What Is The Best Way To Decarboxylate (Decarb) Cannabis?

Decarboxylate decarb decarboxylation cannabis marijuana
(image via TheChillBud.com)

Few things are as satisfying as making your own cannabis edibles. If you are an avid cannabis consumer, then you likely know what I am talking about. Being able to purchase edibles at retail outlets is great, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just something about pulling a tray of warm homemade cookies out of the oven that is always stellar. Confession – I am a notorious batter eater, whether it be brownies or cookies. Yes, I know all about the issues involved. I guess I am just a husky renegade like that.

I have been making my own edibles since the 1990s when I first started consuming cannabis. I do not have a wide array of edibles in my rotation like my friend Amber Senter (the undisputed champ of edible making), but I do make some decent baked goods. What I am most known for in my circle of friends and family is my cannabutter. I do not make it the same way that most people do, but the potency of the cannabutter I make is stronger than any other that I have come across.

Making your own edibles is much cheaper than buying them from a dispensaries, and you can make them more potent too in most cases. In Oregon, where I live, there is a 50 mg THC limit on edibles for adult-use customers. That may be fine for many people, but I need more than that to get to where I want to be. Sure, I could just buy more packages of whatever product I like, but that adds up quick. I have a friend that needs a minimum of 250-300 mg of THC to experience a desired level of effects, which means he would need to buy 5 to 6 packages just for one experience. On the medical side in Oregon the mg limit is 100, but that still isn’t enough for one edible for people like my friend and patients that I talk to.

Creating edibles at home allows consumers to have a wider variety of options than what you find at most dispensaries. In order to make an edible, you usually either need to make a cannabis butter, oil, or milk. Some recipes allow you to just throw the cannabis into the mix, but not that many. Once you have the butter/oil/milk prepared, the possibilities of what edibles you can make are virtually endless. Recipes are easy to find online now, and basically if you can dream it, a recipe can be found for it and you can make it. Long gone are the days when you had to beg a friend to share their heavily guarded recipes.

Regardless of what you end up making, the first step in the process is to decarboxylate (decarb) your cannabis. Decarbing cannabis is a very scientific process. I am by no means a scientist, but I know someone who is an official marijuana scientist. I met Sirius J from High Times at this year’s Hempstalk event in Portland. He is a leading scientific mind in the marijuana world, and below is what he had to say about decarbing cannabis:

Take a look at the mechanism and the variables behind decarboxylation, to make sure you get higher the next time you make edibles. THC, and all cannabinoids, starts out with an acid group that prevents it from directly affecting the mind if consumed raw. This carboxy group evaporates off when heated, so cannabis mostly gets consumed cooked, smoked or vaporized. Juicing raw cannabis has its medicinal benefits, but if you want to get high you’ll need to cook it, and you’ll need to do it right so you don’t waste it.

Some people think that if you don’t decarb cannabis when making edibles, that it automatically results in edibles that do not get you high. That is not true. I made butter way before I learned about decarbing, and it was still very strong. What I have found after decarbing cannabis prior to making my butter is that the strength is still the same, but I get way more output. I have gone as far as measuring the inputs and outputs, comparing cannabutter I made with decarbed cannabis to non-decarbed cannabis, and the amount of butter I ended up with via using decarbed cannabis was consistently 30% greater. Again, I am not a scientist, so take that information for what you will, but I have made enough butter through the years to feel confident in saying that decarbing the cannabis ahead of time is the way to go.

Various methods exist to decarb cannabis, all of them with their limitations. The most common method is via a kitchen oven, but the kitchen oven method comes with a host of issues. First of all, your entire kitchen (and often the rest of the house/apartment) will smell like cannabis. The same way the smell of cookies baking fills your residence, so too does the smell of baked cannabis permeate your place when decarbing cannabis in your kitchen oven.

Decarbing in your oven results in a lot of cleanup duty. I have found that my oven will smell like cannabis for days, which I don’t mind, but it’s not desirable for a lot of people. The cookie sheet that I use to put the cannabis on while it’s in my oven often has an oily cannabis residue on it and is difficult to get all the way off. Ovens are also not necessarily precise instruments when it comes to temperature, with reports that common kitchen ovens can fluctuate ten degrees in either direction. That may not be a big deal when someone is making a frozen pizza, but since decarbing is a very precise process that fluctuation can dramatically affect the cannabis resulting in wasted cannabinoids.

The absolute easiest, best way to decarb your cannabis is with a decarbarboxylator device, which are specifically designed for the task of decarbing cannabis. Not all decarbarboxylators are created equal. Many of them are just glorified toaster ovens. The best one I have ever seen, and it’s not even close, is the NOVA Decarboxylator by Ardent. I am making this endorsement on my own free will, and not because of any sponsorship. I have received zero dollars from the company and I fully endorse the product for one reason and one reason alone – it is amazing. It is also a big deal to me to support cannabis companies that support reform, and Ardent is absolutely one of those companies. More so than any other company that makes decarbarboxylator devices.

The NOVA makes the decarbing process extremely easy, and eliminates all the downsides to decarbing cannabis in the kitchen oven. The device contains the smell while the decarbing process is occurring, and makes the cleanup process much, much easier. It’s small and portable which is super convenient, allowing me to take it to friends’ houses for edible making parties. The best part about the NOVA is that it decarbs the cannabis completely and ensures that none of the cannabinoids are wasted. It’s extremely precise. The end result is cannabis that is PERFECT for making butter, oils, and other things that edible recipes require. Now that I have the NOVA, I will never go back to old methods of decarbing. There is edible preparation life before the NOVA and after the NOVA, and I do not miss the days prior to having the device.

If you are not decarbing your cannabis prior to making edibles, you really should be. You can by all means go whatever route you desire to complete the process, but I very much recommend the NOVA. It eliminates so many headaches in the process and ensures that your edibles are as good as they can be. Cannabis is not cheap if you buy it, and it takes a lot of time and love to grow it yourself, so you shouldn’t be in the business of wasting it. The decarbing revolution will not be televised, but that’s OK because it is on display on YouTube. Below is a video of the NOVA in action for those that are curious what it looks like and how it works:

Johnny Green
About Johnny Green 2516 Articles
Johnny Green is a cannabis activist from Oregon. Johnny has a bachelor's degree in public policy, and believes that the message should always be more important than the messenger. #LegalizeIt #FreeThePlant