What Does It Mean To Decarb Weed?
You’ve probably heard, somewhere on the cannabis-vine, of the word “decarboxylation”. Unless you’re interested in preparing your own cannabis products, the word has probably jumped straight over your head. However, decarboxylation is something appropriate for every cannabis user, even if they don’t create their own edibles, tinctures or topicals.
In fact, decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that takes place every time you light up a joint. Which, in my opinion, makes it something worth knowing for everybody.
So take this article as a humble chemistry lesson about cannabis. What is picked from the plant is a little bit different to what finally reaches your body, all because of the chemical process called decarboxylation – or decarb.
What Does It Mean To Decarb Weed?
To decarboxylate weed essentially means to remove the carboxylic acid group (a molecular structure) which is present in a lot of organic materials. In order to understand this, we should take a step back and have a look at the chemistry of cannabis.
To the surprise of many, cannabis does not actually contain THC – or even CBD – when it is picked fresh off the plant. In fact, the compounds present in a fresh bud of marijuana are THCA and CBDA. These are abbreviations for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid and cannabidiolic acid.
In this form, there is a functional group called a carbonyl, or carboxylic acid (-COOH). When cannabinoids are in this form, they don’t behave the way we would generally expect them too.
If you ingested raw cannabis, you would indeed be ingesting THCA, rather than THC. This compound does not make you high, does not give the stoned effect and does not induce any of those much loved… side effects. However, as a matter of medicine, THCA is rich in medicinal value and is much more bioavailable than THC. But, let’s move on.
In order to convert THCA to THC, the removal of the carboxylic acid must take place, and this process is called decarboxylation. The chemical process is instigated and catalyzed by heat, and can take place in a number of different ways.
For example, the drying process already starts to convert some THCA to THC. Even lighting up your joint is the form of decarboxylation that weed smokers employ!
Why Decarb Weed Before Baking Or Cooking With It?
If you’ve been asking Google how to cook cannabis brownies, you’ve no doubt been told that decarboxylation is an important step. In fact, when it comes to making just about any cannabis product, decarboxylation is important. In order to liberate the cannabinoids that we have researched, know and love, you must decarb.
Cooking with cannabis usually involves making cannabutter by slow cooking buds steeped in butter for a long time. If you did this without decarbing first, your final product would not be as “strong”. Of course, this is all a matter of subjective opinion, because it depends on which cannabinoids you want your edible to be rich in. If you are looking for a THC rich cannabutter, then decarboxylation is imperative.
A cannabutter prepared with un-decarboxylated buds would result in a butter rich in THCA. This would not give the stoned effect you would expect. Some decarboxylation would take place during the cooking down of the butter. However, as a general rule of thumb, it is more conducive to decarboxylate first, and then dissolve cannabinoids such as THC and CBD directly into the butter.
If you want your final edible product to contain cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, then it is important to decarb before preparing the cannabutter. Otherwise, your final products will not give the stoned effect that you might be desiring.
Even the buds you buy off the shelf only contain minimal THC. Actually, THCA is much more prevalent in store-bought buds. However, through the process of smoking, the THCA is then converted to THC. Interestingly, THC levels are measured by the amount of THCA in a bud rather than the amount of THC.
The levels of THCA are potential for the levels of THC, so long as decarboxylation is done correctly. Therefore, in order for you to liberate the THC compound and increase the THC levels in what you finally consume, decarboxylation is necessary.
Risk Of Botulism
Botulism is a rare phenomenon that can occur as a result of consuming raw foods or, in this case, cannabis. Botulism is a potentially fatal health condition caused by Clostridium botulinum, which is a bacteria found in soil, sediments, raw foods, and even honey. Whenever you consume raw foods, especially without first washing them, you run the risk (albeit very small) of botulism.
Decarboxylating weed actually creates temperatures too warm for this bacteria to live. In the process of decarbing, you actually remove the risk of botulism. It is the same even for smoking cannabis, in which case burning through means that the bacteria, if present, dies.
The Best Way To Decarb Weed
As we discussed very briefly, there are many different ways to decarboxylate weed. Some people are decarboxylating weed without even actually knowing that they are doing it. Here, we are going to discuss some of the different ways to decarb weed and their pros and cons.
Smoking is one of the most popular forms of decarboxylation. Most stoners are performing this chemical reaction without having any idea about it. The process of lighting up your joint supplies enough heat for the THCA to be converted to THC, which then enters your lungs. The rest is stoner history.
The obvious advantage to this form of decarb is that there’s no preparation necessary. It is simultaneous with smoking it.
Not all of the THCA gets converted to THC. A lot of it is actually just incinerated the moment you light it, meaning you don’t actually “get” all of the cannabinoids present in the specimen you are smoking.
Decarboxylation in the oven is the most conventional way to do it consciously. It involves laying out the buds in a tray and putting them in the oven. There is a lot of controversy about which is the perfect temperature in which to decarboxylate. However, for reasons we’ll discuss a little later, the temperature should probably never go over 250℉.
The buds can sit in the oven at this temperature for about 35-40 minutes. When you remove the buds, they should be a light to medium brown color. If they are dark, you’ve cooked them for too long. They will also be pretty crumbly after this process.
This process is usually undertaken for the preparation of cannabis edibles or tinctures.
Oven decarb is the best way to release as much of the desired cannabinoids (THC and CBD) as possible. So long as it’s done right, nothing is incinerated and there is maximum conversion.
You have to be really careful. If done incorrectly, you could ruin an entire batch of cannabis. Also, the oven decarb doesn’t make great “smoking” buds. It’s strictly for the preparation of edible cannabis.
In a Crockpot
Decarboxylation in a crockpot is essentially giving your buds a “water bath”. The buds are put in a mason jar, which is then placed in a crockpot that has some water in it. The boiling water provides the heat to the buds inside the jar, theoretically leading towards decarboxylated buds.
There are no real pros to this method. In fact, it’s quite ineffective and can ruin your buds.
The temperature of boiling water is never quite hot enough to decarboxylate your buds, meaning it takes a long time to get there. This overexposure to heat can actually degrade your cannabis, meaning you have ruined your buds and you probably haven’t decarboxylated your buds correctly.
Be Careful Not To Destroy Terpenes
Terpenes are other compounds found within cannabis that interact harmoniously with cannabinoids. In fact, they complement the power of cannabinoids and carry a lot of their own medicinal value. Terpenes are also responsible for the characteristic smell of cannabis and the undertones we find in different strains (citrus, berry, pine etc.).
If the process of decarboxylation is done incorrectly, there is a huge risk of destroying these terpenes. And this would be a huge shame.
In order to maintain the integrity of terpenes, the temperature during a decarb should never exceed 250℉. Terpenes begin to break down at 310℉, so it’s better to stay far below this temperature.
Other Ways To Decarb Weed
I’ve even heard of people putting their weed on a frying pan and decarboxylating that way. Rest assured, this is not a very effective way to decarb. There’s no real control over the temperature and you literally risk frying your buds.
You can decarboxylate your weed by leaving it in the sun, of course. This may be the more natural way to decarb, but it does not ensure the complete conversion of THCA to THC. After all, it never really gets that hot under the sun, which means some THCA will still remain.
How Long To Decarb Weed
Just as there is some controversy when it comes to the temperature at which weed should be decarbed, there is also some controversy surrounding the length of time. The true answer is it depends. It depends on the temperature you choose to decarb your weed at and the weed itself. The most general time frame is 35-40 minutes.
However, you should keep a close eye on your buds during this time. They should change from their usual green color to a light brown as if they have been toasted a little (which they have). If this happens at 20 minutes, that’s okay.
If it goes past this point and they start to turn dark brown or black, then they have decarbed for too long and probably at too high a temperature.
How To Decarb Weed Fast
Unfortunately, there’s no efficient way to decarb your weed fast. If you turn up the temperature in your oven, you run the risk of burning your buds or compromising those terpenes we talked about earlier. Doing anything “fast” is not really conducive to making edibles or tinctures. After all, tinctures can take weeks or even months to prepare. As for making cannabutter, it requires at least 4 hours of slow cooking. So what’re an extra 35 minutes for decarboxylation?
Don’t compromise your buds by wanting to decarb fast. The process takes less than 45 minutes in total and it doesn’t require an awful lot of work on your part. Let go of the time you have to spend decarbing and do it properly!
Decarboxylation is a necessary step before making any edible products or even cannabis tincture. It activates the THC inside your cannabis buds, increasing the overall potency of your final product. Make sure you do it right, though! You don’t want to waste all of those buds!