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A Guide to Cannabis Concentrates

Cannabis culture holds a lot of terminology that can be confusing to new users. Crumble, shatter, bud, resin, wax—it’s overwhelming. Concentrates hold roughly four times the amount of THC compared to your average dried flower. To put it in perspective, dried flower has an average THC content of around 15-25%, whereas concentrates can reach up to 85%. While concentrates aren’t for everyone, the potency makes it a desirable medium compared to dried bud.

Just like any concentrated substance, cannabis concentrates use the most desirable and potent part of the plant without any of the excess material. The smell, effects and flavours all come from cannabinoids and terpenes found in weed - these two elements are located within the small crystalline structures called trichomes. Concentrates are condensed versions of these structures - essentially cutting out the middleman and going straight to the source.

How is Concentrate Made?

Cannabis concentrates are made via two different methods: solvent and solventless. The solvent method can also be divided into two other groups: butane and carbon dioxide. No one method is better than the other, but with solvents the process requires additional chemicals to be purged in order to reach the desired concentration status, whereas solventless concentrates rely on heat, pressure and filtration for the extraction process. This method takes longer but some people argue that this is a more natural method compared to its counterpart.

Butane Extraction Method

Creating butane hash oil involves adding solvent to frozen flowers or cured buds. Butane strips the essential oils from the plant, retaining all the cannabinoids and terpenes. The extracted product is then purged in a vacuum oven. The extract can then be formed intoshatter, crumble, wax, budder or live resin.

Carbon Dioxide Method

Carbon dioxide is sometimes considered better than butane as it’s a naturally occurring gas. By combining cannabis and carbon dioxide, high temperatures, and pressure, a crude extract occurs. This method requires further distillation in order to isolate the cannabinoids.

Solventless Method

The solventless method uses heat and pressure to extract the concentrate. The two most common types of concentrates using this method are dry sift or dry sieve, and ice water or bubble hash. Dry sift, also called dry sieve, gets its name from the process of rubbing/rolling dried flower over a sieve in order to collect the trichomes. Although, the more common name for this is kief - which is also the powdery substance you can find at the bottom of your grinder. Ice water, or bubble hash, involves tumbling the cannabis flower through ice water and filtering it through a fine mesh before drying it out.

Rosin

Rosin is a concentrate known for its purity and potency. No solvents are involved in the creation of rosin so it tends to retain more of the natural terpenes and flavonoids from the original plant. If you’re looking for a concentrate that’s flavourful and pure, rosin is the perfect choice.

Shatter

Shatter is a weed concentrate that tends to be almost glass-like and translucent, with an amber tinge. The name comes from the appearance of the concentrate and it’s made by pouring the raw extract into a thin slab. Arguably, shatter is the most popular concentrate on the market.

Shatter is made using the butane extraction method, but can sometimes leave traces of the process behind. Because butane can be harmful when ingested, it’s very important to only buy shatter from a trusted brand that goes through the necessary steps to eradicate any harmful material.

Wax

Less oily and more waxy in texture, wax contains a high THC content and produces a powerful, long-lasting high. Wax is most commonly consumed with a vape, however it can be cooked with as well to make edibles. Note, if you’re going to attempt to make edibles with wax, make sure you properly decarboxylate the wax in the oven in order to turn the THCA into THC.

Distillate Concentrates

Distillate concentrate contains only a specific cannabinoid—usually THC—at a high concentration and is very potent. The purification process is so intense that it strips everything except for the THC - there are no waxes, terpenes, flavonoids or any other compounds found in distillate. Distillate is then used to create cartridges which are attached to vapes.

Hash

Probably the oldest concentrate is hash oil or hashish. This centuries old, highly fragrant and extremely potent extract is most commonly found as a brick or a ball. Hash is created using the solventless extraction method, usually via ice water. Basically, hash is a heated up, compressed brick of kief.

The Best Way to Consume Concentrates

There’s several ways to consume concentrates: using a dab rig, vaping, taking edibles or using body lotions/oils.

Dabbing isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly one of the most popular ways to smoke concentrates. Dabbing is the process of heating concentrate to the point where it vaporizes and is inhaled by the consumer.

Vape pens are also popular as they are small, discreet and efficient. Pens won’t give you as strong of a high as a dab, but the effects are almost immediate. Vape pens work with a pre-filled cartridge that heat the cannabis concentrate and is easily operated using a button. Cartridges are disposed of after use and the batteries are detachable and usually rechargeable.

Edibles are another great alternative to dabbing as they don’t require any special equipment and have no effect on the lungs. They can provide a long-lasting, very potent high depending on the dose. While the effects of vapor or smoke is almost immediate, edibles take longer to kick in - up to two hours after ingesting.

As a final alternative, body creams or balms provide target relief without any sort of associated high. Many people use topicals for muscle aches, headaches and more.

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