The Art of Decarbing
Decarboxylation is the scientific name for removing a molecule made up of carbon and two oxygen atoms using heat as the catalyst. This carbon/oxygen molecule is known as an acid molecule due to it's negative pH. Once removed, the main cannabinoid molecule is now small enough to slip through the blood vessel walls and arrive at the CB1/CB2 receptors. That's it in very easy simple terms. Lighting up a joint is the most common way of applying the heat catalyst to make this happen.
There are two approaches to decarbing, either before or at the end of making oil. The recommendation is to decarb at the end of making oil. Why? Carla Kay, Co-founder of Gray Wolf's Skunk Pharm Research explains it well. The goal is to end up at the highest percentage of the target cannabinoids without pushing the oil into CBN, the final metabolic endpoint of THC and CBD.
The other approach is to decarb at the beginning by placing the plant in the oven for 40 minutes to an hour. The problem is, decarbing this way cannot take into account the natural decarbing that has taken place since harvest. It's impossible to predict an accurate time necessary to properly decarb due to many factors - the plant strain, curing technique, storage conditions, and time through the supply chain. The only accurate way to decarb to the maximum cannabinoid potential is to visually watch for decarbing to peak. This can only be done by watching the C02 phase for a cresting of C02 bubbling. That moment can be seen when the bubbling of C02 slows.
Here is a video showing the entire reduction and decarbing in one pass. Take a guess at the time you think decarb C02 falls off. You can skip to minute 5 and watch till the video ends. The answer is below.
And the answer is..
Decarbing C02 falls off at 5 minutes and 38 seconds.
Don't Overdue a Good Thing!
Decarbing releases C02 that bubble up to the surface of the oil. Once bubbling slows down, you have reached your optimal activated state. Further heating will start degrading the cannabinoids into CBN. CBN is known to be very sedative lending itself to the urban legend of "Couch Lock" cannabinoids. Carla distinguishes the two as Day time and Night time oils.
Back in 2012, when Gray Wolf published how to properly decarb on Skunk Pharm Research, he used a fondue pot as a stable heat source. Alcohol boils off at 81c/178f up to 100c/212f. Water boils off at 100c/212f up to 107c/225f, and then decarboxlyation takes over at 107c/225f and rises to 121c/250f. With the right amount of heat input, the temperature will hold steady until the amount of C02 gassing decreases. This is the optimal point to stop. If left on the heat, temperatures will spike to 275f and above. It happens quick when there's no more bubbling. I've fried my oil many times upwards of 148c/300f.
By holding a constant 121c/250f, the rate of conversion happens within minutes. Bubbling continues and transitions into smaller streams of bubbles from a few nucleation points in the bowl. Keep a close eye on the oil at this stage. Active bubbling will be for a short time. Once the bubbling peaks, you are at the optimal point and can stop.
Congratulations! You have final oil. Enjoy!
Tips and Tools
WARNING: Never distill alcohol near open flame. Alcohol vapors are highly flammable so always distill in well ventilated spaces.
This oil is appropriate for oral ingesting and vaping. Due to the potential of residual salts, do not torch this oil. Torch temperatures can reach over 760c/1400f and can vaporize any residual salts.
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Revision History - RxCE Decarb Step - The Art of Decarbing
23/10/01 Page published.
23/09/20 Page done
23/06/10 Soft release candidate published to the FB group.