What Are Cannabis Concentrates?
The cannabis industry is always innovating, discovering new ways to enjoy cannabis. The surge of new cannabis concentrates to the market is evidence of this, though in truth, we’ve been making certain types of concentrates, like hash, for hundreds of years. In this guide, we’ll do a deep dive into cannabis concentrates and answer the questions:
- What is a Cannabis Concentrate?
- Why are Concentrates Different from Other Cannabis Consumption Methods?
- How are THC Concentrates Extracted from Cannabis?
- Types of THC Concentrates
- Cannabis Concentrates FAQs
What is a Cannabis Concentrate?
Marijuana concentrates are cannabis products made from concentrated cannabinoids and terpenes found in marijuana flower. When concentrates are extracted from the plant, the main goal—besides changing the consistency—is to keep the popular elements of cannabis that affect its potency, flavor, and aroma.
To make concentrates, the flower is put through a process known as extraction that creates an aromatic, potent, and sometimes even sticky, substance. When this product is consumed, the cannabis enthusiast can experience the concentrated 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 though there are some strains like Godfather OG that pack a whopping 34% THC.)
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 (see below).
- 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 nail polish remover—you want to remove the paint without damaging your nail.
Two of the most popular solvent-based extracts are CO2 oil and butane hash oil:
- CO2 Oil Extracts: Oil concentrates are thick, 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 keep the pure flavor and aroma of the strain. 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 extract is made when butane gas is used 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 utilize closed-loop equipment to safely extract the resin, so you should never, ever try to make this at home.
Solvent-based extractions are commonly used by cultivation centers where cannabis concentrates are extracted en masse and then go through a purging process. This chemical process evaporates any leftover solvents.
Solventless extractions 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.
Because of the difference in technique, solventless extractions also produce different types of cannabis concentrate products, which are more popular in the artisanal and hand-crafted space due to 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
Both extraction methods create unique concentrates that you can purchase from your local dispensary. Here’s a list of the most common cannabis concentrates created with each method:
Solvent-Based Cannabis Concentrates
These types of concentrates are more frequently extracted in large quantities and require a large amount of flower to be converted into a substantial amount of these consistencies.
- 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 extract or CBD compounds, which have little to no flavor. Distillates are frequently used in vape pens and cartridges where terpenes are added back 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. Shatter looks a lot like glass and gets its name because it can be “shattered” into several pieces. Many experts believe this is the purest form of cannabis concentrate.
- Wax: Even though this concentrate is similar to shatter, cannabis 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 using low heat and a longer purging time. This process creates crumble or “honeycomb,” which gets its name from resembling an actual beehive.
- 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. Live resin typically appears shiny or glossy and ranges between golden and amber colors. It’s popular because of its strong aromas and flavors from the high level of preserved terpenes.
Solventless Cannabis Concentrates
These are made using different levels of heat, pressure, or filtration instead of solvent chemicals. 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 smells great and is considered an easier texture to use for dabbing.
- Rosin: Like most solventless concentrates, rosin is formed by applying heat and pressure to the cannabis flower buds. This creates a thick syrup-like texture with a deep yellow color, which preserves 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. Hash is more potent than flower due to the high concentration of cannabinoids.
Answering Marijuana Concentrate FAQs
Concentrates are some of the most popular and interesting products on the market today. We asked our budtenders what their most frequently asked questions about concentrates were and here’s what they shared:
Is there a difference between concentrates and extracts?
Yes. The term “concentrates” refers to all products, both solventless and solvent-based, that contain the cannabinoids and terpenes from a marijuana flower. Extracts are a type of concentrate that are created using a solvent-based technique—that is, a solvent is required to pull the cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis flower. All extracts are concentrates but not all concentrates are extracts.
Why are concentrates more potent than flower?
When you consume flower, you are consuming more than just the cannabinoids and terpenes. You’re also consuming some plant material and additional compounds that may contribute to the entourage effect but likely don’t contribute to any kind of psychoactive effects.
With concentrates, you are consuming pure cannabinoids and terpenes. There is no buffer of plant material to slow the absorption of cannabinoids. Because of this, concentrates are always going to be significantly more potent than flower.
How many types of concentrates are there?
While we’ve shared eight of the most common types of concentrates on the market, there are plenty more. The marijuana industry is constantly innovating which means we will likely see new concentrates continue to be introduced over time.
Where Can You Purchase Cannabis Concentrates?
You can purchase your favorite cannabis concentrates, or any new types of concentrates you want to try, by visiting a dispensary. Most dispensaries keep a large variety of concentrates on hand because of their popularity. They also will have the tools you need to consume their concentrates. Of course, if you have any questions while you’re there, talk to one of our expert budtenders—they’re always happy to help a fellow cannabis enthusiast.
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.