There is a cannabis product for every lifestyle and need.
When choosing cannabis concentrate products, one important choice you'll have to make is if you want to go with a solventless or solvent-based product.
Let’s discover the similarities and differences between these two product categories to find the right one for you.
What Is Solvent-Based Extraction?
Solvent-based extraction is a chemical extraction process that uses chemical solvents to dissolve the trichomes, particularly the cannabinoids and terpenes, from the cannabis plant material (biomass) and remove the residual solvent, creating a pure and potent product.
Hydrocarbons such as propane and butane are commonly used in the petroleum industry and food processing. Although hydrocarbons are flammable, volatile, and explosive solvents, building regulations, and automated technology eliminate the risk of fire or explosions in butane hash oil (BHO) and propane hash oil (PHO) extractions.
Hydrocarbons have a lower boiling point than other solvents, enabling operators to use lower temperatures and preserve those heat-sensitive terpenes. You will get a fuller spectrum product with more flavor and aroma than other methods.
Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Extraction
Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction uses carbon dioxide (CO2) in its supercritical state, which has the properties of a liquid and a gas. This extraction method is considered eco-friendly and “tunable” since you can perform a subcritical extraction at lower temperatures and pressures to remove the terpenes separately.
However, this method requires a higher upfront investment for machinery than other extraction methods. In addition, this method can take longer to extract cannabis oil from biomass than hydrocarbon systems.
Ethanol extraction uses high-proof alcohol to process high volumes, usually of hemp. As a polar molecule, it can effectively remove many components, including cannabinoids, and may remove excessive chlorophyll, requiring additional post-processing.
Ethanol extraction has many advantages, including a long history of use as a solvent, cost-efficient, higher storage capacity than hydrocarbons, food-grade designation by the FDA, and safe to use in a closed-loop system.
What Is Solventless Extraction?
Solventless extraction does not use any chemical solvents to dissolve the cannabis oils. Instead, this method relies on mechanical processes to remove the trichomes. Although this method does not risk having residual solvents, it can have a higher concentration of plant matter, affecting the product's taste, aroma, and effects.
Dry sifting is an ancient manual extraction process that requires several mesh screens to shake the bud material over and filter out the tiny trichomes. The agitation breaks off the plant’s trichomes and falls through the screens, leaving behind a powdery kief, which can be made into a dry sift hash.
Ice Water Extraction
Ice water extraction relies on a concept similar to dry sifting, but this process happens in a bucket lined with bubble bags filled with ice and water. The fresh frozen cannabis material is submerged in the water and is gently stirred to remove the trichomes. The collected trichomes can be used to create ice water hash, also known as bubble hash.
Rosin pressing requires a rosin press that uses heat and pressure to squeeze out the cannabis trichomes. This process can work with a hair straightener on its lowest heat setting and a nug covered in parchment paper. Live rosin pressing is a similar process but requires bubble hash as its starting material.
What Are Solvent-Based Extracts?
Many of your favorite infused cannabis products are made with solvent-based cannabis concentrates, which can vary in potency, consistency, color, aroma, and effects. Here are the most popular concentrate forms for cannabis consumption.
Shatter looks and breaks like glass due to its relatively high concentration of cannabinoids and low terpene content. Made with hydrocarbon extraction, shatter can have a golden translucent color.
Budder, also known as badder or butter, has a soft, smooth, and creamy consistency and a light amber color. Although it is usually made with chemical solvents, it can be made with a rosin press. A whipping process during the purging of the solvent produces a creamy consistency.
Crumble is brittle, dry, and granular, easily crumbling with your dab tool. This cannabis concentrate goes through a low-temperature vacuum purge at the end of the extraction process to create its honeycomb look.
Cannabis diamonds, whether CBD or THCA diamonds, have a crystalline structure that looks like diamond stones. They may also come in a white powdery form and can be infused with terpenes to create a “terpsolate.”
CBD isolate can be made using ethanol, supercritical CO2, and other extraction processes. Once extracted, the crude oil undergoes a winterization process to remove waxes, lipids, and fats. Then, it goes through a distillation process to remove terpenes and other compounds. Then, a crystallization process converts the CBD distillate into an isolate.
THCA diamonds are made using hydrocarbon extraction. The oil is kept in a jar or diamond miner or other pressure-holding vessel and left to crystallize, oftentimes on low heat. Then, you can separate the terpenes and diamonds and soft purge (low vac, low heat) to remove residual solvents.
Similar to diamonds, terp sauce contains diamond-like THCA or CBD crystals blended in with a liquid terpene syrup. Terp Sauce is typically made with fresher material like fresh frozen cannabis flower. It undergoes a low-temperature purge to keep terpenes intact. Cannabinoid diamonds naturally separate from the terpene liquid.
Cannabis distillate is a tasteless and odorless cannabis concentrate containing high concentrations of a single cannabinoid, THC or CBD. A distillation process removes unwanted compounds, producing oil with 80%+ cannabinoids. Processors may add terpenes to the extract.
Live resin, made with hydrocarbons, is made with fresh-frozen cannabis flower, which has a higher concentration of terpenes than dried material. Live resin can vary in consistency but is generally a more sought-after extract due to its higher than average terpene levels and the ability to express more of the plant's natural attributes.
What Are Solventless Extracts?
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Hash is made from dry sift or ice water kief that has been compressed into a ball or slab. Hash usually has a dark brown exterior due to oxidation.
Kief is essentially a pile of trichomes derived from dried cannabis flower. Trichomes are the tiny and sticky resin on the plant’s buds, leaves, and stems. It can be made using the dry sifting process or ice water extraction.
Bubble hash is produced with ice-water extraction methods. First, the fresh-frozen bud is gently stirred in ice-cold water to freeze and break off the trichomes, which fall through the bubble filter bags. Then, the collected kief can be compressed into a bubble hash.
Rosin, made using a rosin press, is a sticky concentrate composed of trichome resin from dried plant material. Live rosin undergoes a similar rosin pressing process but is made with bubble hash as its starting material.
Which Cannabis Concentrate Is Better for You?
Whether you are a cannabis consumer or processor, it is important to carefully consider which cannabis concentrate will meet your needs. Cannabis concentrates vary in texture, potency, aroma, and effects. In most cases, it is best to go with various concentrates for different occasions.
As a Consumer
Cannabis consumers run the gamut from health-conscious medical patients looking for solvent-free extracts to recreational users looking for the highest cannabinoid potency possible.
Here are a few tips to help you choose the right solvent and solventless extracts:
- Looking for high potency and a rush of euphoria? Go with a concentrate that is high in THC.
- Searching for the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the high? Go with a concentrate high in CBD and low in THC.
- Want balanced effects? Try a concentrate that has an equal concentration of THC and CBD.
- High-terpene levels in extracts (live resin, terp sauce, etc.) is thought to enhance the effects of cannabinoids and reduce side effects. Go with terpene-rich concentrates for a balanced and true-to-plant experience.
As a Producer
Solventless extraction requires lower startup and operating costs than solvent-based machines requiring more training and additional building regulations. But solventless methods are usually used for small batch production. To remain competitive, go for solventless and solvent-based extracts to target all market needs.
Clarify Your Cannabis Extracts with Media Bros
Solvent-based extractions provide a purified cannabis product without unwanted compounds. Media Bros’ filter media for ethanol, CO2, and hydrocarbon extractions removes pesky pigments to create a clearer and brighter extract without minimizing your yield.