spectrometry - PMC. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549281/