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Cannabis Concentrates: A Comprehensive Guide

Regardless of how you consume cannabis, there’s a concentrate out there for you. If you’re new to concentrates, they can be a bit overwhelming—but don’t worry, we’re here to help. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the different extraction methods, and cannabis concentrates so that you can make an informed decision about which is right for you.

First-time concentrate user warning:

Cannabis concentrates are incredibly potent; they typically contain 50-80% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). For this reason, it’s important to start with small doses when trying out concentrates for the first time; even experienced users can find themselves overwhelmed by their potency if they’re not careful!

Cannabis Concentrates by Extraction Method:

There are three main categories of cannabis extraction methods: solvent-based extracts, solventless extracts, and mechanical separation concentrates. Let’s take a closer look at each type. 

Cannabis extraction technique graphic

Solvent-Based Extracts:

Solvent-based extraction is the most popular method of making cannabis concentrates. As the name implies, this method uses a solvent (usually butane, propane, CO2, or alcohol) to extract the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other desired compounds from the plant material. The solvent is then evaporated off, leaving behind a highly concentrated product. Some popular solvent-based extracts include BHO (butane hash oil), PHO (propane hash oil), and distillate. 

Solvent extraction methods are separated based on the volatility of the solvent; in the California legal industry, “type 7” licenses are issued for volatile solvent extraction (BHO & PHO), and “type 6” licenses for Non-volatile solvent extraction (Co2, Ethanol, Water, Pressure).

 

Solventless Extracts:

As the name suggests, solventless extraction does not use any solvents. Instead, this method relies on physical means like heat and pressure or ice and water to separate the desired compounds from the plant material. Solventless extraction is often considered a safer and cleaner alternative to solvent-based extraction because there is no risk of residual solvents being present in the final product. Some popular solventless extracts include rosin and water hash. 

 

Mechanical separation (falls under solventless as well):

Mechanical separation concentrates are made by physically separating the trichomes (the glandular structures that produce cannabinoids and terpenes) from the rest of the plant material. This can be done with several different methods, including sifting or screening. The end result is a concentrate that contains only trichomes—no plant matter whatsoever. Some popular mechanical separation concentrates include kief and hash. 

 

Different Types of Cannabis Concentrates

Cannabis concentrates come in many forms, each with its own unique properties. We’ll take a look at some of the most popular types of cannabis concentrates so that you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you.

Different types of cannabis concentrates graph

Hash

is a type of solventless cannabis concentrate that is made by separating the trichomes from the plant material. Trichomes are the tiny, hairlike structures that cover the surface of the cannabis plant and contain the majority of its cannabinoids and terpenes. Hash usually takes the form of dark brown or black resin or pressed bricks, and it has a slightly earthy taste and a potent aroma. Hash is typically smoked using a pipe or bong, but it can also be added to joints or used in dabbing

Kief

is another type of cannabis concentrate that is made using solventless extraction techniques like hash. However, unlike hash, kief does not undergo additional processing beyond being separated from the plant material. As a result, kief tends to be lighter in color than hash and has a less intense flavor. Kief can be smoked on its own or added to cannabis flower to increase its potency. 

Rosin

is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of solventless cannabis concentrate. With two main types (flower rosin and hash rosin) but quickly expanding into subcategories like rosin badder, jar tech, Rosin diamonds, to name a few. The main factor separating rosin from other forms of concentrate is the extraction method of using low temperatures and high pressure. Extractors can start with flower, kief, or bubble hash and use a heated press to liquefy and separate the trichomes from other plant matter. Temperatures range from 150 degrees to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, and pressure from 300lbs up to 1000 lbs.

Cannabis oil (distillate)

is perhaps the most common type of cannabis concentrate. It can be used in vaporizers, dab rigs, edibles, topicals, and more. Oil is made by extracting cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis plant using either Co2 or ethanol. The texture of oil can vary depending on the extraction method used; it can be thick like molasses or thin like water. Distillate is commonly used in edibles and to fill a majority of vape pens you see in the market. Distillation is the same process used to purify hard alcohol from the mash, but for cannabis, it is done under vacuum to lower processing temperatures to preserve the terpenes and cannabinoids being extracted.

Wax

is a type of concentrate that gets its name from its appearance; it looks like earwax or honeycomb. Wax is made using either CO2 or butane. The texture of wax ranges from hard and crumbly to soft and sticky. The flavor of wax also varies depending on the extraction method used. Wax is typically smoked using a dab rig but can also be added to joints or blunts. A few of the most common types of wax are diamonds, crumble, shatter, live resin, and HTE (high terpene extract). The most common ways to consume wax are via a dab rig or adding them to a joint or blunt. 

WeedSociety Take: 

We have personally tried all the extraction methods above and consumed all the different variants. In our experience, there is a noticeable difference in the high you experience based on the extraction process and consumption method. 

We believe that using solvents leaves a unique signature on the extraction that alters the high, flavor and possible medical benefits of a concentrate.

Distillate, for example, goes through such a refinement focused on extracting THC that strips away terpenes and other cannabinoids. This results in a rather bland and numbing high that can only be improved or changed by reintroducing terpenes after processing. 

An example we like to use is this; you can use potatoes to make vodka, but you wouldn’t consider vodka to be a potato. 

In our experience, solventless concentrates like hash and rosin provide the most impressive high, flavor and medicinal benefits of any concentrate (except for RSO, which is purely for medical use). 

As you can see in the Weed Science section of our Weed Library, terpenes and cannabinoids have been shown in medical studies to have incredible health benefits and applications for people. In flower, these compounds are not very concentrated, but when extracted using water, low heat, and pressure, they are collected and preserved in a way that matches the plant. 

This is why we believe solventless concentrates should be the main focus of medical studies and for consumers looking for medicinal cannabis products.

If you would like to learn more about solventless concentrates or the California hash & rosin market, check out our interview with FullyMelted!