DIY Cannabis Oil Decarboxylation is a Simple and Easy Process
Properly decarboxylating cannabis oil seems to be something that most people don’t understand. This post details the process I use and the why behind the way I do it. I have taken quite a bit of time to research and understand this process and the results are significantly satisfying.
Converting THCA/CBDA to THC/CBD is Why We Decarboxylate
THCA and CBDA are produced by the cannabis plant and they are the carboxylic acid forms of THC and CBD. THCA and CBDA are inactive forms of THC and CBD, the body only reacts to them when the ‘A’ has been removed through decarboxylation.
When you burn/vape cannabis, these cannabis acids are decarboxylated into THC and CBD from the heat before you inhale. When edibles are heated to cook them, decarboxylation also takes place. Without decarboxylation the amount of cannabis needed for the same level of medication is nearly 3 times more. Cannabis eaten without first being decarboxylated must be converted by the liver before they’re effective.
Decarboxylation usually refers to the chemical process where a carbon atom is being removed from a carbon chain in a carboxylic acid. Simply put, decarboxylation of cannabis oils converts them from the inactive acid form (THCA/CBDA) to fully active cannabinoid oils (THC/CBD), this produces a lot of carbon dioxide gas and can also destroy the cannabinoids if incorrectly done.
No heating or additional processing is required after decarbing, the oils simply need to be ingested and they will be effective. Take care when using the end oils, use small amounts until you’re sure of the potency. Remember you can always take more if it’s not enough and taking too much is not something you can easily un-do.
The Heat & Time are Key
THCA decarboxylates completely within 15 minutes at 250F/122C. Any further heating past that point and the THC begins to break down into CBN, which is the sleepy “can’t stay awake to save my life” type effect. When the THC begins to break down the potency is being destroyed.
I use slightly lower temperatures than 250F and the process takes a few minutes longer. The ‘window’ between done and overdone becomes longer the lower the temperature you use. Around 240F the time between done and overdone is about a minute which is plenty of time to be able to visually tell it’s finished.
The time of this decarboxylation was right around 19 minutes between first heat and pulling it off the oil bath. The temperature of my oil bath is very precise, I use a Quisinart fondue pot with some stand off lids on the bottom. The Quisinart fondue pot is very inexpensive for the quality of heat control that it has and I’ve used mine quite extensively since purchasing it.
Olive Oil (optional)
That’s it. Just cannabis oils and, optionally olive oil, are all I use in my decarboxylation process. This results in a pure product that digests quickly and easily. It also creates a product that is safe for anyone to ingest, regardless of health, age or tolerance… just be sure to get the dosing right.
The cannabis oils I use are from ethanol extractions that I do myself. Using food grade ethanol and some simple tools you can make a wonderful ethanol extraction of cannabis oils for use in edibles, tinctures, topicals and more.
The olive oil has fats that are easily digested and absorbed by the body, adding a quarter teaspoon to a few grams of cannabis oils is plenty. The oil also helps the consistency of the cannabis oils as they boil during the decarboxylation process.
Heat Your Oil Bath to Approximately 240F
I use oil that does not smoke at 250F, that is usually peanut oil or olive oil that’s been tainted with vegetable oil. I won’t use those for cooking due to health reasons but they’re great for hot oil baths.
I initially heated the oil to 250F and then put a mark on the dial. These days I set the temperature a bit lower so I have a longer working window as mentioned before.
You will need a stainless steel container to put the cannabis oils in. A container with a handle helps as well. The container I use is a creamer pitcher that you would use in a restaurant, the handle is open ended so it can hook over the side of the fondue pot.
You will also need something to stir the oils with. I prefer a bamboo skewer because the plant waxes stick to it really well when stirring. I’m not sure if the waxes stick to other instruments, I’ve actually only ever used the bamboo. A process called winterizing can be used to remove plant waxes before you decarb the oil. I don’t normally winterize because the waxes come out on the bamboo and the yield is higher with less processing.
The Decarboxylation Process
Adding olive oil? This is the time to put it in and stir it well, just before you begin to heat it. Put your stainless steel container with the cannabis oils in the hot oil bath and the fun begins.
The first thing that will happen is a number of large bubbles will begin coming to the surface in the oil. These bubbles are the carbon atoms from the reaction appearing as carbon dioxide bubbles. The bubbles at first are really large and you can easily see there is a lot of carbon to give off in this reaction. Stir constantly
As you continue to stir and time passes on the size of the bubbles will slowly get smaller and smaller. As you stir you will see nothing but bubbles, even the recently stirred areas will look like nothing but mass bubbles. Keep stirring.
My apologies for the poor quality of some of these pictures, I am working with the equipment I have and sometimes it doesn’t seem to be quite enough.
Regardless of the photo quality, you can see at 12 minutes, in the photo above, that the bubble size is significantly reduced. We’re a few minutes away from it being finished and as you stir you can still see nothing but bubbles behind the stick. Tiny bubbles for sure, but still just a mass of oil bubbling away.
Nearing The End
At a full 18 minutes the bubbles have slowed down and when you stir the oils you can see patches of oil without bubbles now. Approximately a minute or two after this point is reached is where I stop the reaction by pulling the oil from the heat.
The final photo shows the size of the micro-bubbles that are still forming when I pull it from the heat. Believe me when I tell you that the potency is there at this point, there is no need to cook it any further. Remember that cooking THC past the prime point begins to destroy it and make a sleepier affecting oil.
What to Use Decarboxylated Cannabis Oils With?
What do you use decarboxylated cannabis oils for? I use them for a number of things that can be used in and on my body for health and recreational purposes.
I make cannapills that require no heating, contain no sugars or carbs and the only fats are cannabis and olive oil. They can be taken when you’re not hungry, when you’re on the go and are the ultimate way to discreetly use cannabis in areas you’re unable or not allowed to smoke in. The main active ingredient is cannabis oils, pre-decarboxylated for full potency.
I also make healing oils, topicals, salves and other medicinal products that are significantly more effective than “modern” pharmaceuticals.
Have something to add? Have a question? Comment below as we’re always interested in new information.