Perfecting Preparation In Three Simple Steps
Cannabis Takes A little extra convincing
You've got your cannabis kitchen gadgets gathered, a nice clean surface area to make messy again, and a freshly rolled joint. But before you get too far ahead of yourself there is an important preparation trick you'll want to know. Cannabis in its original flower form is covered in these little tiny 'hairs' called trichomes. Inside of those trichomes are a variety of chemical compounds called cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes (funny words that cause funny feelings). When ingested, cannabinoids make their way to special receptors that send the signal to the rest of your body to do things like relieve pain, reduce inflammation, or provide a respite of relaxation.
But Something Sciencey has to Happen first...
Inside of the flowers, cannabinoid compounds are called phytocannabinoids
And a few of them have an extra carboxyl ring or group (COOH) that likes to follow them around. Now, there is nothing wrong with a carboxyl ring per say. They even help the phytocannabinoids perform certain functions more effectively. Take THCA for example. The 'extra A' or carboxyl ring makes THC significantly more anti-bacterial while inside of the living plant. But it also inhibits the ability of the phytocannabinoid to act on the human brain and for a lot of cannabis users that cerebral buzz is the whole point. So, naturally, we figured out a way to remove it.
We just set it on fire
No joke. That's what we do. Every time you light up you are actually removing a carboxyl ring group from certain phytocannabinoid compounds inside of the flower thus making it possible for you to feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Congratulations! You are Decarboxylating!
For all I know you're doing it right now ;) But our goal in the cannabis kitchen is a little different. We are trying to get the cannabis to a point where we can extract its cannabinoid compounds using things like fats, alcohols, and glycerides. So how do we do that?
perfecting PREPARATION In Three simple Steps
1) Step One: Bust out the cookie sheet
Grab a cookie sheet or a pyrex dish that you plan on using for your cannabis kitchen. Lay your material out on the sheet in a nice even layer. What kind of material is up to you. You can use whole flowers (though I recommend breaking those down a smidgen), your 'smalls', 'bottoms', 'Z-buds', or trim like I'm doing here. It's such an amazing way to get the most mileage out of the whole plant.
2) Step Two: Pop it in a preheated oven
The formula for decarboxylation is heat+ time. The idea here is to bake the cannabis low and slow. I recommend between 200 and 220 for 30-45 minuets. There is some debate about whether or not you can retain more of your terpenes (flavor profile) by baking at even lower temperatures for an even longer amount of time. I've not seen a convincing enough evidence myself.
3) Step Three: PARCEL and Package
Now, you don't technically have to do this step at all but I've found that it makes life Waaaaay easier. While my cannabis cools I reach for the cotton cheesecloth and start cutting off little squares. You can also use a quality nut milk bag if you have one. You can pick up both at your local natural food store. Once the decarboxylated cannabis is safe to handle I weigh it out. Each pile is used for a different project so I might have a pile for a batch of butter, a pile for a massage oil, and a pile for a salve infusion. The exact amount will depend on what recipe I plan to follow. You never want to decarb more cannabis than you plan to use.
Once I've weighed everything up I place them onto the pre-cut cheesecloth squares to make little pouches. The trick is to keep it tight enough on top that your material (marc) does not fall out, but loose enough inside that the solvent (menstruum) can really get in there. I promise you you will not regret taking the extra time. This step makes clean up about 1000% easier at the end of the day.
And that, my friends, is all there is to it. From here the possibilities are endless.
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I'm Mary J Poppins, herbalist, cannabis connoisseur and founder of the Sativa Science Club. Keep an eye on my blog Cannabis for Curious Creatures for nifty new products reviews, DIY tutorials, and scientific insights.