BY MARIE LODI AND MELISSA SELEY
Photo by Dimitri Newman
You’ve heard people rave about cannabis concentrates and you’re curious, but where to begin? These products can be confusing — between crumble, shatter, bud, live resin, and more, it’s a lot of new vocabulary to learn. Before diving into what those words mean, let’s start with why you would want to even try concentrates: They’re stronger than your average pre-roll. Normally, flower has a THC content that ranges from 10 to 25 percent but this group of products can go up to 80 percent or more. Due to that fact, dosing is important: You want to make sure you’re consuming the right amount for your needs, especially if you’re a medical patient and using it for chronic conditions like neuropathic pain or PTSD.
Read on for our guide on everything you need to know before you try cannabis concentrates.
How are concentrates made?
Concentrates are typically made from cannabis by using two methods: solvent and solventless. The former can be further divided into two groups: butane and carbon dioxide. Regardless of what solvent was used, all concentrates will need to go through a process called purging to remove the chemicals before you can consume it. On the flip side, solventless concentrates use heat, pressure, and filtration to extract the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant. Solventless extraction takes more time and effort, but some people consider it a more natural and artisanal method. That said, one method isn’t necessarily better than the other — if you’re buying a legal product, they’re all safe to consume.
What’s butane extract?
The process of making butane hash oil (BHO) begins by adding the solvent to fresh, frozen flower or cured bud (flower that has been properly dried for optimal potency and flavor). It strips the essential oils from the plant and the final product is an extract that retains all of the cannabinoids and terpenes. Once it’s purged in a vacuum oven, the extract can go on to become shatter, crumble, wax, budder, sauce or live resin.
What’s carbon dioxide extract?
This method uses carbon dioxide, a naturally occuring gas that we breathe out, instead of chemical solvents. By exposing the combination of cannabis and gas to high temperatures and pressure, you get a crude extract that requires distillation. Distillation is a process that further refines the product and allows manufacturers to isolate cannabinoids.
It all sounds very scientific but you’ve already encountered carbon dioxide extracts if you’ve ever inhaled a vape cartridge, eaten an edible, or rubbed on a topical. And this is the same stuff that serves as the basis of concentrates like waxes, crumbles, shatter, and budder.
What’s solventless extract?
Instead of using carbon dioxide or butane, these concentrates are made via applied heat and pressure. The two most common types are dry sift or dry sieve and ice water hash or bubble hash. Dry sift or dry sieve gets its name from the process of rubbing or rolling dried flower over a sieve to collect trichomes, which are the resin glands of the cannabis plant. You’ll also hear people call this product kief and it looks like a crumbly off-white powder. Ice water hash or bubble hash is a method of extracting involving tumbling cannabis flower through ice water, filtering it through fine mesh, and letting it dry before you consume it. This product can range from dry and chalky to greasy.
Dry sift can be sprinkled over a bowl or a pre-roll but it can also be pressed into hash or made into rosin. Ice water hash, if it’s high quality, can be dabbed as is (more on what this means later) or transformed into rosin, which is another kind of concentrate.
What are the different concentrate varieties?
Now that you have an idea of how concentrates are made, let’s explain all of the different varieties. They have names like shatter, budder, and crumble to name a few. The difference comes down to how they’re processed after they’re extracted.
You’re probably familiar with hash or hashish: It’s centuries old, fragrant, and potent with a high THC factor. Hash is made using a solventless technique, usually via ice water. The extract is usually pressed into a brick or a ball before consumption.
This type of concentrate is translucent, glasslike, and fragile — hence the name. It’s made by pouring raw extract onto a thin slab and leaving the mix undisturbed during the purging process.
Whereas shatter is hard, sauce is gooey, with a liquid-y, applesauce-like texture. Another difference between the two is that sauce is left to age. A natural separation will occur between the major cannabinoids and the terpene-rich portion of the extract. The latter is mixed back into the sauce for increased flavor, a powerful aroma, and greater potency.
Extract that’s been whipped during processing becomes wax. This wax then gets further aerated and you wind up with a consistency similar to butter, hence the name budder. You’ll also find this product labeled as badder, frosting, icing, and similarly creamy sounding names.
If wax doesn’t get whipped and it’s dried during the purging process, the concentrate turns into the consistency of sand, hence the name crumble.
Much like its name, diamonds are one of the more expensive extracts due to its time consuming method of creation. After the extract is purged, it’s left to sit in a cool, dark place for a few weeks. The mix separates and you wind up with crystals that are pure THCa, the precursor to THC, and a liquid that’s full of terpenes. These crystals are extremely potent and prized by cannabis connoisseurs.
Live resin is extracted from fresh, flash-frozen flower. It retains a high volume of terpenes so you get the the original flavor and aroma of the plant which is usually lost during other extraction processes.
Rosin uses heat and pressure for filtration, which you can DIY with flower, a hair straightener, and some parchment paper. It can also be made from pressing hash.
When rosin gets put in a jar and left in the oven to decarboxylate (the process which converts non-psychoactive THCa to psychoactive THC), it becomes sap, a sticky concentrate.
How do I enjoy concentrates?
Now that you know what concentrates are, you’re probably wondering how to consume them. Chances are you’ve already done so if you’ve tried a topical, ate an edible, or inhaled a vape. But if you’re curious about trying a more potent method, you’ll want to consider dabbing. This consumption method involves using a dab rig, which looks similar to a bong. Instead of packing flower into the bowl, you take a small amount of your concentrate and put it on a small surface that’s normally called a "nail" or "banger". It’s shaped like a bucket and can withstand high temperatures. Then you heat it and inhale the vapor for an immediate onset of intense effects.