Decarboxylation: How to Supercharge your Hemp Flower
"Decarboxylation"... Now, you may have heard this neat little word before if you're into hemp or traditional Marijuana. Known for being an integral part of processing edibles and other hemp products, it's gained some notoriety in the DIY scene as an effective way to get the most out of your hemp.
To some, the name may give the impression that it's complex science stuff, but I can promise you that it's very simple, and even you can be smoking some super-hemp or making edibles by the time you're done with this article.
Let's dive in!
Decarboxylation 101 - The Basics
Before we set the stage for our own home decarb project, let's first discuss what Decarboxylation even is, and why it's important.
Understanding Trichomes and Cannabinoids
As you may (or may not) know, cannabis flowers are saturated with little trichomes, especially towards the end of their blooming stages. "Trichome" is the commonly used terminology for the glands covering the cannabis plants, and actually are what produce a majority of the cannabinoids we know and love. Also found in hundreds of other plant species, these typically will serve the plant for purposes such as regulating temperatures or as a protective coating from the elements, among other purposes.
In a rapid change of direction, humans came along and discovered that some plants, like cannabis, have trichomes with psychoactive properties. Some could correlate the relation this has to the hyper-active breeding of such plants to have genetics that encourage abnormal trichome density, like those seen in CBD-rich or THC-rich cannabis strains.
The reason this is important, is that the trichomes you'll find in fresh cannabis or recently harvested cannabis, usually aren't exactly the kind that are sought after for their medicinal or psychoactive properties. These trichomes are typically those such as THCA, CBGA, or CBDA, which are the acidic forms of the more common Delta-9 THC, Cannabigerol, and Cannabidiol.
Throughout the process of harvesting and curing cannabis and/or hemp plants, some of these cannabinoids actually convert to THC, CBG, and CBD, usually via a combination of enzymatic reactions from the plant and/or a general exposure to time, lighting, or a change in temperature.
However, this is only a small amount. The real magic that turns those acidic cannabinoids into their neutral companions that we all know and love is a result of the heat that is applied to them prior to ingesting, typically during smoking or vaping. (Or, the manufacturing process your supplier used for your topical, edible, or tincture).
Decarboxylation is a super fancy word for heat!
Although an extremely broad description, decarboxylation is just a super science-y word that is more commonly referred to when talking about reaction that these acidic cannabinoids have over time when exposed to light, heat, or oxygen over time.
This chemical reaction causes results in the removal of the carboxyl groups in the cannabinoid's molecular structure, the key factor that makes them their acidic form vs non-acidic, hence the "A" in THCA, CBGA, and CBDA.
Hence, the heat from smoking or vaping your bud is actually, in real time, converting those acidic cannabinoids to the neutral forms known for their medicinal or psychoactive properties.
Why is it important?
Simply put, in a controlled environment, a controlled amount of heat can super-charge your hemp and maximize it's potency.
Decarboxylation For Rookies 101
Ahead of starting the process, there's a few questions that are commonly asked that we figured we would answer. We've also got a couple tips and tricks for you so you can get the most out of your decarbed hemp!
The History of Decarbing
In the traditional sense, decarbing is referred to most often in the world of federally regulated Marijuana. Used by stoners to get the best buzz from their bud, the method grew in popularity due to how easy it was and the vast improvement it could give to your bud's potency.
Alongside this, it's also notorious for being an essential component to making edibles. The only reason edibles have an effect on use when consumed, is that you have to decarboxylate your product in order for it to have an effect when digested. It became commonly known that the method you use to heat your bud ahead of infusion/extraction actually affects how strong it is.
So, this begs the question... does CBD Flower even need to be decarboxylated?
Well, the answer is no, and neither does any other bud you get your hands on.
But... the reality is that without decarbing your CBD rich hemp, or other cannabinoid rich flower, you're not experiencing the true potential potency it could have. Sure, when smoking the reaction is happening anyways, but not in a controlled manner based on the cannabinoids you want, your giving it a blanket rapid heating and hoping for the best!
So, our recommendation is that if you can, you should always decarb your cannabis, regardless of the cannabinoid contents it has!
Delta-8, Delta-10, THC-O, & HHC - Do these need to be Decarboxylated?
Great question - Lucky for you, these cannabinoids do not need to be decarbed. Each of these are already in their most potent form due to their unique processing methods.
What temperatures destroy terpenes?
A great question, especially as some unique aspects associated with CBD Flower come from the terpenes that come from each strain
When it comes to degradation of terpenes, each terpene has their own boiling point and degradation point.
The boiling point refers to the temperature where the terpene will completely dissolve - AKA: It's not going to be in your hemp anymore.
The degradation point refers to the temperature range where it's structure starts to break down a bit and it might be not as strong, or turn into another terpene entirely. This varies greatly between terpenes, so if there's a terpene you're head over heels for, make sure you do some further research.
If you're worried about losing any of your terps, rest assured, you will most likely be fine! The boiling point for most of the common terpenes is over 300° F, which is a fair amount hotter than what we'll subject our hemp to.
The only terpene that has the potential risk of being boiled away during decarb is Beta-Caryophyllene, which has a boiling point of 246°F; just 6°F higher than our peak temperature during decarb.
As terms of degradation goes, on the other hand, a some terpenes start to degrade at as low as 70°F, and most will begin to degrade near 100°F, so chances are that you'll see a fair change in terpene profile after decarbing, unfortunately.
How do you know if you decarbed correctly?
Below are some quick tips to know if you're on the right path!
- Your bud will be brown-ish. It should not look burnt to a crisp. Think of a lightly toasted bread.
- You will definitely smell something towards the end of the process!
- It will be crispy!
- It will be stickier!
- For wax and other concentrates - Once finished bubbling, you should be good to go!
- It won't taste very good when smoked!
How to Decarboxylate Your CBD Flower
Before getting started - We'll have to clarify here:
Consistency is hard to dial in without experience. This is just a simple guide, as there are a variety of variables that can affect how well the decarb process affects your flower. Some of these include oven temp accuracy (some ovens are 100% accurate), strain cannabinoid percentages, density, bud moisture, among a plethora of others.
So, our suggestion is to go into this with a fun outlook, and give it multiple tries to see what kind of effects you can get from decarbing different strains at different temps.
If you're ready to get started, let's get this show on the road.
Ahead of Decarboxylation - You'll need a few things:
- Hemp Flower - CBD or CBG (Delta-9 THC rich cannabis works as well)
- Pyrex Baking Dish (Metal Baking Sheet OK to Substitute)
- Parchment Paper
- A Grinder (Optional)
- An Oven
- Mason Jars (Optional)
Make sure your hemp flower isn't moist, as this can affect heat distribution. Dry is better!
Although your experience may vary, as mentioned, here is our basic "recipe" as you might call it. Depending on what cannabinoid you're looking to "supercharge", you will need to preheat your oven based on the temps below. Temps and times can be tweaked, for example we've seen success with 230°F for 35 min as well for THCA to THC. It's not rocket science!
Here's our basic time sheet you can use for guidance:
|Desired Cannabinoid||Starting Cannabinoid||Temperature||Time to Heat|
Decarboxylation for CBD Flower Steps
Let's get started! Follow these steps below to decarb your very own hemp flower!
Step 1 - Organize your Tools
As your oven is pre-heating, you'll want to lay your pyrex baking dish down (metal is fine, if you don't have one as long as it's oven safe) on your counter, and put a sheet of parchment paper in it (do not use wax paper).
If you're worried about the smell - Use an oven safe mason jar instead that you can seal closed during de-carbing.
Step 2 - Put the Flower in the Dish
Put your hemp flower in the dish (or jar) - Ground up is good, but not too finely.
Spread your hemp so it can cover the dish as thoroughly as possible, the more spread out, the better. We need an even distribution, otherwise some portions risk the possibility of over decarbing/under decarbing.
If you are using jars - lay them on the side for more surface area coverage.
Side note: The amount of hemp flower won't noticeably affect your decarb, just try do avoid an extremely thick layer. One inch of depth is good, two is okay. Avoid higher.
Step 3 - Put the Flower in the Oven
Wait for your oven to pre-heat to the desired temperatures based on the chart above. Once ready, safely put your dish and/or jars into the oven, and set the timer for desired results.
Step 4 - Wait Patiently
Let your flower decarb in the oven for the required time based on the chart.
Step 5 - You're Done!
If your time has finished passing, leave the oven closed and turn off the heat. Let the oven cool for some time ahead of taking it out - When using pyrex glass you run a risk of it shattering due to sudden changes of temperature.
Step 6 - Congratulations, you've decarbed your hemp flower!
Once cooled down enough, you can take your supercharged hemp flower out of the oven!
If done correctly, you'll notice your hemp is a little darker than usual, and there may be a hay-ish smell - If this is the case, you have successfully decarbed you hemp flower!
Now you're set! Feel free to roll up a joint of your supercharged hemp and give it a test - you'll surely feel the difference!
Otherwise, feel free to use them for future infusion into edibles, topicals, or tinctures!