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By Morgan Worley
When your cannabis tolerance has increased enough that the effects of smoking flower are no longer potent enough, it may be time to consider either a t-break or upping the ante by dabbling in cannabis concentrates.
The THC content in cannabis flowers typically ranges from 5% to 25%, with THC being the cannabinoid responsible for the pleasurable and intoxicating effects of cannabis. On the other hand, cannabis concentrates have a significantly higher THC concentration, ranging from 60% to 99%.
Various techniques are employed to create cannabis concentrates, yielding a diverse range of options, each exhibiting unique appearances and flavors. This abundance of choices can be quite overwhelming, especially for those well-versed in cannabis flowers, as they navigate the expansive realm of concentrates.
Inhalable cannabis concentrates emerged as early as the 11th century in Persia and Arabia in the form of what is commonly known now as hash (“hash” is derived from the Arabic word hashish, which means “grass”).
1. Hash is made by passively brushing cannabis flower across multiple metal screens, breaking off the trichomes that contain the plant’s THC and other cannabinoids, like CBD. Once the trichomes are filtered through these metal screens, we’re left with a resin that can be heated and inhaled. Hash is the most traditional form of solventless cannabis concentrates, but other solventless methods have since been developed.
2. Solventless concentrates are made without the use of solvents (compounds that dissolve the plant’s trichomes to easily extract the cannabinoids from the plant). Instead, combinations of heat, pressure or ice are used.
Hash Rosin can be made with heat and pressure: using either kief or small buds, heat and pressure are applied simultaneously to create a form of hash known as hash rosin. Due to the applied heat, hash rosin can be dark in color
Ice Extracted Hash Rosin can be made with just ice water and agitation: whole buds are soaked in ice water and agitated to break the trichomes off the buds. Cannabinoids are not water soluble, causing the trichomes to sink in the water for easy collection and use
Each method for creating solventless concentrates requires copious amounts of cannabis and time. As more and more states have legalized cannabis, additional extraction methods have emerged and many of them use solvents to reduce processing time and increase yields.
3. Butane Hash Oil (BHO) was one of the first solvent extraction methods. Butane Hash Oil uses butane as the extraction solvent to remove the cannabinoids and terpenes from the already dried and cured cannabis plant material.
This method is very cost effective for producers, which makes it a popular extraction method in the cannabis industry. The color and flavor of a butane extracted cannabis concentrate is usually very dark and harsh, which is directly reflected its low price point.
4. Propane Hash Oil (PHO) is made using the same methods as BHO, but the lower boiling point of propane makes it a little safer for producers.
“The extraction temperature impacts the components removed from cannabis. So, these two similar methods—butane and propane extraction—produce dissimilar extracts. In some cases, butane and propane extraction can be used in combination to create a product with a broader chemical profile.”
5. CO2 Extracted Oil uses carbon dioxide to extract cannabinoids and terpenes. First, the carbon dioxide must be placed under intense pressure and heat to turn it ‘supercritical,’ causing it to behave as both a gas and a liquid concurrently. After extraction, the supercritical carbon dioxide can be condensed to a liquid that can be filtered and used in additional extraction sessions, reducing overall extraction costs. If there is any CO2 remaining in the final product, it simply evaporates, making it one of the safest extraction methods.
6. Distillate Oil is one of the purest forms of concentrates but requires many steps. Cannabinoids and terpenes must be extracted from the raw cannabis plant material using one of the extraction methods above.
“After the raw cannabis material is extracted, the crude oil needs to be winterized. This raw oil consists of chlorophyll, waxes, lipids, fats, terpenes, and cannabinoids. Winterization is essentially the removal of fats, lipids, and waxes in the cannabis plant by precipitation. During this process, freezing ethanol is mixed with the extract. A micron filter removes the waxes, fats, and lipids. After it's been chilled for about 24 hours, the ethanol is filtered leaving a refined cannabis extract.”
Next, the refined cannabis extract is decarboxylated (heated) to activate the cannabinoids. After decarboxylation, the material is distilled, leaving behind only the desired cannabinoids (typically THC or CBD) in its isolated state. The distillation process, also known as molecular separation, removes the plant’s terpenes as well, so many producers will mix terpenes back into the distilled oil.
Distillate is a very pure form of cannabis oil and can reach total cannabinoid percentages as high as 99%. This oil is clear in color and can have very intense flavors.
To provide more flavorful cannabis concentrates, additional methods for terpene preservation have also been developed. Before the extraction methods mentioned above, the cannabis plant must be grown, harvested, dried and cured.
The loss of terpenes during the drying and curing process means less flavor and less potency (due to the entourage effect). The process for creating a live resin better preserves the terpene profile of the cannabis plant.
7. Live resin concentrates are made by freezing the cannabis plant immediately after harvest to preserve the terpenes and cannabinoids. When performing any of the extraction processes listed above with frozen cannabis, extremely low temperatures are also maintained to continually preserve the terpenes and cannabinoids. This makes a more flavorful dab or cartridge oil.
Each of these extraction methods can produce concentrates with widely varying textures and colors resulting in varying price points.
1. Shatter is a hard, thin, glass-pane shaped concentrate that is a little difficult to maneuver from the packaging to a nail or banger, but is relatively cheap and is usually a pleasant honey color. More about Shatter.
2. Wax is a thick, earwax consistency that is easier to work with than shatter and can range in color from dark brown to a soft gold. More about Wax.
3. Crumble is a chunky consistency that is easy to work with and can range in color from light brown to a soft gold. More about Crumble.
4. Budder is a wax that has a texture and color like butter. More about Budder.
5. Sugar Wax looks like crystals mixed in with wax and can range in color from a dark brown to a soft gold. More about Sugar wax.
6. Sauce is more liquid than solid and can be dark to soft gold. More about Sauce.
7. Crystalline looks like crystals or gems and are usually a soft gold but can sometimes be white or clear. More about Crystalline.
8. Diamonds and Sauce is a combination of crystalline and sauce where the sauce is usually terpenes added to crystalline structures and can range from a dark color to a soft gold
All cannabis concentrates are consumed by heating a small portion and inhaling the vapor by either dabbing or vaping. Concentrates are also a more cost effective consumption method for those with a high cannabis tolerance.
In Washington State, there are many cannabis companies producing cannabis concentrates using these 7 methods.
The best solventless cannabis concentrate companies in Washington are Polar Icetracts and Constellation Cannabis.
Polar Icetracts is produced by Gold Leaf Gardens using Clean Green Certified flower and has won multiple awards for potency, flavor and effects. We recommend their MAC (miracle alien cookies) for a happy, hungry high.
Constellation Cannabis is a woman owned extraction company with high expectations for quality and potency. All of their concentrates are solventless. We recommend their Chocolatina for it’s giggly, body-melting effects.
Xtracted Laboratories is the home of Refine and Northwest Concentrates. Xtracted partners with the top flower brands and cultivators here in Washington and uses a variety of extraction methods to provide a large selection of high quality options. We recommend their Tropicanna Cookies for sativa lovers that want a flavorful dab.
Millennium Extracts is one of the most affordable concentrate brands in Washington State. But don’t let their low price point fool you - they have a collection of award winning, potent and flavorful shatter, butter and sugar wax. We recommend their Durban Poison for landrace sativa lovers looking for an energetic adventure.
SKöRD is one of the most elusive cannabis concentrate companies in Washington. In order to Skor, you’ll need to follow their instagram page and pounce on their limited drops the moment they’re announced. They produce small batches of high quality concentrates that get snatched up within hours of hitting dispensary shelves. Their extraction methods vary and they often make limited run batches as well, so finding the same thing twice is sometimes impossible. We recommend their Thug Life for intense giggles or Animal Cocktail for a sedative, pain reducing experience.
Now that you’re equipped with a greater understanding of the 7 common cannabis concentrate extraction methods, concentrate consistencies and have a few brands to look out for, it’s time to put your knowledge to the test. Shopping for cannabis concentrates can be as fun and diverse as shopping for cannabis flower!
Morgan Worley is a business development professional with a passion for the cannabis industry. After seeing the medicinal benefits cannabinoids can have, she decided to transition from opening new restaurants and coffee shops to working in the cannabis industry. Since 2018, Morgan has gained experience in the industry as a medical consultant, dispensary manager, cannabis trade show producer and traceability software saleswoman. Outside of the workplace, Morgan strives to live a healthy lifestyle modeled after Blue Zones.