Marijuana concentrates have only recently hit the mainstream. However, it is believed that humankind has used them for over 12,000 years! Historians now suggest that this powerful creation from the cannabis plant was used in the Chinese Steppe Mountains numerous millennia ago.
Most people refer to concentrates as ‘hash,’ but in reality, this highly potent cannabis is a far cry from the dark-colored bricks smuggled into North America and Europe from places such as Morocco.
As you should probably glean from the name, ‘concentrates’ are types of marijuana with an elevated THC content. You can find them readily available online or in licensed dispensaries. This detailed guide provides you with all the information you need on cannabis concentrates. This includes the different types, how to consume, what to consider when buying them, and guidance on dosing.
What Is Marijuana Concentrate?
The term ‘cannabis concentrate’ relates to a variety of products with extremely high THC levels. It can include any product derived from the cannabis plant that is processed into a concentrated form. It contains all of the terpenes and cannabinoids created within the flowers with no excess plant material.
Although they have potency in common, there are numerous unique products with differences in THC content, not to mention texture. It is this texture that dictates how to consume these items. For example, you can vaporize, or dab wax concentrates, or sprinkle them on a joint or blunt.
The cannabinoids and terpenes in marijuana are responsible for the plant’s aroma, taste, and effects. You find these compounds in the plant’s trichomes, a collection of glistening structures. These trichomes are condensed to give you products capable of providing an extremely intense, intoxicating high.
Types of Cannabis Concentrates
When looking at the most common types of cannabis concentrates, it is worth noting that they’re divided into solvent-based and solventless products. For example, wax concentrates fall under the ‘solvent-based banner, whereas kief production doesn’t require a solvent. Let’s briefly look at each category, followed by a quick overview of nine of the best-known concentrates across the two groups.
Marijuana Concentrates – Solvent-Based or Solventless?
There are solventless and solvent-based concentrates from the marijuana plant, and both types are significantly more potent than the flower alone. A solvent-based extract involves using a substance such as butane, alcohol, or CO2 to extract the THC – alongside other cannabinoids and terpenes – from the weed.
In contrast, a solventless concentrate does not involve using a solvent to extract the relevant material. Instead, heat/cold, pressure, and water are used. The number of concentrates available is growing as new techniques are developed to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from plant matter.
While you can distinguish concentrates by appearance and texture, the actual difference lies in how they are made. The biological and chemical makeup of the end products is altered by the extraction method. While you may not visually see the difference, it does impact what you consume.
There is a lot of opposition to solvent-based concentrates due to the perception that these products are not clean. There is also the small matter of danger because you could be using butane or propane.
Solvent-based extractions are dangerous in a DIY sense. However, advances in technology mean that companies can use certified lab technicians and hi-tech equipment to safely produce clean concentrates by using solvents to extract the plant material. These companies use a closed-loop system to make sure there isn’t any airborne chemical exposure during extraction.
Solvent-based extractions are also believed to be more potent and contain a full spectrum of terpenes and cannabinoids. As the flower isn’t agitated physically, the bud’s structure remains intact and preserves terpenes.
The issue of contaminants is solved through a process known as ‘purging.’ Whether you use butane, CO2, propane, or alcohol as your solvent, you need to purge after extraction to get rid of any residual solvent. The term ‘purging’ could refer to hand-whipping, vacuuming, or evaporation.
Let’s analyze the best-known solvent-based cannabis concentrate products.
As you can guess, this involves using CO2 to extract oil from the marijuana plant. A process known as supercritical extraction is implemented. It involves significant amounts of pressure along with carbon dioxide to separate plant material. High-quality CO2 oil has an amber color and a low level of residual solvent.
Most companies add other ingredients to reduce the overall potency of the oil. However, it isn’t unusual for the oil to contain 30mg of THC per ml.
This is one of the most popular concentrates and is typically used for dabbing. Wax is created by using a closed-loop extraction system and a solvent. The material has a sludgy consistency and is heated at temperatures low enough to preserve terpenes and cannabinoids. It is then whipped to eliminate the solvent residue.
At this stage, the main difference between the resulting concentrates depends on the consistency. Wax is known for being dry and crumbly, whereas budder has higher moisture content and resembles butter.
This concentrate is created similarly to wax insofar as it involves a closed-loop system and a solvent. In this instance, the slurry is added to parchment paper, and a vacuum oven is used for purging. The substance is ‘burped’ repeatedly to remove residual solvent, and it eventually begins to spread across the paper.
Ultimately, shatter is easy to break into pieces. If the shatter doesn’t purge correctly, the resulting substance is called ‘taffy,’ which is a lot like taffy texture-wise. Both shatter and taffy have a light to dark amber color.
This concentrate is made similarly to wax but involves the use of fresh frozen plant material. The benefit is that the cannabinoid profile is close to what a live plant would exhibit. Live resin is hugely popular due to its outstanding taste and smell, primarily because the terpene profile of a live plant has been preserved. Live resin has a color that ranges from yellow gold to light amber, and it is shiny looking and moist.
This is a relatively new form of concentrate and involves hi-tech scientific equipment to heat and vaporize the cannabinoids in marijuana flower. The vapor is transferred to a cooling system and is then collected in containers. The process is repeated continually to ensure you end up with pure cannabinoids and minimal solvent residue.
As the name suggests, this involves extracting cannabinoids and terpenes without the use of solvents. One of the most common non-solvent extraction methods involves using ice to chill marijuana flowers to temperatures below freezing. This process agitates the resin glands, which ultimately detach from the flowers’ epidermis.
Extracts such as rosin and bubble hash have become popular due to the absence of solvents. You can guarantee zero residual solvents on a part per million (ppm) scale, if nothing else. However, you could damage the structure of the bud during the process.
Let’s check out the most popular solventless concentrates below.
Also known as ice water hash, this non-solvent product is created using water, ice, and micron bags (also known as bubble bags) to filter the plant material and waste. You can safely create bubble hash at home. All you need is marijuana flower, water, ice, a bucket, and at least seven-micron bags in sizes ranging from 25 to 220 microns.
You use the ice water to freeze the plant’s trichome glands, making it easier to snap them off. As trichomes are heavier than water, they sink to the bottom. You use the bags to filter the water and collect the trichomes. Bubble hash is ‘graded,’ with 1-star being the lowest grade and 6-star the highest.
This is the easiest marijuana concentrate of all to make. All you need to do is rub marijuana flower against a special filtering screen to agitate and isolate the plant’s trichomes. A three-chamber grinder is usually enough to collect the trichomes.
There is also ‘live’ kief which comes from fresh-frozen cannabis flower. In other words, the plant was cut at harvest time and immediately frozen to keep its entire cannabinoid and terpene profile intact. A nitrogen bath is the usual method. Next, you extract the kief by agitating the trichomes.
You need to use high pressure and high temperatures to produce rosin. The goal is to isolate the essential oils from the trichome heads to create solid resin. You can make rosin at home safely because it doesn’t involve solvents. The quality of rosin you get depends entirely on the quality of marijuana used.
In the old days, people used tortilla presses and hair straighteners to combine the heat and pressure required to make rosin. In the modern era, there are machines custom-made to create it.
This is effectively refined kief that is mechanically or manually extracted with several micron screens to keep the trichomes intact. The best dry sift on the market is called ‘full melt’ and contains up to 90% trichome resin heads. Half melt contains heads and stalks. Kief is considered the lowest grade because it also includes plant contaminants. Dry sift is normally tan or beige.
Methods of Consuming Marijuana Concentrates
There are several consumption methods, including options that allow you to enjoy your potent weed on the move.
This involves adding concentrates to cannabis flower for an extra kick. The benefit is that you enjoy the potency without overdoing it. Bowl topping is ideal for those using concentrates for the first time.
For instance, if you use a bong or pipe, sprinkle a tiny amount of concentrate into the bowl with the flower. If you prefer a joint or blunt, add some concentrate when rolling; this process is known as ‘twaxing.’ If you have concentrate with a stretchy consistency, you can even create a long line of it and roll around the outside of the joint!
As far as bowl topping goes, users typically prefer bubble hash because its combustion properties are similar to flower. Please note that bubble hash can remain lit if too much heat is applied, so put out the flame as fast as you can. Ideally, you will place the flame close enough to allow the bubble hash to melt but not combust.
This is the primary method of using concentrates. It involves the use of a dab rig, which is a device specially designed for dabbing. Ideally, you will purchase a rig made from borosilicate glass. It is also a good idea to purchase a small rig because you will enjoy a better flavor. Step one involves filling the rig with water. Experts recommend filling the rig until the water is up to two inches above the diffuser or downstem.
Check the water level by inhaling through the mouthpiece. If you end up with water in your mouth, you added too much water! Next, place your nail (also known as a banger) into the rig’s joint. You will find joints in sizes such as 10mm, 14mm, and 18mm. ‘Season’ the nail by heating it with a torch until it is glowing. Add a little concentrate to the nail and once the nail cools, repeat the step at least twice more.
When you are ready to dab, add some concentrate to the red-hot nail and inhale the vapor. You don’t need much concentrate to achieve a high, so use small amounts to gauge your tolerance.
Although you can still use a desktop vaporizer, an increasing number of people are choosing portable vape devices such as pens. Basic vape pens enable you to add concentrate to the chamber, and it immediately gets to work turning it into vapor. All you need to do is inhale! There are sophisticated devices that allow you to choose a specific temperature. This is very important if you want to preserve as many terpenes and cannabinoids as possible.
Purchasing Cannabis Concentrate: What to Consider
There are many products on the market, but they’re certainly not all created the same. Marijuana concentrates are expensive, so make sure you do your research on any brands you’re considering. Otherwise, you could get ripped off at best or become ill due to harmful chemicals in the product.
It is essential to look for cannabis concentrate extracted using supercritical CO2 extraction. Otherwise, you can’t be sure of the quality. Also, why pay a small fortune for butane-extracted concentrate when you can make your own at home?
Pay attention to the THC percentage. The best isolates on the market contain anywhere from 90% to 99%+ THC. Any product with less than 80% THC contains a significant number of polyunsaturated fatty acids. For instance, a concentrate with 60% THC has up to 40% of waxes, which aren’t necessarily healthy.
Isolates and concentrates typically contain at least 80% pure THC. The best brands use 90%+.
Once you choose your concentrate, be very careful when dosing as it is easy to get carried away when you ‘dab’ wax, for example. It only takes a tiny amount to produce an extremely intense high.
Apart from potentially suffering from side effects like paranoia, using excessive concentrate is expensive. A gram of concentrate 90+% THC can cost $50+ depending on where you live and the type of product.
Secondly, as you are using cannabis as medicine, it is important to begin slowly by microdosing to see how it affects you. Your goal should be to slowly increase the dose until you find the minimum effective dosage. If you take too much too soon, you’ll quickly build up a tolerance and reduce any possible medicinal effects.
Storing Your Marijuana Concentrates
Although your concentrates may look durable, you still need to store them properly, or else they will dry out. We recommend using an airtight container stored in a cool, dark place. If you store your concentrate in a warm place, there is a danger of it melting and losing aroma, flavor, and cannabinoids.
Before placing your concentrate in an airtight container, you can place it on parchment paper to prevent it from sticking to the surface.
These tiny containers are designed to store concentrates. They are easy to clean, non-stick, and keep your product at the right temperature. They won’t break, are reusable, and you can take your concentrate directly from them. They also offer convenient storage if you want to vape on the go.
Dispensaries usually sell glass or plastic containers, but if they are not non-stick, the concentrate will become stuck to the surface. What you need is a container made from heat-resistant, tempered glass.
Why Consume Cannabis Concentrate?
For recreational users, cannabis concentrates provide them with a new avenue to explore in the world of cannabis. It can provide you with a level of intoxication you have never before experienced. For MMJ users, concentrates enable them to experience a much faster and more potent effect than with cannabis flower.
Other reasons to use concentrates include long-lasting effects, aroma, and flavor. The presence of so many terpenes ensures that you get the very best of what cannabis has to offer regarding taste and smell.
When vaped, cannabis concentrates provide an element of discretion compared to smoked marijuana. Also, depending on the extraction method, these products could provide a cleaner high.
Users soon find that there is no universal best THC concentrate form, only what is right for their needs. If you want to experience the incredible flavor of a specific strain, along with an unforgettable high, cannabis concentrates should be on your ‘to-try’ list. However, make sure you approach them with caution!
Marijuana Concentrate Dosing
When you purchase concentrate, it is usually sold in 0.5-gram or 1-gram portions. Reputable sellers have lab reports on their websites that show the cannabinoid and terpene content of their products. While some solventless concentrates can have less than 50% THC, the most potent solvent-based options will have up to 90%.
Let’s say you have a gram of concentrate with a THC content of 80%. This means there is 800mg of THC in the gram. For reference, the recommended starting dosage for an edible is 5-10mg! It is next to impossible to separate a gram of concentrate into 80-160 portions.
We recommend first dividing your concentrate into portions containing approximately 100mg of THC. It is much easier to get a 20mg dab from a 100mg piece than an 800mg piece. Another option is to purchase pre-filled vaporizer cartridges, which allow you to microdose effectively.
If you are using concentrate to dab, use your dabbing tool to pull the smallest amount possible. Analyze the effects that piece has on you and determine if it is safe to increase the dose next time. When it comes to concentrates, it is always best to use a little and be underwhelmed than use a lot and be overwhelmed.
Final Overview of Cannabis Concentrates
We want to conclude this piece by providing you with a simple table of the concentrates we spoke about in this piece.
|Concentrate Name||Description||Solvent Based?||Estimated Price|
|Best Method of|
|CO2 Oil||Oil extracted from the marijuana plant using carbon dioxide.||Yes||$40-$80||Vaporizing or orally.|
|Wax/Budder||A concentrate whipped under heat to create a cake-batter texture. Wax has more moisture than budder.||Yes||$15-$40||Bowl topper or dabbing|
|Shatter||A brittle concentrate that usually has a gold to amber color.||Yes||$20-$60||Dabbing|
|Live Resin||Is made with frozen fresh plant material as the starting point.||Yes||$30-$80||Dabbing|
|Distillate||Refined cannabinoid oil with no flavor, smell, or taste. Typically used as the base for vape cartridges.||Yes||$50-$120||Vaporizing|
|Bubble Hash||Created by using ice water to freeze the plant and pull out the trichomes.||No||$25-$50||Smoking, vaporizing, or dabbing|
|Kief||Created by rubbing cannabis flower against filtering screens to collect trichome material.||No||$10-$30||Smoking|
|Rosin||The result of marijuana flower being squeezed with high heat and pressure.||No||$30-$80||Dabbing|
|Dry Sift||Ground marijuana that is filtered with screens, leaving behind trichome glands.||No||$15-$30||Dabbing|