Tech Talk: pros and cons of decarboxylation

November 23, 2016

Depending on their product needs, processors may choose to decarboxylate (heat) their cannabis plant material before or after extractions. There are advantages and disadvantages with both decarbed and non-decarbed plant material.

What’s always an advantage is the fact that Apeks CO2 extraction systems allow for cold separation processing to prevent decarboxylation from occurring unintentionally during the extraction. So processors have more control over whether to decarboxylate (and by how much) or not. Other manufacturers’ systems typically place too much heat in the separator vessel causing random decarboxylation.

Decarboxylation Before Extraction

Pros

  1. Converts the THC-A (A=acid) of the cannabis plant to THC, making the oil extractions psychoactive.
  2. Because THC is more soluble (easier for CO2 to extract) than THC-A, the extraction runs are about 50% faster and produce larger yields due to the waxes melting into the solubles through the baking process.

Cons

  1. Loss of terpenes
  2. Cannot make shatter, a popular consumable

 

No decarboxylation Before Extraction

Pros

  1. Maintains THC-A for medical marijuana medicines with non-psychoactive therapeutic properties.
  2. THC-A is necessary for making shatter.
  3. Preserves the terpenes which enhance the color and flavor of oils that are “cooked off” during decarboxylation. Terpenes can also be lost in post-processing. The importance of terpenes depends on the final product. Some processors who choose to decarboxylate will perform a terpene wash (quick extraction run) to pull off the terpenes, then add them back into the finished oils.

Cons 

  1. Longer extraction times
  2. Lower yields
Because the decarboxylation process converts THC-A to THC, less extraction time is required due to the fact that THC is more soluble in liquid or supercritical CO2. Shorter runs result in fewer plant waxes which is why the oil on the left from decarboxylated plant material appears clearer. Although non-decarbed material (on the right) requires longer run times and produces lower yields, it maintains the THC-A which is essential for making shatter and non-psychoactive medicine.
Because the decarboxylation process converts THC-A to THC, less extraction time is required due to the fact that THC is more soluble in liquid or supercritical CO2. Shorter runs result in fewer plant waxes which is why the oil on the left from decarboxylated plant material appears clearer. Although non-decarbed material (on the right) requires longer run times and produces lower yields, it maintains the THC-A which is essential for making shatter and non-psychoactive medicine.