Cannabis concentrates provide users with significantly higher THC and CBD potencies than traditional dried flowers. Made from dried and cured or fresh-frozen cannabis, cannabis concentrates come in various colors and consistencies.
If you are new to concentrates or the cannabis industry, our guide can help you understand the different types available, the benefits of concentrates, different extraction methods, and how to use them, so you can have the best experience.
What Are Cannabis Concentrates?
Cannabis concentrates are concentrated forms of cannabis made from cannabis plant material (trim, dried cannabis buds, fresh-frozen buds). The starting material undergoes a solventless or solvent-based extraction process to separate the desired compounds from the rest of the plant material.
Cannabis concentrates, also known as wax concentrates, are ideal for users who want a significant boost in potency compared to cannabis flowers. Flower has cannabinoid levels reaching 30% or lower. Cannabis concentrates, however, start at about 50% THC or CBD concentration and can go up to 99.9%.
Hemp vs. Cannabis-Derived Concentrates
Hemp is a legal variety of cannabis defined as a cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC. Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the intoxicating compound that causes the high. Hemp-derived cannabis is federally legal, but cannabis containing over 0.3% THC is not.
Since hemp-derived extracts do not contain a high amount of THC and have a higher amount of cannabidiol (CBD), they are generally non-intoxicating, so you do not have to worry about failing a drug test or getting high.
As a cannabis consumer, hemp-derived products are more widely available in-store and online. Cannabis-derived concentrates are only sold in licensed dispensaries in states that have legalized medical and/or recreational cannabis. In some cases, states may prohibit certain hemp-derived extracts of THC analogs such as delta-8 and delta-10 THC.
Full vs. Broad Spectrum Concentrates
When shopping for hemp-derived cannabis concentrate products, you will encounter different types, primarily full and broad-spectrum products. Full-spectrum concentrates contain all of the hemp plant’s therapeutic compounds, including THC. Broad-spectrum concentrates are similar to full-spectrum products but do not contain THC.
Benefits of Using Cannabis Concentrates
With so many different types of cannabis concentrates and concentrate-derived products available, there are many benefits to consuming these high-potency products.
Cannabis concentrates elicit fast-acting effects when they are vaporized, dabbed, or applied under the tongue. The cannabis oil can take effect within a few minutes and provide several hours of effects.
High THC or CBD Concentrations
All cannabis concentrates contain at least 50% THC or CBD and can have up to 99% cannabinoids, perfect for high tolerance or medical users. Cannabis concentrates are extremely potent compared to flower, although you may opt for a balanced THC-to-CBD ratio for more relaxing and mellow effects.
Cannabis edibles, in particular, can provide long-lasting relief ranging from 6 to 8 hours when made by flower or concentrates. Edibles made from concentrates can provide a higher potency and longer duration of effects.
Better Flavor and Aroma
High-terpene full-spectrum concentrates, in particular, are known for having an incredible aroma and flavor that captures the strain’s essence. Although all concentrates have a pleasant aroma and flavor, certain concentrates may have higher terpene levels.
Solvent-Based Extraction Methods
One of the most popular ways to transform cannabis plants into different types of concentrates is to use chemical solvents to dissolve the resin from the plant. In a licensed facility, technicians use a closed-loop extractor to process the plant material, remove and recycle the residual solvent, and produce cannabis extracts.
Here are the three main solvents used in the cannabis extraction process:
Hydrocarbons (butane and propane) have a relatively lower boiling point than other solvents, making them the best choice for terpene extraction since terpenes have a lower boiling point than cannabinoids. Butane hash oil (BHO) extraction can produce the widest variety of cannabis extracts, including shatter, live resin, isolate, and more.
Ethanol extraction is a common extraction method used for high-volume hemp extractions. It can be performed under cold or warm temperatures, depending on the desired result. Post-processing may be necessary to remove excess chlorophyll, the compound that makes extracts taste bitter.
Supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) has properties of a liquid and a gas, making it ideal for dissolving trichome oils from plant material. CO2 extraction is considered safer than other methods since it is not flammable or explosive. Subcritical extraction is a different process that uses lower temperatures and pressures to capture terpenes.
Chemical solvents can dissolve only the desired cannabinoids, terpenes, and other essential oils and leave behind undesirable plant matter, such as excess chlorophyll, fats, lipids, and waxes. Generally, solvent-based concentrates are safe to consume when sourced from licensed suppliers that have tested their products for purity and potency.
Here are the most common solvent-based concentrates:
Shatter, usually made with hydrocarbons, is a cannabis extract with a translucent appearance and a light to dark golden color. Shatter can have a range of consistencies, from sticky and taffy-like to hard and breakable. Use a pointed or flat dabber to break off a portion of this cannabis concentrate.
Crumble wax has a dry and crumbly consistency and a light yellow to brown color. It also has a relatively higher terpene content than other extracts. Its crumbly consistency makes it perfect for adding to joints or in bowls. A scoop dabber is the best for crumble but a flat one can work, too.
Badder, also known as batter or budder, can range in consistencies, from saucy and viscous to solid, buttery, and smooth. Made using hydrocarbons, badder’s color ranges from a blonde to a golden hue.
4. Live Resin
Although many extracts are made from dried herbs, live resin uses buds frozen at their peak freshness. Hydrocarbon extractions can help preserve the plant’s high terpene levels, creating a runny and malleable extract with a grainy, buttery, saucy, or sticky consistency.
5. Terp Sauce
Terp sauce is a mixture of crystallized cannabinoid diamonds and liquid terpenes. This high-terpene full-spectrum extract is created through a process called nucleation, also known as diamond mining, where cannabinoids and terpenes naturally separate into these forms. Terp sauce is known for having some of the best flavor and aroma of any wax concentrate.
6. Rick Simpson Oil
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), also known as Phoenix Tears, is an unrefined whole plant cannabis extract made with ethanol. Rick Simpson Oil was created by a Canadian activist called Rick Simpson to treat cancerous spots.
Cannabis isolates, also known as diamonds, are highly concentrated product that contains up to 99.9% THCA or CBD. THCA is essentially unactivated THC. Cannabis isolate contains nothing else and is helpful for those who do not want to consume THC or a high concentration of THC. Isolate usually comes as a powder, crystal, or mixed with liquid terpenes, creating a terp sauce.
Cannabis distillate is a concentrated oil that contains a high concentration of a single cannabinoid such as THC or CBD and very little else. Distillates are generally odorless and tasteless, perfect for making edibles and other products. Processors may reintroduce terpenes to distillate, although it would not be considered a full-spectrum product.
Sugar wax is a cannabis concentrate with a wet sugar consistency and looks like brown sugar with a little bit of liquid. It can be made from dried or fresh frozen flower. Sugar has semi-crystalline crystals and syrupy terpenes.
Solventless Extraction Methods
If you are hesitant about trying cannabis concentrates made using chemical solvents, solventless concentrates may be for you. Solventless extractions use ice, water, heat, or pressure to break off the trichomes from cannabis.
Here are the three most popular solventless extraction methods:
Dry sifting is a manual separation process that uses fine mesh screens to remove the trichomes from the cannabis plants. A series of increasingly larger mesh screens and agitation filter out undesirable particles, leaving behind a white powdery collection of trichomes.
Rosin pressing uses pressure and heat to squeeze out the cannabis oils from the dried and cured plant or hash. Rosin can even be made at home from dried flower using parchment paper and a hair straightener on a low setting.
Ice Water Extraction
Ice water extraction baths are used to remove the trichomes from dried or fresh frozen material. The process essentially uses ice water to break the trichomes by gently agitating the material. A bucket or container will have a series of mesh screen bags that filter the desirable materials from the other plant material.
Solventless concentrates are more potent than flower products but not as refined as solvent-based concentrates. Solventless concentrates may have a higher concentration of plant material.
Cannabis plants are covered in resinous trichomes that produce the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes. If you look close enough, they look bulbous and golden-hued in their peak ripeness.
Cannabis kief can also be collected with a multiple-chamber grinder. When grinding cannabis, kief can fall through the screen to the bottom chamber.
By dry sifting plant material, cannabis processors can filter the mature trichomes. Trichomes can be used as-is or be further processed into a hash or rosin product.
11. Rosin/Live Rosin
Rosin is a sticky marijuana concentrate made with a rosin press. The pressure and heat helps squeeze out a viscous and cannabinoid-rich concentrate without the use of solvents.
Live rosin undergoes a similar rosin pressing process but uses bubble hash as its starting material. Bubble hash is made from fresh frozen cannabis and is thought to have a better flavor and aroma than hash made from dried cannabis buds.
12. Hash/Bubble Hash
Hash is essentially a compressed slab or ball of kief. Hand-rubbed hash differs from dry sift hash in that hand-rubbed hash is the more traditional method made by rubbing cannabis plants by hand to collect the resin.
Bubble hash differs from traditional hash by starting with fresh frozen cannabis instead of dried and cured plant material. By freezing cannabis, you retain more of the terpenes and cannabinoids.
Consuming Cannabis Concentrates
Cannabis concentrates boast a high potency, flavor, and aroma. There are many ways to consume cannabis concentrates.
Vaporize your favorite concentrates in a desktop or handheld vaporizer. Battery-powered vaporizers have a heating chamber that vaporizes, not combust, the concentrate. Vape cartridges and disposable vape pens are convenient alternatives for consuming concentrates on the go.
Dabbing is the most popular way to consume cannabis concentrates. It involves heating a “dab nail” attached to a dab rig that looks similar to a bong. After heating the nail and letting it cool down to the optimal heating temperature, you can apply a dab inside the chamber and inhale the vapor.
Electronic nails (e-nails) and electronic dab rigs (e-rigs) are modern alternatives to traditional dab rigs that do not require heating the nail with a torch. Instead, they plug into your electrical outlet and maintain a precise and consistent temperature.
Cannabis concentrates can be used as starting ingredients to create cannabutter and cannabis oil to make edibles. Concentrates must be decarboxylated (heated) before adding them to the rest of the ingredients to activate their cannabinoids and terpenes.
Under the Tongue
Cannabis concentrates can be used to make sublingual tinctures that can be applied under the tongue. Sublingual absorption provides faster-acting effects than consuming edibles since the compounds can be absorbed within minutes and provide 2 to 3 hours of relief.
Cannabis may be topically applied for local relief. It can be made using concentrates, a carrier oil, and essential oils for aroma to create a soothing and pleasant-smelling lotion.
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Storing Cannabis Concentrates
Like cannabis flower, CBD or THC concentrates need to be properly stored to extend their longevity. Heat, air, light, and moisture can all affect the quality of your concentrate. To slow down the rate of degradation, keep your concentrates in an opaque and airtight container away from the light and heat. Glass jars are the classic choice to store sticky concentrates. You can store them in a freezer for long-term storage.
Make a Better Cannabis Concentrate with Media Bros
Cannabis concentrates are not created equal. High-quality concentrates starts with high-quality cannabis. For the best clarity and color in cannabis extracts, color remediation can level up an extract’s look without compromising its quality.