In addition to the option of smoking cannabis or using a cannabis-infused product like an edible, there are also concentrates available. Concentrates are designed to provide higher potency in a smaller quantity. If you plan on using cannabis concentrates, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with some of the most common types. This way, you will be able to make an informed decision as to which concentrate is ideal for you.
Defining Cannabis Concentrates
Before you can begin exploring the various types of cannabis concentrates, you need to understand what they are. Cannabis concentrates come from the plant extract, which allows them to have higher potency.
Solvents Vs. Solventless
Cannabis concentrates will either be solvent or solventless. This refers to whether a solvent was used to help extract the THC from the plant. Some of the more common solvents used to extract THC include ethanol, propane, butane, and carbon dioxide. Creating concentrates with solvents requires extra care due to the potentially dangerous chemicals and their highly flammable nature. There is also a risk that some of the solvents will remain in the product if the manufacturer is not careful.
Common concentrates made using solvents include shatter, honeycomb, budder, wax, live resin, and oils.
Instead of using solvents, solventless cannabis concentrates use another method of extraction, such as physical force. Examples include kief, rosin, distillates, crystallines, isolates, and bubble hash.
Why Choose Concentrates?
There are several reasons that people opt for cannabis concentrates instead of the buds or flowers themselves, including quicker and strong results, enhanced flavor, and greater efficiency.
Because concentrates have high concentrations of THC, they are able to not only deliver that increased potency but also provide faster results. Because they are concentrated and more potent, you can use less product to get the same results.
Some people also opt for concentrates because they can be a lot more discreet than smoking cannabis. There will not be vapor from the concentrates sticking to your clothes or residual smoke in the air.
THC oils have been growing in popularity in recent years, offering convenience and discretion to smokers. Commonly, THC oil is made via supercritical fluid extraction with carbon dioxide and high pressure. This allows the manufacturer to separate the plant material and the oil efficiently.
The advances in this technique over the years help ensure that the product is safe and does not contain CO2 or any other solvent used in the process. While other solvents are also used, CO2 is very popular because it occurs naturally, and due to the fact that the human body produces it, there are fewer health concerns related to it than using other solvents like propane or butane.
Most of the pre-filled oil cartridges you buy for a cannabis vaporizer will contain THC oil. THC oil is also commonly used in edibles.
Other THC Oils
In addition to THC oil made from CO2 solvents, you will also find them made from other solvents. Butane hash oil (BHO) relies on n-butane as the natural solvent. It is an industry-standard and tends to provide high-end products. Butane is among the first solvents used in this process, but it must be used in closed-loop systems because it has a low burning point, which results in extreme volatility.
PHO or propane hash oil involves using propane as the solvent. This method has a lower boiling point but requires higher pressure. The result is more efficient purging and better preservation of the terpenes. The final product of PHO is usually considered cleaner than that of BHO.
You can also find THC oil made from alcohol extraction, either with ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. This extraction is considered to produce a very safe product, but you need to exactly manage the temperature to deliver the right results.
Some new techniques use liquid nitrogen as the solvent to create cannabis concentrates.
Hash (and Kief)
Hash or “hashish” is the oldest type of cannabis concentrate, as it began in Eastern Asia centuries ago. This method just requires you to rub the cannabis flowers in your hands or another item to collect the trichomes. You then compress the trichomes to make the hash.
Dry sifting of hash was particularly popular during the 12th century in the Middle East. This involved sieving the flowers through a screen, then processing it with high pressure and heat.
Today, dry sifting is still commonly used to separate the trichomes and form kief. Adding heat and compression to the hashish creates blocks of hashish. Over the years, the most common method of making hash is to use three-chamber grinders. As you grind the flower, the trichomes sieve through mesh screens, breaking off the cannabis flowers in a process called agitation. The trichomes can then be turned into hash or just smoked as kief.
Wax (and Budder)
You create wax by exposing the cannabis plant material to a solvent via closed-loop extraction. This will produce a slurry, which you then heat at low temperatures then whip to get rid of any remaining solvent. Wax is whipped by hand, so it develops airy peaks that are similar to those on whipped topping.
Wax and budder are very similar, but wax is usually much more crumbly and dryer. Wax tends to have a whipped consistency, and it will have a mild flavor and aroma profile. Think of budder as wax but with greater moisture content. Wax is solid and crumbly, while the budder is malleable and oily. The higher moisture content in budder compared to wax comes from the fact that it is whipped less.
To create shatter, you combine plant material with a solvent in a closed loop, as well. You then place the resulting slurry on parchment paper before putting in a vacuum oven to purge the solvents. This process is called “burping” and releases the solvent; it is repeated several times. The shatter will begin to form its shape, spreading across the paper. It may take a full day to reach the ideal consistency, but you may reach that stage in just 45 minutes.
If the shatter does not purge properly, you will get a concentrate that is closer to taffy in terms of texture. In contrast, shatter should be stable and easy to snap and handle. Shatter has high terpene content, resulting in a strong flavor and aroma. Its color can vary from dark to light amber.
The term dabbing refers to an entire method of consuming cannabis concentrates. Dabbing is vaporizing and consuming a cannabis concentrate. Dabbing tends to deliver stronger and quicker results because it uses concentrates.
Dabbing typically requires a rig with a torch, quartz or titanium nail, and a dabbing tool. You place the nail and heat it with the torch. When the nail is red hot, you gently touch the concentrate and nail. There are also electric nails that take some of the guesswork out of this process.
Other Concentrates to Know
The previously mentioned concentrates are the most important to familiarize yourself with, but there are also others that you may be interested in.
Bubble hash is also called ice water hash or water hash. It is popular, but it only gained momentum just over a decade ago. This is the safest concentrate to produce. Most operations will have six or seven bubble bags, all within a bucket of the appropriate size. The ice water freezes trichome glands, so they are agitated more easily and more likely to break off. They will sink to the bottom of the water since trichomes weigh more than water. It also goes through drying and sieving to get rid of extra water and any residual plant matter. Bubble hash is known for its rich trichome stalks and heads.
A variation is a full-melt bubble hash, which is more refined and ideal for vaporizing or dabbing. It begins with cryogenically fresh-frozen flowers for peak cannabinoid and terpene content.
To make cannabis caviar, you soak the cannabis flower in a strong hash flower. The flower then gets coated in kief before being dried. It will look similar to a regular flower other than the kief-coating of hash oil, which adds the potency and duration of the cannabis.
The distillate is among the new cannabis concentrates. It is produced with equipment that will heat and then vaporize the CBD and THC in the flower. The vapor then enters a cooling system, where it is consolidated and collected into beakers. The process allows for the creation of pure cannabinoids without any residual plant matter or solvents.
Short path distillation is another method of separating the cannabinoids for a clear final product. It tends to lose terpenes due to heat in the extraction process. Some distillates made with this method, however, will have terpenes reintroduced later in the process.
Jelly hash combines hash oil and kief and is incredibly potent. It is very hard to find, and its name comes from its jelly-like consistency. Expect an earthy flavor and mild aroma.
Live kief is made the same way as kief, but it uses fresh-frozen flowers, meaning that the plant maintains all of its terpenes and cannabinoids. Live kief tends to have more flavor, aroma, and potency than regular kief.
Live resin is made in a similar process to wax, but it starts with fresh frozen plants. The use of plants frozen at their peak results in exceptional cannabinoid and terpene profiles. Live resin tends to be flavorful and similar in taste to that of the live plant.
Pie Crust or Honeycomb
You may hear this concentrate called honeycomb or pie crust. It is made in a closed-loop extraction system by blasting the plant material. The slurry goes on parchment paper before being put in a vacuum oven to purge the solvent. Then it gets pressed to encourage nucleation. This will change the appearance of the concentrate from being similar to shatter to being closer to a honeycomb. Expect a strong flavor and aroma.
Rick Simpson Oil
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) is very potent and is a decarboxylated concentrate extract that you consume orally. Resin with cannabinoids is removed via pure light aliphatic naphtha. The product is dark and viscous with an earthy flavor and up to 90 percent THC. It is particularly popular for medical marijuana use.
Rosin and Live Rosin
To produce rosin, you need to apply high pressure and high heat to the essential oils filled with resin from the trichome heads. You create a solid resin form. For most people, this will be the safest and simplest method of making cannabis concentrates. You can also make it at home if cannabis is legal in your area since there are no solvents required. You can make rosin with bubble hash and a hair straightener, a dedicated rosin press, or something in between. Live rosin is similar but made with fresh-frozen plants.
You can also find rosin jam or rosin sauce.
Sauce or Full Spectrum Extracts
You can also find sauce or full spectrum extracts. These are concentrates with high terpene extracts and THCA crystalline. They are potent and flavorful, thanks to the high content of terpenes and cannabinoids. Many people who use sauce say that the full-body high you get from this concentrate is similar to what you get from the flower.
There are also high terpene and high cannabinoid versions of the full spectrum extracts.
THCA Crystalline or Diamonds
THCA crystalline is also called diamonds because it is similar to the gem. This product is refined and pure, made by isolate THCA via extraction with a solvent. It may appear to be a fine powder or dust. If you let it form, however, it will be larger and look very similar to diamonds.
This particular concentrate tends to contain minimal terpenes, resulting in a lack of flavor. The concentrate is very potent.
Cannabis concentrates come in many forms, but the common theme is that they offer high potencies, so you have to consume less to get the same results. As such, you should always be careful when using concentrates for the first time and start with a low dose.