In the cannabis community, the word ‘concentrate’ has become an umbrella term that refers to a wide variety of products. A concentrate is a simply a form of extracting the cannabis from the original plant (flower and trim) using a variety of extraction agents. These extracts are then consumed using a variety of vaporizer choices or a glass ‘dab rig’ specifically engineered for concentrate use. Concentrated forms of cannabis have gained popularity in the last few years so it is important to become familiar with all the information in order to determine if, and what, concentrates are right for you.
Cannabis concentrates are named after their method of extraction. There is oil, wax, hash, hash oil, rosin, live resin, and more, which are all considered ‘concentrates’ but have very different appearances and types of high, so let’s clear up the confusion with a complete guide to concentrates.
It all starts with the extraction process. There are two main methods in use….
Guide to Concentrates: Solvent or Solventless
Solvent: BHO, PHO, CO2, and Isopropyl Alcohol
In a solvent-based extraction, cannabis flower is mixed with an extraction agent – typically an alkane or an alcohol. Cannabis is not water soluble (will not mix with water), but cannabis is lipid (oil/alkane/alcohol) soluble. Thanks to this, cannabis mixes and binds with the oil-based extraction agents. After heating the mixture (slowly!), the extraction agents evaporate, leaving only the THC-rich concentrate.
Typically, cannabis flower contains somewhere around 15-20% THC, after concentrate completion, the resulting mixture can contain anywhere upwards of 75-95% THC.
BHO: Butane Hash Oil or Butane Honey Oil is used to chemically separate cannabinoids and then is “purged” in a vacuum to remove residual solvent. Butane can also be used to create a wax/shatter/budder consistency concentrate product.
PHO: Same as above, but propane is the solvent here rather than butane.
CO2: This is rapidly gaining popularity as chromatography is used to get a full spectrum cannabinoid analysis and extraction. CO2 is a less harmful solvent than BHO/PHO and is becoming a popular choice. Live resin uses nitrogen to freeze the fresh plant, which is diametrically different in terms of method, taste, and terpenes compared to dry run extractions.
Isopropyl Alcohol: Using alcohol can be dangerous yet wildly effective for making non-smokeable concentrates. This type of extraction can be great for tinctures, drinks and so on. Read more about cleaning your dab rig with isopropyl alcohol.
Solventless: Kief, Bubble Hash, Ice Wax, Rosin
Kief: These are simply the trichomes, or gland heads you see on your flower. Gently agitate flower or trim over a 25-micron screen to extract the kief. You can then press or smoke as is in a joint or on a bowl.
Bubble Hash: This technique uses water and ice to mechanically separate the trichomes through different micron screens. Once separated, the hash is cured until no residual water remains (residual water can lead to mold).
Ice Wax: This is just a higher-grade water hash that is micron specific for dab-ability i.e. it is ‘full melt.’ This means that these oils contain no residual plant matter. This is rapidly increasing in popularity as it is the most natural form of concentrate and retains the most terpenes.
Rosin: This is the shatter and oil-like consistency achieved through using heat and pressure to “press” the oils out of bubble hash or flower. Due to the ability to dab easily, this method is quickly becoming the biggest trend of 2016.
There are so many ways to consume cannabis concentrates that you will need to do your research properly before getting started. Cannabis concentrates can be consumed orally (less common and not recommended if extracted with a solvent), by ‘dabbing‘, by vaporizing, and by ‘twaxing‘ pre-rolled joints. The variety of concentrate-only vape pens on the market is growing as the popularity of concentrates increases. ‘Dab pens’ or vape pens are the easiest and most discreet way to consume cannabis concentrates. Many cannabis vendors in legal states also carry concentrates extracted into a cartridge which screws into a simple vaporizing pen. These cartridges mean you can easily control the amount you consume and are great for medicating on the go!
As you can tell, there are many ways, shapes, and forms of making cannabis extractions, some more complex and time consuming than others. It is also important to note that concentrates are CONCENTRATED and thus contain much more THC per smoke than cannabis flower. Use with caution and start with small amounts. Light up the rigs, or light up a spliff, and enjoy the concentrate experience.