What are Cannabis Concentrates?
For so long, cannabis patients had limited options for consuming the medicinal qualities of nature's miracle plant. Smoking the flower (or bud) was the main way for cannabis users to feel the bountiful effects of the plant’s chemical properties. Some historical studies have found that topical or edible methods of cannabis consumption have existed for hundreds of years, too. In modern times, though, chemical and non-chemical extraction processes allow for a more concentrated form of cannabis use.
In essence, cannabis concentrates are (almost) all of the cannabinoids and terpenes that can be extracted from the plant, a process that's done either with or without a chemical solvent. In other words, these products are made exclusively from the chemical compounds that give cannabis users the effects they’re looking for. Without the excess plant material, cannabis products can be up to 3x the THC levels, compared to even the top-shelf cannabis bud available. Some concentrate forms, such as distillate, can even test up to 99% THC!
As cannabis becomes more legalized throughout the country, the industry continues to innovate and improve the concentrate experience for consumers, too. If you’ve only had a “dab” once or twice, you might be surprised to learn all there is to know about the vast world of cannabis concentrates. Keep reading to see just what common types of cannabis concentrates are available on the market today.
Solventless Cannabis Concentrates
The first category of cannabis concentrates we’ll look at is that of solventless products. In essence, these concentrate materials are developed using physical transformations such as shaking, heating, and pressurizing, as opposed to using chemical transformation.
What happens when regular cannabis bud is transformed into its concentrated form? Well, the goal of these processes is to remove the tiny appendages called trichomes from the rest of the plant. Trichomes produce resinous secretions with all of those yummy terpenes and sought-after cannabinoids. In solventless concentrates, these trichomes are separated from the rest of the plant without the use of chemicals. The three solventless cannabis concentrates we’re going to look at are kief, hash, and rosin.
Collected in a powdered form, Kief is the simple collection of the shaken leftovers from a cannabis plant. You can collect your own kief at the bottom of an everyday grinder underneath a sifting screen. Kief can be smoked on its own, or you can roll your pre-rolls in them for an infused experience.
Hash & Bubble Hash
Another favorite solventless form of cannabis concentrate is Bubble Hash. For this process, cannabis buds and ice water are combined in special filtration bags. After vigorously shaking the bags, the cannabis trichomes are released and collected. Other hash is created by a process called Dry Sift Hash, which is also intended to remove the trichomes but only be sifting through a screen. The resulting hash from either process will be great for infusing pre-rolls or producing rosin.
Rosin can be made from dried flower, kief, or hash. This is one of the most popular forms of cannabis concentrate, as it presents the plant’s medicinal quality in its purest form. Without any solvent residue, this concentrate type is more flavorful than many others as it protects the natural terpenes of the plant. Processors will take the flower, kief, or hash and add some heat and pressure to turn the material into rosin. Picture a panini press with two hot plates you can squeeze together. Take your cannabis product, and lay it on some parchment paper on both of the sandwiched hot plates, which should be heated anywhere from 120°F to 220°F. After a proper squeeze of the hot plates, you’ll have the rosin cannabis users know and enjoy so much.
Extracts: Cannabis Concentrates Made with Solvents
Concentrates that are created with the use of a chemical solvent are called extracts. Commonly recognized chemical solvents are Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), Butane Hash Oil (BHO), and distillate. Supercritical Carbon Dioxide is another solvent often used to extract concentrate material from the cannabis plant. For this article, we’re going to take a look at BHO extracts.
Processors will use butane to strip away the cannabinoids and terpenes from a cannabis plant. Don’t worry, though – the process is pretty delicate on the flower itself. For that reason, cannabis users love BHO products since they will retain a lot of the plant’s natural flavors. After the extraction process, there is another level of filtration to ensure any excess chemicals are removed before the concentrate material reaches consumers. It’s the responsibility of the processors to then retest the concentrated materials for potency and harsh chemicals that might still be present.
The final cannabis extracts then come in a variety of consistencies that we’re going to take a look at. While this isn’t the most comprehensive list (that could take up an entire book), these are some of the most common types of cannabis extracts, produced specifically from BHO extraction.
One of the first cannabis concentrates available to consumers was Shatter. Shatter is brittle and easily breakable. After it’s extracted via BHO, the product looks like a smooth gold sheet of glass. The lighter the product is in color, the better. Darker cannabis shatter indicates a lower quality, possibly from the presence of leftover chemicals from the extraction process. This is a favorite cannabis concentrate because it has high THC due to its structure remaining intact. Otherwise, processors will stir and whip the shatter to produce a ”wax” or “budder” consistency.
When cannabis shatter is vigorously whipped into a runnier consistency, Wax is created. Wax is a favorite concentrate to consume as it’s easy to separate small amounts at a time (as opposed to shatter, which is sometimes too brittle when breaking it apart). Wax is whipped into a malleable form for easy measuring and separating. Since it’s still high in THC and other cannabinoids, cannabis users will often request wax at their local dispensary.
Budder (also called Batter) is smooth and creamy like butter. It’s made by whipping cannabis shatter just like wax is, but budder needs even more whipping to get that softer consistency. It’s glassy in appearance and slightly oily in texture, hence the name. This isn’t the same as cannabutter, though – it’s not to be used as a cooking ingredient! Instead, cannabis budder is still consumed when it’s heated and vaporized (such as when taking a dab). Budder is often bright yellow and has a lot of flavorful terpenes present.
Another popular type of cannabis concentrate made from BHO extraction is called Sauce (also called Terp Sauce). This extract is sticky, gooey, and viscous. It’s sometimes referred to as Terp Sauce due to its high level of terpenes. This material is most often sought after when it’s labeled as High Terpene Full-Spectrum Extract (HTFSE), which indicates a very flavorful profile. Sauce can be found in a variety of colors from light gold to a darker brown.
If you’re interested in a cannabis extract that can easily be added to an already packed bowl, give Crumble a try. Crumble is similar to budder, but it’s duller and matte instead of glossy. It can be easily broken apart – almost in a powdery way like a pie crust – which is why it’s great to add on top of a bowl of cannabis flower to increase the overall potency. It’s worth noting, though, that this product has its crumbly consistency due to its lower level of terpenes than other cannabis concentrates.
Keep Researching Common Types of Cannabis Concentrates
Cannabis concentrates are beautifully varying and multi-purposeful – just like the different cannabis strains are. If you’re new to the world of cannabis concentrates, take your time to discover what types might be ideal for you. Whether you prefer solventless concentrates or extracts, you’ll find your favorite cannabis products with some thorough research. We also encourage you to stay in the loop with other education and industry updates by following our cannabis blog or checking out our Instagram at your convenience.