This is a review of the Ardent NOVA Decarboxylator, a relatively new home decarb device for anyone interested in getting more from their cannabis. I tested the NOVA over the course of about one week total, and used it to create a pretty amazing array of edible cannabis products.
The verdict: The Ardent Lift decarboxylator is an awesomely convenient, set-and-forget solution, but may be low-capacity or costly for some users.
Here are the details.
What is Decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation is critical to cannabis consumption, yet many consumers don’t know what it is. This is in part because of decades of cannabis criminalization. It remains a struggle for ordinary consumers and medical marijuana patients to get straight facts about cannabis and how to use it.
By itself just eaten off the plant, cannabis doesn’t have many psychoactive properties. That’s because in its natural form, THC is in an acidic plant form called tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA).
Although THCA and THC are structurally almost identical, an extra carboxyl group in THCA prevents it from binding with any cannabinoid receptors in the human body. Removing the carboxyl turns the THCA compound into bioavailable THC—and this is why the process is called decarboxylation.
This is why the classic way most people have heard of using cannabis is by smoking it or using a vaporizer. In order to access more of the “head effects” part of cannabis or its THC, you have to heat it.
Benefits of Decarboxylation
But what if you smoking or vaping cannabis isn’t your thing and you’d still like to try it? Or you know you want to use cannabis edibles, but you are looking for strain-specific or other experiences you can’t find in dispensaries?
What if you already love smoking or vaporizing flower, and you want to get more from it? What if you love vaping or smoking bud, but you have developed a high tolerance and don’t get as much pleasure from it as you used to?
What if you love cannabis and want to take your use of it to a whole new level? Or what if you kind of just want to experiment with new ways of using cannabis at home, being certain you know what’s in everything you use?
All of these are great reasons to learn how to decarboxylate your cannabis.
Why Decarb Cannabis?
By decarbing your cannabis, you access many benefits. For the flower fans out there, you get to stick to your favorite form of cannabis while getting more out of it. A decarboxylator also makes it really easy to infuse and create your own edibles, sublinguals, tinctures, and other medicine at home. And no matter how you use your cannabis or why, decarbing lets you get the most THC out of every single gram, every time.
But let’s start with cannabis patients like me. Decarbing means getting more control of your schedule and life back, in a very real sense, because gram for gram you are just getting more out of your cannabis. And being able to dose in different ways, including with your own edible cannabis, means less planning your day around your dosing.
For me, if I have to vape all day to manage pain or inflammation, I’m basically stuck home. I can’t vape cannabis in public even with a card, but I can use my own lotions, swallow my own supplements, use my own magical butter on a muffin, or pack a few brownies!
If I can use edibles I make myself, and maybe bring a few capsules with me, I know I’m safe. And since I’ve made them myself, I know they’re strong enough, I’m sure they’ll work, and I feel pretty sure I won’t be stuck somewhere, sick.
In other words, decarbing gives patients like me more choices. And really, that’s true of all cannabis users, no matter what your motivation is.
Furthermore, the ability to plan accurately and easily means you’re paying less overall and just getting more bang for your buck. More bioavailable THC in every gram is something anyone who loves cannabis should be interested in, especially when ease of use is so central to this product.
Decarboxylation Myths and Facts
There is a lot of misinformation out there about cannabis generally. No surprise: it’s been criminalized for decades. This extends to most things cannabis, including decarbing.
Here are some basic decarboxylation myths and facts, based on what’s out there and what we’ve found ourselves here at VV over time.
Myth 1: There’s not a real difference
No. There is, if you’re actually getting it done. In fact, if this was true, you could wander the land eating marijuana plants, having an amazing day. Not possible.
Myth 2: Decarboxylation works differently depending on the freshness of your flower
The variation is this: Cured flower is already decarbed.
The idea is that fresh flower needs decarboxylation to remove moisture, and that cured cannabis doesn’t need decarbing for basically the same reason.
First of all, it’s not true that you can’t or shouldn’t decarboxylate fresh flower. If you are precisely decarbing it, it helps preserve the aroma, taste, and terpenes in the fresh cannabis.
Second, curing isn’t the same. Although it does achieve some activation, it doesn’t get you the same results.
(Even improperly stored cannabis that has been exposed to way too much heat and light is only slightly more decarbed—but it is also possibly degraded, which is why randomly leaving your stash out to bake in the sun is not the preferred method.)
Myth 3: You max out around 70 percent and then you start to destroy THC when you decarboxylate
This idea may stem from the fact that most home decarboxylation methods are simply not that efficient. It may also be part of urban legend. Either way, it’s not correct.
The reason you can see degradation during the decarboxylation process has to do with the method. Precise temperature control stops degradation, because decarboxylating is a nonlinear process. In other words, if your temperature stays constant, your results won’t be optimal.
This is why sensors and algorithms make for a more efficient process. There is no inherent temperature fluctuation in the machine itself, and the device can adjust as the process goes on.
How to Use the Ardent NOVA Lift
The NOVA comes in a cylindrical box about like an oatmeal container. The device itself is surprisingly small, like a mason jar or a coffee grinder. It fits right on your countertop, like this.
And that’s the vibe you get from it, too. It was definitely designed for mainstream kitchen use—very cool. This is not something you need to hide in your closet.
The black, plastic lid easily comes off. Inside you find a lightweight, metal chamber that comes out. This is the decarbing chamber.
To use the device, first just plug it in. Then, remove that metal sleeve. Place your plant material directly in the metal container. You don’t need to break up the flower if it’s dense and more like solid nugs, and it’s easier if you don’t.
You could pack lots of flower into your chamber, but don’t. The NOVA recommends that you decarb no more than one ounce of flower at a time. This is part of the precision process.
It’s not necessary to grind your flower before decarboxylating, and in fact it’s better not to. The NOVA already works to decarb the herb evenly, and all of the tests the company uses to prove the product are run on cannabis that wasn’t ground. Plus, keeping the nugs together can reduce user error waste and increase shelf life.
The NOVA can also handle hash, hash oils, kief, or concentrates, too. However, when you’re using concentrate, oils, or anything that might be powdery or liquid-y, just place it at the bottom of the silicone sleeve, in a glass jar, or on parchment paper. I do recommend the sleeve, it made working with concentrate, and especially infusing it and cleaning up, a lot easier.
Once your decarbing material is in place, cover the chamber with the purple silicone lid, which stops oxygen from invading the container and prevents pressure from escaping. It’s loose, you just lay it on top, although it fits fairly well.
Then, you place the black lid back on. It doesn’t snap or lock into place by design, but you have to make sure it’s on straight and it does sort of “click.”
Then, all you do is hit the power button. Really!
The Ardent Lift in action
When you plug it in, that button lights up green. That lets you know it’s ready to use. When you start the device, the button turns red. It stays red throughout the decarbing cycle. Then, once it turns green again, the process is done.
From start to finish, the entire cycle takes around an hour and a half to two hours, although I had a few cycles that were longer. Every cycle is different because during each one, the Nova’s algorithm and sensors work together to evenly heat the material to fully decarboxylate it.
Opening it up again, remember: it’s hot at first. When you (carefully) remove the metal container you’ll see your flower looks almost the same, but slightly browner. The difference in color is most pronounced for kief and flower, less so with concentrates.
It will smell similar too, but you can sense a subtle difference in odor—although you won’t smell too much from the machine as it works. If you smell it at all, it is more of a faint, grassy odor, kind of like you get when vaping flower.
Anyway, that’s it! It is ready to use now, and the THC in it is fully bioavailable.
Infusing With the Ardent NOVA Lift
The process for infusing is basically the same, but you do need a sleeve or a jar. Place your decarbed flower or concentrate in the silicone infuser sleeve or jar.
Why decarb it first? Well, for the same reason. Concentrates have typically not been decarboxylated or otherwise activated, so they need to be heated before you can use them topically or orally. The same parameters for time and temperature apply to concentrates, although they only become slightly more concentrated during the process.
Once you decarb your concentrate in the sleeve or a jar, it’s there, ready to use. Add your oil, butter, honey, or whatever you’re infusing, and run another cycle. Done.
(Remember, you still can’t add any more than the one ounce maximum, and anyway, why would you want to? You can usually add more substrate to an infusion if it’s too strong.)
How to Use Your Decarbed Cannabis Flower
Um…however you want! Really though, now that we can get at those active ingredients, it’s all up to us. To give you a sense of this, here is what I did to test the NOVA, and how it worked.
To start with, I decarbed one gram each of several strains, so I could sort of test out the various claims Ardent was making about the NOVA. I figured I would run several cycles with the same amount of herb to see how it went.
Then, I could use them in lots of different ways with the NOVA. That way I’d have the best sense of whether it works like they say, and if it does, whether it’s worth the price.
In that spirit, I decarboxylated one gram each of these strains: LSD, Ghost Train Haze, CBD Medi-Haze, New York Sour, Hazelnut Cream, Banana Split, and SFV OG. Doing this first in a systematic way turned out to be a good move, because it helped me uncover a weird issue.
Apparently, the NOVA hates formica. I live in a mid-century home, and the countertops are the original formica. Well, NOVA likes wooden cutting boards, and granite, and a lot of other surfaces, but it freaking hates formica.
I know, because a couple of times it ran really long and hot on my formica countertop. This sort of ended up happening over a weekend, so we created a little wooden riser for airflow underneath the unit and eventually moved it, and figured out that it just hated the formica and needed to cool down.
In the meantime, I did get in touch with customer service, and ended up having a good experience—more on this below.
So please note that for whatever reason, the Ardent NOVA does not love sitting on a formica countertop. In my case, that made it run a lot longer and hotter—in one case so much longer than two hours and so uncomfortably hot that I interrupted the cycle.
Once I moved it, though, it was fine. It also did fine on the wooden riser over the formica.
You can see my before and after photos. After, your cannabis looks and smells a bit like it has been vaped, actually. It’s a little browner and older or more dry-smelling, although it doesn’t smell burned, exactly.
I popped each batch back into their containers until I decided how to use them. I wanted to verify as many of Ardent’s suggestions are workable as I could.
Yeah, kind of a no-brainer, but give me a minute, here.
When you can decarb all of your cannabis first, you’re done processing if you want to be. Feeling lazy? No problem. Grind that flower up and put it anywhere to save time, or for longer lasting effects.
In my case, I skipped just grinding up flower and dumping it on something unceremoniously, because to me, that doesn’t taste good. Instead, I took the LSD and infused it into a small amount of homemade cashew milk. My original plan was to make a smoothie, but instead I ended up with a batch of canna-ranch.
I made about one-half pint of it, total, and in that half-pint was about one ounce of the infused cashew milk. I went ahead and left the plant matter in, since I knew it would be weaker than, say, an oil anyway, and since I’d be adding other herbs. It was really tasty, and offered very lightweight, manageable results.
Really once the cannabinoid availability issue is out of play, the possibilities are almost endless. Once you decarb your flower or concentrate, it’s ready to use, and as long as you can use less, taste is better.
I also made some vegan fat bomb things from coconut, dates, and almond meal by infusing the Hazelnut Cream into coconut oil. This was a nice heavy hitter, with around 24 percent THC. Decarbing and infusing it into two tablespoons of coconut oil and using them to make 8 big fat bombs gave me 8 edibles with around 15 MG of THC each.
These were good, and really easy to make. I could have kept that oil on hand, too, and made any kind of baked goods or sweets with it. It was seriously just a couple of extra minutes to infuse it, which was the difference maker here for me.
Next, I infused the New York Sour, which was around 18 percent THC, into just one tablespoon of olive oil. I used that to make some white bean zataar hummus. I got two meals out of that, so each was around 45 MG.
The flavor was amazing! It didn’t taste funky or “off” at all. This was great as a patient, because I got lasting effects for a bit without feeling gross or spacey.
Finally, I decarbed and then infused one gram of Lemon Cake badder into honey. I wanted to try a concentrate as well as flower to see how it went, and see how well the NOVA infuses concentrates, since it can handle shatter, badder, whatever.
I placed the Lemon Cake badder in the silicone sleeve, set the device, and let it run. When it finished it was sort of melted at the bottom, but otherwise looked similar. I added about one-quarter cup of honey to the sleeve and infused it.
The result was a pretty awesome honey infusion. The badder was about 78 percent THC to start with, and probably got a slight boost in the process. The result was a nice, strong dose of honey in a strain that’s still good for daytime use. Score! Try finding that in a dispensary. Not always possible.
Make capsules or tinctures
To make capsules, I infused my decarbed Ghost Train Haze into just two tablespoons of coconut oil. I then filled 00 capsules with a syringe, and voila! Easy.
These work well and are really easy to use. I am going to try this with concentrates next, because I think for higher doses this is the way to go.
I then used my decarbed SFV OG to create a tincture. I just soaked my decarbed cannabis in vodka, let it sit, and strained it. I had a nice, quick onset of effects and they lasted just as long as edibles normally would.
I used the CBD Medi-Haze to make a topical. I was hoping to manage pain and anxiety like most users, but also in my case to soothe dry, itchy skin.
I infused the CBD Medi-Haze, which had a really low percentage of THC anyway, into an ounce of coconut oil. I wanted to see how the NOVA runs at capacity, especially since the concentration of THC was not so important for this batch. It ran longer, but not an excessive amount of time.
I added a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to mine along with some vitamin E oil (this is just a balm for your skin, remember), menthol, and lavender. It smelled great and felt really nice, and did get some pain relief from it, but no head effects. (This is typical for straight CBD balm, for me, anyway.)
Smoke or Vaporize it
I went ahead and vaped my Banana Split. Now, I know you may be wondering: why decarb something you are going to smoke or vape anyway?
It’s because both smoking and vaping waste some of the cannabinoids in your product. Consider how much of every joint you smoke gets wasted anyway through the natural process of smoking. When your cannabis isn’t activated, it’s even worse, because as you take a drag, you’re pulling air across flower that could otherwise be contributing active THC.
Anyway, I did enjoy the flavor, smell, and experience of the decarbed flower. I was worried that it might seem “already vaped” to me or taste burned, but it didn’t.
Decarboxylating your flower is also a great idea because you can vape at the lowest temperature and still get maximum THC. This is better for your lungs, not to mention your wallet.
Step by Step: Using the Ardent Decarboxylator to Infuse
Here is a quick breakdown of the steps it takes to use the Ardent NOVA Lift to infuse. It’s really almost the same as it is to just decarboxylate flower.
First, make a note of your starting material’s THC content so you can calculate how strong your infusion is. (Obviously concentrates have higher starting points, but they also have less distance to travel.)
Select your infusion oil or other substrate. Some oils are better for eating, while others are better for beauty products. Typically you get the highest concentrations of THC from walnut, coconut, and olive oils.
Place your cannabis and oil the silicone sleeve or a glass container with no lid. If you use a jar, it should be big enough to ensure that all of your materials stay inside it, even if the oil bubbles.
Then, put the silicone sleeve or glass container into the internal metal decarb canister with its purple lid on. Close the device with the main black lid and press the green light to begin the decarb cycle.
Once the full cycle is over, the concentrate or oil is activated and the cannabis is infused into it. Be careful, it’s hot! You can strain out the plant matter if you like.
Challenges of Decarboxylating Cannabis
Obviously, if you want to be able to use cannabis in any form, decarbing it first is essential. However, you can’t just bake or burn it and expect to have anything left. This is why the oven method is such a bummer.
Decarboxylation means applying just the right amount of heat, for just long enough, under the right conditions to activate the THC in the flower or concentrate. That’s the idea behind designing and selling a high-quality device for home decarboxylation.
Decarboxylation is a careful balance of atmosphere, temperature, and time. When you get it right, your cannabis or concentrate emerges fully usable, and more potent. You also have more options for consuming it that don’t necessarily involve heating it.
Home users have been decarboxylating for a long time, but it’s a hit or miss process. Some people swear by their ovens or reworked, old-school, countertop toaster ovens. Others prefer slow cookers or double-boilers. However, amongst these users, time and temperature advice varies widely—as do results.
Truly efficient decarbing demands consistent atmosphere and temperature over a particular period of time. If you get this part wrong, it’s not like you blow your cannabis, but you may be wasting some of it.
For more experienced users and growers, this is not such a big risk, because over time you perfect the methods that work best for you. You’re also probably not so worried about—gasp!—someone smelling cannabis in your space and freaking out, at least not as much as soccer moms, CEOs, or sorority members, for example, might be.
This is the space the Ardent NOVA Lift seeks to fill. And it does, and then some.
Because it’s also great for someone like me: a frequent user who is lazy enough to love that set-and-forget convenience enough to invest in it, baby. Another huge bonus: the more cannabis you use, the more you use the decarboxylator. You benefit more from decarbing every bit of flower or concentrate you get, and you can also infuse if you want, so you can deliver your cannabis in more ways.
Why Use the Ardent NOVA Lift?
First, let’s cover some basics.
Build quality is good, not great. It’s a nice, lightweight model which I liked. However, the lid sort of just pushes on instead of snapping or screwing, and it’s certainly not air-tight. I’m not saying it even needs to be—but it isn’t, which means there is a potential for odors, for one thing.
Also, it’s not always intuitively easy to notice that the lid isn’t on properly. Double-checking this is a good idea.
But overall, I was pleased with the device and the build.
I had a decent experience with customer service. In my NOVA’s grudge match with my formica countertop, I was emailing support. Initially I was a little annoyed because I had no wish or time to slowly troubleshoot back and forth one step at a time, waiting for a response each step of the way, and it was the weekend—you know.
(As an aside, though, given that Ardent clearly has created a product for people who want exactly what they want when they want it—yeah. This is a wrinkle that they might anticipate. Just saying. LOL)
So anyway I went ahead and did my own troubleshooting, and that’s how I came up with the riser. But even so, by the time CS and I finally did really start to connect on the regular, they were pretty responsive.
Even after I had gotten it operational they offered to ship it back and send me a new one, which I decided wasn’t even necessary. Still, it’s good to know that they will in fact stand by their products.
Does the NOVA do what they say it does? Yes, I would say so. It does activate the flower and render it usable, and I was able to make just about everything on the list really easily.
It was simple to use, and really saved a lot of time. It does allow you to get more THC from your product. So I’d say it does what they say it will.
The bottom line
So, back to the NOVA overall. Why bother? I mean for $200, why buy this?
One reason is results. Even if you’re pretty sure you’ve got your method locked down in an oven, stovetop, or whatever, there is SO much room for error. Ardent has tested this for years, literally.
One of the complaints about the NOVA (wait for it) is its small size. However, one of the reasons is that its compact size is partly how the decarbing is so closely controlled. In other words, by keeping it so small, they control a lot of the atmosphere and temperature issues in the process more readily.
Anyway, there’s really no way you can duplicate that level of precision in a larger kitchen appliance. Furthermore, that precision matters, because the NOVA works at the lowest possible temperature for optimal decarboxylation. This leaves the terpene profile of your cannabis intact.
An additional benefit Ardent touts is sterilization. Decarboxylating your cannabis kills microbes, spores, and other potentially nasty stuff living in there.
Is it worth it, though, for the cost? I mean, even if we agree that decarbing is essential, we may not agree that the NOVA is worth the money.
To me, it definitely is. But many people don’t see the need for a special purpose tool. I also have an entire tool room, not to mention a pantry filled with dozens of vinegars, hundreds of spices…my point is, if this is your rabbit hole, it’s totally worth it.
Unless you’re a grower looking to work on large batches. Then it’s kind of pointless to you again.
NOVA holds about one ounce of flower at most. That’s mostly fine if you’re just a home user—although I’ve wanted to do larger batches just for myself. But for those who grow their own cannabis, decarbing at scale is probably the goal, and right now you can’t do that with the NOVA.
The Ardent NOVA Lift is ideal for regular users who want more from their cannabis. It’s made for medical marijuana patients and others who prioritize full-spectrum, whole plant results from their cannabis.
If you use cannabis regularly, even just smoking or vaping, a NOVA pays for itself fairly quickly. This is even before you consider your time and convenience—and once you try it, you will.
If you don’t use cannabis regularly enough, this isn’t going to be your gadget. And if you grow your own, this may be frustratingly small for you. And if you’re the kind of person who gets pissed off by someone who owns both a Magic Bullet and a blender, don’t bother—unless cannabis is truly your life.
But yeah…I LOVE mine. I use it all the time, and the Ardent Lift is way easier than anything else I’ve tried. Am I paying for convenience? You bet. And it’s worth every cent.