Alright guys. It’s time for a personal news flash. At 41 weeks pregnant, I’d landed a new gig and just found out my new boss is… wait for it…
The Snoop D-O Double G.
I’m not sure what kind of karmic boomshakalaka this is (or why I would ever try to use that word), but this is how it went down:
- I applied for a gig as a cannabis food writer (because that’s a job that exists now).
- They were down.
- I started writing shit and really had no idea what it was for.
- I got an email about the launch of the site with this link in it.
And at the risk of sounding like a completely starstruck a-hole, working for this guy’s startup…
…is definitely the good good.
Is it okay that that’s my all time favorite Snoop Dogg video? If you skip to 3:15, I think you’ll agree.
No? Maybe you’re more of a Sensual Seduction kind of person?
At any rate, nothing changes the fact that at this very moment my mom is downstairs trying to explain to my dad who Snoop Dogg is.
All I know is that I’m so excited to be writing for what Mr. Snoop Dogg is calling the “encyclopedia of cannabis”- Merry Jane– and I also know that decarboxylation is absolutely essential to making potent cannabis oils, butters, and tinctures. So let’s get to the point of this article and start by learning what decarboxylation is, and how beneficial it is and how to do it.
What Is Decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation is simply “a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide (CO2)” [wiki]. When it comes to marijuana, decarboxylation effectively removes the COOH group from the THCA molecule by releasing H2O (water) an CO2 (carbon dioxide), turning it into the psychoactive THC. This release of water and carbon dioxide naturally occurs during the drying process and happens instantly when you burn one down.
When making edibles, its easy to take this step for granted. Decarboxylation happens haphazardly (to some degree) when we heat oil or butter to infuse it with cannabis or when we put that oil into things like Canabanana bread and toss them into the oven. But if you want fully activated material to use in cannabis capsules, raw edibles, super medicinal tinctures, or activated topicals like cannabis lubricant, decarboxylation will make all of your efforts worthwhile.
There are several reasons why decarboxylating cannabis is so important when making potent and medicinal edibles, tinctures and topical treatments. When you decarboxylate your cannabis using controlled temperatures and times you:
- fully activate the THC in your material making it readily psychoactive.
- don’t risk the evaporation of the antitumoral (cancer-eating), anelgesic (pain fighting) and antianxiety (chilling out) compounds found in cannabis that can be lost if you overcook or overheat your cannabis.
- get potent edibles, tinctures and topicals with all of the medicinal value in tact… every time.
Time and Temperature
Ask 10 cannabis cooks how log they decarb for and at what temperature, you’ll likely get 10 different answers.
I’ve been on the hunt to find the most accurate scientific data surrounding this, and if you have something more up to date, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below. Here’s been the journey so far:
First, I came across the book, Marijuana Chemistry: Genetics, Processing and Potency, a couple of years ago. It is an incredibly interesting (if incredibly outdated) historical and chemical account of cannabis. In it, author Michael Starks, advocates decarboxylating for 10-15 minutes at 300°F. However, most of the evidence and science in this book comes from data from the 1960’s-1980’s (pre-war-on-drugs), and there was very little scientific backing to this recommendation. It was hard to accept it at face value. BTW, While a lot of the information is inaccurate, I highly recommend the book, if only for the section on historical processing of cannabis in different cultures. If you’re into weed food or weed science, I think you’ll love it.
When I found this article at Skunk Pharms Research about decarboxylation, things started making a lot more sense. They shared this handy little chart that shows the rate of decarboxylation of thc at different temperatures:
But this chart shows data from a “marihuana extract”. Since I’d be working almost exclusively with trim, keif and flower, would my temperatures and times be the same?
Enter: Marijuana Growers HQ
…and their amazing decarb experiment… the world really owes them a round of applause.
They tested keif and trim at 240• F for 30 minutes and 60 minutes and had the results tested for several different cannabinoids. Here’s what they found:
|Compound||Before Decarb||30 Min Decarb||60 Min Decarb|
|Compound||Before Decarb||30 Min Decarb||60 Min Decarb|
Testing provided by SC Labs and experiment conducted by Marijuana Growers HQ
As you can see from the two charts, 30 minutes was not quite enough to completely decarboxylate either the kief or the trim. At 30 minutes the kief was about 90% decarboxylated but the trim was only about 60% decarboxylated. This difference is likely because the trim had a higher starting moisture content. After 60 minutes however, both keif and trim samples were close enough to 100% decarboxylation for my satisfaction.
So there you have it. 240° F for 60 minutes should be enough to decarboxylate any cannabis with a reasonably low moisture content. For material with higher moisture content, the time can be extended but the temperature should not be increased. If you are concerned about losing organic compounds, lower heat can be used but the time should be extended to compensate.
**UPDATE- It’s Not Over: Enter the Nova
So after gathering all of this information, I was pretty content in knowing that I was decarbing at the right temp for the right amount of time. But since I move regularly and use different ovens for decarb, I started noticing that the same material was giving me oil with different potencies. Howforwhy?
Ardent Cannabis released this amazing little blog post that explained how my newer, less fancy, oven was probably burning off some of my THC. They found that decarbing in an oven can cost you around 33% loss of THC. That’s 1/3 of the active compound in your very expensive cannabis lost due to temperature fluctuations.
So they had me try out their Nova Decarboxylator which boasts 100% THCA to THC conversion and no THC loss. I did a test on the same material I’ve been working with for awhile now and it was truly incredible. It allowed me to use so much less cannabis and cut my dosage in half.
I’m writing up a review with a cost analysis (coming soon!), but I can tell you for certain that if you decarb and cook with more than a couple of ounces a year, this little machine is absolutely worth the investment.
The Verdict on Decarboxylation
Based on the the results of the MGHQ experiment, I felt confident enough to decarb my trim at 240• F for one hour and my keif for 30 minutes at 240° F. Since I started doing so, my edibles and topicals have seen a dramatic increase in efficacy.
**UPDATE: Since I started using the Nova Decarboxylator, I’ve seen an even greater increase in potency. I’d highly recommend it.
Decarboxylation and the Magical Butter Machine
I get this question really often, so I’m going to use this post to answer it.
Do you have to decarbocylate if you’re using a Magical Butter Machine?
Yes. Yes. And yes.
One of the best things about the MBM is that you can infuse your oil at a controlled lower temperature and keep all of the incredibly medicinal terpenes, cannabinoids and flavonoids in tact. For this reason, you really want to decarboxylate your cannabis before you run it through the Magical Butter Machine.
Also… if you don’t have one of these incredible edible making tools, but really want one, and would also like to save 30 duckets… Here’s a Magical Butter coupon that those fine folks gave me to pass on to you.
You can use the coupon code: wakeandbake at checkout on there as well 🙂
Woah. That’s a whole lot of couponing for one blog post. So now… onto the logistical part…
How To Decarboxylate Cannabis in an Oven
So now you know that decarboxylation is an important step in making cannabis infused products. Thankfully, it’s a super easy process that requires very little input from you. You can decarboxylate cannabis by dehydrating it, putting it in boil-able cooking bags and boiling it, and pretty much doing anything to it that will heat it up/dry it out completely. But the easiest way is probably in the oven.
1. Preheat oven to 240• F (116•C).
Any amount of Buds, Trim, or Keif
3. Cover with tinfoil (optional).
4. Place pyrex into the oven and bake for 30 minutes for keif or 60 minutes for buds/trim.
5. Remove and allow to cool completely. Use immediately or store in a mason jar in the freezer.