What Are Concentrates?

img_2874Concentrates are created by stripping the marijuana plant matter of its psychoactive cannabinoid resin properties, also known as trichomes. The most popular and well-known cannabinoids are THC for its psychoactive properties, and CBD for its medicinal properties, however marijuana contains at least 66 cannabinoids. Typically, all of the cannabinoids that are in the plant’s profile are extracted and end up in the hash during the concentrate extraction process. The fresher the plant material when it is extracted, the higher the quality of the resulting hash.

Consuming marijuana in a concentrated form allows users to receive a stronger dose of cannabinoids while avoiding inhaling burning plant matter.


Extraction Methods

Cannabis concentrate derived from a butane-based extraction is referred to as Butane Hash Oil or BHO for short. BHO can result in varying consistencies; shatter, budder, sap, snap n’ pull, and sugar can all be derived from butane extraction. Although dangerous to make at home, sophisticated machinery has made commercial production safe and effective. BHO should be produced by a reputable extractor who understands how to properly purge each run to avoid unpleasant aftertaste or harsh residual butane.

Perhaps the best analogy for how it works is an espresso machine: as the water passes through the puck of ground coffee beans it strips them of their oils (which contain the caffeine, flavor, and aroma) into a filtered, highly concentrated solution. For cannabis, the extractor places plant material in a column with a filtration screen at the end, and as the butane passes through the column it strips the plant material of its cannabinoids and terpenes.

The solution containing both butane and cannabis compounds is then placed in a vacuum oven in order to evaporate, or purge, the BHO of its butane and any other foreign contaminants. There is almost always trace amounts of butane in the oil produced by these extractions, so it is advised to minimize your risk by purchasing lab-tested BHO to ensure your oil is properly purged.

Concentrate derived from a propane-based extraction is referred to as Propane Hash Oil, or PHO for short. Although others are possible, the consistency of PHO is typically budder. The process of propane extraction is very similar to butane extraction, the primary difference is simply swapping butane for propane. Propane extractions run at higher pressures, stripping different ratios of plant waxes and oils than butane which, depending on the strain, can deliver less residuals and higher levels of terpene preservation. Propane has a lower boiling point than butane, which allows for a lower purging temperature for PHO and results in the buddery consistency as opposed to shatter.

CO2 oil is the golden liquid used in almost every pre- filled vaporizer pen cartridge. CO2 oil is substantially safer than propane and butane-derived extracts. CO2 oil is a clean, dab-able product with no harmful residuals or risk of toxicity and CO2 extraction kills any mold or bacteria present in the plant material. CO2 oil is commonly used in edibles and can be purchased in its activated form.

Supercritical or subcritical carbon dioxide extractions involve holding the CO2 at high or low pressures, respectively; the process involves extremely expensive extraction machines. The CO2 passes through the cannabis material and strips the plant of its oils, waxes and other matter.

Concentrates can also be created by soaking ground cannabis in alcohol (either isopropyl or Everclear). A short soak is all that is needed to isolate the cannabinoids and terpenes from the starting material. A longer soak will also dissolve undesired plant materials like chlorophylls and waxes. Purging, or evaporating, the alcohol requires precise temperature control and patience. This type of concentrate, also known as Rick Simpson Oil, is typically consumed orally or via tincture.

Dry sift involves using a series of taut silk screens with varying microns to separate the trichome heads from the stalk and plant matter. A micron is a microscopic unit of measurement used to identify the size of the holes in a sifting screen and it retains the most volatile terpenes and preserves the richest aromas.

There are different grades of dry sift ranging from kief, which contains a mixture of trichome heads, stalks, and plant material to full melt, which contains just the glandular trichome heads. As the name indicates, full melt dry sift leaves little to no residue when dabbed, and is considered to be ultimate connoisseur grade hash. It’s starting material is typically of the highest quality, which results in an incredibly pure concentrate that does not introduce any foreign substances during the extraction process. This type of concentrate typically looks like beach sand and can be pressed into a dab-able sheet with light heat and pressure.

Ice water extraction is very similar to dry sift; however the process incorporates ice and water to break the brittle trichome heads off of the plant material. The agitation can be performed by hand or with the help of a washing machine. The solution containing the water and trichomes is then filtered through what is known as a sieve stack, or a series of filtration screens of varying microns. The purpose of the screens is to remove any contaminate (plant material) and to isolate the glandular trichome heads.

The final step in the ice water extraction process is to break down the hash into smaller pieces using a microplane or metal strainer so it can properly dry. Once the ice water hash is free of moisture, it is typically placed in an air-tight glass jar to cure; the longer the better.

Like dry sift, there are varying grades of ice water hash. Quality ice water extractions also take on the consistency of beach sand and can be pressed into dab-able sheets. Cannabis extracts produced using this technique have a variety of names such as bubble hash, ice-o- lator hash, full melt, solventless wax or ice wax.

The newest trend in cannabis concentrate production is the Pressed method, referred to as the ‘rosin tech’ or ‘solventless hash oil’ (SHO). This process utilizes heat and pressure to extract the essential oils from the flower or hash.

The consistency, yield, and flavor profile of rosin will vary based on strain and the specific amount of heat and pressure utilized; but as a general rule of thumb, lower temperatures and higher pressures result in the least adulterated, most terpene-rich extracts. The rosin tech typically produces a glassy, stable oil that takes on a shattery consistency; but like most concentrates, you can find it in a variety of consistencies.

Types Of Concentrates

Hash Oil is the extracted oil from cannabis, typically found in cartridges for vape pens. You may also know this concentrate as wax, BHO, dabs or any number of other nicknames depending on how the product has been finished. Oil has a higher concentration of THC — the main psychoactive chemical in pot — than regular buds giving hash oil the reputation for being more potent. Oil can be smoked or vaporized directly, or used to make edible products or topicals.

Wax or Budder is produced by whipping air into butane hash oil (BHO) or propane hash oil (PHO) while purging the butane or propane out with heat and agitation. Whipping the hash allows the solvent to escape quickly and creates a consistency that can range from hard and crumbly to soft and gummy depending on the strain and the way it was produced. The most common way to smoke wax is to put the wax into a wax vaporizer pen or dab it in a glass rig. Some people like to put wax on top of bowls or in joints as well.

Shatter is produced by purging the solvent from the hash oil in a vacuum oven for up to 72 hours.  No agitation is used in this process, allowing the hash oil to form a stable, translucent structure.  The resulting substance can have the consistency of glass or taffy depending on the strain. Shatter is usually sold on parchment paper and will “shatter” when broken apart. The most common way to use shatter is dabbing it through a rig.

Live Resin is often considered the most flavorful and pungent type of hash oil. Terpenes are preserved by freezing a freshly harvested plant and then performing the extraction.  Most of a plant’s terpenes are lost during the first week of drying, so this type of concentrate has a flavor and aroma that is closer to the scent of the bud while still “on the vine.” The consistency can vary depending on the strain, ranging from a wet sugar consistency to a stickier substance like sap. Live Resin can be used in a vape pen or dabbed.

Distillate is made using a process called short path distillation that requires further refining and purifying BHO/PHO with alcohol. Using controlled temperatures to extract individual cannabinoids or terpenes, the compounds are then extracted and collected, with the resulting oil appearing almost translucent. No solvents are retained in the product during the distillation process, which is why it’s called “solvent-less” distillate. The consistency of distillates is similar to that of honey. It can be purchased in raw form, with a neutral smell and taste, or infused with natural flavors and terpenes. Distillate can be used in a vape pen or dabbed. Potency will range from 75- 99.9% THC.

Ice Water Hash, aka Bubble Hash, is made by using ice cold water and agitation.  The cold temperatures make the trichomes brittle, and agitation helps break those trichomes off from the plant material.  Then, different sized micron screens are used to filter the plant material from the various sized trichomes. As the majority of cannabinoids and terpenoids exist in the head of the trichome, the highest grade bubble hash consists purely of trichome heads.  The hash is then dried and pressed or left loose. Potency will range from 30-85% THC.

Rosin refers to an extraction process that utilizes a combination of heat and pressure to nearly instantaneously squeeze resinous sap from your initial starting material, producing Rosin. The term “rosin” originated as a method of making a product used to lubricate violin bows. With cannabis, this method is incredibly versatile in that it can either be used with flowers or to clean up hash and kief into a full-melt hash oil. The result is a translucent, sappy, and sometimes shatter-like product. If executed correctly, rosin can rival the flavor, potency, and yield of other solvent-based extraction products.

Aesthetically, rosin is almost impossible to distinguish from shatter or sap. However, the difference between the two is that rosin is completely free of the residual solvents often left behind by butane (BHO) or propane (PHO).