Marijuana Concentrates 101
Have you ever wondered about the unique differences between marijuana concentrates, how they are extracted, and what makes them so popular? We’re here to help you understand the basics. In this article, we'll cover:
- What is a Cannabis Concentrate?
- How are Concentrates Different from Other Cannabis Products?
- How are Concentrates Extracted?
- What are the Different Types of Cannabis Concentrates?
What is a Cannabis Concentrate?
Marijuana concentrates are exactly what they sound like—concentrated THC and other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes from the marijuana flower. The flower is put through a process known as extraction that creates a much smaller, often gooey substance. This allows the user to experience the effect of the cannabis without the plant material. In their reduced form, some concentrates may allow you to experience higher THC levels, which average around 50-90%. (Traditional flower can be anywhere from 10-25% THC.)
When concentrates are extracted from the plant, the main goal - besides changing the consistency - is to keep the popular elements with cannabis that affect its potency, flavor, and aroma. These two elements are cannabinoids and terpenes.
Why are Concentrates Different from Other Cannabis Consumption Methods?
Concentrates are different from other forms of cannabis in a few ways. In general, concentrates may:
- Offer a higher potency.
- Can be consumed in multiple ways, including vape pen, dab rig, edibles, and tinctures.
- Come in a variety of types.
- Don’t contain plant material.
These four factors make concentrates a versatile form of cannabis on the market, so you can customize your cannabis experience.
How are THC Concentrates Extracted from Cannabis?
Cannabis concentrates are extracted in various ways, but the two primary methods include solvent-based and solventless extractions. While this might sound a bit complicated, it’s an important process that will make more sense as we go.
For starters, the way you extract cannabis determines what type of concentrate products you can produce. So let’s break this down to make it more digestible:
Solvent-based extractions are a lot like they sound: a chemical compound such as butane, carbon dioxide, ethanol, or propane is used to dissolve the plant and carefully strip out the cannabinoids and terpenes. Think of it like the science experiment in high school you might’ve slept through when you used two different chemicals to come up with one solution. Or simply think of a common solvent like nail polish remover–you want to remove the paint without damaging your nail.
Two of the most popular chemicals are CO2 Oil and Butane Hash Oil.
- CO2 Oil: Oil concentrates are thick and liquidy, and commonly produced with CO2. This extraction method is popular because you don’t need as high of a temperature to extract the oil. The process also helps retain more terpenes, which as we know, helps keep the pure flavor and aroma. Oil concentrates are sometimes referred to as CO2 oil and are most frequently used in vape cartridges and disposable vapes.
- Butane Hash Oil (BHO) Hydrocarbon Extracts: This type of extraction utilizes butane gas as the solvent to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from plant materials. It can be a very dangerous extraction method due to the highly flammable nature of butane. Commercial operations will utilize closed-loop equipment to safely extract the resin.
Additionally, solvent-based extractions are commonly used by cultivation centers where cannabis concentrates are extracted in mass and then go through a purging process. This is another chemical process that evaporates the leftover solvents.
On the other hand, there are solventless extractions that do not use chemicals like propane or butane, but instead, physical methods that apply pressure, filtration, or temperature to the plant material in order to extract a concentrate. These solventless extraction tools are more geared toward at-home consumers.
Solventless extractions also produce different types of cannabis concentrate products, which are more popular in the artisanal and hand-crafted space because of the natural extraction process. There’s certainly a craft to the process, but just like solvent methods, the point is to strip out the cannabinoids and terpenes without damaging them.
Types of THC Concentrates
To break down the different types of each concentrate texture, we’ll pull them into the two extraction categories: solvent-based and solventless cannabis concentrates.
Solvent-Based Cannabis Concentrates
Again, these types of concentrates are more frequently extracted in large quantities and require a whole lot of flower to be converted into a substantial amount of these consistencies. Let’s break down the solvent-based cannabis concentrates:
- Distillate Oil: Distillate oil is frequently referred to as a crude extract, which essentially means that a high level of terpenes is maintained through the process. This oil can continue to be refined to contain only the THC or CBD compounds, in which this pure form often produces little to no flavor. Distillates are frequently used in vape pens and cartridges where terpenes are added into the oil to give the flavors and effects common in cannabis strains. They can also be used to make edibles like marijuana brownies and cannabis condiments.
- Shatter: Shatter is a murky and sometimes amber-colored concentrate made through BHO hydrocarbon extraction that, you guessed it, looks a lot like glass and can be “shattered” into several pieces. It’s a sticky, hard candy-like substance that many experts believe this is the purest form of cannabis concentrates.
- Wax: Even though this concentrate is similar to shatter, Wax is a much softer, gooier texture that is very sticky to the touch. This typically yellow and gold concentrate often requires a dabbing tool due to its stickiness and can be used in vape or dab rig.
- Crumble: Some waxes can be made into a drier texture with the help from increasing heat and moisture levels during the extraction, In turn, this creates crumble or “honeycomb,” which gets its name from resembling an actual beehive. To make crumble, there are several post-extraction processes needed to collect the runnier oil substance and help it regain its honeycomb structure.
- Live Resin: Live resin is a cannabis concentrate that uses frozen plant material to maintain its cannabinoid profile. This extraction process allows the terpenes to be preserved very similarly to a live plant. The matter typically appears shiny or glossy and ranges between golden and amber colors. Most importantly, live resin is popular because of its strong aromas and flavors from the high level of preserved terpenes, which are usually lowered in other extraction processes.
Solventless Cannabis Concentrates
Solventless cannabis concentrates are, of course, made without the use of solvent chemicals and can be made with different levels of heat, pressure, or filtration. Let’s take a look at the common types of solventless cannabis concentrate products:
- Budder: Also known as batter, badder, or even cake batter, budder is a solventless hash oil formed by manipulating rosin and adding small amounts of heat to get its batter-like texture. This creamier consistency is considered an easier texture to use for dabbing, and for its stronger aromas.
- Rosin: Like most solventless concentrates, rosin is formed through heat and pressure to the cannabis flower–or more commonly to just the buds. This creates a thick syrup-like texture with a deep yellow color, which keeps a lot of the plant’s terpenes and aromas.
- Hash: Also known as hashish, this concentrate is made by collecting and compressing the trichomes or resin glands of the marijuana plant. It's very similar to marijuana flower, but it's much more potent due to the high concentration of cannabinoids.
Where Can You Purchase Cannabis Concentrates?
As we’ve covered, there are several different types of cannabis concentrates out there. And with today’s modern technology, extractionists have highly-refined these processes, which means there are more product options for customers and medical patients at local dispensaries. If you’re interested in learning more about these products and their potency, talk to an expert budtender to learn more.
Recreational Cannabis is not available in all states. Cannabis is for medical use only and may only be used by certified patients in Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and medical marijuana patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.