What are CRC Extracts & Should You Smoke Them?
Published on Mar 26, 2021
Cannabis concentrates are taking on a new, colorless appearance at dispensaries in every corner of the country. After almost a decade of popularity, cannabis extracts made for dabbing have evolved from open-blasted butane extraction to highly technical closed-loop systems and solventless pressing methods. One of the newest forms of concentrate is a pale yellow, white or almost clear form of butane hash oil made using a process called CRC, or color remediation column.
So what is CRC extraction? And for that matter, what is BHO? In this piece, we'll break down both of those hot acronyms, covering everything you need to know about how to make cannabis concentrates, why extract manufacturers and sellers alike have fallen in love with CRC products, and what you should look for - and look out for - when purchasing the latest generation of dabs.
The Basics of Butane Hash Oil and BHO Extraction
Whether you know it or not, if you've done a dab over the past 10 or so years, there's a pretty good chance that you've consumed butane hash oil - aka BHO.
To produce BHO wax, budder, shatter, sugar and other sought-after dabs, cannabis extractors use butane as a solvent to strip the valuable cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant matter. Once the butane is run through the bud or trim, a closed-loop system uses specific temperature control and vacuum pressure to filter out impurities and produce the various consistencies of extract that dab consumers love so much. The final consistency, color, and quality of a BHO concentrate are largely due to the potency and freshness of the starting material along with the specifics of the extraction process. A tan or golden extract that is stable to the touch is usually the result of a quality BHO production process using a top-shelf flower. On the flip side, a dark, runny or liquid oil is the product of poor extraction tech, low-quality shake or both.
In the early days of the concentrates movement, making BHO was largely the territory of home chemists using crude, open blasting methods to make wax without a closed-loop system. Those backyard and garage setups quickly became infamous for exploding, creating a series of high-profile news stories about the dangers of BHO. Beyond their flammability, early BHO was notorious for containing residual quantities of butane, leaving users to vaporize not only THC and terpenes but unwanted volatile gasses. Widespread legalization solved many of those problems. These days, extract artists in states like California and Colorado use sophisticated lab equipment to make explosions a thing of the past and remove solvents past state-mandated standards.
Over the past couple of years though, cannabis extractors have added a new step to the BHO production process to shine up concentrates and make them look as pure as possible - CRC.
What Is CRC Extraction?
CRC stands for color remediation column. The popular processing method adds a step to the traditional BHO recipe by creating a last-step filtration column that pulls out even more imperfections, and most notably, removes most if not all of the concentrate's color. To achieve that pigment-washing effect, CRC systems use a three-substance filtration combination. By packing T5 bentonite clay, silica gel and Magnesol (aka frying oil filter powder) into a filter column, extractors can turn dark or amber extracts into white gold. After a run through the CRC, a finished concentrate will retain most of its cannabinoids and terpenes but look more like a wet packet of table sugar than a dollop of honey or a sheet of gold-tinted glass.
Thanks to common conceptions about the correlation between extract color and quality, CRC BHO was the next big thing in the world of dabs. Just as soon as CRC extracts started hitting dispensary shelves, though, some skeptical stoners and chemists started raising red flags about the new tech.
For starters, CRC's ability to remove nearly all of the color from cannabis concentrates has created a blind spot for customers, who can no longer tell whether an extract was made from high-quality flower by sight alone. Even dabs made with bottom of the barrel trim can look like top-shelf live resin if an extractor processes through CRC. Next, just like early BHO issues with residual solvents ending up in market-ready dabs, some CRC setups can release filtering particles into the extracts, contaminating the final product. But unlike state-mandated solvent testing in places with legal weed laws, most cannabis labs do not screen for bentonite clay, silica gel, or Magnesol.
How To Avoid Buying Concentrates Made With Shoddy CRC Tech
In a way, CRC extracts are a catch-22. If used properly, the filtration tech can take chlorophyll and other colors out and make top-shelf BHO look and vaporize even better than before. If you are using poor-quality cannabis or ramshackle CRC setups, the filtration will still produce a great-looking final extract. In other words, the same process used to make good dabs look better can be used to make bad dabs look good. So how do you know if the CRC or BHO you are buying is worth your dollar?
Frankly, it comes down to trust. With so many new producers coming onto the market in the ever-expanding list of legal weed states, the only way to be certain the flower inputs and extraction tech are up to your standards is to know who you are buying from. If a brand is known for its top-shelf flower and live rosin, you can probably assume that the brand's dry concentrates run through CRC are probably safe. On the other hand, if your local black market dealer is selling grams of CRC sugar and sauce for $25, you might want to stay away.
If you prefer wax, shatter, or live resin with its color intact or can't find a dispensary or seller with quality CRC dabs that you trust, you can always just leave CRC dabs alone for the time being. After all, the cannabis industry is expanding so quickly that there will no doubt be a new level of dab science for you to try in a year or two.
Have you ever tried CRC extracts? Let us know your experience in the comments below!