Cannabis Concentrates for Dummies
There are many articles that discuss cannabis concentrates. Admit it, most are quite complex, right?
Here is your dummy guide to cannabis concentrates.
At the turn of the century, cannabis consumers began exploring different methods of cannabis consumption. There was a shift from cannabis flowers to more sophisticated formulas such as dabs- heating oily extracts to inhale the concentrations of marijuana goodness. These extracts vary from shatter, to wax to batter to dabs and even honey. Not only are concentrates more potent, they are also a cleaner way to ingest marijuana and more convenient way to ingest marijuana. This shift heralded the beginning of a new era.
In the beginning, people used highly flammable hydrocarbons for extraction right in their back backyards and garages. This was a very risky affair with consequences of explosive proportions, quite literally.
In recent times, the technology of extracting cannabis has grown in leaps and bounds and we will take you through each of them in great detail.
Let’s dive right in!
Methods of Cannabis Extraction
Cannabis extraction methods can be divided into two broad categories as below:
Solvent-based extraction: In this method of extraction, volatile chemicals are added to the plant material to dissolve the resin, which is the concentrated part of the cannabis plant containing the cannabinoids and terpenes. The solvent is then removed leaving behind extracts such as shatter, vape oil or wax. What results from this process is called an extract.
Mechanical, or solventless extraction: Mechanical or solvent less methods of extraction do not use chemicals, instead, the resin is pressed, beaten or rubbed out of the plant, resulting in kief, rosin or hash. This process yields concentrates.
Pros of Solvent- Based Extraction
- It can be manipulated for the extraction of specific compounds such as THC or CBD
- Solvent based extraction is also used to extract resin in its most whole form, which means with an intact cannabinoid and terpenes profile
- The process of solvent-based extraction does not cause loss of cannabinoids and terpenes through heat.
- A more robust flavor profile is maintained with solvent based extraction
Disadvantages of Solvent Based Extraction
- Solvent-based procedures can be extremely dangerous if done improperly and have even resulted in deaths by explosion or fire.
- Dangerous amounts of solvent can be left behind if the product isn’t properly purged after manufacturing.
- It’s even illegal to use certain solvents in many districts without a specialized license and equipment.
Advantages of Solventless Extraction
- Is considered to be more natural as no chemical processes are involved
- Solventless extraction processes are mostly safe to do at home
- There is no fear of chemical alteration as might be the case in solvent extraction.
- It results in a safer, more wholesome product.
Disadvantages of Solventless Extraction
- Most of these methods employ the use of heat as a result of agitation. This destroys some of the cannabinoids and terpenes.
- Is less efficient and yields less heady concentrates
Common Solvents Used in Cannabis Extraction
As we have discussed earlier, the solvent based method of extraction has been used for quite a long while now.
Let us look I detail at these solvents, their characteristics and effects:
Hydrocarbons (Butane, Propane, Hexane etc)
Hydrocarbons are most commonly used to make hash oil and other products that are hydrocarbon-based.
Though widely used, this method of extraction should not be employed at home but should be used by trained workers using safe equipment intended for the purpose of extraction.
The process of extracting cannabis can be either open-hooped or close hooped. Open-loops are cheaper but highly dangerous methods which have been known to result in both damage of property and injury to persons, sometimes even fatal.
Closed-loop systems on the other hand are a safer but infinitely more expensive venture. Securing the equipment could cost upwards of $30,000 for an average sized model.
It is also a requirement for manufacturers using hydrocarbons to blast proof the premises they conduct the extraction in. The cost of blast proofing a room could be around $ 100,000.
In most municipalities, it is a felony offense to manufacture BHO and other cannabis concentrates which involve volatile concentrates in an area without approval and permits. The penalties could range from jail time to fines that could range from 5 to 6 figures.
CO2 (Supercritical CO2 Extraction)
Carbon dioxide can be used in the production of both concentrates and extracts.
When making extracts, the process is called supercritical CO2 extraction. This process uses solvents, mostly CO2 to separate the different compounds from each other.
The carbon dioxide under extreme pressure that causes it to fluctuate between a gas, liquid and solid state is then able to separate the cannabinoids by breaking them down.
Want to know the good news?
CO2 extractors are now more accessible, especially in states that have made cannabis legal. You can purchase a basic small-batch kit for a little as a few hundred dollars.
It is important to note that the issue of safety still applies. The high pressure used in closed-looped systems must be closely monitored by trained personnel to maintain safety.
Though making your own cannabis extracts using alcohol is illegal in most places, it is quite a common practice for people to make super-concentrated Rick Simpson Oil.
In case you hadn’t already guessed, yes this is an alcohol based extract.
The danger of using this method of extraction especially indoors is that the vapors could cause lung damage or result in fires and explosions.
Ethanol is among the very first solvents to be used in the extraction of cannabis concentrates. Its advantage is that it has a much faster rate than butane of dissolving the cannabinoids and terpenes.
Ethanol extraction follows the exact same principle used in the creation of BHO. With ethanol, the solvent is dripped over the flowers and buds of the cannabis plant, which dissolves these compounds. The next step is to eliminate the solvent and remain with the cannabis extract.
The disadvantage of using ethanol is that it has a higher polarity than butane which makes it extract impurities such as chlorophyll which have to be extracted later.
Solventless Methods for Making Cannabis Concentrates
As previously discussed, cannabis concentrates are arrived at by using non-solvent methods of extraction. These methods are usually preferred for medicinal use as they do not employ the use of chemicals, which may not fully be gotten rid of and may end up in the final product.
It is important to note however that concentrates are significantly more potent than smoking your normal joint. They should therefore be handled with care and their use monitored.
Shaking, Sifting and Dry Sifting-Used to Make Kief
It might come as a surprise to you that every time you use a grinder, you are actually making kief. The residue that collects at the foot of your grinder is known as kief and can be sprinkled on your boil and on joints to make them more potent.
The ways in which you can arrive at kief are very vast and varied. They are also very safe and simple, which makes them mostly legal as long as you are in a state in which it is legal to take marijuana in the first place.
The method that has stood the test of time and is particularly safe is the use of a mesh. You simply shake the plant material of your cannabis through the mesh and voila! You have some kief.
You could also grind the plant then run it through a machine that has a silk screen or use a hashish drum.
Whichever method of your choice, keep in mind that the finer the screen you use, the purer the kief you will collect, which you could then press into different hash grades.
Ice Water Extraction
Bubble hash made using Kief that has been Ice Water Extracted.
Contrary to what most smokers believe, bubble hash is not a recent invention but has been around since the 80s. The method was actually invented by the owner of Cannabis Seed Bank, Neville Schoenmakers.
What makes it even more accessible is that it can be made using a simple washing machine. You could purchase a bubbleator or other similar machine for as little as $100 to $300.
This has been and continues to be one of the safest and cleanest ways of making pure, high quality hash that has no adulterants. It is also a pretty wholesome method of extraction that leaves you with most of the cannabinoids intact.
Heat and Pressure (Rosin Press)
Rosin is made by the use of low heat and high pressure.
The concept of rosin has become so widespread that a rosin press can be found at practically every corner. A rosin press makes use of pressure and heat to force the trichomes out of the cannabis leaves and buds. You could also use hash or kief to make Rosin.
Rosin is considered to be at the top of the pile when it comes to concentrates. It closely matches extracts made with solvents but without the added adulterants. Rosin is a viscous sap whose appearance can range from clear to very dark and it can be used in its extracted form or as a base for tasty treats.
The price of rosin presses range from a few hundred dollars to get a simple machine to quite expensive ones for industrial use which could cost upwards of a couple of thousand dollars.
That said, the process of extracting rosin could be as cheap as purchasing a simple consumer grade hair straightener. For only $30, you can have your very own rosin press for use in the comfort of your home.
Types of Cannabis Extracts & Concentrates
As many products exist as the different methods of extracting them, and then some.
We have prepared for you a list of the different basic types of extracts and concentrates. By the end of this, you should know the world of concentrates like the back of your hand.
Types Cannabis Extracts
These are the natural oils generally extracted from the cannabis plants. They can be extracted from the buds, leaves or seeds depending on the kind of oil that is being targeted.
Each method of extracting cannabis oil is unique and there as many as there are oils. Some of the most common oils are vaporizer oil, Rick Simpson Oil, CBD oils, Vaporizer oil, butane hash oils, hemp seed oils and edible oils. A number of these oils are obtained by pressing while others by the use of solvent extraction.
We have included some of the oils in the descriptions below.
Wax or budder is characterized by a runny consistency which is unlike the other harder products that have more of a texture to them. These oils are opaque and gooey rather than clear. It is also easy to roll them onto “a pin and dab” but they tend to stick to the container they are placed in.
This is a form of wax/budder which is generally crumbly and more brittle. It is softer than shatter. Pie Crust is easier to get out of a jar but is very prone to crumbling and scattering.
Shatter is an impressively pure cannabis concentrate which is very brittle and translucent, much like glass candy. It looks a lot like amber. It is mostly extracted using hydrocarbon solvents such as butane and or propane which make it a particularly potent substance.
Caviar, aka moonrocks have recently been known to hit the streets with a bang. The process of making them involves coating cannabis buds with very high quality resin which are then rolled in kief.
Caviar on the other hand doesn’t always have the last step of being rolled in kief.
Jelly hash on the other hand is generally a product of mixing 8 parts bubble hash with one part water.
Butane Hash Oil
As discussed previously, BHO is one of the most potent cannabis extracts that exist. It is made using butane and can be in the form of budder, wax, honeycomb or other types previously mentioned.
In this article, we hope we have shed some light on the different extracts and how they are arrived at. Here is an insightful article that expounds on the topic of solventless extraction.