Without a doubt, many people enjoy the benefits of cannabis. An estimated 2.5% of the world’s population or 147 million people consume cannabis. This number propels it to the most widely consumed substance globally.
Concentrated cannabis products are skyrocketing in popularity for several reasons in the US. The lack of plant matter in extracts and concentrates leads to lower CO2 and carbon monoxide exposure during consumption. Shatter, ice wax, hash, butter, kief, wax concentrates, and several other products are hot products in the ever-evolving world of cannabis.
In recent years, extracts and concentrates have started superseding traditional cannabis flowers, especially for advanced users.
Read through the end of this article and get to know your Cannabis Concentrates 101.
Cannabis concentrates can be obtained in many ways. A majority of those who smoke cannabis grind the buds and, in some cases, mix it with tobacco. But there are other ways of consuming THC. One example is via cannabis oils and extraction methods, some of which use dry ice.
Hash oil, otherwise known as honeycomb oil due to its golden-brown color, is highly psychoactive.
It is more concentrated cannabis oil. Tiny amounts of hash oil can get you high because of higher THC concentrations. But the hit level will depend on the particular plant and its THC concentration.
The following are the two forms of cannabis concentrates:
- Non-solvent cannabis concentrated forms
Solvent Based Concentrates
The solvent-based method extracts THC or CBD from the trichomes. Some solvents used are CO2, butane, propane, and ethanol. But the latter, ethanol, is the most widely used solvent. These forms of concentrates contain high levels of active cannabinoids.
THC oil is the most common type of solvent-based concentrate wherein the THC is extracted from the trichomes utilizing a solvent.
In this process, the alcohol and cannabis bud mixture is stirred for four minutes. Afterwards, the excess plant material is filtered out and heated to concentrate and flush the ethanol.
Finally, the cannabis oil is heated again to activate it and convert the THCA (acidic form) into THC.
This decarboxylation process is done by curing the cannabis buds beforehand. But in this case, the cannabis oil must be heated to activate it. When you smoke cannabis, the cannabis buds undergo a decarboxylation process. In other words, the heating or burning process alters the acidic form into THC.
Non-Solvent Cannabis Concentrates
These forms of cannabis concentrate come straight from the cannabis plant. Examples include hash, kief or rosin. In this process, no solvents are used. Instead, the trichomes are filtered and compressed to make the hashish.
What Is the Difference Between Solvent and Non-Solvent Cannabis Concentrates?
Some users prefer non-solvent cannabis concentrates. They believe it creates a more natural experience than solvent-based ones.
But solvents are necessary to make cannabis or hash oil. The remnants, in the end, do not contain the solvents. For ethanol-based concentrates, the process involves heating the solution to evaporate the solvent, which is ethanol.
The Cannabis Concentrates Family
Kief is a powder-like THC-rich substance in the shade of light green found on cannabis flowers.
It consists of the plant’s trichome heads that contain the bulk of the chemical compounds in the cannabis flower. Kief can be added to products such as joints, blunts, or sprinkled on fresh flowers. It can be processed into pure rosin to refine the plant material further. Because it often accumulates on the surface of grinders, kief is easily accessible.
Although cannabutter is not technically part of the category of concentrates discussed, it can give you an idea of what happens when cannabis is processed.
Canna-butter is the process of simmering weed and butter to pull out the cannabinoids and other compounds from the leaves.
These fatty compounds bind with the fat, so once you remove the excess plant material, the remaining butter is ready to be used in brownies or infused into chai tea.
The regulations governing edibles companies have resulted in cannabis oils being a more convenient ingredient than time-consuming cannabutter, which is challenging to keep consistent. But for users who crave a full-bodied high, many companies still do things the traditional way.
Hashish is an OG concentrate made by rubbing the buds together manually with your hands and rolling the resin residue into a sticky wax. Hash can also be made more efficiently by utilizing ice with a mechanized sieve or pressurized method.
Classical methods of making hash involve packing the cannabis plant’s resin to create a compressed chunk that can be smoked and sports THC levels between 40% to 60%. To compare, flowers typically generate 15% to 25% THC.
Advancements in technology have caused a seismic shift in how modern-day hash is produced.
Mechanized dry sieves separate the good stuff from the cannabis plant and filter them via a fine mesh screen. It creates what is known as kief or dry sift. This residue is also what gathers at the bottom of your grinder. It can be dusted on a bowl, rolled with flowers to create an infused joint, or it can be pressed to develop rosin.
Another interesting type of cannabis concentrate is bubble hash. It comprises numerous trichomes separated from the cannabis utilizing ice water, agitation, and a sieve. Bubble hash earned its moniker from how bubbles form when exposed to a flame. The bags used to make homemade bubble hash are called bubble bags.
If making hash can be compared to squeezing an orange, hash rosin is what you get with a precise and mechanized juice press. Hash rosin is gathered from the outer compounds that cling to leaves and buds. However, heat and pressure break down the compounds and sieve one more time resulting in a pure, potent, and rich hash rosin concentrate.
Cannabis Concentrate Oils
So far, everything we have discussed falls under the non-solvent category of concentrates. Gravity, heat, pressure, water, and elbow grease are the forces required to produce these consumable cannabis concentrates. But concentrates are only the tip of the iceberg. Next up to be discussed in this section are oils.
CO2 oil is often used in vape cartridges. This form of cannabis is processed in an industrial extraction machine that utilizes pressure and CO2 to separate and isolate the cannabinoid and other critical compounds. Carbon dioxide is a solvent typically used for pharmaceutical extraction and other processes, including decaffeinated coffee.
CO2 machines are also utilized for concentrates like live resin. Live resin is made with fresh whole flowers through CO2 extraction or a solvent like butane. Only real buds and leaves are used for resin. These parts are often flash-frozen to keep their original moisture. The flower’s freshness is vital, hence the term living resin.
RSO oil is otherwise known as Rick Simpson oil. Rick Simpson was a hospital engineer in Canada who successfully treated his skin cancer with a homemade concoction of cannabis. Soaking cannabis in pure naphtha draws out the therapeutic compounds of the plant and leaves behind a deep colored sticky liquid after the alcohol completely evaporates. RSO oil is also known as Phoenix tears which can be directly applied to the skin or taken orally for effective treatment of a wide range of chronic issues.
This liquid concentrate is procured via steam alcohol extraction. This process pulls away from the plant’s valuable cannabinoids and concentrates down to an herbal flavored liquid.
The ethanol extraction process can also create dabbable shatter and pure isolated cannabinoids, including powder-like THCA crystals. Remember that tinctures aren’t equivalent to CBD oil bottles sold online. But many mistake them to be the same because of their similar-looking glass dropper bottles.
Oils are one of the most popular and commonly consumed extracts.
Oils have a thicker consistency than tinctures but are not as solid as shatter. CO2 and alcohol extraction typically dominate the market when it comes to oils. The popularity of these oils among users is due to their accessibility and unmatched convenience for vaping.
Oils garnered wide acceptance from consumers because of the wave of vaping equipment and vape pens devices that have hit the market. It may soon take its place as the top choice among medical consumers.
Often cannabis oils are sold in prefilled cartridges, pre filled capsules, and separately to be manually added into chambers of handheld vaporizers. Oils are a popular form of edible because of their reliable broad spectrum.
What Is the Cannabis Extraction Process?
Extracts are a type of cannabis concentrate. Whereas concentrates are processed via various mechanical processes that may or may not use a solvent, extracts differ because they are made exclusively using a solvent.
The extraction method differs, to some extent, on the specific type of solvent being used.
Overall, the process involves combining the cannabis flower materials with another chemical or substance so that all the cannabinoids are stripped from the plant material.
This material is then separated from the cannabinoid-infused solvent. Afterwards, the solvent is evaporated away or removed via some other mechanism. The residue left is a highly concentrated mass of cannabinoids.
How to Use Cannabis Extracts?
In many cases, extracts are consumed by dabbing. This involves a dab rig and a heating source like a torch. Consumers often heat the nail of a dab rig and place the cannabis extract onto the hot nail to vaporize. Afterwards, the vapor is pulled away from a water pipe and inhaled. In contrast, edible or drinkable extracts like tinctures are simpler to consume. These can be eaten, drunk, or taken sublingually under the tongue.
The Cannabis Extract Family
BHO, otherwise known as butane hash oil, is a BHO extraction process utilizing pressurized chemical solvents to strip away the essential oils from the plant material in a closed-loop system.
The ensuing flavor is something dabbers crave. This chemical process is delicate on the plant material and preserves the cannabinoids and terpenes. THC-heavy BHO can hit up to 90% of total cannabinoids.
This term is what you will often hear in the ecosystem of solvent-based concentrates.
Premium cannabinoid sauces are a viscid extraction, otherwise known as sugar. It consists of cannabinoid-rich crystals that float in the terpene-rich oil. Another variation is terp sauce which contains more than 50% cannabinoids and terpenes and the other minor plant compounds. In some cases, terp sauce is packaged in vape cartridges to make it easier to enjoy without a complete dab set-up.
This vividly colored cannabis extract is popular and widely consumed. It is recognizable for its unique and solid texture, similar to glass. Shatter has an intense aroma and robust flavor because of its high terpene content. Shatter can be consumed via dabbing or vaping depending on the preference and available equipment of the user.
Pull and Snap
This extract is similar to shatter. But pull and snap has a softer and more taffy-like texture. This extract is tugged, pulled, and finally snapped off, hence its name. It is a slightly different BHO form that falls somewhere between shatter and wax in terms of consistency.
Wax concentrates are a gooey extract with a texture comparable to candle wax. Like other extracts, the THC content, CBD, and terpene levels of wax depend on the original cannabis material. Ideally, the extraction process must preserve as much of the core chemicals as possible from the plant. The appeal of wax is due to its ease of handling and consumption. Wax has a broad-ranging accessible terpene profile and pungent kick.
This extract is comparable to wax. But the difference lies in its consistent and creamy texture that allows ease of use and storage and provides one of the most subtle flavor profiles available.
For the most part, budder, similar to wax, is a form of BHO but is generally categorized under the more consumer-friendly options. Similar to other extracts, the quality of the budder would be dependent on the source material.
Carefully processing would result in a superior product that maintains the entire spectrum.
This extract is also called honeycomb because of its bubble-like texture when it solidifies.
Compared to wax and budder, crumble has a brittle feel hence its name, evocative of its fragmented, crumbled, wax-like pieces.
Other Extract Forms
Live resin is a new invention and was only created within the last decade. But this new kid on the block has made headway. Live resin is processed with freeze-dried and freshly harvested cannabis.
This mitigates the loss of monoterpenes and other vital delicate chemical compounds during the long curing process. The extract form is a highly potent terpene-rich product making it one of the most potent and flavorful choices. Unfortunately, the live resin has a steeper price than the other concentrates. But this price point is its only downside.
HTFSE, otherwise known as terpene sauce and highly similar HCFSE, are results of skillful and proprietary recipes with highly refined extracted components. Specifically, THC and terpene are mixed back to create a more powerful, full-bodied, and highly aromatic creation. Terpene sauce’s flavor profile is virtually unmatched.
This refined product undergoes several purification processes. It is among the newer extracts available, and scientific equipment is needed to produce them.
Distillates are different from other extracts because they are packed in tiny glass vials designed to make their honey-like texture convenient and easy to access.
It utilizes a complex procedure that involves heating and distilling the cannabinoids. Afterwards, specific steps are repeated to extract the liquid’s pure cannabinoids without the presence of excess plant materials or residual solvents.
Distillates are almost entirely THC and offer a super clean and powerful product.
Distillates are excellent as edibles because they are practically flavorless, as well as being very potent.
Crystalline diamond has 95% to 99.9% THCA. It is a complete extraction of the THCA content from the plant material, making it the most concentrated form of THC available.
Because it has virtually zero terpenes, it is flavorless and odorless. THC involves combustion or vaporization and is not suitable for use as an edible. But when dabbed or vaped, the diamond provides the most potent experience for recreational consumers.
The term CBD isolate implies that this product is 99% CBD content that looks like feathery white crystals. CBD isolate is a very popular cannabis treatment that circumvents the THC and psychoactive aspects of a full spectrum extraction.
Choosing among cannabis products can be overwhelming. These concentrated extracts have different colors, textures, cannabinoids and terpenes concentrations to suit every personal preference.
There are at least two kinds of cannabis concentrates: solvent-based and solventless. Non-solvent cannabis is easier to obtain compared to solvent-based ones. For example, hashish is a byproduct of the separation of trichomes from the cannabis material, and then trichomes or the kief is compressed.
Cannabis oils, on the other hand, usually require a solvent like ethanol. This process is a bit more complex because more equipment is involved.
Because of the many different cannabis concentrates, choosing one over the other is challenging. But you shouldn’t be limited to choosing only one. There is a best time and application for each of these cannabis products.