By Troy Ivan
Finding the most simple, safe, clean, and desirable way to decarb has been a passion I’ve been chasing for a few years now. Chopping through all the misinformation is very confusing for someone new to the concept of decarb, as well as those that have been doing it for decades. We are turning those decades of bad information upside-down with this simple process that’s already used in a variety of applications. I’m not creating something new here but utilizing tech others already use. I’m happy because it’s crazy easy; I’m unhappy because it’s taken me forever to stumble onto something so simple. For those unfamiliar with primary decarbing considerations and traditional processes, please see my previous post, DECARBOXYLATION (DECARB) 101.
I’ve used the term “jar tech” in a few posts for CWD, making sauce and sugar wax, and pure EHO carts. The term simply refers to using a jar as a vessel to achieve an end goal. In this post, I’m explicitly presenting the results of using jar tech for decarbing only. The testing data shows the terpenes in the control samples without decarb remained in every subsequent decarbed sample.
This process is essential because most traditional home decarb processes ruin a concentrate’s flavor and aroma, negatively impacting any product using the concentrate. Additionally, those decarb processes burn off the vast majority, if not all, of the terpenes that may have been present. Jar tech decarb can solve both of those problems. Now, words like “full-spectrum” can be accurately applied to fully decarbed cannabis oil where they weren’t true before. If you start with a beautiful extraction and then decarb using jar tech, the aroma and quality of the oil will be unbelievable.
The process is straightforward and only requires a jar and a heat source. Unfortunately, the smallest quality canning jars are 4 oz, so I used a sample size of 20 g of oil at a time to fill the jar about 25%, which seemed like a good amount to test with. Other jars, containers, and volumes may work; I just don’t have time to try them all.
It’s important to note that I only work with clean extractions. I don’t work with, nor encourage people to work with, heavy black plant material-laden extractions. All results and exercises in this post used clean oil bound for edibles, produced with cold-temperature ethanol extraction, filtered well, and nicely purged. Oil that isn’t filtered well, contains a lot of plant matter or has substantial residual solvents may act very differently.
The general process idea is that an extract in a jar can decarb without the valuable terpene profile being blown off, oxidized, converted, or degraded. I cannot provide an in-depth scientific breakdown, but I can offer an idea of what I think is going on with this process. When heat is applied to decarb, a few things happen: breaking off the carboxyl group to “decarb,” terpenes evaporating, and oxidation. While decarb is a factor of temperature alone, terpene evaporation points change with pressure, and oxidation depends on abundant oxygen (mostly). What happens in our favor with the jar tech is that as heat applied to the sealed jar forces decarb to happen, it also increases pressure inside the jar, making it more difficult for terpenes to evaporate. There’s no free flow of oxygen, so large amounts of oxidation is avoided. Ultimately, we have glorious, terpene-rich oil that’s as decarbed as much or as little as you choose.
Step 1: Load jar
I loaded each 4 oz canning jar with approximately 20 g of well-purged oil and sealed it. Excess residual solvents in a heated, sealed jar can be hazardous, so only well-purged oil was used.
Step 2: Choose time and temp
The temp/time combinations I chose may appear to be incredibly ad hoc, and in reality, they probably are. Still, I wanted to establish various data points from which I could make reasonable assumptions. I have partial, complete, and overly-done conversions that allow us to reasonably estimate the rest by applying this information to standard decarb knowledge. I’m not a fan of imperfect data and assumptions, but living under oppressive testing regulations handicaps my efforts, and I work with what I have.
When looking at this data, an essential factor is how long the entire material sample was up to temp. If you think about the samples I worked with and how they were introduced to heat, you should realize a couple things. Just because a sample was placed in a heated environment doesn’t mean the extract was at the desired decarbing temperature the entire time. Once a jar with 20 g of oil was placed in the heat, the jar, air in the jar, and the entire concentrate needed to come up to heat. The time for all those components to come up to heat is called the ramping time, or “ramp.” I estimated with the temps, jars, and concentrate volume being processed, a proper ramp would be 15-30 minutes. For example, the 180°F/1hr was probably only really at temp for about 30 minutes, so if I wanted a 1 hr decarb, I would have to add the ramping time of about 30 minutes and increase the total time exposed to heat to 1.5 hrs. Every case will be different and require the decision to add ramp time or not depending on concentrate volume and surface area.
Decarb temp and time combinations are nearly infinite because it’s a sliding scale so these recommendations are not set in stone but a good place to start.
For carts (no ramp included): 180°F/1 hr, 200°F/45 min
Full decarb (no ramp included): 200°F/2 hr, 220°F/1.5 hr, 240°F/1 hr.
Step 3: Choose heat source
Choose a heat source that fits the desired time and temp. The temps involved here can be achieved in several ways: sous vide, Instant Pot, oven, steam, and a double boiler. People will ask if they can use the Ardent to do this? The answer is yes, you probably can with some assumptions about temps, and only if you already have one; for God’s sake, please DON’T go out and buy one of those for decarbing; it’s silly.
Step 4: Load jar then place in heated environment
I’m only comfortable using good quality, brand canning jars, so I’ve restricted my experimentation to those. I like to work with the jars about 25% full. After putting the concentrate in the jar, I sealed it and placed it into the pre-heated environment of choice. It’s that easy.
*Working with glass in changing temp environments and pressures can be hazardous, so caution and appropriate hand and eye protection are required.
Step 5: Remove from heat and allow to cool
After the allotted time, remove the jar and allow it to cool naturally on an appropriate heat-resistant surface. Opening the jar prematurely can enable some terpenes to evaporate if it is warm enough. A lighter, or even transparent, higher cannabinoid layer may settle on the bottom. Once the jar is completely cooled, it can be opened and stirred to homogenize the oil as much as possible. When the concentrate is stirred, there can be a neat, foaming release of CO2 bubbles, which is fun to watch, but be careful of overflow. If it foams up, I set it aside for a while after stirring, and when all the bubbles settle, the oil is ready to be used!
TERPENE RETENTION DATA
Two sets of testing were performed with different starting materials and terpene profiles. An interesting point to remember is that as decarb takes place, terpenes represent a slightly higher weighting as cannabinoids lose weight. Some of these samples were purposefully under or over-processed to see a range of results, but as far as the terps are involved, they are all in a pretty tight range, which is excellent news.
The preparation and execution of these posts require a great deal of time, effort, material, testing fees, and more. Steve Wenger stepped up and helped out with everything here. Without his help on this project, it would not have been possible. Thank you very much, Steve!!
Not being able to collect more data points and iterate these tests for more comprehensive and potentially accurate guidance is frustrating. Still, we do what we can with Colorado’s testing regulations as they are. With that in mind, I expect some changes and updates to this information and hope to refine the process and info down the road.
One pretty cool thing we can see is that in some samples that were probably over-processed with time and/or temp, the CBN levels are elevated, but the terpenes are still nicely represented. Obviously, with traditional heat application decarbing techniques and “decarbing appliances,” this hasn’t been possible. It seems that the testing indicates pretty high CBN conversion compared to CWD, and I’m not sure why, but it’s something to keep in mind. Before taking it too far out of context, realize it’s only a tiny amount of CBN conversion, and if you look at the “total potential THC” numbers, there was no discernible negative impact there.
I haven’t tested CBD with this method yet, but I suspect it will align with all other CBD and THC comparisons we’ve seen previously. Almost every time, at a chosen temp, CBD takes twice as long as THC. Until we come up with comparative data, I will be simply doubling the time I would typically use for THC and calling it a day.
Lastly, this post is only a report of our testing, not a recommendation for anyone to use at home. There are hazards when working with sealed, heated glass heating sources, especially if residual solvents are not well purged. Anyone attempting to replicate this process does so at their own risk and is encouraged to use all applicable safety precautions.