The continuously expanding world of cannabis concentrates can be overwhelming even for experienced weed aficionados, let alone the newbies.
You’ve probably heard about concentrates/extracts/dabs, and you may even be familiar with the vague definition of these terms, but hey — don’t let the apparent similarity fool you. There’s more to these products than meets the eye.
Sourcing materials, extraction method, consistency, purity, and potency are the factors that come to play when it comes to choosing your extract.
We want you to always make well-informed decisions when buying cannabis products, so we’ve put together this guide to help you out!
Here’s everything you need to know about concentrates.
As the name may lead you to expect, a cannabis concentrate is a concentrated form of cannabis resulting from separating resin from the flowers in order to obtain the highest amount of cannabinoids and terpenes possible, without the plant material.
Cannabis resin consists of trichomes — crystalline glands that grow on the surface of the flowers. Trichomes are where most of the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes are produced.
The more trichomes on a plant, the higher the potency of the final extraction product.
Cannabis concentrates have way more THC than most flowers. While dried buds contain around 15-20% of THC, their extracted counterparts can come with as much as 90% of THC.
Concentrates are with a range of different extraction methods, from traditional solvents like alcohol to CO2 pressure systems to solventless extractions.
Long story short, we can divide cannabis into two main groups:
Solvents are used to draw all active compounds from the plant material, leaving behind a remarkably potent extract. Common solvents include ethanol, butane, propane, and CO2.
A solventless extraction doesn’t call for using any of the above substances. Some extraction methods involve the use of water, which is technically a solvent, but ice-water extractions are categorized as solventless.
Of course, for recreational users, more THC means stronger and longer-lasting high. Cannabis concentrates are capable of taking your experience to an entirely new dimension.
It won’t be an overstatement to say that dabbing concentrates may soon outrace other consumption methods among those who use weed for the sake of its recreational benefits.
Patients, on the other hand, can benefit from concentrates by delivering a swift and potent dose of cannabis to relieve their symptoms. Many medical marijuana users suffering from chronic diseases turn to extracts because they prove a natural and effective aid to their treatment.
On top of that, clean, pure concentrates are generally believed to be a healthier choice because they leave away the unnecessary plant material.
As mentioned, there are many different types of cannabis concentrates. We distinguish several common types, based on how they are extracted and what part of the plant they use for extraction.
Solventless extractions are considered the safest, purest, and the most enjoyable forms of cannabis concentrate.
But the best part about making solventless extracts is that it can be done at home; it’s also relatively easy and doesn’t take a diploma in rocket science to make some potent cannabis products.
The goal of solventless extractions is to isolate pure glandular trichomes, as they contain the highest concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes. The loose resin is often referred to as dry sift or kief, while other concentrated forms of cannabis require some pressing or melting effort to achieve their unique consistencies.
Kief is the simplest form of all cannabis concentrates — the name describes the cannabis pollen that falls off from your weed and accumulates at the bottom of your grinder.
Since kief consists of pure trichomes that have separated from the plant material, kief is way more potent than dried flowers. However, most of the time, it will also contain a few plant particles as kief is rarely pure.
Kief is also the base material for making hash.
Short for hashish, has is the most popular cannabis concentrate on the planet. Having originated in the northern regions of India, it has spread throughout the Arabian peninsula and Europe.
Today, people enjoy hash in every corner of the world thanks to its potency and unforgettably palatable experience.
By its definition, hash is a concentrate made by separating trichomes from the plant matter and then forming the resin into a solid block.
Popular types of hash include:
Moon Rocks are a type of cannabis experiment rather than a typical concentrate. But, this experiment is actually a concentrated form of cannabis, which is why we’ve decided to place it on the list among other extracts.
You can make moon rocks by dipping a marijuana nug into some cannabis oil (preferably hash oil) and then cover it entirely with kief.
While you might be tempted to grind your moonrocks, it’s not worth the hassle. If you place a moon rock in a grinder, the oil will attach to the device and the kief will fall off, laying waste to what you’ve just spent your hard-earned money on.
Instead, we suggest that you just break the Moon Rock gently with your fingers into smaller fragments. You can sprinkle some on top of weed in your joint or pack the rock into a bowl.
Also known as weed wax, rosin is a solid form of cannabis resin. It’s made by separating the resin from flowers by putting them under heat and pressure. While an industrial press would be your best bet, you can make rosin by simply using a hair straightener.
All you need is the above device and two pieces of parchment paper; if you can put something to protect yourself from the heat (heat-proof gloves), it’s all he better.
Preheat the straightener, place the parchment paper on each plate, put the flower in-between, and press the plates together for about 5-10 seconds until you hear the bud sizzling.
Once you remove the paper, you’ll see a translucent amber-like mass that is ready to use. Remove the rosin from the paper using something sharp and store it in an air-proof container.
Solvent-based extracts typically come in the form of oil. When manufactured properly, the concentrate contains no plant matter at all.
These oily concentrates will melt and vaporize into the void, which means very little (if any) residue will remain on the nail when dabbed, or in the chamber of your vaporizer.
The consistency of solvent-based concentrates varies depending on the strain, cultivation methods, curing environment, extraction method, solvent, as well as how the final product was purged from the aforementioned residue.
Shatter is arguably the purest of all cannabis concentrates. It looks like an amber piece of glass with a candy-like structure. Shatter also comes with unmatched potency, holding upwards of 80% of THC. However, its flavor is not as rich as in other concentrates.
This type of extraction is made by using a solvent —most commonly butane — to draw the THC along with other cannabinoids and terpenes in a process known as the butane hash oil extraction.
Since butane is highly flammable, it’s not safe to produce shatter at home, nor is it legal in most places in the world. Plus, the solvent needs to be completely removed from the concentrate before using, which can be beyond reach for first-timers.
Shatter is not the easiest material to work with because it’s in the solid state. Nonetheless, you can melt it by heating it up in a dab rig or vaporizer. Alternatively, you can smoke your THC-rich ‘glass’ in a bong.
Similar to shatter, wax is also made through BHO extraction.
Appearance wise, wax stays true to its name – it’s sticky, shiny, and a bit crumbly. However, the final consistency of wax depends on factors like heat, moisture, and the texture of the oil before it’s cleansed. Wax manufacturers often use cannabis strains with terpenes that are especially prone to retaining water.
In some cases, shatter can be turned into wax with the right terpene profile. If you’re looking for a potent extract that’s easier to work with than shatter, wax will become your best friend. This type of concentrate is also more flavorful because of the high terpene content.
Since the process of making wax involves using butane, we suggest that you abstain from making it at home.
In terms of consistency, budder falls somewhere between shatter and wax despite being made using the same extraction method (BHO).
There are, however, distinct differences between these three types of concentrates.
First of all, it’s the purity. Budder has more terpenes, but their prevalence compromises the concentration of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. In addition, budder is easier to handle than shatter because its consistency leans toward wax.
The process of making crumble is almost the same as with other wax varieties, save for the fact that crumble is exposed to lower temperatures than other cannabis concentrates. The low heat allows the solvent to evaporate gradually, which maintains both the flavor and decent concentration of cannabinoids. Since crumble is less moist than budder or wax, it’s easier to scoop it and pack it into a bowl before enjoying the punch of therapeutic compounds.
CO2 oil uses carbon dioxide for extracting the trichomes. This extraction results in a pure, liquid concentrates that most cannabis users fill their vape pens with. CO2 extraction maintains more cannabinoids and terpenes in the concentrate; however, it calls for very expensive equipment, which makes it unaffordable for most people.
Tinctures are especially popular among medical cannabis users. They can be created by soaking ground cannabis buds in high-proof alcohol for a certain period of time.
Although it’s possible to obtain a potent tincture with a short soak — it will be enough to isolate the cannabis and terpenes from the plant material — a longer soak will result in dissolving the undesired plant residue such as waxes and chlorophyll.
Alcohol-based extraction is safe to perform at home, assuming the final product has been well filtered and purged (or evaporated). Purging the alcohol requires much patience and precise temperature control over the extract, but the result is worth the effort.
Isolates, also known as distillates, are pure cannabis concentrates that have gone under the distillation process to separate certain cannabinoids, such as THC or CBD, from a batch of full-spectrum extract.
This allows the extractor to achieve extremely pure and potent concentrates that come without any other substances. THC and CBD isolate typically contain 99% of the active compound.
There’s a lot of ways you can consume cannabis extracts and each of them comes with a different level of difficulty and equipment requirements. Below we list the most popular consumption methods.
Dabbing means heating a cannabis concentrate with a dedicated tool (like a torch) in a dab rig — a special piece of equipment used for dabbing. Some people like to dab their concentrates the old-school way by heating them between two hot butter knives.
Vaporization is the second-most popular consumption method of cannabis concentrates. All you need is a vaporizer — a simple device with an internal chamber that heats up the concentrate to the desired temperature — or a special vape pen with a pre-loaded cartridge. Pens and vaporizers are a perfect alternative for those who like to use their extracts on-the-go.
While smoking is the least healthy of all ways to consume extracts, you can use it as your last resort and mix your concentrate with weed. As for the smoking options, a joint is a fancy way to smoke a dab for sure, but nothing can beat a generously packed bong.
Concentrates can also be used for making cannabis-infused food. All you have to do is infuse butter, coconut oil, or any decent carrier oil with your extract and use it in a preferred ratio with the regular fat in your favorite recipe. However, keep in mind that weed edibles made with concentrates are extremely potent, and even the smallest cookie can prove enough to kick you off your shoes for a long time.
Tinctures work best when used sublingually, i.e. under the tongue. If you don’t like the taste of cannabis tinctures, you can choose isolate-based capsules; they are completely flavorless but lack the bioavailability of other concentrated forms of cannabis; in simple words, less THC/CBD enters your bloodstream when you consume concentrates this way.
Cannabis concentrates have recently become extremely popular among both recreational and medical cannabis users. They have even received their own celebration date, 7/10, which reads “OIL” when flipped upside down. This date is often called “Dab Day”.
If you need fast and effective relief from your ailments, or you’re just aiming at the strongest weed buzz in your life, concentrates will keep you satisfied for a good couple of hours.
While solvent-based extracts shouldn’t be made at home, solventless extractions are safe for home manufacturing, so if you’re up for a new experience with the “world’s oldest crop,” you might want to give this idea a shot.
Concentrates are also pretty versatile; they can be vaped, dabbed, smoked, eaten, or applied under the tongue — everything according to your liking.
We cannot help but to ask: have you had the pleasure to try cannabis extracts? Do you prefer them over flowers, or is it the opposite? We’d love to read your stories!
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