Cannabis concentrates are one of the most popular formats. And for good reason – they are super potent, super tasty, and super fun to consume. Concentrates are a hard-hitting treat that have become the go-to cannabis product of so many cannabis aficionados. But with so many different textures and different ways to consume them, the world of concentrates can quickly become confusing so we’ve put together this handy guide:
Cannabis concentrates are extracts that contain extra-high amounts of cannabinoids (responsible for the effects of cannabis), terpenes (responsible for the flavors and aromas of cannabis), and other cannabis compounds. Thanks to their impressive cannabinoid content, concentrates can regularly reach THC levels of over 60%, with some (like distillate), reaching well into the 90s. This makes them several times more potent than cannabis flower, and a favorite among those who prefer super-strong cannabis products.
There are effectively two different types of extraction methods used to produce concentrates: solvent-based and solventless.
Solvent-based extraction methods use certain kinds of solvents to strip plant material of their resinous trichomes (the part containing cannabinoids, terpenes, and other goodies). The most commonly used solvents are ethanol, CO2, and butane. These solvents are run through the plant material, before being purged from the final mixture with heat. In theory, this should result in a final product that contains only what’s extracted from the plant, and no traces of solvent.
Solventless extracts are made using extraction methods that do not use any kind of solvents. For example, rosin is made by applying heat and pressure to plant material in order to literally squeeze out the rosin. It’s made using a special piece of equipment called a rosin press that is basically a hydraulic press, but with heated plates. Simpler concentrates like hash and kief are made by physically shaking and grinding the trichomes right off of the plant material and collecting them.
Many health-conscious cannabis consumers prefer to stick to solventless concentrates since they are guaranteed to contain no traces of solvents whatsoever, but ultimately it comes down to a personal choice.
Apart from the differences in extraction methods, there are also some differences when it comes to how the source material is processed. You may have seen some concentrates marked as ‘cured’ and others marked as ‘live’. Cured concentrates are made from plant material that has undergone the curing process, while live concentrates are not.
Traditionally, cannabis flower is ‘cured’ after being harvested in order to better prepare it for smoking. This curing process involves removing the natural moisture from the buds in order to dry them out and make them easier to smoke. However, the curing process also tends to remove some of the terpenes in the flower, and, consequently, the flavor. For the more budget conscious consumer, cured concentrates are the best bet.
Live concentrates are made with plant material that has been frozen as soon as it was harvested. This material is then thawed before going through the extraction process and ending up in your dab rig. Freezing the material upon harvesting means that it skips the curing process, ensuring that the final product retains as much of its natural terpenes as possible. As a result, live concentrates have gained a reputation for being more flavorful and aromatic than those that have been cured. This elevated experience comes at a premium price point compared to cured concentrates.
By now you’ve probably heard of ‘doing dabs’. Dabs refer to small portions of concentrate or extract that are vaped out of a dab rig, a vaporizer, or smoked out of a pipe.
One of the most common ways of doing dabs is through a dab rig. Dab rigs are glass water pipes that are specially made for vaping concentrates. They are very similar to bongs but instead of having a bowl for holding your bud, they have a nail, also known as a banger, for placing your dabs on. The nail is heated with a butane torch for 30–60 seconds before the dab is added. Once the dab hits the hot nail, it begins turning into vapor which can then be inhaled through the mouthpiece of the rig. Dab rigs tend to produce very thick clouds of flavorful vapor and are a good choice for those who don’t mind investing a little more time in order to enjoy higher quality smoke.
Another popular method for consuming concentrates is dab pens (also known as wax pens). These are pen shaped hand-held vaporizers that have been designed exclusively for use with concentrates. Just think of them like portable dab rigs that can fire up a dab in just a few seconds. Although the vapor they produce is believed by many to be less flavorful and smooth compared to that from dab rigs, dab pens are portable and much easier to use.
Concentrates can also be vaped out of many conventional vaporizers. However, it’s important to make sure that your vaporizer is made for use with concentrates before attempting to vape them. Vaping extracts out of vapes that are only made for vaping dry flower will lead to damaging the unit and potentially causing it to break.
Lastly, concentrates can also be smoked out of smoking tools like bongs, pipes, or even joints. Adding a dab is a great way to spike the potency of your smoke and give it a little extra kick. But it’s important to lay them over a bed of ground flower before trying to do so. Otherwise you could end up sucking the dab directly through the bowl/stem and potentially end up with oily residue in your mouth and nobody wants that.
Here are some of the cannabis concentrates that you’re most likely to come across on dispensary shelves:
Shatter: Shatter is a thin and brittle concentrate that tends to break into many little pieces when handled. It usually clocks in at anywhere from 60%–80% THC depending on quality. Shatter is a good middle-of-the-road concentrate that provides both decent flavor and decent potency.
Live Resin: Live resin is a concentrate that is known for its intense flavor and smell. Made using frozen and thawed flower, it tends to reach levels of 50%–70% THC. Great for those who love strong flavors in their dabs.
Rosin: Rosin is a super terpy and tasty concentrate that is made using a solventless extraction process. It is a favorite among health-conscious cannabis consumers that prefer solventless extracts with lots of flavor.
Crumble: Crumble, sometimes known as honeycomb wax, is a solid/waxy concentrate that is much easier to handle than most other extracts, making it a better choice for adding to joints or blunts and a great texture for beginners.
Sauce: A gooey concentrate that gets its name from the fact that it kind of resembles apple sauce. Sauce contains high levels of terpenes and is one of the tastier concentrates. As a result, it’s a good choice for those who prioritize flavor over potency.
Badder/Batter/Budder: Budder gets its name from its texture which is very similar to that of butter. It is a solid/waxy concentrate that is similar to crumble, but less thick and more creamy. Not to be confused with cannabutter (cannabis-infused butter). Like crumble, this more solid concentrate is a better choice for smoking or adding to joints and blunts. It can be cured or live.
Distillate: A concentrated oil made through a complex distillation process that isolates and separates THC from the other compounds in the plant. Can be incredibly potent, sometimes reaching as high as 99% THC. However, it tends to be light on the terpenes, leading to a less flavorful smoke and typically a less complete buzz. If you’ve ever smoked a vape, you’ve likely experienced distillate.
Hash: Thick little bricks of collected trichomes. Can also come in the form of bubble hash, which looks more similar to kief, but still retains its hashy texture and flavor. One of the oldest concentrates in the world.
Kief: Trichome crystals that have been physically removed from plant material and collected. Has a much lower THC content than other concentrates but is much easier to work with and a great choice for smoking out of bowls or adding to joints.
Diamonds: Diamonds, also known as THCa diamonds, are a unique concentrate made from the crystalline diamonds left over after the terpy sauce has been removed. This type of concentrate may have less flavor, but a higher potency.
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