The trick to making the best cannabis edibles such as delicious pot brownies is the same trick throughout any aspect of handling this awesome plant — take your time! Almost every aspect of working with Miss Mary is degraded if rushed. So for edibles, before the recipe book is even cracked open, you need to take a time-out to decarboxylate your weed.
De…car…what?? No worries, decarboxylation sounds like a bigger deal than it is. You don’t need any special equipment or a chemistry degree. Decarbed is just a fancy way of saying activated by heat. Let’s get to it!
What is Decarboxylation
In simple terms, decarboxylation is the opposite of photosynthesis. When a plant uses photosynthesis to turn light into energy it adds a carbon atom to the carbon chain and expels oxygen.
This is how forests and sea greens provide oxygen for the earth. The chemical name for this is carboxylation. Decarboxylation is a reversal of this process and instead of oxygen, Co2 is expelled.
Decarbing subtly changes the atomic structure of the cannabis plant and this results in changes to it’s cannabinoid composition.
Basically, the more inert compound THCA (Tetra-hydro-cannabinolic acid) is changed into the more psychoactive compound THC (Tetra-hydro-cannabinol). If you want to increase the effects of your edibles, you need to decarb your cannabis so that the THC is activated.
Does Decarboxilation Work
There are plenty of folks who feel that decarbing does nothing but waste time. They tried toasting their weed and it either made no difference or seemed to kill their pot altogether.
Chances are they went over the correct marijuana decarboxylation temperature or kept their weed under the heat for too long.
You can’t rush this process by turning up the temperature, nor can you make your weed stronger by letting it toast for longer.
Decarboxylation is about finding the sweet spot, not pushing to the limits. There is only so much THCA in your plant matter to be converted to THC and overdoing it in terms of time or temperature will not produce more cannabinoid.
Increasing your THC is something you do when you choose your strain or seeds, it’s not something you can produce after the fact.
Now you might be thinking, why doesn’t the weed I smoke have to be decarbed?
The truth of the matter is that what you are doing when you light up is essentially decarboxylating the cannabis and changing THCA into the active compound THC.
This also shows why sparking a joint is the least effective way to release the prized cannabinoid into our systems. When combusting cannabis in a roll-up or pipe, the materials are toasted at the temperature of the flame, not at the optimal temperature of decarboxylation.
Back to the Beginning
So to start at the very beginning of this process, you want clean and hopefully organic cannabis plant material. Think “food grade” because you literally are going to be making food from this. Treat it like you would any other ingredient.
The loose cannabis doesn’t have to be the flower bud, it can be trimmings and stems from any part of the plant including flowers that aren’t fully formed, hermaphrodite plants and male plants.
If this green material is coming from your own grow and you have a lot of fan leaves, which are the larger leaves that occur midway down the stem, you might want to consider juicing the larger fresh leaves and decarbing the rest.
If fresh, the excess plant material should be dried before it is decarbed. Drying and decarbing are not the same process. If you try to take your cannabis from green to decarbed in the oven you will end up with weak weed and a very rough smoke. There are two steps to dry your fresh plant:
- Cut your fresh plants apart and trim the leaf off the flowers. Hang the flowers upside-down away from bright light to dry for a few days. You can hang them inside paper bags.
- Take all the leftover trim and lay it out on trays to dry for a few days. Again, avoid sunlight.
The Times, They are a-Changing
People call the dried leaf and stem material “shake.” In the past, this was also referred to as “kief,” but kief is now being redefined to mean just the crystal-rich residue and loose material from the flowers themselves. You can use kief when making cannabutter, but you would want to cut back on the amount so that it isn’t overly strong.
Back in the day, edibles cooks would cull or clean all the stems and even some leaf from the shake they used for cannabutter because they were looking to isolate the THC rich bud trimming. However, we’re learning about different medicinal cannabinoids from all parts of the plant.
So cannabis is a bit like chicken soup — we don’t know all the goodness that is in it and we are still discovering different terpines that help us. At this point I’d say, don’t bother spending time fine sifting your shake, into the pan with the lot!
Maybe you do not grow your own and don’t know someone who does, but you still want to make your own edibles. How do you get shake? You can order as much shake as you need online from FairCannaCare. The times truly are a-changing.
How to Decarb Marijuana
So after all that explanation, actually decarboxylating cannabis is super easy:
- Spread however much shake you are going to use across an edged cookie sheet.
- It should be maximum 1/4 inch thick and loose, not packed. You want the warm air to circulate through it evenly.
- I use a stainless pan lined with a piece of parchment since we don’t yet know if the metal has a negative effect on any of these newly discovered cannabinoids. It is not strictly necessary to line the pan.
- Then take an equal-sized cookie sheet and invert it on top to make a loose lid. The lid traps the heated air inside and helps to keep the temperature steady as your oven cycles on and off over the decarb period.
So here are your numbers, and you must stick to them religiously for the best results:
225 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes
I’m serious, studies have been done on this and these are the winning numbers ladies and gentlemen. Too hot or too long and you destroy cannabinoids.
Some people give the shake a stir half-way through, but I found it did nothing more than add fragrance to the already pungent air in the whole building.
While your shake is in the decarboxylation oven it’s fragrance can be quite strong. Open windows if you want, I count it as forty-five sweet minutes with this lovely lady filling the air and one of my favorite parts of the process. The loose lid actually helps control for overwhelming cannabis smell.
Let your pan of decarbed marijuana air cool at least 25 minutes covered and let it cool completely before using or storing. Your weed may be a bit dryer and darker than when it went into the oven, but overall it will look more or less the same. This process changes the composition of cannabis at the chemical level which doesn’t significantly change it’s appearance.
Store your Decarb
Go ahead and decarb as much as you can. It will not degrade from this state unless you mishandle it. Clearly, temperature effects your weed positively or negatively, so be aware of where and how you store your cannabis regardless of whether it is decarboxylated shake or fresh flowers.
Without going into too much detail here about storage, you want a situation that is shielded from degrading ultra-violet sun rays, cool, and has stable low humidity.
Plastic baggies are the worst way to store cannabis because they are clear, humid, hot, and off-gas chemicals into the plant matter. Instead, put your decarbed shake into a glass container such as a mason jar, place that in a paper bag and tuck it in the fridge which controls for humidity.