Decarboxylation, or “decarbing,” is the process of heating cannabis to activate the compounds it contains. This article is a comprehensive guide to decarbing weed, presenting techniques for doing it without releasing a pungent smell.
Before you can use cannabis in certain applications such as edibles, tinctures, and topical treatments, it needs to be decarboxylated. However, the typical decarbing process produces a substantial smell. If you want to avoid this, we have a few techniques for you.
What is Decarbing?
Decarboxylation is the process where the compound THCA in cannabis is converted into THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that is responsible for the ‘high’. This process naturally happens when cannabis is smoked or vaped because the heat applied combusts THCA into THC. For edibles and other non-smoke/vape forms of cannabis, this activation step must be performed beforehand to get the desired effects.
The conventional method of decarbing weed includes baking the plant material in the oven. This process can make your entire home smell like weed. This smell can provide unwanted attraction from neighbors or other housemates.
Decarbing Without a Smell
Now let’s go through several ways to decarb weed without smell, or at least significantly reduce it.
1. Using a Mason Jar
Using a mason jar to decarb weed greatly helps to contain the smell.
- Mason Jar with lid
- Oven gloves
- Preheat your oven to 240℉ (115ºC).
- Grind your weed as you would typically smoke.
- Place the ground weed into the mason jar and slightly close the lid (but do not tighten).
- Put the jar on a solid tray to prevent tipping over and then into the oven.
- Bake for an hour, then use oven gloves to gently shake the jar to mix the weed.
- Return the jar to the oven for another 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, tighten the lid, and leave the jar to cool.
While this technique will reduce the smell, it won’t eliminate it entirely. It generally holds the odor in well until you open the jar.
2. Decarbing in a Vacuum Sealed Bag
This method uses sous-vide cooking techniques, where the cannabis is sealed in a vacuum bag and heated in a water bath.
- Vacuum Sealer
- Vacuum Sealable Bags
- Sous Vide or Slow Cooker
- Grind your weed as you would for smoking, but not too fine as to pierce the bag.
- Place the ground weed into vacuum sealer bag and vacuum seal the bag.
- Set your Sous Vide or slow cooker to 203℉ (95ºC).
- Place the bag in the water bath and leave for about 90 minutes.
- Check occasionally to ensure the bag stays submerged.
- Allow the bag to cool after removing from the bath, then open the bag.
The sealed bag should contain the majority of the smell during the process.
What Happens If You Decarb Weed Too Long?
When you decarb weed too long, you risk over-decarboxylation. This happens when the cannabis is exposed to heat for an extended period, causing the degradation of the active cannabinoids, such as THC.
Loss of Potency
One of the main consequences of over-decarboxylation is a significant loss in potency. With time, heat can turn THC into CBN (cannabinol), a substance with different psychoactive properties. While THC provides the ‘high’ feeling, CBN leaves you feeling groggy or ‘stoned’.
Change in Effects
Over-decarbed weed can produce more sedative effects, which might not be desirable for users looking for a more lucid experience. This is because CBN is a potent sedative and can bring about drowsiness and lethargy, which might not be favourable for those using cannabis for creativity or daytime relief.
Prevention of Over-Decarboxylation
Prevention is better when it comes to over-decarboxylation. Here’s what you can do:
- Controlled Temperature: Maintain a steady temperature when decarbing cannabis. The optimal range is between 220-245℉ (104-118℃).
- Timing: The recommended decarb time is about 30-45 minutes for ground cannabis buds or 60-90 minutes for a whole bud.
- Regular Monitoring: Keep an eye on the cannabis during the decarbing process. Overbrowning or a burnt smell are indicators that the cannabis might be over-decarbing.
- Use a Thermometer: An oven thermometer can confirm your oven is at the correct temperature, and a probe thermometer can show how hot your cannabis is getting.
Can you Decarb without Heat?
Yes, it’s possible to decarb weed without heat, and the most common alternative method is through an extended period of drying and aging. This form of decarboxylation is essentially a slow and steady conversion of THCA into THC over time through oxidation. However, this method takes significantly longer. From the information provided, waiting about 3 months can result in the start of auto-decarboxylation.
It’s important to note that while decarbing without heat is possible, it might not be the most efficient way to activate the cannabinoids. Traditional decarboxylation methods, such as heating cannabis in an oven, are generally more efficient and provide a more consistent result.
Cannabis decarboxylation is a crucial step to activating the plant’s psychoactive properties, and while heat is the most commonly used method, alternatives do exist for those who wish to avoid thermal conversion. Each method will have its own benefits and drawbacks and determining the best method will often depend on personal preference and circumstance.
Decarbing weed is a fundamental process for making the plant’s compounds more effective when used in non-smokable forms, including edibles and tinctures. Although the conventional decarboxylation process can often result in a noticeable odor, the methods outlined here – using a mason jar and a vacuum-sealed bag – vastly diminish this issue by containing the smell effectively. These techniques go beyond just being odor-conscious but also attest to the flexibility and versatility of cannabis processing methods, acknowledging practicality and discretion. Taking time to implement these less-odorous methods ensures that your decarboxing process is discrete and respects the convenience of those around you. Always remember to stick to local laws regarding cannabis usage, process responsibly, and ensure your spaces are well-ventilated. With these techniques, you can make your cannabis experience more private and personalized while enjoying the most out of your product.