When we start to plan any new idea of an edible we always approach it from a "taste first" perspective. Meaning we think about what our end flavor needs be and then work backwards from there. When making edibles there are tons of source material to start with be it flowers, oil, rosin or wax in all of its various forms. The form you start with has huge impacts on final flavor. Before we can even start the extraction process, our starting material must be in its most bio-available form, "Decarbed".
Now you may or may not have heard that term before and it may get confusing but it is very simply about changing the chemical structure of the active ingredients found in your cannabis material. When you have any non heat treated sources or low heat treated sources of material, the cannabinoids in said material are not currently available to be used by the body, hence not bio-available. The natural state of cannabis, the cannabinoid that gets us high is THC, is actually THCA. That extra 'A' stands for Acid and that 'A' prevents our bodies from accessing the great potential properties of the plant. So, how do we get to the yummy center of "A" Tootsie Pop? HEAT! but more precisely, controlled heat and time.
In this post I will discuss ways that I have found to Decarb that have made my life and cooking with cannabis much easier. In subsequent blogs, I will be going into the different methodologies I use for extraction of the specific varieties available to us after decarbing and follow those with some recipes. If that's all good, let us begin.
Flowers: Source Material is key. You use what you have on hand or buy something to make edibles, yet those choices render very different results. Are you using Flowers, Trim, Sugar Leaves, anything that's left after I harvest that's not flowers.... Flowers will give you the most potent and best flavor when extracting, hands down. Between the terpenes and the canabinoids available, that is your best bet for tasty and potent edibles. Next are the Sugar Leaves. Sugar Leaves are the big Fan Leaves that tend to grow next to the flowers. They collect the sticky resin and fallen trichomes and tend to have a higher concentration of THC on them then the trim. Trim is what's left over from daily trimming or the harvest and they have a low THC content and a very HIGH Chlorophyll content. That means yes, there is THC to extract from Trim and leaves but its amount is small, you need more source plant material and as such you add much more of a 'Green' flavor to your final infusions, That "Green Flavor" is what most of us conjure up when we think about those brownies someone made back in high school or college. Flowers and trim tend to be the easiest for the at home canna-chefs to decarb. All you need is your dried and cured plant matter, an oven and a baking sheet. Please reread that part..."dried and cured"...You don't want to start with wet or fresh flower as you would be drying and not actually decarbing your flower. I always suggest 'curing' your flowers for 6 weeks or so after the harvest as not only do you get a better tasting smoke out of them, it actually improves the flavor and aroma dramatically. (if you don't know how to cure your buds, look it up, it is easy and you will be thanking me later whether you eat or smoke it) If your flowers are from your own grow, you may not know the strength of the buds, that's ok, we can do tests later with or without the lab, depending on how science-y you want to get. If you know the THC content, all the better for guesstimating later. In the early stages, an educated and informed guess is better than just winging it and making your friends ass out because you over dosed them.
Here is the process: Heat your oven to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Use an oven thermometer, preferably one that has a transmitter to a base station, so you can observe the heat cycle of your oven without opening it. Every oven is different and you must test your oven for its heat "swing" before putting any of your good stuff inside. What do I mean by heat swing? That is the temperature variance that all ovens have and exhibit during their use. Gas ovens can have more of a 'heat swing' then electric ones, but not always. Convection can help or hinder temp control depending on the fans, so if you have that setting, try it with and without them. You want the most stable and consistent temp closest to 240 degrees without going much over when decarbing. Now, after running your test, you have either found your sweet spot or decided that your oven is incompatible with this process, if that is the case, just buy a toaster oven as they are cheap and tend to be very consistent on temps. (Google search for the most consistent temp toaster ovens)
Now that we have either the sweet spot of our oven or a toaster oven that we now have a sweet spot for as well, always test first, decarb second. Take your dried and cured flowers and lightly break apart. Yes I know you read somewhere that you should grind your flower in a grinder or food processor but stop to ask yourself "Why?" What does grinding do but disrupt and destroy the glands holding all of the yummy goodness we want. Remember we want great flavor and a great high. The best approach I have found is to just lightly break apart the "buds" onto the cookie sheet and spread them out evenly in one layer. Place cookie sheet in oven at 240 Fahrenheit for 1 hour, remove and let cool. Now if your oven is lower than the suggested 240, then you will need a little more time to fully decarb. Do not count on your cooking with the flowers afterward to decarb your cannabis, it will be less consistent. If your oven goes over the 240 mark, you can actually kill the THC in your flower leaving you with just plant matter and none of the fun parts left over, and no body wants that.
While the flower is in the oven, your house will get a lovely and toasty "skunk" smell that quickly dissipates. If need be, run your fan to dispel the odor if you are worried about neighbors coming over to eat all you dank goodness you are creating. It is unnecessary but some chefs feel the need to to open the oven and occasionally shake the pan to redistribute the flowers while they are toasting. More often then not what you are only doing is dropping the oven temperature and causing it to take longer to do the decarbing process. So unless your oven starts to go above our desired temp, leave it alone. On a side note, some ovens can only achieve that sweet spot by having the door pried open or opened on occasion. That is not the best scenario but we do what we have to to make good edibles.
There is no set 'look' to fully decarbed flower except that it is dried and 'toasty' smelling. The only true way to know if your flowers are fully decarbed is by sending them to the lab for chemical analysis. Since that is typically beyond what we need for home and expensive, we try and do as much of the decarbing by being technically proficient in our process and that gives us the best possible results. If you know the starting THC percentage of the flowers we can use a little math to help us in the process. A gram of dried cannabis weighs 1000mg and if that gram is 20% THC, that means that each gram used contributes 200mg of THC. Between decarbing and then extracting, whether using butter or oil or any other means, your typical extraction is up to 80%. So that means us at home canna-chefs can expect to get 160mg extracted from every gram of cannabis that is 20% THC.
Cannabis % X 1000 = Mg THC X 80% = Mg THC available in finished infusion
20% X 1000= 200Mg THC X 80% = 160Mg THC per gram of flower used
Now once you have the math done, you calculate how many grams you used to create your infusion and divide that up by your total volume of butter/oil/carrier fat. If I used 20g of flower in 2cups of butter it looks like this.
20%x 1000= 200Mg THC X 80% = 160Mg THC X 20G = 3200mg THC in 2cups of infused butter or 100mg THC/tablespoon
Now you can use that equation to properly dose your edibles and create consistent dosing every time. The one caveat is if you don't know the starting strength of your source material. In this case you have to rely on your own sensitivity to the outcome of the extraction. If this is the case for you, I would recommend doing all the steps above and then when you have your finished infusion, weigh out 1g of infused product and try it, either straight or on a piece of toast, and see what the effect is. After an hour or 2, you should know whether a gram is enough, too much or not enough. You can then judge your recipe accordingly and make your friends smile again at the love and care you put into your treats. For those that live in cities with legalized cannabis and a thriving cannabis industry, there are labs where you can personally have potency testing done on your final infusion if you want to go that route. Here in Portland where we are based, our home lab is Green Leaf and their potency tests are around $75/each. With lab results you know exactly what the outcome is every time. That's for us real science geeks or consistent processors because we strive for specific outcomes every batch.
Here at Purefectionery, it is always science and flavor first to bring you the best tasting and most consistent edibles. Why? Because we want to be that source that always puts the smiles back on our friends' faces with the best tasting and naturally sourced edibles. Always Natural. Always Delicious. Always Consistent.
Stay tuned. next we will be Decarbing Concentrates.......