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A Beginners Guide to Cannabis Decarboxylation

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Cannabis decarboxylation must occur before cooking, baking, or extracting oil from the dried flower buds of the cannabis plant in order to reap the benefits of activated CBD or THC. Learn more about how, when, and why to decarboxylate cannabis for making edibles, medicine, and more at home.

Cannabis Decarboxylation

A General Overview of Cannabis Decarboxylation

If you have never decarbed cannabis before, the process can be understandably confusing.

Don’t worry; I’m here to help you understand this process (and I promise, it’s not as hard as it sounds!)

Decarboxylation is the first step to take before transforming cannabis flower into cannabis coconut oil, cannabis butter, cannabis olive oil, or a cannabis tincture and more. 

You will often hear this process referred to as ‘decarb’ or ‘decarbing’ cannabis flower, and it truly is an important step to take if you plan on making homemade cannabis edibles.

So what exactly is decarboxylation, and why do we need to do it, anyway?

If you were to eat a whole dried or raw cannabis flower bud, it is unlikely that you will feel the intoxicating effects of THC.

That is because raw cannabis does not naturally contain high amounts of CBD or THC, it actually contains what is known as cannabinoid acids.

Cannabinoid acids, known as CBDA and THCA, and more, have potential health benefits – but they are not intoxicating in nature (meaning you won’t get high).

To convert these nonintoxicating cannabinoid acids into the activated cannabinoids we want to consume, the process of decarboxylation must occur.

By definition, decarboxylation is is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide. 

Decarboxylation occurs when cannabis is exposed to heat, light, cofactors, or solvents, all of which can be manipulated within your own kitchen. 

Cannabis decarboxylation is necessary to experience the activated effects of CBD or THC when making cannabis edibles, cannabis topicals, oil infusions, and more.

Join nearly twenty thousand awesome members inside my Well With Cannabis Facebook Community if you have any questions about cooking with cannabis or want to share your creations!

Cannabis Decarboxylation

Variability of Decarboxylation Methods

If you ask one hundred different members of my Well With Cannabis Facebook Community how they decarboxylate their cannabis, you will get 100 different answers.

While the variations in each method are often slight, they are also usually accompanied by years of experience and personal preference. 

Ultimately, we will all arrive at the same goal – activated CBD, THC, or other cannabinoids that can be used in homemade edibles.

Now it’s important to remember that this is not a perfect process in a controlled environment, nor does it need to be.

Each cannabis plant is highly unique and contains a full-spectrum of compounds including different cannabinoids, terpenes, and more.

The cannabinoid and terpene profile varies from plant to plant, and each cannabinoid and terpene decarboxylates at a different temperature, making replicating and reproducing consistent results challenging.

On top of that we all have different kitchen set ups with equipment available to work with. Temperature fluctuations can vary greatly from oven to oven.

Finally, it can be difficult to determine the final percentage of a specific cannabinoid in your final product without expensive lab testing.

However, this is not to discourage you.

While this sounds like one big science experiment going on in your kitchen, it really can be as simple as putting a mason jar of flower in the oven and baking.

Cannabis Ready for Decarb

The Science Behind Why We Need Decarboxylate Cannabis

If you’re a new cannabis edible consumer, you may not have known that eating dried or raw cannabis flowers will provide little to no intoxicating effect at all.

This can be good or bad depending on your desired experience.

Raw cannabis flower contains tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), a non-intoxicating substance that can be converted into the intoxicating substance tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) through the decarboxylation process (1). 

This process also converts cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) into cannabidiol (CBD), although both forms remain non-intoxicating in their respective states.

While THCA and CBDA have potential health benefits in and of themselves, for preparing cannabis edibles, most people prefer them decarboxylated into the active forms of THC and CBD.

While there is a general understanding of the science behind the decarboxylation process, truthfully, it is all just one big experiment in a home kitchen.

Ultimately, they all get you to the same place – decarbed cannabis flower.

Cannabis Decarboxylation with Heat

As mentioned before, decarboxylation occurs when cannabis is exposed to heat, light, cofactors, or solvents.

For this process, we prefer to decarb with heat, as this is the easiest method to control in an at-home kitchen environment.  

Decarboxylation can easily be done in your own kitchen at home by baking the dried cannabis in the oven at a low temperature for a certain period of time.

The goal of cannabis decarboxylation is to heat the flower at a low temperature to allow decarboxylation to occur without destroying the other beneficial plant matter such as the terpenes or flavonoids. 

Again, this becomes difficult because each cannabinoid and each terpene decarboxylates at its own specific temperature.

General Decarb Temperature Recommendations

  • The most common recommendation for decarboxylating THCA to THC is to bake the flower at 240° F for 40 minutes.
  • The most common recommendation for decarboxylating CBDA to CBD is to bake the flower at 240°F for 80-90 minutes.

We do know with lab testing that for the most popular cannabinoid, THC, it is believed THCA begins to decarboxylate at approximately 220°F after around 30-45 minutes of exposure, with full decarboxylation typically taking longer to occur (2). 

Again, the type and strain of cannabis flower you are using will impact decarboxylation time and temperature recommendations.

As noted below, decarboxylating CBD hemp flower requires a much longer cooking time than decarboxylating traditional THC dominant flower.

Because each cannabinoid and terpene decarboxylates at a different temperature, you will want to consider the best temperature and cooking time for your particular strain. 

Once the raw cannabis flower has been decarbed, it can be used in a wide variety of applications, similar to how other dried herbs would be used.

Many people will make their own cannabis tea or spice and seasoning blends with their decarboxylated cannabis flower as is.

Others will move forward to use the decarbed cannabis flower to make an infused oil or cannabutter with a simple infusion process.

Decarboxylation Before and After

Factors That Impact The Decarboxylation Process

There are many factors that will impact the results of your final product when decarboxylating cannabis.

Here are a few additional considerations to keep in mind:

Maintaining Temperature Control

It is important to keep tight temperature controls when decarboxylating cannabis, as much as possible.

While heat is needed to decarboxylate, extreme temperatures can destroy many important plant materials that contribute to positive health outcomes, like terpenes (3).

Each individual terpene may have it’s own therapeutic health benefits, but also carries its own sensitivity to heat.

If cannabis is heated above 300°F during the decarb process, you run the risk of denaturing many important plant compounds (4).

Oven Temperature Variability

Unfortunately, tight temperature control becomes more difficult with the variability of temperatures in traditional home ovens.

Many variables can impact the final temperature of the oven, and even two same brand ovens may vary in temperature by 5-10 degrees or more! 

For this reason, we recommend purchasing a digital oven-safe thermometer so that you can track the temperature in the oven that you have. 

Additionally, we recommend limiting the number of times the oven is opened during the cooking process, as this alters the oven temperature significantly.

Opening the door will cause the temperature to drop and alter your time and temperature recordings’ reliability.

Other Equipment Variability

If you are using an oven or other pieces of equipment like a crockpotslow cooker, or instant pot, small variables in the cooking equipment may impact your final product.

Different crockpots will have different temperatures when set to the same setting, which is why we recommend a digital oven-safe thermometer be used throughout the process. 

The Flower Size Before Decarboxylation

The size of the cannabis flower buds upon decarboxylation will have an impact on the final product.

If the cannabis flower buds are loosely broken up by hand, they will cook differently than cannabis buds that have been run through a grinder and now have a small, uniform texture.

Additionally, decarboxylating finely ground cannabis powder, also known as kief, will require much more attention paid to the temperature and cooking times to prevent burning and denaturing of the important compounds in the plant. 

Should You Grind The Buds Before Decarboxylating?

This is a matter of personal preference.

Some members of my cannabis community say they prefer to grind slightly before decarb to have a more even surface area for heating.

Other members of my cannabis community say grinding beforehand will remove more trichomes, leaving them in the grinder and not on your plant material. 

Additionally, grinding the plant material will expose more surface area which will allow more ‘green’ material, aka chlorophyll, to be absorbed into the final product.

Many people do not want large amounts of chlorophyll in their final product due to the bitter, earthy taste.

It is for this reason that we recommend to skip the grinding process and simply break up large buds by hand into smaller, popcorn sized pieces before decarbing.

Cannabis Decarboxylation

Managing the Smell of Decarboxylation

Yes – the decarboxylation process can cause your house to smell like weed.

When we bake cannabis we activate and release certain terpenes which gives cannabis a distinct and prominent smell.

While many enjoy the wonderful aroma of the baking herb, others are concerned about the smell affecting a loved one, a neighbor, or someone else in the home.

That is why we recommend baking the cannabis flowers in a sealed container, like a mason jar.

The sealed lid will hold in many of the terpenes, which is great for your final product, and helps to cut the odor down significantly.

How to Store Decarbed Cannabis

One question I often receive inside my Well With Cannabis Facebook Community is:

How long you can store decarbed cannabis for future use?

Thankfully, decarbed cannabis can be stored for quite a long time before infusing into an oil or tincture.

Just store the decarbed cannabis in an airtight mason jar in a cool, dark space.

A freezer works well and helps to preserve the potency of the activated cannabinoids.

Mason Jar Decarb

Estimating Final Product Potency

One negative consideration of homemade cannabis edibles is that it is nearly impossible to determine the final exact concentration of final cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, in an at-home setting. 

This is a disadvantage because it is hard to accurately assess and track how much of each cannabinoid you will be orally consuming.

Without lab testing, it is nearly impossible to accurately assess the final product’s total cannabinoid concentration, making accurate dosing difficult.

This uncertainty opens up the risk of either underdosing or overdosing, which will ultimately prevent you from experiencing the desired health benefits. 

Combining Decarboxylation with Infusion

The heat decarb method is most often combined with the fat infusion method to ensure maximum cannabinoid activation and terpene retention.

This is my favorite way to create all of our popular staple cannabis oils including:

Remember, without decarboxylation, you will not experience the full range of beneficial health effects of cannabinoids like Δ9-THC or CBD!

Shop For At-Home Decarboxylation Machines

Of course, not everyone wants to decarboxylate independently, especially given all of the variability of the at-home options.

That is why many innovative companies have created their own decarboxylation machines for the at-home user.

Below are the most famous at-home decarboxylation machines recommended by my Well With Cannabis Facebook Community.

Use An Infusion Machine For Your Edibles

If the process of decarboxylating and infusing your cannabis edibles seems like too much work, a cannabis infusion machine is a perfect solution for you!

Cannabis-infusion machines are countertop devices that do all the work for you by decarboxylating and infusing your butters, oils, and more.

The most popular machines on the market today include LEVO Infusion Machines and Ardent Cannabis Infusion Machines.

Use a LEVO Machine

The LEVO II machine can be used to decarboxylate, infuse, and make perfect small batches of butter or oil at home.

Want a discount on a LEVO machine? Be sure to use the discount code EMILY10 at checkout for 10% off your purchase!

Use an Ardent Cannabis Machine

The Ardent Cannabis FX Machine can be used to decarboxylate, infuse, and make perfect larger batches of butter or oil and more at home.

Want a discount on an Ardent Cannabis Machine? Be sure to use the coupon code EMILY30 at checkout for $30 off your order!

Elevate Your Cannabis Education

The Cannabis Compass Online Course will show you how to dose, use, and apply cannabis safely and effectively so that you can begin to manage your most unwanted symptoms the natural way, from the comfort of your own home.

Elevate Your Cannabis Education

The Cannabis Compass Online Course will show you how to dose, use, and apply cannabis safely and effectively so that you can begin to manage your most unwanted symptoms the natural way, from the comfort of your own home.

Cannabis Decarboxylation by Emily Kyle

How to Decarboxylate Cannabis Flower

Learn more about how, when, and why to decarboxylate cannabis for making edibles, medicine, and more at home.
4.57 from 153 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Additional Time 5 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Cannabis Articles
Calories

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ounce cannabis flower buds leaf, trim, shake, or kief (amount of choice)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 240° F.
  • Using a digital scale, weigh the cannabis flower to your desired weight. For example: 0.25, 0.5, or 1.0 ounces.
  • Gently break up the cannabis flower buds, removing any seeds and stems as necessary.
  • Add the flower to a mason jar or oven-safe baking dish with a lid, making sure the flower is in an even layer (you do not want clumps or mounds). If you don’t have a lid, the tin foil will work.
  • Place the container in the oven and bake for 40 minutes for THC-dominant flower or 90 minutes for CBD-dominant flower. You are looking for a light golden brown color and fragrant aroma when it is done.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely with the lid on.
  • Your decarbed flower is now ready for immediate use. Be sure to store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

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