Decarboxylation: How to Decarb Your Weed
by Sirius Fourside
Table of Contents:
- Introduction: What Is Decarboxylation?
- Why Is Decarbing Important?
- Using Small Pieces of Weed vs Grinding Your Weed
- How to Decarboxylate Your Weed
- Natural Method (Slow!)
- Baking Sheet
- Oven Bag
- Mason Jar
- Ardent Nova (Decarb machine)
What Is Decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that can be used to make cannabis edibles potent. The sciency-sounding word describes the process of turning THCA, which isn’t psychoactive, into the THC we all know and love. Since cannabis typically contains THCA instead of THC before it’s heated or smoked, decarboxylation is an essential step when processing cannabis for eating. The regular cooking process typically isn’t enough to decarb cannabis fully, and it won’t happen naturally in your stomach.
That’s why in most recipes for cannabis edible or tinctures, decarboxylation – or the informal verb, “decarbing” – is the first step you take.
Don’t worry, it’s simple. Decarbing simply means subjecting your weed to high temperatures (
250°F) over a period of time before using it in your recipe.
These cannabis buds are about to get decarbed
When you smoke or vaporize cannabis, the heat of the fire/vaporizer makes the decarboxylation process happen. The heat turns the THCA in your cannabis to THC, you inhale that THC and feel its effects.
When you decarb, it forces the same transformation to happen, yet leaves all that good stuff on the bud so you can eat it or cook it into something like butter or oil.
Did you know? Heat isn’t the only way decarboxylation happens. Even if you never heat your cannabis, the process of decarbing also occurs naturally over time at regular temperatures. So older cannabis is often already decarboxylated.
Why Is Decarbing Important?
Why decarb? Because decarbing is what makes edibles work! Decarboxylation could be seen as the most important step in making edibles since it’s the process that makes your weed actually feel like weed when you eat it.
It may seem counterintuitive to “cook” your weed by itself. Wouldn’t that burn off all the good stuff and make it less potent? No, it won’t reduce the potency as long as you follow the instructions in this tutorial.
In fact, it’s the opposite. If your buds are not decarbed before being eaten, you won’t feel the psychoactive effects of your weed. You could eat a whole ounce of raw bud and only be left with a breath that smells like a dispensary!
Break buds up to prepare them for decarboxylation
Small Pieces of Weed vs. Grinding Your Weed
There’s a bit of debate about how to prepare your bud before decarboxylation. But in our opinion, as long as you break it up a little bit there isn’t a whole lot of difference.
Breaking your weed into smaller pieces means it all gets baked a lot more evenly than if you had used whole nugs. The downside to breaking your weed up by hand as opposed to grinding is that it’s slightly more time consuming since grinding can be done with machines like a food processor.
Don’t get scared off though, it’s easy to do. If you have enough finger mobility to break up broccoli florets with your hands, you can break up your bud. It only takes a few minutes and it’s free!
I used my fingers to break this weed up into small pieces before decarboxylation
A huge benefit to grinding up your weed instead of breaking it up with your hands is that you can use a machine like a food processor to do all the work for you. You just put some bud in, hold a button for a few seconds and dump out the finished product!
This is the method I typically use because it’s a bit easier to do than breaking up nugs. It’s hard to mess up because you can’t really grind your bud too small/fine. I’ve made edibles with weed ground so fine it ends up as a powder. Some growers claim that grinding the weed can cause it to lose potency, but I never noticed that in my experiments.
You can use a food processor to save time compared to breaking weed up by hand
I had this older model food processor for almost 6 years. I miss ya, pal.
However, there is a downside to grinding: it’s easier to lose material the finer your weed gets. You can lose some herb to the sides of the grinder, some in transferring containers or some in the container you use for decarbing. If you’re concerned with saving every last bit of bud, you might want to break buds up by hand. That being said, you can save the vast majority of your ground-up material by just making sure to be a little careful about collecting and moving your weed.
Extra Note: Some devices that help make edibles (like the Magical Butter Machine) suggest that you don’t grind up your weed before using it in their recipes. So, if you’re thinking about using a Magical Butter Machine, break your buds up by hand. If you’re going to make edibles without a machine, grinding is a solid solution.
How to Decarb Your Weed: Overview of Methods
Alright, let’s get into details. We’ll go through the popular methods of decarbing, how to do them, what supplies you’ll need, and grade them based on convenience and how much smell they make.
Natural Decarb (Time Method)
Did you know time turns THCA to THC? Weed that sits around long enough decarbs on its own. Just wait for a long, long time. In all honesty, this method is so time-consuming and inconsistent that it isn’t really a viable technique for making edibles. That being said, sometimes it works out. Nebula and I grow a lot of weed, and once we had a particularly high-yielding harvest sitting in jars in our cupboard for over a year as we slowly went through it. After a year, the weed was still fantastic to smoke, but had clearly gone through changes as it had turned into a rich golden-brown color.
We could’ve added it directly to food and felt psychoactive effects without decarbing. But if we had used that weed for edibles, we still would have decarbed it separately just to ensure all the THCA had turned to THC.
Smell Containment: 10/10
- Wait a long time, or use a different method if you want your edibles in less than 12+ months.
There are better ways to decarb than just waiting!
This is the most common method growers use to decarb their weed because many people already have all the materials they need to do it without needing to make a trip to the store.
It’s also worth noting that this is by far the smelliest method for decarbing. If you’re going to use this method, just know that your home is going to be flooded by an unignorable, pungent, unmistakably weedy smell. Running a fan with an attached carbon filter helps a lot, but it’s still going to get funky.
Smell Containment: 1/10 (smelliest method)
- Baking Sheet
- Foil or Parchment paper (no wax paper)
- Preheat oven to 250°F
- Line baking sheet with foil or parchment paper
- Place your broken-up or ground cannabis on the baking sheet
- Bake cannabis for 30 minutes
- The cannabis should change to a brownish color
This is an ounce of cannabis before being decarbed on a baking sheet…
…and this is the same ounce of weed after being decarbed on a baking sheet at 250°F for 30 minutes.
The oven bag (or turkey bag) method works just like the baking sheet but with a bit less work. You don’t need to line a baking sheet this way, and collecting the finished material is a piece of cake. Also, the bag doesn’t get extremely hot to the touch, so in that way, it’s safer than using something like a glass mason jar. There’s also much less smell than if you just bake the cannabis on a baking sheet.
The downside is that this method takes having something that probably isn’t in your house right now.
Smell Containment: 6/10
- Baking Sheet
- Oven bags (sometimes called turkey bags)
- Preheat oven to 250°F
- Place your broken-up or ground cannabis in the oven bag
- Tie a tight knot in the oven bag
- This keeps the weed and smell inside the bag
- Place the bag on a baking sheet (no foil/parchment needed)
- Bake for 30 minutes
- The cannabis should change to a brownish color
Place your broken-up cannabis in the oven bag, tie a tight knot, and bake for 30 minutes at 250°F on a baking sheet
Glass mason jars are great, aren’t they?
They’re great for curing cannabis, they can be vacuum sealed, they’re an amazing tool for decarboxylation, and you probably already have at least one in your house if you grow cannabis. Additionally, they’re pretty darn good at keeping the weed smell contained; even better than oven bags and WAY better than just baking the weed on a baking sheet.
Smell Containment: 8/10 (screw the lid on tight to keep the smell in)
- Preheat oven to 250°F
- Place your broken-up or ground cannabis in the mason jar
- Screw the top on tight. Real tight!
- A tighter seal means less weed smell will escape the jar
- Carefully place the mason jar on your oven rack. The jar should not be touching the heating element or sides of your oven.
- Bake for 30 minutes until cannabis changes to a brownish color.
- Important: The glass will be very hot when it comes out of the oven! Make sure to use oven mitts when you touch the jar and give it time to cool before opening.
The left is untreated weed and the right shows weed that has been decarbed in a mason jar at 250°F for 30 minutes
I didn’t even realize this was a thing until a reader wrote to me about it. The Ardent Nova is a machine with a singular purpose: decarbing weed. It’s a set-and-forget style system, meaning you can load it up, start it, and walk away. While you’re gone, the Ardent Nova will slowly and thoroughly decarb your weed and stop applying heat as soon as it senses the job is done. No need for an oven because it plugs directly into the wall. Plus it makes almost no smell whatsoever; I had to put my nose right up to it to smell anything.
Downsides? It takes longer to decarb your buds than the oven-based methods (up to 2 hours instead of the normal 30 minutes), you can only do an ounce of bud at a time (maximum), and it’s expensive ($190).
However, after trying out the Ardent Nova, I was converted. I live in a condo in a populous city, so my neighbors are pretty close to me. The total lack of smell was enough to make me a fan of the Ardent Nova all by itself, but being able to start the process and go run errands without worry sealed the deal.
Convenience: 9/10 (would be a 10 if not for the price)
Smell Containment: 10/10
- Ardent Nova Decarboxylator
- Weed (1oz maximum at a time)
First, consult the instructions that come with the device. Here are the general steps:
- Plug in your Ardent Nova
- The light on the front will turn green
- Take off the top and purple seal underneath
- Take out the metal container and load it up with weed, up to an ounce at a time
- Put the metal container back in, put the seal on top (it fits loosely), and replace the lid
- Press the button on the front of the Ardent Nova
- The light on the front will turn red
- Come back in roughly 2 hours (or whenever you feel like, it stops automatically)
- The light will turn green again when it’s done
- It takes about 2 hours to decarb a full ounce
After decarbing weed in the Ardent Nova, this is what the buds looked like inside
There you have it! You now have a handful of effective methods to decarb your weed and get ready to make butter, oil, gummies, tinctures, infused food, etc.
If you’re not sure what to do with your newly decarbed cannabis, butter is the best option in my opinion. Cannabutter is super versatile and can be used in hundreds of dishes that use butter or just as a topping on a “regular” dish (like a baked potato).
I ended up decarbing more than 6oz of weed while writing this, so stay tuned and we’ll have some great ways for you to use your decarbed weed coming in the next few weeks!
If you're looking to make edibles/tinctures/cannabutter/etc., decarbing your weed is the first step! Come inside and we'll teach you what you need to know!
Keys to decarbing weed
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- What is decarboxylation?
- Why you should decarb your weed
- How to decarb your weed at home
- How long should I decarb my weed?
- Bottom line
Many cannabis newcomers wonder if you can eat the raw cannabis plant and feel its intoxicating or psychoactive effects. Pop culture references to eating a big bag of raw weed and getting super stoned have no basis in the reality of how cannabis works, specifically how cannabinoids elicit effects in humans. For example, to exhibit the intoxicating effects associated with the cannabis high, THCA must be transformed into THC through a heating process called decarboxylation.
THCA must be transformed into THC through a heating process called decarboxylation. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Here is a quick summary of everything you need to know about decarbing weed — what decarbing is, when you should decarb, and how to best decarb your weed at home.
What is decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that results from two main factors: heat and time. When a cannabinoid decarboxylates, it loses a carboxyl group, which gives it the ability to interact with the body’s receptors through which therapeutic and recreational effects are elicited. Over a long period of exposure to the elements, cannabinoids will decarboxylate on their own which is why proper cannabis storage is so important. Without airtight storage in a sufficiently sturdy container, cannabis will lose potency as cannabinoids slowly decarboxylate and activate prematurely.
Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that results from two main factors: heat and time. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
To speed up the decarbing process, you’ll need to activate cannabinoids such as THC by heating them. When cannabis is smoked or vaporized, for example, the THCA loses a carboxyl group and converts to THC. Likewise, the cannabinoid CBDA must decarboxylate to turn into CBD.
A crucial step in making edibles or cannabis topicals at home is decarbing weed to make sure all the cannabinoids you want to experience are fully activated. When cannabis is cooked or baked, its active cannabinoids are absorbed through digestion. Decarbing weed also helps reduce the risk of microbiological contaminants. When weed decarboxylates, it loses moisture, which in turn decreases the chance of bacterial growth. Weed is dried and cured for the same reason, though some unwanted activation of cannabinoid, and therefore loss of potency, is inevitable during the curing process.
Why you should decarb your weed
In a nutshell, weed won’t get you high unless it’s decarbed. Marijuana’s most sought after cannabinoids — THC and CBD — need to be converted from THCA and CBDA over time to deliver the coveted recreational and therapeutic benefits. When making edibles and topicals, decarbing improves the function of these products by allowing for faster cannabinoid absorption. Edibles in particular have a reputation for delivering incredibly potent, long-lasting effects, but an edible won’t be as potent as its reputation suggests if the cannabis inside isn’t decarbed properly.
When making edibles and topicals, decarbing improves the function of these products by allowing for faster cannabinoid absorption. Photo by: Gine Coleman/Weedmaps
Cannabis is a complex plant with a wide variety of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds that contribute to its effects, including intoxication. But when it comes to the cannabis high, THC still reigns supreme. If you don’t decarb your weed, it won’t have active THC, which is a huge problem when making any cannabis product that isn’t immediately combusted and requires slow absorption through other avenues, such as the digestive tract.
How to decarb your weed at home
There are a variety of methods for decarbing weed at home, and the method you choose depends largely on what you want to do with your weed. Here are a few of the most common methods of decarbing and when you might want to try them:
If you’re baking edibles, your best bet for proper decarbing may be making cannabis oil or cannabutter to infuse into the final product. If you, it won’t need to be decarbed because it’s already been through the process. Well-made cannabutter, which involves heating butter and cannabis together, will decarboxylate the cannabis material while ensuring that active cannabinoids bind to the fats in the butter.
If you’re baking edibles, your best bet for proper decarbing may be making cannabis oil or cannabutter to infuse into the final product. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
If you’re planning on infusing foods with dried plant matter, baking your weed is a sufficient decarbing method. Here are 4 steps to follow to bake and decarb your weed.
- Step 1: Break your buds into small pieces and spread in a thin, even layer across a sheet of parchment paper.
- Step 2: Cover the paper with aluminum foil.
- Step 3: Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 230 degrees Fahrenheit, or 110 degrees Celsius.
- Step 4: Let your decarbed weed cool before using.
Baking your weed is a sufficient decarbing method. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
If you want to make potent cannabis tea, simply put your weed in a tea bag and immerse in simmering water. The temperature should be around 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and you can add a small amount of butter to help draw out cannabinoids.
If you want to make potent cannabis tea, simply put your weed in a tea bag and immerse in simmering water. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The Sous-Vide method is optimal for decarbing dried plant matter without releasing an odor that could get you in hot water with your landlord or neighbors. To decarb your weed Sous-Vide, grind your cannabis and enclose it in a heat-safe, vacuum-sealed bag. Then, fill a large pot with water and place it on your stovetop. Insert a Sous-Vide precision cooker into the pot and set the temperature to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, or 110 degrees Celsius. Once your precision cooker reaches the right temperature, cook your sealed cannabis for 1½ hours.
To make a cannabis-infused oil, you can decarb weed using a slow cooker and coconut or olive oil. For this recipe, you’ll need 64 ounces of dry cannabis plant matter and 433 milliliters of olive oil. Cover the ingredients and cook them on high in a slow cooker for 1 hour, then turn the slow cooker to low and cook for 2-3 more hours. Let the mixture cool, then strain it through a cheesecloth.
To make a cannabis-infused oil, you can decarb weed using a slow cooker and coconut or olive oil. Photo by: Gine Coleman/Weedmaps
How long should I decarb my weed?
The amount of time you let your weed decarb depends on the temperature at which you’re heating it. The lower the heat, the longer your weed will take to decarb. It’s always better to err on the side of slow decarbing, as too high a temperature will scorch your plant material. Heating cannabis over 300 degrees Fahrenheit will cause too much degradation too quickly. According to a 2011 study from the Journal of Molecular Structure, the optimal yield of active THC occurs when weed is heated at 110 degrees Celsius for 110 minutes.
Baking, boiling, and slow cooking are a few ways you can decarb your weed at home to release the full therapeutic potential of vital cannabinoids such as CBD and THC.
Keys to decarbing weed Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What is decarboxylation? Why you should decarb your weed How to decarb your weed