Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are the primary sources of marijuana’s mind-bending and medicinal properties. However, contrary to popular belief, these organic compounds aren’t readily found in raw cannabis buds. Instead, it has to be activated through decarboxylation.
What Is Decarboxylation & Why Should You Do It?
Raw cannabis contains tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). In this acidic form, these cannabinoids are not useful. They hardly possess any psychoactive and medicinal benefits.
As you can see, being the cheapest and quickest method is not the only reason why you smoke a joint. Combusting the dried buds is a decarboxylation process that removes the carboxyl group (COOH-) from the cannabinoids (Iffland, Carus & Grotenhermen 2016).
COOH- is a molecule that prevents the cannabinoids from binding with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors. Its removal, as a result of exposure to heat, turns the inactive compounds active (e.g., THC and CBD). Only then can you reap the psychedelic and therapeutic effects.
Different Ways Of Decarbing Your Buds
There are several ways of decarboxylating cannabis. While all techniques ultimately yield the same result, each varies in timeframe, effort, and equipment needed.
In general, though the bud must be heated at around 220°F (105°C) for 30-45 minutes. Then, store it in an airtight glass jar, allowing it to cool and preserve its quality.
1. Oven Method
Baking buds in the oven is by far the simplest, most common, and convenient way of decarbing marijuana. When using this technique, all you need is an oven and a tray.
However, mistakes in the operating temperature may easily scorch the buds, so it requires diligent monitoring while in the oven. It must also be carried out in a well-ventilated area because baking weed emits a distinct and lingering scent.
- Ground marijuana herb
- Aluminum foil/parchment paper
- Airtight jar
- Baking tray
- Preheat the oven to 220-230°F (105-110°C). Do not go beyond this temperature to prevent scorching your buds.
- Spread the ground buds evenly on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Bake the weed for 30-45 minutes. If, after 45 minutes, it still looks greenish, bake it for another 5 to 10 minutes. It should have a slightly toasted color.
- Take the buds out of the oven and let it cool completely before storing in an airtight glass container.
- Keep the jar in a dark, cold, and dry place.
2. Microwave Method
If you don’t have a regular oven, a microwave oven could be an excellent alternative. In terms of speed, microwave ovens produce faster results as it uses a more concentrated form of energy to heat the buds.
Do note, however, that it might add moisture to the weed. If the decarboxylated buds are used in making edibles and beverages, then the added moisture will not be an issue. But if it is meant to be smoked, the dampness will make it hard to combust. Furthermore, it can attract molds while being stored.
- Ground marijuana herb
- Microwave oven
- Ceramic plate/glass bowl
- Microwave-safe plastic/aluminum foil
- Lay the ground buds evenly on the ceramic plate. Make sure it has no seeds in it because it would pop in the microwave.
- Put the plate in the microwave oven on high heat and bake it for 90-180 seconds.
- Take it out of the microwave and let the buds cool completely. This might take a few minutes.
- It is recommended to use the buds right after cooling it down because the moisture it accumulated inside the microwave may attract molds even when stored in airtight containers.
3. Sous Vide
This slow-cooking technique involves heating the buds in a water bath. It requires the use of specialized and expensive equipment called Sous vide precision cooker.
Although the process can take hours, the main advantage of this decarbing technique is that the buds are evenly heated, being submerged in hot water. Thus, overcooking is never an issue with this method. Also, the low-temperature setting helps preserve the terpenes. Hence, the resulting product is more aromatic and flavorful than those produced from other methods.
- Ground cannabis buds
- Heat-safe plastic pouch
- Vacuum sealing machine
- Sous vide precision cooker
- Deep pot
- Place the ground buds in a heat-safe plastic pouch and seal it using a vacuum sealer.
- Put the sous vide precision cooker and the sealed bag in a pot filled with water.
- Set the temperature to 220-240°F (100-120°C) and cook for 90-100 minutes.
- Decarbing using this technique may or may not change the bud color. Hence, you should not rely on color changes to determine its doneness. As long as it has been cooked for a minimum of 100 minutes, you can rest assured that it has been decarboxylated successfully.
- After taking out the buds, allow it to cool at room temperature. Then store it in an opaque glass jar kept in a cold, dry place.
4. Special Decarboxylation Device
A decarboxylator is a specialized device that’s created solely to decarb buds. Despite the hefty price tag, it ensures that the cannabinoids in the buds are thoroughly activated. It also does not require much effort. All you have to do is press the button, and it does the work for you. There is also no need to tidy up afterward as the process is mess-free and odor-free.
Depending on the brand, a specialized decarboxylation device retails for $150 up to a whopping $2000.
- Decarboxylator device
- Silicone container
- Put the ground cannabis buds in the decarboxylator then turn on the device.
- Set the timer to 90-120 minutes.
- Collect the buds and place them in an airtight glass container. Then, store it in a cool, dark, and dry place.
Iffland, Kerstin, et al. “Decarboxylation of Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA) to Active THC.” European Industrial Hemp Association, Oct. 2016.