Decarboxylation: A Beginner's Guide

Decarboxylation. 

No doubt, it's a big word, and it harkens back to high school science, lab partners and awkward goggles. Or, it may make you think of a scientist looking underneath a microscope.

The truth is, none of that could be further from the truth. Anyone can decarboxylate if they've got some herb they'd like to infuse into an edible, and some time. 

This guide to decarboxylation will hold your hand throughout and break it down in simple terms. And once you've finished this article, you'll feel confident enough to give it a try yourself. 

Read on for more information.

Guide to Decarboxylation: What is It?

No guide to decarbing would be complete without answering this basic question: what exactly is decarboxylation? 

Well, it's an essential process you need your herb to undergo in order to cook with it. Just grinding your herb and baking it does not an edible make.

Simply put, your flower doesn't come pre-loaded with the molecules ready to help with pain or to get you high. Instead, you need to activate it first with heat. If you want to ingest then you have to decarb!

Decarboxylation refers to the process of removing a carboxyl group from your herb to "activate" it and make it ready for your body to use.  It changes the non-active T-CA to T-C and C-DA to C-D or C-DN. If you smoke or vape herb, the heat from the flame will make it undergo this process naturally. But an edible needs to have you initiate it, otherwise you'll just be eating cookies and cakes with a bunch of dry herbs in them.

Before You Begin: Do You Need to Grind Your Herb?

Some people prefer to grind their herb before they begin the decarboxylation process. This isn't necessary though, and some edibles enthusiasts think it may actually damage beneficial parts of the plant. Ultimately it's all just down to personal preference. 

Getting Ready for the Main Event

While you don't need to grind your herb down, you do need to break it up into smaller pieces. This is to ensure that all of your flower activates. You can do all of this with your hands and only takes a few minutes, depending on how much herb you have. In fact, some find it quite relaxing and satisfying.

Preheating the Oven

You should preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit before you begin the process. It is recommended that you calibrate the oven to ensure that you bake correctly; otherwise you may run the risk of baking at too high a temperature or too long. This can make your herb become too potent or can dry it out so much that it has none.

Calibrating your oven is pretty simple, but you'll need an external thermometer that you can place inside of your oven rack. An external thermometer will be able to tell you if your oven runs hot or cold, as most appliances do. 

When your oven finishes preheating, it may say it is at 250, but your thermometer may say it is actually 230. That means your oven runs cool, and you'll need to switch it up to 270 so that the oven is truly 250 degrees inside of it. 

The Methods of Decarboxylation 

There are three ways in which one can complete the decarboxylation process at home, and they're all actually very easy and straightforward. Despite the science-y sounding name, pretty much anyone can do it if they have an oven and some time.

In this section, we'll discuss the three ways you activate your herb to make into edibles. All of them work and make your herb ready to be baked or cooked into food, and it's really down to convenience and personal preference.  

Thinking It Through: Is This Going to Make My House Smell?

Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes, but it depends on the method you use to decarb your herb. Using a baking or cooking sheet is going to be the worst culprit. But using an oven bag/turkey bag or the DecarBox keeps the smell in. Consider that before you decide which method is for you.

The DecarBox Method

This method is similar to the ones above, only it involves using our fantastic DecarBox. 

 

After breaking up the herb, place it in the box, and secure the lid. Place it inside of the oven, after you have preheated and calibrated it to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it decarb for exactly 30 minutes, ensuring that you don't bake it for longer than it should.  

Our DecarBox comes with an external oven thermometer, where you can monitor the inside temperature of the DecarBox to ensure there isn't any fluctuation inside of it. This gives you an even and consistent process, ensuring you're not accidentally making the herb too hot or not hot enough. It's a lifesaver for those who are making edibles habitually, as it can ensure that your decarb method is consistent every time you do it. 

At the 30 minute mark, pull the box out of the oven, and it will be ready for baking and infusion into your favorite oil.   

Different Temperature for Different Activations

In this article, we've stressed that you shouldn't decarb your herb for too long or too hot. And that's for a very good reason: because if you do so it can turn your herb into something you didn't intend for it to become. 

This article has very specifically taught you the method for activating your botanicals so that you'll get a buzz from your edibles. But what happens if you cook it at a temperature that is too hot or for too long? 

 

If you cook your flower at too high of a level, you might turn it into C-D, which of course is some people's goal. If you cook it at 280 degrees Fahrenheit for 60-90 minutes, your herb will activate to become C-D, which doesn't produce a high. 

If you decarb your herb for 90 minutes to two hours at 320 degrees Fahrenheit, you run the risk of activating the relaxing compounds that make many people feel as though they've become one with their couch. 

The Baking Sheet or Cookie Sheet Method

Take a baking sheet and put the cooking paper down on it, lining the sheet. Next, take your herb and spread it around the baking sheet so that it bakes evenly.

Put it in the oven and let it bake for 30 minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't let it go longer, or you'll risk turning the compound into something else (we'll get to that in a minute).

Just like something you would bake, your herb should be golden brown when it is ready. It will also have a nice nutty and earthy aroma.

Congratulations, you've finished the process and your herb is ready to be made into an edible or at least placed into the oil for an edible. Many people prefer to put it in butter to bake, and you can find our recipe to go with our Magical Butter Machine.

The Turkey Bag Method

The turkey bag, or oven bag method, is also relatively simple.

After you've broken your flower apart, put it inside of your oven bag. Tie a knot on the bag's top so it doesn't spill outside of the bag in case of an accident.

Plop the bag filled with herb onto a baking or cookie sheet. Let it cook for 30 minutes on 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The herb should still turn golden brown.

When it's finished, take it out of the oven. It is now ready to be used in your oil, coconut oil or butter of choice. 

Decarboxylation and You  

We hope this guide to decarboxylation has unveiled some of the mystery behind the process. As you can see, if you've got some time on your hands, it's a very simple process and one that is necessary in order to create your edibles.

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