Decarb - You're Probably Doing It Wrong - RxLeaf
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Decarb – You’re Probably Doing It Wrong

Jessica McKeil
decarboxylation, cannabis, medical cannabis, recreational cannabis, medibles, CBD, THC, THCa, CBDa, cannabinoids, decarbing

Cooking cannabis has a science to it. If you want the most from your medicine, read on.

You’ve stepped into your kitchen with a jar of fresh flower in hand. With a recipe in mind, the first step to cooking cannabis is the activate it. You haphazardly throw it on a baking sheet, place it in a hot oven, and wait 30 minutes for the medicine to release. It’s a tried and true method of turning fresh cannabis into potent medicine – right?

According to many experienced cannabis cooks, the normal decarbing process we’ve all come to rely on may not be as effective as once thought. Not only does it make your home (and maybe apartment complex) smell like a commercial cannabis grow-op, it releases the valuable compounds into the air.

The heat triggers evaporation, and it’s this evaporation that pulls the cannabinoids out of the plant and into the atmosphere. The potent infusion you planned on making may contain far less medicinal content than you expected.

There is an easy way to avoid the strong aroma and the loss of medicinal value. A more experienced cannabis chef can tell you cooking cannabis in a mason jar will reduce the pungent smell of cooking cannabis, and more effectively capture the medicine. The complete directions for dry and wet decarbing in a mason jar follow.

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The Benefits of the Decarboxylation Process

Most cannabis recipes call for decarboxylation before you get cooking. The process, commonly called decarbing, uses heat (over time) to activate the raw cannabinoids into the active versions. The dried plant contains dozens of different cannabinoids, but most of them are inactive. The compounds most of us are looking for, THC and CBD, have a slightly different molecular structure before activated. They are tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDa).

Do THCa and CBDs have medicinal benefits? There is a growing evidence that they do. For example, THCa may help with pediatric epilepsy, and CBDa may have anti-inflammatory benefits. There is little information available right now, as is true of many secondary cannabinoids under active research. However, most people using cannabis for medicinal applications today are in search of the activated versions of these cannabinoids – THC and CBD. If you are making medibles at home, chances are you want THC, not THCa.

How to Prevent Cannabinoid Loss During Decarbing

Instead of throwing your raw cannabis on to a baking sheet and into the oven, there is an effective alternative to consider. A simple mason jar in a water bath locks in the cannabinoids and terpenes, instead of allowing them to evaporate. Plus, for those who don’t want to release the potent-cannabis smell throughout their house or apartment building, you’ll also have better control over the terpene release.

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What You’ll Need:

  • ½ quart mason jar (with lid)
  • Pot
  • Water
  • 0.5 to 1 oz cannabis (Don’t jam it in. Leave room at the top. Bud density will determine how much you can get into the QT jar.)

Directions:

  1. Roughly grind the raw cannabis and place into the jar. Tightly seal the jar.
  2. Fill a pot about halfway with water, and place on the stove top on low to medium heat. Make sure the height of the water level is not going to cover over the jar.
  3. Place the jar in the pot of water before it heats up. If you put the jar in after the water has come to a simmer, the jar will likely crack or explode. You will also note that the heat doesn’t surpass 212 F (the boiling point of water).
  4. Bring the water to a low simmer with the jar in place. Simmer for up to 90 min. Make sure the water does not evaporate while you are decarbing! 
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Do not remove the lid until completely cooled, as this may release the terpenes (aroma) and some of the valuable compounds you were looking to capture.

The Set-it and Forget it Decarbing Process

Cooking cannabis using the method above is easy and doesn’t require any special kitchen equipment. You will need to keep a close eye on the setup while on the stove top though. It’s not safe to leave a stovetop unattended while cooking cannabis.

If you don’t have the patience to babysit your decarbing mason jar, invest in a slow cooker. While the full decarboxylation process will take much longer, you can essentially set it and forget it while it’s going through the magical activation process.

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What You’ll Need:

  • ½ quart mason jar (with lid)
  • Slow cooker
  • Water
  • 7 oz cannabis

Directions:

  1. Roughly grind the raw cannabis and place into the jar. Seal the jar.
  2. Place the jar inside the slow cooker, and cover with water. Again, it’s crucial to bring the slow cooker and the jar of cannabis up to heat simultaneously.
  3. Set on high (around 212 F), and simmer for four hours (alternately, set on low and simmer for eight).
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Do not remove the lid until completely cooled, as once more this may release the terpenes (aroma) and some of the valuable compounds you were looking to capture.

How to Make Cannabis Infusions Using the Mason Jar Method

Want to kill two birds with one stone? Prepare your infusion at the very same time you are decarbing. Place the carrier oil and the cannabis in the jar before setting into the water bath. Use enough coconut oil, olive oil, or other fat to completely cover the plant material. Whether you use the simple pot-on-stove method or use the slow cooker, follow the same steps. At the end of the decarbing process, strain and discard the leftover organic plant material.

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Incorporate the infused cannabis oil into any recipe, as you would with the non-potent version. Coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil are all great options. 

Next time you are headed into the kitchen to cook with cannabis, consider the mason-jar method of decarbing. Whether you are making candies or cookies, the final product is likely much better. Perhaps your neighbors will appreciate the lower pungency, but the final edible may contain higher medicinal value than the cookie-sheet method.

Jessica McKeil
Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a freelance writer focused on the medical marijuana industry, from production methods to medicinal applications. She is lucky enough to live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada where the cannabis industry is exploding. When not writing, she spends much of her time exploring in the coastal forests.

16 Comments
  • Avatar
    Jaye Bublet

    Huh. I thought 212F was too low a temp to decarb at.

    April 24, 2019 at 2:25 pm Reply
    • Jennifer Grant

      212F is the temp at which water boils. That simmer will decarb the flower in the glass jar over prescribed time. You can’t get higher temp in a water bath (without using pressure cooker). This decarb is slow and preserves terpenes, but is not efficient. It does, however, produce a better result than oven. You’d really need to purchase something like Nova to get the perfect decarb.

      April 25, 2019 at 9:23 am Reply
    • Avatar
      Dave G

      212 F is fine, but it will be slower. Another article on the RxLeaf website ( https://www.rxleaf.com/decarboxylation-101-everything-you-need-to-know-to-get-baking/ ) recommends 220 to 240 F and cooking in the oven. Seems easy enough to put the jars in the oven. The jars and oil will help even out the temperature cycles of the oven. The time required for jars would be a bit longer allowing for heat to transfer into the jar. For an oil infusion, I would preheat the oil to ~120 F – warm but still handle-able.
      This paper ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549281/ ) includes a chart with a set of time/temperature exposures out to about 1 hour for both THC and CBD.
      Also note, if your location is at higher elevation (ex Rocky Mountain states), the boiling temperature of water will be lower. At 5000 ft, water boils at about 203 F.

      April 27, 2019 at 5:59 pm Reply
      • Jennifer Grant

        Thanks Dave!

        April 28, 2019 at 8:23 am Reply
  • Avatar
    Buck

    Really just a question for clarification…. 7 ounces of flower product?? I don’t think 7 ounces will fit in a 1/2 quart (pint) Mason jar. Other than that, I really like this method. I use a similar one to this for making my evape oil. I will be modifying my method to yours…. (except for the 7 ounces part)

    April 24, 2019 at 2:47 pm Reply
    • Jennifer Grant

      Definite typo! Thanks for catching that. I’ve just revised and added a statement of clarity. It is a great method. I think it makes a big difference in quality of edible.

      April 25, 2019 at 9:34 am Reply
      • Avatar
        Buck

        Thx for the clarification. Gonna use this method on my next batch. Have a great day!!!

        April 25, 2019 at 6:34 pm Reply
        • Jennifer Grant

          You too! Let us know how it goes. 🙂

          April 25, 2019 at 9:48 pm Reply
    • Avatar
      Lorie Murphy

      How do you make your e-vape oil?

      April 30, 2019 at 10:38 pm Reply
  • Avatar
    awa keened

    Heat shouldn’t exceed 160F. Make Rick Simpson oil instead. Watch Run From The Cure.

    April 24, 2019 at 7:57 pm Reply
    • Jennifer Grant

      The water bath method calls for the water to approach 212F so that it can simmer and lead to decarb of the cannabis in the jar. RSO is a total different method.

      April 25, 2019 at 9:17 am Reply
  • Avatar
    H Maier

    Can you smoke it after doing this process? Effects? TY

    April 30, 2019 at 7:17 pm Reply
    • Jennifer Grant

      You don’t need to decarb before you smoke it. The heat of smoking/vaping process is enough.

      May 1, 2019 at 10:19 am Reply
  • Avatar
    Teresa Trainor

    This is all new to me. I have been researching this and thought about the water bath method too (old fashioned “canning” really). I’m going to test it out soon. I plan to use a candy thermometer to monitor the water temp. So glad to find this article…tells me I’m on the right track. I’m going to do it in small 4oz Ball canning jars. And keep my chem lab nite book 🙂 got my grinder and digital scale that measures grams! One question though: will I be able to add a small amount to my chai tea in an infuser once I decarb and have a nice cup of potent tea?

    June 12, 2019 at 6:51 pm Reply
    • Jennifer Grant

      Yes! I am going to try the same project this weekend. We’ll have to compare notes. 🙂

      June 13, 2019 at 10:08 am Reply
  • Avatar
    Teresa Trainor

    Are you going to try mixing with loose tea in an infuser? I’m doing the water bath method now ?

    June 15, 2019 at 8:39 pm Reply

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