Making cannabis edibles at home can be a great way to experience the wellness-enhancing benefits of cannabis without the risks associated with smoking. Before making edibles, however, you’ll need to activate the cannabinoids in your cannabis product through a process called decarboxylation.
Fortunately, this process can be done easily at home. All you’ll need is a pot for boiling water, a heat-proof plastic bag, and cannabis flower or concentrate.
In this article, we’ll explain what decarboxylation is and why it’s important to your edible-making process, as well as how to activate THC in cannabis by boiling and why you might choose this method over others.
If you’ve already acquired your cannabis flower, you’ve completed your first step towards this goal. However, it's important to remember that the THC and CBD in cannabis flower is actually THCa or CBDa — an acid analogue of the cannabinoid featuring an extra carboxyl group, to put it in chemistry terms.
To convert that acid cannabinoid form into the cannabinoid you actually want to consume, you’ll need to put your raw cannabis product through a process called decarboxylation — sometimes called “decarbing” your cannabis.
While this step might sound a little technical, all you really have to do is heat your cannabis product at a steady temperature for a set length of time.
That length of time will vary depending on how and at what temperature you heat your cannabis, as well how much time you’re willing to dedicate to the decarb process.
Higher temperatures will decarb your cannabis at a faster rate at the risk of burning your cannabis flower or boiling off terpenes that can add to the desired effects of your finished edible product, such as boosting energy or aiding with relaxation.
Lower temperatures will require you to wait a little longer for the decarb process to finish, but the end result is likely to be better tasting and truer to the effects of the chemotype or strain you’ve chosen for your edibles.
It might sound a little strange, but boiling weed for edibles actually comes with several benefits — as long as it's done correctly. And, to be clear, we’re not talking about just chucking half an ounce of flower into a pot of water held at a rolling boil.
Instead, your first step for boiling cannabis for activation is to set up what is essentially a DIY sous vide machine — though a true sous vide wouldn’t ever be brought up to boiling temperature.
(In fact, if you can get your hands on a professional sous vide, you can lean into a low-and-slow decarb process that will best preserve your cannabis products’ flavor profile. Using an automated sous vide will also eliminate the need to monitor the hot water bath that is decarbing your cannabis, letting you prep the ingredients for your edibles while your cannabis activates).
To boil and decarb cannabis flower, simply grind up your flower and place it inside a plastic bag designed to not melt when exposed to high levels of heat, close the bag, and place in a pot of boiling water.
Allow the cannabis to sit in its hot water bath for about 90 minutes, making sure there is always enough water in the pot to keep the bag afloat and prevent it from being damaged by the bottom of the pot. After 90 minutes, remove the cannabis and follow the steps in your recipe to make your edibles.
Because of the higher temperature of boiling water relative to the simmer used for sous vide decarboxylation, please don’t use sous vide bags for boiling weed. Those bags are often not able to withstand long exposure to the boiling point of water, which is around 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) at sea level.
Instead, consider using a small oven bag like the kind you might use to roast a chicken. These bags are specially designed to withstand the high temperatures necessary for oven cooking.
Relative to other marijuana decarboxylation methods, boiling your cannabis has several benefits.
The first of these is that boiling all but eliminates the risk of burning your cannabis, which can happen when, for example, decarbing your cannabis in a mason jar or directly on a baking sheet.
On a similar note, boiling your cannabis product in a sealed bag can help preserve the potency and flavor of your cannabis product. This is because the major cannabinoids and terpenes have a higher boiling point than water and, therefore, won’t evaporate during the decarb process.
While there are reported discrepancies between manufacturer statements and scientific review of the boiling points for THC and CBD, more than one recent study has placed the boiling points for THC and CBD as high as 797°F-880°F (425°C-1616°C) and 867°F-907°F (464°C-486°C), respectively.
Lastly, boiling weed to activate it is a surprisingly simple process requiring few tools — just a pot for water, a heat-proof bag, and your cannabis product.
The main drawback to decarbing cannabis by boiling is that the process can take longer relative to other decarb methods. Still, given the potential benefits covered above, the wait might be worthwhile.
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