Decarboxylation is an extra step to take before making edibles to have consistent results in every batch. Dry cannabis flower is never a good option – it can be gritty and requires heating to activate the cannabinoids. It can make the texture of your edible unpleasant. In this guide we’ll help you learn why decarboxylation is necessary if you want to become an expert home edibles maker.
What is Decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation is the process of activating the cannabinoids in your dry flower. It removes carboxyl (an acid) from the fatty molecules within the bud. What you want to have left is the resin from the buds.
In raw form, THC is minimal in dry flower. It’s recognized as THCA – a non-intoxicating cannabinoid. It isn’t until the buds are dried, cured and heated that THCA converts to THC.
To put it in simple terms, decarboxylation is the process of turning THCA into THC.
Heating the dry herb for longer than necessary doesn’t make the THC percentage higher.
If you prefer a high-CBD, low-THC strain you’ll still want to perform the decarboxylation process. CBD acts the same way as THC – decarboxylated cannabinoids are what you want. While CBD won’t produce any intoxicating effects, CBDA may not produce the potential healing benefit you expect. The only exception here is CBDA crystalline. It converts to CBD when heated for baking purposes.
When do you Decarboxylate your Dry Flower?
Sure, you can just grind up dry flower and smoke it or vaporize it – that’s a quick decarboxylation process that can give you immediate satisfaction. If you’re planning to cook with your dry herb or use it for topical recipes – you need to take one extra step.
It is ideal to decarb your cannabis:
- Before making tinctures
- Before including it in edibles or drinks (whether they are concentrate-based recipes or infusions)
- After making homemade full cannabis extracts at home
It is best to leave yourself some extra time when you plan to make your own edibles, concentrates and infusions at home. The process may take longer since home edibles makers tend to lack high-tech equipment to make the decarboxylation process faster.
At Home Decarboxylation Methods
If you are using CBDA crystalline, you don’t need any fancy equipment. You can simply let the crystalline dissolve or steep in a cup of coffee for a few hours. The coffee should be hot and should be allowed to cool naturally. Coffee is a great addition to chocolate recipes, so if you have something chocolate planned, consider this method.
Here’s what you need to decarb your cannabis at home:
- Sheet tray with raised edges
- Parchment paper
- Coarsely ground cannabis flower (not a joint-grind – keep it chunky, you’re really just breaking it up a little bit)
- Oven mitts/ pan holders
- Wooden spoon
First, you need to set your oven to the right temperature. If you do not have a digital stove – this may require a little finagling. The proper temperature is 240 degrees. You’ll need an oven thermometer to double check the temperature once the oven signals it’s ready.
Being off even a few degrees can ruin your cannabis.
Place the coarsely ground cannabis on the baking sheet. Make sure it’s in a single layer only. Leave a little room between the chunks. This ensures even heating of the cannabis.
The cannabis must bake for exactly 40 minutes. Shake it around at the 20 and 30 minute marks.
If, at 30ish minutes, you notice that the flower looks a little toasted, remove it from the oven. If you leave it in longer, it could burn.
Shake your cannabis quickly so that too much of the warm air does not escape. This lowers the oven’s temperature and can impede your process.
Make sure that your cannabis does not exceed golden brown to dark green in color.
Should you Decarboxylate other forms of Cannabis?
Other forms of cannabis such as concentrates and oils should also be decarboxylated before use in edibles and topicals. When working with ROS or oils made via CO2 extraction, using a hot water bath is ok to use. You can also use oil, but can get dangerous if the proper temperatures are not maintained.
When using oil, make sure you use an option that has a high smoking point like olive oil, canola oil or walnut oil. Vegetable oil can be vulnerable and may come to a boil too quickly. You do not want the oil to boil in this process.
For either process, you need a candy thermometer. The temperature of your oil should be maintained specifically at 240 degrees. If the oil starts to exceed 240 degrees, quickly remove it from the heat, allow it to sit for a couple of minutes and return it to the heat. Adjust the heat setting on the stove slightly.
Make sure you are stirring your pot frequently to pop bubbles. When the bubbles pop up less often, it’s time to remove the decarboxylated oil/ from the heat entirely.
For concentrates, you’ll use the oven. Preheat the oven to 240 degrees (I’m sure you’re noticing the trend with the temperature). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place an oven-safe thermometer on inside the oven. Put the concentrate on the baking sheet and allow it to sit for 20 to 25 minutes in the oven.
The concentrate should melt and you should have noticed a vigorous bubbling cycle. It’s ideal to keep an eye on the concentrate during this process. Once this has happened, take the decarboxylated concentrate out of the oven and allow it to cool slightly. It’s easier to handle if it cools just a little bit first.
Kief and Hash use the same process as cannabis flower and concentrate. The baking time is different as it only needs to be in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Always stir the kief or hash half-way through and keep an eye on it.
Decarboxylating your cannabis prior to making edibles allows you to make a higher-quality product at home. Purchasing dry cannabis flower yourself ensures that you are picking the right strain and you know what’s in your creation. After you’ve made your edibles, topicals or infusions with your decarboxylated product make sure it is appropriately labeled to keep it out of the wrong hands.
If decarboxylation isn’t something you want to take on yourself, you can always just take a shortcut and use one of our CBD tinctures in your recipes instead.