If you’ve used weed before, you have certainly tried to smoke it, vape it, or even eat it in the form of edibles. One of the main steps when making edibles is having dried, decarboxylated weed (that preserves terpenes and flavor) to include in the recipe. And if you’re a fan of edibles, you probably know that you can decarb weed from the comfort of your own home. But can you do it in a microwave?
The lack of sufficient weed research is one of the main reasons why the Internet is full of DIY ideas that invite the reader to try all kinds of things at home. It’s very easy to get ill-advised and tricked into insensible ideas.
Consequently, the task of our guide today is to look into a common suggestion on Internet forums for those who want to dry their weed faster. That’s right, we’ll be talking about whether or not you should microwave weed and what happens when you do.
Why Would You Microwave Weed?
First of all, why would anyone decide to microwave weed instead of waiting for the buds to dry naturally?
The most common and probably only reason is to make cannabis buds dry more quickly. Some people are too lazy to wait for the typical one-month period that the cannabis plant needs to go from harvest to buds ready for smoking or ingestion.
This process includes drying and curing the plant, but even if you skip the latter, you still have to wait one or two weeks before your buds are dry enough. As a result, people decide to microwave the Cannabis buds in an attempt to speed up the process.
However, “should you microwave weed” is another question altogether. That’s why we invite you to keep reading as our team digs deeper into the cannabis plant compounds, the natural way of drying and curing the plant, and what’s at stake when microwaving cannabis buds.
Dissecting Weed Compounds
The cannabis plant, before it’s turned into the psychoactive drug we know as “weed”, contains over “483 different identifiable chemical constituents”, as stated in Ethan B. Russo’s Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential (2013).
This includes chemicals like cannabinoids, terpenoids (the aromatic compounds that give the desired weed terpenes we mentioned before), flavonoids, and omega fatty acids (UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative).
Cannabis has over 60 different cannabinoids, compounds unique to this plant. The most well-known cannabinoid is the delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, or simply THC, which is also the main psychoactive component in the plant that gives you the desired “high” when smoking or ingesting weed.
The Cannabis plant is also famous for its Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid associated with the plant’s medical properties for treating a number of illnesses. Different plant varieties possess different levels of THC and CBD. Using proper techniques, Cannabis breeders can increase or decrease the THC level of the plant to boost or hinder its psychoactive power.
Even though the Cannabis plant has THC, consuming any amount of raw cannabis won’t get you high. Why? Because you’ve skipped the decarboxylation stage.
Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that consists of removing a carboxyl group (-COOH) and releasing carbon dioxide (CO2). All cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant have an extra carboxyl group attached to their chain. For example, THC is actually present in the form of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) which isn’t intoxicating and has its own benefits.
To unlock the plant’s psychoactive properties, growers need to remove the extra carboxylic acid group via decarboxylation. This process requires both heat and time. Some people believe that heat is more detrimental than useful and harder to control, so they turn to drying and curing the plant for partial decarboxylation.
Since both light and very high heat can significantly damage the potency of the weed, the plant is kept in cool and dark places. When the plant is ready for harvest, the branches are cut and hung upside down in a room with no direct light or fresh air, and a 45%-55% humidity. You should also cut the fan leaves because only the buds give you the desired potency. The drying process usually lasts from one to two weeks, or until the branches are brittle enough.
At this point, if you use a smoker or a vaporizer as a way to consume weed, they will further decarboxylate the buds because of the high temperatures they produce. Because of that, you can avoid the curing process. You should be aware, however, that smoking or vaporizing weed can affect its terpenes.
If you want to ingest weed through edibles or otherwise care to develop and preserve the buds’ flavor and aroma, Cannabis experts recommend curing the buds, or to use the words of Leafly’s Cannabis expert Will Hyde: “The cure can be the difference between good cannabis and truly exceptional buds”.
The most common method of curing Cannabis buds is to store them in glass jars (e.g. mason or jam jars) by filling up to ¾ of the jar so there’s some air left and hide them somewhere dark and dry. Once a day, check your buds and open the jar so that fresh air can enter.
They should remain in the jar for at least two weeks, but leaving them longer will give you even better results.
Decarboxylating Cannabis in the Oven
Studies show that THCA decarboxylation occurs at approximately 220-250 degrees Fahrenheit after 30-40 minutes.
However, microwaving weed happens at much higher temperatures which can not only damage the THC potency and flavor, but also unleash some other volatile compounds that evaporate at higher heat, resulting in a bad smell and taste.
Therefore, those who want to decarboxylate weed at home should either use their convection oven or a toaster microwave oven whose temperatures vary between 150° Fahrenheit (65° C) and 500° Fahrenheit (260° C), making it suitable for decarboxylation weed.
The method is as follows:
- Preheat the oven to 220-235 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Break up your buds into small chunks or grind them (two different approaches).
- Spread them on parchment paper, place them on a baking tray, and put them in the oven to bake for around 30 minutes.
- When done, it should be crispy and light to medium brown in color.
Decarbing Using the Sous Vide Method
This is one of the most fool-proof methods to decarb weed. Using an immersion circulator, you can decarb weed at the exact temperature needed to preserve terpenes and flavor, meanwhile keeping your house smelling nice.
To decarboxylate cannabis using the sous vide method you will need:
- Immersion circulator;
- Plastic container for the immersion circulator;
- Ziploc bag;
- Mason jar.
If this is your first time using this procedure, have no worries. All you need is an immersion circulator (which can be a bit of an investment at first with prices ranging from 100$) and some kitchen essentials.
Sous Vide Method
- Fill your plastic container with the appropriate amount of hot tap water and place the immersion circulator inside.
- Set the temperature of the immersion circulator to 203 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Grind the cannabis finely using a finer grinder.
- Put the cannabis in a ziploc bag as tightly as possible (try to keep air pockets at a minimum and spread the cannabis around the bag).
- Place the ziploc bag in the water bath for 90 minutes.
- Remove the bag from the container, dry the bag using paper towels, and let the stash cool at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
- Open the bag and place the decarbed cannabis into a mason jar for further use.
How to Use Decarbed Weed?
You have decarboxylated your weed and now you want to know how you can use it. Since decarbed weed preserves most of its flavor and terpenes, it’s one of the most common ways that weed is processed in order for it to be included in edibles.
The many ways that people consume decarbed weed are:
- For infusing massage oils;
- For tinctures;
- For making cannabutter and cannabis oil (used in brownies and other edibles);
- For cannabis-infused tea.
How to Microwave Weed
If you’re still determined to microwave your Cannabis buds in a regular microwave oven on high heat, the most common advice you’ll get from “microwave proponents” on cannabis-dedicated forums or regular discussion sites is to do the following:
- Chop or shred the buds first.
- Place them on a microwave-safe tray and put them inside the microwave.
- Microwave them in short bursts of 10-20 seconds on full power and be careful not to burn your plant materials.
- After each burst, open the microwave door to let some steam out and stir your buds.
In the end, what happens when you microwave weed is that although you get dried Cannabis buds ready for smoking, their THC and terpenes quality will be severely damaged.
Conclusion: Should You Microwave Weed to Decarb It?
If you want to enjoy the full aroma and THC potency of your weed, the answer is no, you should not microwave weed.
Weed shops and individual growers around the world spend weeks and months drying and curing their Cannabis plants to get a good selling product with distinct and refined flavor. As one user on Roll It Up says: “Microwaving pot is much like microwaving a top grade steak, yes it will work but does no justice to the final product”. It’s your weed after all, but why consume a low-quality product?