Blog Menu

Cannabis Decarboxylation: What is it?

by Christy Coy 7 min read

Cannabis Decarboxylation: What is it?

Everything You Need to Know About Decarboxylation

Decarboxylation Defined

Decarboxylation is a chemical process resulting from the application of heat over time to a cannabinoid. All cannabinoids, THC included, that are found within the trichomes of cannabis flowers possess an additional carboxyl ring represented as “COOH” in chemistry.

When heated to the right temperature, the cannabinoid loses its extra carboxyl group. This molecular modification enables it to interact efficiently with cannabinoid receptors found throughout the human body.

The process of decarboxylation is reliant on both the level of temperature and the time the cannabinoid spends at this temperature.

As an example, after being exposed to heat, THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) will decarboxylate immediately. If left unexposed to heat, THCA will also naturally decarboxylate over time, but at a MUCH slower rate.

What is Decarboxylation?

The cannabis plant in its natural state (even when dried) is non-psychoactive and non-intoxicating. Eating raw cannabis or as dry herb in a recipe will not result in an individual getting “high” or experiencing the plant’s noteworthy and generally expected psychostimulatory and euphoric effects.

The compound that we desire altered in order to elicit these effects, is THCA. But before THCA can efficiently bind to cannabinoid receptors in the human body, it must be transformed into THC.

When smoking or vaporizing cannabis, there is no need to decarboxylate the herb. This is because the process of heating the cannabis into vapor or smoke carries out this process for you. However, when cooking with cannabis, or when turning it into a butter or oil, decarbing is a mandatory step. 

Why is Decarboxylation Important?

For those interested in the euphoric effect of weed, decarboxylation is a must. Failure to carry out this process will result in a level of THC that is too insignificant to cause any noticeable effects. Those interested in the benefits of cannabis without the “high”, are better suited to using CBD.

Decarbing not only turns THCA into a psychostimulatory active compound, but it also helps reduce the risk of contamination or illness from any microorganisms such as bacteria, while the removal of moisture reduces the chances of any fungal growth or mold spores taking hold.

Does Decarboxylation Destroy Cannabinoids such as CBD?

A common concern for those interested in decarbing their marijuana is whether or not it has a measurable impact on other cannabinoids, namely, whether or not it will destroy them or render them inert.

Lesser known to the public, is that similarly to THC, CBD is not found naturally in cannabis or hemp in the form that we all know, love and consume. Instead, CBD’s natural form is CBDA (cannabidiolic acid). Unlike CBD, CBDA is incapable of interacting with the body in any meaningful way. As such, in order to convert CBDA into the more therapeutic CBD heralded for its many purported health benefits, you must first decarboxylate the weed.

What is the Best Way to Decarboxylate Cannabis?

The best way to decarboxylate weed is largely a matter of personal preference, how you intend to use the cannabis, and available equipment or tools available to get the job done. 

Plan on making edibles with your weed? In most cases, the best option for this type of preparation is to make cannabis oil or cannabis-infused butter. On the other hand, if you plan on adding dry herb to drinks, smoothies or other food items (such as sprinkling on top of popcorn), you might want to downplay the natural aroma by using the “sous-vide” method (don’t worry we’ll explain below).

Of course, as already mentioned, if you plan on vaping or smoking your bud, you can skip decarboxylation altogether.

How to Decarboxylate Cannabis at Home

Although not an incredibly difficult process, optimal decarboxylation of THCA into THC at home takes a bit of practice to get just right.

The learning curve with decarbing weed comes down to the precise temperature control that is needed throughout the process. Even small deviations in temperature can have a significant impact on the outcome, producing a product that can vary wildly in potency.

Alternatively, heating too much or at too high of a temperature (148 degrees Celsius or 300 degrees Fahrenheit) can result in significant degradation. Degradation of weed can result in a number of unwanted side effects. At too high of a temperature, terpenes can evaporate or alter, resulting in strange or unwanted off-flavors. 

How Long Does it Take to Decarb Weed?

The exact length of time required in order to properly decarboxylate your bud will depend largely on the temperature level and control you have. Typically, the lower the temperature, the longer you can expect to need in order to achieve proper decarboxylation.

But be aware of going too hot, while increasing the temperature can speed things up, you don’t want to scorch or burn the substrate, or evaporate valuable terpenes.

What is the Optimal Temperature and Time to Decarboxylate?

THCA found in raw cannabis will start the process of decarboxylation once exposed to a temperature at or around 220 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30-35 minutes. 

So what is the optimal temperature then? 

A study published in theJournal of Molecular Structure revealed what researchers determined to be the best temperature to achieve optimal decarboxylation of cannabis.

The highest yield of THC found in this study was achieved at a temperature of 110 degrees Celsius over a time period of 110 minutes.

Decarboxylation Methods at Home

  1. Decarboxylator

Due to the precision needed to obtain an optimal yield, if possible, the use of a decarboxylator such as theArdent Nova is recommended. These devices are affordable, efficient and reliable, ensuring optimal output and yield with every use.

Best of all? They do all the heavy lifting and hard work for you. 

Benefits of Using a Decarboxylator:

  • Fast
  • Accurate
  • Quiet
  • Affordable
  • Odorless and discreet
  • Incredibly easy to use
  1. Baking

Can’t get your hands on a decarboxylator? If you have an oven in your home or apartment then you’re in luck. Cannabis can be “baked” on a cookie sheet in a pre-heated oven. 

Step 1:Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper

Step 2:Evenly spread out your cannabis on the parchment paper in a thin, even layer

Step 3:Loosely over the paper with aluminum foil 

Step 4:Preheat your oven to 230 degrees Fahrenheit (or 110 Celsius)

Step 5:Set a timer for 25-30 minutes

Step 6:When the timer rings, use oven mitts to carefully remove the pan from the oven and find a safe cool place to let it cool (such as a kitchen countertop)

Step 7:When cool, consider using a food processor to give the cannabis an even consistency for ease of mixing or baking.

  1. Sous-Vide Method

Sous Vide Decarboxylation is a unique method of cooking cannabis with water or steam. Although a bit of specialized equipment is necessary, this method is sometimes preferred by foodies or individuals more experienced with using cannabis in their food items. One big plus of this method is that it removes much of the hallmark aroma and smell of cannabis, making it more discreet in any edible it is added to.

What You’ll Need:Heat-safe plastic packaging to hold the cannabis, grinder, large pot, vacuum sealer and sous-vide precision cooker.

Step 1:Grind your cannabis to an even consistency.

Step 2:Seal the ground cannabis in the heat-safe plastic bag using the vacuum sealer.

Step 3:Fill a large pot with water and place on stovetop

Step 4:Carefully situate the precision cooker inside the pot.

Step 5:Turn the temperature up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit

Step 6:Once the Sous-vide reaches the desired temperature, place the heat-safe plastic bag containing the cannabis into the precision cooker and cook for 1 and ½ hours.

  1. Slow Cooker

A slow cooker is a good option for those interested in creating cannabis-infused oil. A slow cooker, cooking oil (usually coconut or olive) and a little time are all that’s needed here.

Countless recipes can be found online, but we’ll follow one of the simple ones for you here below:

Step 1:Weigh out around 64 oz. (1.8 kg) of dry cannabis

Step 2:Add dry cannabis to 1 pint of your preferred oil (we like olive oil or coconut oil)

Step 3:Add this mixture to the slow cooker and cook on high for around 1 hour

Step 4:At the one-hour mark, turn the slow cooker to low and continue cooking for an additional 2-3 hours

Step 5:Turn the cooker off and allow the mixture to cool 

Step 6:When lukewarm, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth 

END RESULT:Each tablespoon of oil will contain around 2 grams of cannabis

  1. Boiling

This straightforward method involves immersing and simmering a cannabis packed tea bag in water and butter.

Step 1:Grind or break apart your cannabis to improve diffusion 

Step 2:Pack the cannabis in an empty teabag (ensure teabag is secure so the contents do not spill out into the pan)

Step 3:Fill a pan with enough water to submerge the tea bag

Step 4:Add a tablespoon of butter to the water

Step 5:Bring water to a simmer and stir gently

Step 6:Use a food-grade thermometer to ensure the temperature sits around 212 degrees Fahrenheit 

Step 7:Add the tea bag to the simmering mixture and allow to steep for up to five minutes 

Ready to Prepare your Own Weed for Use in Edibles?

Decarboxylation is a necessity for those interested in using raw or dried cannabis in any type of edible, from baking brownies, to candies or even sprinkling on top of a snack as a garnishment. Although the process can be a bit overwhelming at first, with a little practice (and patience), you can effectively carry out this process at home.

Read Our Guide: How to Make Cannabis Infused Edibles

Those looking for convenience, ease of preparation, and guaranteed optimal THC outputs may be better served by investing in an affordably decarboxylator. Consider shopping our assortment of high-quality products from Hemper to find the perfect fit. As always, we’re ready and eager to help.