Concentrates 101: A Beginner’s Guide To Cannabis Concentrate
Published : Feb 18, 2016
Categories : Cannabis recipes
There are a lot of cannabis concentrates out there, and for the novice it can be pretty daunting. We have put together a guide to all things concentrate to help explain what they all are.
Excerpt: The world of cannabis is a complex one, whether it be the varying consumption methods or the various chemicals needed at the growing stage. The world of cannabis concentrates is no different and can be a daunting form of the substance to break into. This simple guide will give you all you need to know about this versatile form of cannabis and the different types of concentrate widely available to you. Whilst we won’t be examining the specific chemical formula for the breakdown of cannabinoids, we will give you an idea of the uses for each concentrate and the theory behind its production.
Now, when we say concentrate, we aren’t talking Heisenberg levels of THC in your typical dried bud. To put it simply, a cannabis concentrate is the result of separating the cannabinoids from plant matter, often through artificial means, increasing their density.
There is one cannabis concentrate that has been around for thousands of years: hashish, a cornerstone of cannabis that we will all be familiar with. Nowadays the process has become far more advanced and often involves using solvent based extraction methods, stripping the essential oils from the plant matter, binding them to the varying solvents used. Ultimately the concentrates can be split into two camps; mechanical and solvent based.
The pure and simple difference between the two is that mechanical concentrates require a physical process without the use of any added solvents to extract the cannabinoids, whereas solvent based concentrates do use solvents, and are then purified or filtered for use.
One of the simplest forms of a concentrate, it is essentially just sieving the dry cannabis through a fine screen – the finer the screen, the higher the quality of the powder. Sounds straightforward enough right? THC levels in Kief can vary wildly, giving it a reputation as a lower grade concentrate.
Unless you make it yourself it can be harder to find, especially when compared with some of the newer solvent extracts. However, produced by the right hands it can be extremely flavourful in its finished form.
Let’s rewind thousands of years and look back at some mechanical types of concentrates. Remember that corner stone of cannabis? Well the first hash was created by simply rubbing your fingers or hands together after handling or pruning wet cannabis plants, rolling the trichomes into a ball. This sticky resin is often dark and discoloured due to the dirt and plant matter that comes off of the cannabis. This is known as finger/scissor hash.
As time went on, the process became more refined. The principle is the same: taking kief and compressing it into blocks or bricks of hash. However, unlike finger hash, this is done hygienically and with precision, resulting in a purer, higher-quality concentrate. Heat is also often used, resulting in a substance that has a different texture, flavour and feel to the kief it was made from.
The new kid on the block and one bound to put you top of the class in cannabis 101, Rosin is unique in that it needs nothing more than a hair straightener, parchment paper, and some good old-fashioned elbow grease. Using some of your prized Northern Lights XL, or any bud for that matter, place the material between parchment paper and apply frequent heat and pressure with the hair straightener.
This will press out the essential oils and cannabinoids in the cannabis. It results in a golden shatter or oil-like extract that is similar in appearance to high-grade BHO. Still in its infancy, early reports indicated it could be as potent in THC as its doppelgänger with significantly less difficulty.
SOLVENT BASED CONCENTRATES
Available under many guises; bubble hash, ice wax or full melt, it is the end product of using ice water extraction. An extremely clean and safe form of concentrate, it can produce some of the best potency seen in solvent based concentrates – with the right bud, care and technique.
It uses a process similar to the production of Kief but incorporates either dry or fresh-frozen cannabis plants mixed with cold water and ice. The trichomes are instead broken off, brittle from the colder temperatures and put through a series of screens to remove any plant matter or impurities.
Butane Hash Oil
With one of the strongest potency, butane hash oil is a popular choice when looking into cannabis concentrates. Compacting the cannabis in an extraction tube, butane is then forced through it, binding to the cannabinoids. Whilst relatively simple in theory, making BHO can prove quite dangerous given its flammable nature.
Finally, all that remains is to remove the butane to make it safe for consumption – typically in a vacuum where heat is applied. The result of this process can range from a thick wax to a brittle glass-like substance, widely known as shatter. It all depends on the quality of the bud, and the skill/intention of the person creating it. Because of its strong THC potency, one of the main uses for butane hash is in medical scenarios to help with chronic pain and other relentless aliments.
CO2 extraction is an appealing method for extracting cannabinoids as it uses no chemical solvents which could taint the concentrate if not removed correctly. The downside being that to produce on a large scale would require vast sums of money, specialist lab equipment and some specialist knowledge.
Carbon dioxide is compressed at high pressures until it becomes what is known as a “supercritical fluid”. At this stage, it is able to strip the essential oils from the plant matter, leaving you with an orange-tinted oil and a THC content varying between 50-90 percent.
Gordon Ramsay eat your heart out, no F”ing and blinding when it comes to using this concentrate. One of the safest extracts available, the process behind it is straightforward. The fats in the butter bind to the cannabinoids, simple. Ideal for use in cooked foods as well as having the added benefit of being able to be frozen and stored without losing any potency.
When you then consider that orally ingested cannabis can be up to 4 times more potent because of the way that the body processes the THC, it becomes an incredibly appealing and versatile cannabis concentrate.
Consider yourself a concentrate connoisseur? Well, this latest trend in cannabis concentrates is proving extremely popular. Still ultimately a form of butane hash oil, it is how it is extracted that gives it its live resin title. The difference between the ever popular BHO and live resin is in the flavour and aromas it gives off. BHO is made using dried or cured cannabis plants, whereas our new trendy counterpart is made with fresh, flash-frozen cannabis. The key word here is “terpenes” or more specifically “monoterpenes”.
Using fresh-frozen cannabis plants allows more of the organic compounds, or monoterpenes, to be retained, which is what gives us the flavour and aroma that cannabis users have come to know and love. With these traits, it has become a new and popular concentrate product despite its usually high price per gram versus your more mainstream concentrate forms.
A simple guide to the different methods and types of cannabis concentrates available.
Cannabis Concentrates 101: Is Pure THC the Future?
There is a whole plethora of different cannabis concentrates now available to the public. They vary from each other in the extraction technique used, in texture, colour, and cannabinoid and terpene profile. Concentrates can even reach over 99% cannabinoid purity, creating a whole new world of ways to consume cannabinoids.
Until the last couple of decades, cannabis extracts existed solely in the form of alcohol tinctures or hand-rubbed hashish. Even during that time, cannabis extracts were created by clandestine cannabis dealers and experimental chemists. Since the legalization of cannabis, cannabis extracts have exploded in popularity all over the globe, and technological advancement continues in the way of cannabis extraction techniques.
Extraction techniques such as fractional distillation, chromatography and CO2 extraction are now being applied to cannabis, resulting in nearly pure cannabinoid extractions. Pure THC and CBD now exist in the form of isolates or distillates and can reach purity levels upwards of 99%.
Older, more traditional forms of extraction are still being applied as can be witnessed in the bubble hash or hand-rubbed hash still sold in Amsterdam coffeeshops. But needless to say, the world of cannabis extracts has come a long way in the last decade, making an entire range of different cannabis extracts available to the public.
3 different extraction methods
There are various ways to purify cannabis in such a manner that the plant matter is removed and only the resin remains. The products of these various techniques could all loosely be termed ‘hash’, but those within the industry generally differentiate between traditional hash-making methods and modern extraction techniques.
1. Hash or hashish extracts
Traditional hash-making methods (namely hand-rubbing and screen-sieving) may be capable of producing very high-quality products, but due to the mechanical and manual means of separation, it is all but impossible to prevent some plant matter remaining amongst the resin glands.
The texture and colour of traditionally made hashish is influenced by various factors, including amount of residual plant matter, technique, and level of compression. Hand-rubbed hashish also takes its dark coloration from surface oxidation of THC.
2. Water extraction
Using near-freezing water to assist the separation of trichomes from plant matter is not a new idea, but the techniques have certainly become more refined over the years. Technically speaking, the process is mechanical and not chemical, as cannabis resin is insoluble in water and the water therefore does not act as a solvent.
At the most basic level, water hash can be made by filling a jar with water, ice and plant matter, sealing the jar and agitating it. The agitation separates the trichomes from the plant matter, and the differential density of the respective parts causes the trichomes to sink while the leaf matter floats. This process has been refined over the years with improved agitation and filtration techniques to the point that very pure extracts can be obtained.
Sold in Amsterdam as ice-o-lator, ice hash or water hash for years, the purity of certain specimens is such that they are now increasingly known as non-solvent or ‘solventless’ extracts, particularly in the U.S. market. As will be discussed later in the article, sometimes solventless extracts are more preferable to consumers as there is less chance of contamination.
Hashish is unfamiliar to most Americans, unlike most Europeans. It is the most traditional form of cannabis extraction (probably because it requires no machinery or chemicals), and existed long before extracts became popular in the USA. When the U.S. cannabis market exploded, technology had already developed for chemical, solvent extractions, and therefore hash remained much more popular in Europe than the U.S.
3. Solvent extraction
In order to completely separate the trichomes from the plant matter, a chemical rather than mechanical process is required (although several chemical extraction processes also make use of mechanical stages, e.g. grinding, freezing, and filtering).
Chemical separation necessitates use of a solvent capable of dissolving the trichomes; these solvents may be either polar (alcohols such as ethanol or isopropyl) or non-polar (butane, hexane). Newer, more sophisticated extraction techniques use CO2 as the solvent.
Chemical polarity refers to the electric charge present in a molecule. A polar molecule (such as H2O) carries a positive charge on the oxygen atom and negative charges on the two hydrogen atoms. Due to the difference in charge, it has a net dipole (two opposing poles). A non-polar molecule (such as methane; CH4) has equal distribution of charge and therefore has no overall dipole.
Broadly speaking, a non-polar solvent will dissolve a non-polar solute, and a polar solvent will dissolve a polar solute: e.g., butane will dissolve oil, and water will dissolve sugar. However, classifying solvents as simply polar or non-polar is an oversimplification, as polarity is in fact a relative scale.
One way of measuring polarity is to look at the dielectric constant (DK) of the solvent. DK is a separate measurement—the ratio of overall electrical capacity of a substance against that of a vacuum, when a specific voltage is applied—but corresponds well enough with polarity that it is a useful measure.
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Extraction methods determine terpene and chlorophyll content in the concentrate
When using polar solvents, certain polar compounds contained within the plant matter are also dissolved and remain in the final product. This is unless further filtration stages are undertaken, many of which reduce potency and flavour—such as charcoal filtration. Chlorophyll, terpenes and certain other plant alkaloids, all generally insoluble in non-polar solvents, are dissolved in the solution and influence the final aroma, flavour and consistency of the extract.
While it may be desirable to include terpenes (which are largely responsible for flavour and aroma), chlorophyll, with its dark-green colour and bitter flavour, is less favoured. Further filtration often removes the terpenes and even some cannabinoids, so it is better to prevent chlorophyll from dissolving in the first place.
Quick-wash methods are a good compromise: the plant matter is immersed in solvent for less than a minute, compared with (up to) several weeks in standard methods. This method also allows for some retention of the flavour-forming terpenes.
5 different kinds of cannabis extracts
Depending on the kind of extraction technique used, a different final product will ensue. Extracts differ in colour, texture, terpene profile (and therefore flavour) and cannabinoid profile.
Certain extraction techniques have a greater chance of leaving residual solvent in the final product, and these generally make for inferior and potentially unsafe extractions. Others don’t require a solvent at all. Depending on the manufacturer, their budget and the extraction equipment available to them, certain techniques are preferable over others.
1. Cannabis rosin
Rosin is a form of solventless extraction. All that is required to make rosin is heat. The cannabis flowers are wrapped in a kind of absorbent paper, such as parchment, and are pressed between two hot plates. The trichomes and resin melt off the flower and into the parchment, after which it can be collected.
This technique first became popular as a DIY cannabis extract. In the last couple of years, rosin became attractive to extract manufacturers on a commercial scale because it requires very basic technology and doesn’t require a solvent at all.
2. Wax & shatter
In the last decade, cannabis wax and shatter became the most popular form of cannabis extraction in the USA. The extraction technique is almost identical between wax and shatter, but agitation after the extraction gives way to two different textures: one is waxy, the other is glassy and crumbly.
To make wax or shatter, manufacturers often use butane extraction. Cannabis flowers are contained in a tube-shaped vessel. Butane is then pumped through the vessel at high pressure, and acting as a solvent, pulls out cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material. Heat is then used to evaporate any residual solvent. When the final product is agitated, it creates a more waxy-like extract. When it is left to cool without agitation, the final product is more like shatter.
There are dangers associated with this kind of extraction technique, as residual butane in a product that will eventually be smoked poses a threat to the user. Inhalation of butane is dangerous, and not every manufacturer takes adequate steps to remove all residual solvent. On top of this, DIY butane hash extraction is dangerous, as it is prone to explosion.
3. Cannabis and hash oil
Cannabis oil concentrates, especially in the form of CBD oil, is becoming one of the most popular ways to consume cannabinoids. Butane hash oil (BHO) was one of the first forms of cannabis oil, and remained the most popular way to extract oil until recently, when CO2 was discovered as a better solvent.
At high pressure, CO2 turns into a liquid, at which point it can be pumped through cannabis flowers. Acting as a solvent, it pulls out a full spectrum of cannabis constituents such as cannabinoids, terpenoids and even flavonoids.
Once pressure resumes, CO2 turns back into a gas and therefore doesn’t require much work to be removed from the final product. It is one of the cleanest ways to extract cannabinoids, and obviously so, as there is almost no risk of solvent contamination of the final product.
Most CBD oil of the modern age is manufactured using this technique. It is much less dangerous than extracting using butane and has great yields. However, it is expensive technology, and is therefore generally employed by well-established CBD oil extractors.
As mentioned earlier, even traditional hash rubbing is a form of cannabis extraction. Hashish is arguably the oldest form of cannabis concentrate. Even today, hand-rubbing hashish is still practiced, although needless to say, the industry has developed technology for making hash extraction easier.
Hand-rubbed hashish is most commonly found in Morocco and India, where this ancient technique of cannabis extraction is still practiced. The flowers are rubbed between the palms of the hands, and after some time, the resinous material of the flower collects on the palms and fingertips. When this resin is scraped off the hands, it becomes hashish.
Modern techniques for making hash include bubble hash, or as residents of The Netherlands might know it, ice-o-lator. While wax and shatter are sometimes referred to as hash, they are not in the traditional sense, as they use chemical extraction rather than manual/mechanical extraction.
5. Isolated cannabinoids
The cannabis market has exploded with the extraction of pure cannabinoids, as this kind of product is infinitely versatile for cannabis product manufacturers. Extraction technology has given the cannabis industry the ability to extract pure cannabinoids such as pure THC and pure CBD.
They are sold in the USA as CBD and THC isolate or distillate. In many parts of Europe, such as The Netherlands, CBD isolate is not available to the public. However, it can be used to manufacture CBD goods such as CBD oil, topicals and tinctures.
Isolated cannabinoids are the product of very sophisticated distillation. CO2 extraction is used to create a cannabis concentrate, which is then passed through a fractional distillation kit. This device allows all of the different fractions of cannabis to be distilled. Each cannabinoid evaporates at a different temperature, and using fractional distillation, each cannabinoid can be distilled separately and collected.
Chromatography can also be used to create isolated cannabinoids. It is much the same as what most of us would have encountered in high school chemistry. The cannabis extract is passed through a medium, and depending on the density and chemical makeup of each constituent, it will travel through the medium at a different rate. Different cannabinoids can then be collected.
Winterization is used to purify the final product from any other substances that may be present. The final product is a truly isolated cannabinoid such as CBD or THC isolate, and has a white or yellow powdery texture. It can be used to manufacture oils, vape juices, tinctures, topicals, edibles and beverages.
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Medical application of cannabis concentrates
There is growing public concern over the degree of purity which cannabis concentrates can now reach — upwards of 99% purity. There is controversy surrounding the limit which cannabis concentrates should reach, especially with respect to safety.
While some variations of cannabis concentrates will be used exclusively by recreational users, there is a medical application of concentrates. For example, isolated cannabinoids can be used to manufacture pharmaceutical-grade cannabis medicines. Isolated cannabinoids allow for exact ratios of cannabinoids to be measured out, which would otherwise be impossible from a full-spectrum extract.
Isolated cannabinoids like THC or CBD isolate or distillate create a potential intersection between the pharmaceutical industry and the cannabis industry. Even though it is still a mystery as to how cannabis concentrates will evolve, they create a very positive opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry to participate, creating a fully-fledged, fully legitimised medicinal cannabis program.
10 thoughts on “Cannabis Concentrates 101: Is Pure THC the Future?”
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This hardly classifies as news as it was in the Federal Register on December 14 but I suppose putting it in big type makes six month old news more attractive.
If anyone wants any proof or data of cannabis is harmful in any shape or form ,then just ask the people who had put cannabis to the test since at least since the 1960’s I have 20 years of daily use until 1987 when I stopped because I would cough to much. and that’s is be cause I also smoked two packs of Kools a day. I don’t mind ignorance that’s just not knowing “like most people are ignorant as how to fix a motorcycle”. But I can’t stand stupid people and that’s what the D. E. A. is. Dumb Earrogent Assholes.
Now with cancer, and I’m not going to let these stupid people treat me anymore. All of the opeoides come from a plant, a flower “poppy”(So whats the difference between the two flowers?) Cannabis has no side effects and you cant overdose or die from using to much at one time and I’m going to cure my cancer with using it weather you like or not. You might have to sleep or have a read good happy day.
Its time to admit defeat DEA you have lost and the people have spoken and will do so on other areas the government has tried to take from us
Try this sometime… ?
I have a CBD hemp farm and we are move our fresh flower into a 40′ freezer container in the middle of the field. Inside the freezer we have a huge grinder and tumbler. Once the product is frozen it is ground and tumbled. The gathered trichomes are sent through three distilled water washes. The trichs fall to the bottom and all the chlorophyl and plant material is suspended in the distilled water which gets sucked off with a water vacuum. The purified trichs are then strained and dried. This method gives us huge results and absolute pure trichs with all the terps intact. Have you ever heard of anyone else doing this? Great article. Thanks! – CannaHerba.com
Very nice article. Im glad the states have started taking action to allow the development of cannabis. Its hard to deal with such a level of arrogance like this from the DEA, best to just keep letting the truth come out and it will eventually out shine. Cannabis has come a long way in recent years
I forgot to add if cannabis were taken off of this list the pharmaceuticals would lose billions of dollars in all of their medications that they have on the market. If you really want to see how the Center for disease control works look up The Tuskegee experiment on YouTube and watch it this makes me nauseous beyond words Our government is still doing this to people E.g. Recent cannabis decision.
Unfortunately the pharmaceuticals have all the power. This is exactly what is happening with the vaccines and pharmaceuticals. The pharmaceuticals are so powerful that they have had our government pass a law where families of children who have had severe vaccine damage cannot sue. They are immune from being sued imagine that. The power of the pharmaceutical companies is so great I’m on sure that even the cannabis community can break through. The CDC centers for disease control is in bed with the pharmaceuticals. I wouldn’t doubt that the DEA is also in bed with them. Pharmaceuticals make billions of dollars and hurt our kids. I have a son who has been vaccine damaged and has suffered for 23 years to which I can do nothing about He recently had a severe side effects to an antipsychotic where his brain swelled and we almost lost him I have been treating my son with cannabis for the past six days and all I can tell you is that it is nothing less than a miracle He normally doesn’t sleep past two hours with the combination of four meds. He slept six hours two nights ago and seven hours last night My son smiled at me for the first time in 23 years yesterday I have everything documented on little videos for the befores the Afters just in case someone cares enough to see it if it ever gets that far in DC Unfortunately pharmaceuticals are so big and power it’s going to take unbelievable amount of power to bring them down I’m not writing this about pro vaccine or anti-vaccine I’m writing this to share what I know about how powerful the pharmaceuticals are and what this cannabis community is up against because it’s not the DEA that’s driving this it’s the pharmaceuticals just my two cents
This is what a Cabal looks like when abusing power to defend its PROPERTY RIGHTS:
“Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.
Original Assignee: The United States Of America As Represented By The Department Of Health And Human Services”
Cannabis concentrates are growing in popularity around the world. Learn the ways that they are made and how they can be used in this article.