Cannabis Concentrates 101
Published on 8/29/19
Concentrates, also sometimes referred to as oil, dabs, and hash are "concentrated" forms of their beginning source, flower. When compared to the parent flower, concentrates contain a much larger concentration of cannabinoids - the naturally occurring chemicals in cannabis, such as THC, THC-A, CBD, CBD-A. Concentrates can be broken down into many different forms and many different consistencies. The starting material used, extraction technique and many other factors contribute to the form and consistency of the final product.
What are Cannabis Based Concentrates?
What are Solvent-based Concentrates vs. Solventless?
Like any other essential oil extraction before the time of commercial cannabis concentrate production, the method of extraction plays a large role in the final consumer experience. Solvent-based extractions refer to the solvent (typically single source) used to extract the cannabinoids and terpenoids from the starting material. Common solvents include N-butane, propane, CO2 often using a CLS (closed loop system). Solventless extraction refers to the more natural method used to achieve the final product. This is achieved by using methods including micron-bags to separate the trichomes from plant material or even compressing product with a high-pressure press.
What is the Difference Between Dry and Live Concentrates?
This classification refers to the source of the concentrates; the most important factor in producing quality product - the flower! Hats off to the growers, as high-quality starting material is a large determinant of quality concentrates. "Quality in, quality out!" Dry concentrates are sourced from material that has been dried and cured, thus including a much larger concentration of THC. As flower dries, THC levels rise, and terpenoids - that fresh citrusy, musky, or earthy smell produced, falls. In Live concentrates, flower is harvested meticulously and frozen almost immediately. This allows for all terpenoids to be captured along with present cannabinoids to give the resulting concentrate the full-spectrum of available flavors. A jar of live resin can emit a smell so strong, that when the consumer closes their eyes, they may feel as if they have come face to face with a garden of flowering cannabis plants.
Solvent-based Concentrates: Sugar Wax/Budder/Crumble, Shatter, Crystalline, Distillate
Sugar Wax, Budder, Crumble- These concentrates have a consistency similar to cookie dough or earwax. This product contains more plant material, whether live or dry extraction is performed, including all the plant's fats and lipids. Best consumed by vaping with a concentrate pen or utilizing a "dab" rig, or can also be added as a topper on bowls and joints if preferred.
Shatter - This product has to be "dewinterized" meaning the fats and lipids of the plant have been removed in extraction process, hence presenting a much more translucent and glass like consistency. Depending on live or dry extraction, the product will either "shatter" or become a pull and snap like consistency. Best consumed by utilizing a dab rig.
Crystalline - This consistency is one of the most popular at the moment in solvent-based extractions, often containing the highest levels of cannabinoids. This is due to the longer and more difficult process used to create "crystal" structures from the THC-A cannabinoid. This consistency is commonly referred to as "Diamonds" and produced from live or dry flower. This product also takes the longest time to produce. Best consumed by vaping the product in a dab rig. The terpene-rich liquid that these crystals "grow in" is considered and labeled as the "sauce."
Distillate - This concentrate is preferred mostly by topical and edible chefs due to its compatibility, and is the purest form of THC. Any of the aforementioned consistencies can be run through a rotovap to remove all cannabinoids except the THC, creating a very potent product. However, all terpenoids and other naturally occurring cannabinoids will have been removed in this process. Because this product has been "decarboxylated" it can be consumed by ingesting, applying to the body, or vaping/combusting the product over bowls, rigs, and joints.
Solventless Concentrates: Hashish, Ice wax, Rosin
Hashish- One of the oldest and original forms of concentrate production dating back thousands of years from Far East India and China to the mountains of Kazakhstan and Morocco. The flower will be tumbled or beat in drum-like containers to break off the trichomes. Later combined together and pressed into firm moldings, then stored even underground to cure. Typically used as a bowl-topper on top of flower.
Ice Wax - Also known as "water hash or bubble hash," this concentrate is a rather popular form with successful growers. While yields are not always comparable to solvent-based extracts, ice wax when done right, can produce some of the cleanest and smoothest by-product from its originating flower. Buds are meticulously plucked and placed in very cold buckets of ice containing micron bags. After gentle agitation, the trichomes literally break off while keeping form due to THC's hydrophobic characteristics. This product is consumed by pressing into rosin, or vaping directly on a rig depending on the quality of the finished product.
Rosin - A fairly newer form of concentrate production, rosin refers to the "pressing out" of high-quality, trichome-covered flower or ice wax. When quality product paired with high pressure and low heat comes together, the end result is a beautiful, terpene-rich consumable concentrate. It is considered one of the smoothest forms of dabbing as well due to zero solvents and is often sourced from high quality flower. Best consumed by vaping the product in a dab rig.
What are Common Methods used to Consume Concentrates?
Throughout this article we guided you through the many different forms of concentrates while using terms to describe methods of combustion. Not all concentrates are consumed the same. Sure, you can consume them however you please, but sticking to certain methods will allow for the best overall experience. Now, let's go through these consumable terms:
Combustion - This method refers to actions such as bowl toppers, joint or blunt fillers. Just like flower that is smoked in a bowl or joint or blunt, the same is performed with by products such as wax, budder, crumble, distillate, and old-school hashish. Combustion is activated with a lighter, hemp wick, or similar tool. We do not recommend combusting shatter, THC-A crystalline or rosin
Vaporizing - The most popular way to consume concentrates currently. Vaping refers to the breakdown of product at higher temperatures than combustion. While combustion is created with a lighter or hemp wick to lightly burn the product, a torch or e-nail (electronic nail) is often recommended with vaping. Higher temperatures (don't over heat, always let cool down first!) allow for products such as shatter, THC-A Crystalline, Ice Wax and Rosin to break down their cannabinoids and terpenoids. Dab rigs, and portable vaporizer cartridges and atomizers are considered vaping products. Don't forget your dabbing utensil!
Ingesting - strictly recommended for distillate. This is due to the way our bodies work and process product. Our livers do not recognize THC-A when consumed orally as it would THC. Due to the decarboxylation process that distillate goes through, the conversion of THC-A to THC allows for a quicker pathway of delivery. This is why most topicals and edibles are made with decarboxylated concentrate. The same logic applies when making cannabutter - you cannot just throw ground up flower into your brownie mix and expect to get "high", you must first cook it lightly in oil or bake in an oven to convert to THC so the liver can recognize this cannabinoid.
Concentrates can be an exciting and very enjoyable experience with so many forms for users to try. Everyone has their preference and there will always be differing opinions - which is why this industry is so fascinating. No one person is right more than the other when it comes to discussing what is best. Dry concentrates have higher cannabinoid levels whereas live concentrates have higher terpenoid levels. THC-A crystalline and sauce is difficult to handle while budder, shatter, and hashish can be tossed around in your hands.
Now we want to hear from you! Have you ever tried concentrates? If so, we want to hear about your favorite experiences and what it was like. Let us know in the comments and remember, start slow and allow your body and mind to enjoy.