Breaking Bad Wiki
Breaking Bad Wiki
Look, I get my phenylacetic acid from the barrel with the bee on it.
Jesse Pinkman to Gustavo Fring[src]

Phenylacetic acid (PAA) is an organic compound containing a phenyl functional group and a carboxylic acid functional group. It is a white solid with a honey-like disagreeable odor. PAA serves as a precursor to phenylacetone, used in the production of crystal meth.


Season 1[]

In order to produce higher amounts of crystal meth, Walt tells Jesse that they're switching the recipe, from the classical pseudo reduction to the older method of reductive amination of phenylacetone (P2P) with methylamine, and they will get P2P by heating phenylacetic acid with acetic acid or acetic anhydride in a tube furnace, in the presence of thorium oxide catalyst. Later, in Jesse's basement, we see them making phenylacetone from phenylacetic acid using a 70 mm tube furnace.("A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal")

Season 4[]

In Mexico, Jesse, Mike, and Gus are brought to the Cartel's superlab. Here, Jesse learns that the lab doesn't use phenylacetic acid from the Golden Moth company, but rather they synthesize it themselves. This poses a dilemma, as Jesse doesn't know how to synthesize phenylacetic acid. The chief chemist becomes irritated by this turn of events, mocking Jesse in Spanish as an amateur and a joke, as any chemistry student could easily synthesize phenylacetic acid. Jesse senses that he's being disrespected and takes charge, telling Gus to "tell this asshole" if he wants to make a superior product, he has to do it Jesse's way. He then calls the lab filthy and, channeling Walt, announces that no cook will take place until all contaminants are eliminated and every cook surface scrubbed.("Salud")


Phenylacetic acid, like all organic acids, will react with bases forming salts called phenylacetates.

There are multiple ways of producing phenylacetic acid, some methods require controlled precursors, while others are do not. However, yields in all processes are not particularly great, and purification is complex, requiring large amounts of precursors.


  • Phenylacetic acid is DEA List I precursor, just like methylamine, as such it cannot be acquired without special paperwork, something which neither Jesse nor Walt could do. No explanation is given how Walt and Jesse got their PAA.

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