Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Decarboxylation Explained
Cannabis farmers manage each stage of their marijuana crop growth to produce healthy plants strong enough to support large buds loaded with terpenes and beneficial cannabinoids. However, it is possible to end up with what appears to be a healthy and potentially useful plant that is nonetheless powerless to produce any desired effect. The problem in such instances is not a lack of potency, though it may seem so to the uneducated. The problem is that the THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) that is present has yet to be activated as THC by the process of decarboxylation.
Decarboxylation, or ‘decarbing’ as the process is also known, is the chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by dropping a carboxyl group. It is a chemical reaction that occurs either over a long period of managed time via infusion in a sealed environment or quickly, with the specific application of low heat for a specified length of time.
Ideal temperatures should range between 200 and 245 degrees Fahrenheit. Too low temperatures will fail to maximize the available THC and CBD potential. Delicate cannabinoids and terpenes are destroyed at temperatures much over 260 degrees Fahrenheit, so decarboxylation requires a controlled environment and careful supervision.
The chemical reaction that occurs via long-term infusion and, more commonly, through the slow application of heat, degrades the bond between the THC and the acid that prevents it from bonding with the cannabinoid receptors within the body. The human body has an endocannabinoid system ready to receive the THC and CBD, but until this transformation takes place, the product has zero effect. Only activated THC provides the desired euphoric effect, and only activated CBD eases pain and anxiety.
This principle explains the immediate high or pain relief gained from smoking high thc cannabis. When smoking from a pipe, bong, or rolled joint or blunt, the transformation of THCA into psychoactive THC is instantaneous. It also explains why eating raw white widow cannabis or strawberry kush plants, or using them to create medicinal products, both topical and edible, is not only ineffective but also an inefficient use of an expensive product.
It is safe to consume raw cannabis as food—it is overflowing with nutrition in the form of vitamins and antioxidants. Many other foods do the same, however, and very none offer the mental and physical potential of activated THC and CBD.
Not all people are smokers, nor are they willing to start smoking to consume cannabis. This population presents a ready-made market for cannabis in various other forms ranging from bath bombs to external body products to edibles. The market is for both THC and CBD cannabinoids. CBDA becomes CBD when decarboxylated, thereby releasing its many famed medicinal properties.
Both THC and CBD are available as candies, butter, infusions, and foods that are both savory and sweet. Not all people have ready access to these products and must create personal edibles and body products if they are to enjoy them. This creative and necessary endeavor begins with decarboxylation.
What is the Decarboxylation Process?
Think of decarboxylation as the activation key to what you came here for in the first place. It’s what unlocks marijuana’s value for every recreational and medical purpose that doesn’t involve burning the dried plant material directly with flame and inhaling the smoke. Whether for recreational or medicinal use, decarboxylation is the key that activates the psychoactive, healing, and physically and emotionally calming effects desired. Without being decarbed, your bruce banner autoflower or tropicana cookies strain plant will have no more effect than eating a stick of celery or a head of lettuce.
Activated cannabinoids interact with the human body in multiple ways. Factors of influence include the results sought, as well as the endocannabinoid receptors targeted. Psychoactive, psychotropic, therapeutic as well as curative and preventative properties become influential, whereas previously they were inert. Properties become available that just did not exist in the plant in its natural state. Decarboxylation has such power that it takes marijuana that would otherwise have no more value than average hemp into a much-needed cash crop.
There are multiple ways to decarboxylate weed. How one plans to consume a cannabis product usually determines the method one chooses to decarb it. The most frequently employed way is to bake the cannabis in a temperature-controlled oven. Baking marijuana is a simple process, uses readily available tools, and produces a uniform product well-suited to the creation of edibles. Many users consider this process akin to that of toasting—lightly cooking herbs and spices in a dry frypan to enhance their flavor. This method works well in a pinch for small amounts of weed.
When baking, the first step is to crumble or roughly grind the chosen i 49 strain. Spread it out on a baking sheet, being sure to leave room for air to circulate. Do not overcrowd the pan. Half an ounce to an ounce at the time is plenty to bake in a standard-sized oven. Bake the amount you expect to use within a reasonable amount of time.
Preheat your oven to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the oven’s internal temperature accuracy with a supplemental oven thermometer. Many ovens run hot, and ten degrees in the wrong direction might damage or destroy your cannabis. When the internal temperature reaches 240, place the pan of crumbled marijuana in the oven, and turn the heat down to 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake your indoor-grown or outdoor-grown cannabis for forty minutes to one hour, depending upon the volume of your cannabis. Observe it and stir it every ten minutes or so, whether it appears to need stirring or not. When the herb is pungent and lightly browned, it is ready. Your newly decarboxylated cannabis awaits your pleasure as an ingredient in edibles and other personal care items.
The final step in the production of the highest quality decarboxylated weed is to age it for a strain-specific number of weeks in a sealed jar. Although not technically required, this final step is the finishing touch to a higher-end product. Decarboxylation is a mandatory step in the creation of edibles and topicals alike.
Experienced cooks know when their pasta is precisely al dente, and know not to overbake their cookies. So it is when baking cannabis in the oven. Once you have gone through the process a couple of times, you will refine it to the point that you can tell by looking when the process is complete. It is a simple process to then adapt any or all techniques to a particular circumstance or set of needs. Many home producers enjoy creating homemade cannabutter, infused honey, candies, baked goods, and more with their home-decarboxylated cannabis.
There is just one negative associated with decarboxylating in a home oven. Everybody in close range, as well as some who are downwind from you, will know what you’re doing. If that invokes the same homelike images of bread baking and Sunday chicken frying (in cannabis-infused oil), then go right ahead. However, if being discreet is your aim, it’s a good idea to seek another method. Even an essential oil diffused will likely not be able to mask the smell of your skunk weed strain being roasted to perfection.
Boiling in oil is an option worth considering when the desired end product is an oil that is useful for salads, frying, baking, massage, blending with essential oils, and the like. Cannabis cooks everywhere substitute cannabis oil in all of their recipes. Instead of being forced to make their purchases from what is available on market shelves, they enjoy the freedom to make for themselves precisely what they desire, instead of continually having to settle for second best. Good choices, depending upon preferences and intention, include oils such as coconut, olive, avocado, sesame, and others.
Employ this method with cannabis that you have already ground to a fine and even consistency. You’ll also need a medium saucepan, a big bowl, a fine-mesh strainer, a grinder, your oil of choice, and your kitchen stovetop. Proper proportions, to begin with, are 1:1—a cup of your oil of choice for each cup of ground cannabis. You may find that you choose to adjust your proportions depending upon the purpose and even upon the strain of marijuana that you’ve selected to boil.
Potency has more to do with how long you allow the mixture to cook than it does with the strength of your ratio. Alter according to your needs and as suits your circumstance. The only rule is that your ground herb must freely float in the oil. This freedom to move about prevents your cannabis from getting too dry and sticking to the pan’s bottom and burning. Watch your pot as it boils to avoid wasting both weed and oil as neither are cheap.
Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce heat to low. Let it simmer for three to four hours, stirring occasionally and keeping a close watch on the temperature. Use a thermometer to ensure the temperature does not exceed 245 degrees Fahrenheit. As with baking, be aware that heat that is too high will damage delicate terpenes and cannabinoids and reduce the quality of your final product. This method is aromatic as well, although perhaps not quite so much as when decarbing through baking. After several hours, allow to cool and filter into the bowl using a cheesecloth-lined fine-mesh strainer. Your oil is ready to use! Keeping it in the refrigerator is recommended for maximum freshness.
Seal the Deal
Also known as the bag and boil method, sealing the deal involves boiling double-bagged quantities of ground cannabis in a pot of continuously simmering water for several hours. If allowing odor to escape is of concern for you, this is the most discreet method. Even if it is not, sealing is the one way that won’t have you opening the windows to air the place out on a cold winter’s day.
To decarboxylate in this manner, fill a large pot fitted with a sieve and fill it half full of water. Bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, get your cannabis ready. Crumble or grind the hemp product as desired and fill sturdy plastic bags, leaving room for the marijuana and hot-air expansion. Lower the sieve and weed-filled packs into the water gently and cover the pot with a lid. Return to a consistent, rolling boil. Allow the cannabis to boil for 1.5-2 hours.
This surprisingly simple method doubles as a means of storage, too, so long as the processer sidesteps two known pitfalls. First, do not fail to leave enough room for the expansion that will occur once the cannabis is hot all the way through. Second, watch the water level in your pot. Water boils away quickly. Therefore, be prepared to add water. Boil the bags for at least 90 minutes before removing the sieve, allowing the bags to cool before handling.
THC-infused butter (cannabutter) is one of the more popular methods used to release cannabis’s hidden potential for baking because it is so versatile. Think of the many uses for butter: corn on the cob, waffles, baked potatoes, cookies, cakes—the list goes on. Butter makes great things better, and cannabutter is even better than regular butter. Cannabutter substitutes well for other forms of shortening, tastes great when flavored, and is an easy way to get your required cannabinoids. Try making some and see for yourself.
As always, first, grind your premium weed. You’ll need one-half cup (approximately) of roughly ground decarboxylated weed. Additionally, you will require one cup (two sticks) of melted butter, water, and a saucepan. The amount of water isn’t all that important except for the amount of time it takes to boil. What is desirable is for the melted butter to float on the surface of the water. There is no need to be concerned that the water will dilute your end product because THC and CBC are fat, not water, soluble. All available cannabinoids get absorbed into the butterfat.
Simmer the cannabis butter water for two to three hours. As always, watch to ensure it doesn’t scorch. Add water as needed. When done, strain via a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. After the mixture has reached room temperature, put the bowl into the refrigerator and allow it to chill overnight. In the morning, the fat will have risen. Simply separate the hardened cannabis-infused butterfat and place in container for later use. Discard any liquid that remains.
The Bottom Line
Some things are worth doing yourself. Homemade bread always tastes better than that made in a factory using industrial methods. The same is true of any food product, and it is true of cannabis-infused butter or oil. Experiment with making your own, and you won’t regret it. The results will speak for themselves.
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