Complete guide to cannabis concentrates: Understanding your options
Have you ever wondered about the unique differences between cannabis concentrates, how they are extracted, and what makes them so popular? If you’re like most, the world of cannabis concentrates can be somewhat confusing.
There are a lot of variables that go into each cannabis concentrate product. Cannabis concentrates have different chemical compositions, which means the level of THC, CBD or terpenes can widely change per product.
For the most part, everything depends on how the concentrate is extracted in the first place, how it’s refined, and what material is used for the final extract. With 710 Day or “Oil Day” around the corner, we wanted to go over all the different cannabis concentrates.
There’s a lot of information here, but if you’re new to these products or processes, don’t sweat! We’re here to help you understand what goes into each product and how it’s extracted. First, let’s take a step back and start with what actually is a cannabis concentrate.
If you want to skip ahead to a specific section, click the jump links below to move forward:
- What is a cannabis concentrate
- How concentrates are extracted
- Types of cannabis concentrates
- Solvent-based cannabis concentrates
- Solventless cannabis concentrates
- Where to buy cannabis concentrates
What is a cannabis concentrate?
A cannabis concentrate is the excess material left over once a cannabis plant has gone through the process of removing unnecessary plant matter while maintaining the cannabinoids and terpenes from the original plant.
Essentially, the process concentrates the plant material into a much smaller, often gooey substance. Cannabis concentrates are typically much more potent due to their high THC levels, which average around 50-90%, while traditional flower ranges between 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.
There are two prominent cannabinoids found in cannabis: CBD and THC. Each cannabinoid has unique properties that produce different effects and levels of potency.
CBD is commonly known as the non-psychoactive property that has become popular in wellness products because of its healing, calming, and anti-inflammatory properties.
THC is the psychoactive element that’s known to produce a joyful, euphoric experience, and depending on the plant strain, the level of THC varies along with the potency.
Terpenoids or terpenes are the aromatic components of oils within the cannabis flower and most notably, responsible for the indistinguishable aromas and scents of cannabis. However, terpenes are not only found in cannabis but within all plants and fruits.
Specifically, in cannabis plants, there are over 200 terpenes that produce common aromas like berry, citrus, mint, and pine. That’s why it’s important during the extraction process to keep terpenes, so the end product still has the aromas and flavors that are enjoyed with traditional flower.
How are 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.
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 cannabis concentrates
Just like there are numerous ways to extract cannabis, there are also several types of concentrates and ways to ingest them. The world is your oyster when it comes to cannabis concentrates and each version has its own unique qualities and level of potency.
To break down the different types of each concentrate texture, we’ll pull them into two main 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:
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
Butane hash oil (BHO), also known as hydrocarbon extracts, are cannabis concentrates that as you might’ve guessed, use butane and propane as a pressurized chemical solvent. These solvents allow a closed-loop system, which ultimately removes the essential oils from the cannabis plant.
Hydrocarbon extracts are popular among extraction experts because it allows them to better maintain the original cannabinoids and terpenes compared to other hasher methods that ruin the plant’s chemical makeup.
BHO extracts range in potency, but the most common product form is for dabbing. This process allows the BHO to be vaporized, which is known as dab oils, compared to other forms of cannabis used for dabbing.
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. But pure forms of this oil are prevalent in edibles and various topical products.
This process gives way to inventive edibles like cannabis ranch dressing mix and taco seasoning, and several different baking with cannabis recipes, which allows the effects of cannabis to stay without the strong taste.
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.
Additionally, shatter is typically pushed through another filtration process to maintain its very high potency.
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 texture concentrate often requires a dabbing tool due to its stickiness and can be used in vape or rig.
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 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.
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)
Rick Simpson Oil, named for its creator, is cannabis-infused oil with a high concentration of THC. It's odorless and can be applied topically or mixed into food or beverages. RSO is extremely potent and should be used in minimal amounts.
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 - 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.
This is another process that is popular among home crafters because it can easily be formed by using a warm dabber tool on 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.
Rosin is also frequently made with a hydraulic press, which can be done with commercial-grade equipment and at-home devices that make this popular for home crafters.
So many cannabis concentrates, but where do you buy them?
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 dispensaries like Verilife.
If you’re interested in learning more about these products and their potency, see what Verilife has on its medical and recreational cannabis menus. And as always, don’t hesitate to ask one of our expert representatives about your cannabis concentrate options with Verilife–we’ll find the perfect product for you.
Please note that State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and medical marijuana patients. So, not every type of product or potency mentioned here will be available at all Verilife locations.