Concentrates: Do You Really Know What You’re Smoking?
Do you know what you’re smoking? It’s always good to stay informed, so here’s the scoop on different cannabis concentrates.
Do you really know what you’re smoking? Cannabis concentrates keep gaining in popularity, yet there are quite a few different types of concentrates available. What distinguishes one concentrate from another? What are these different concentrates called, anyway? To help clear up some confusion, here’s a handy guide for the most common concentrates and extractions.
RSO is short for Rick Simpson Oil. This extraction is the essential oil of the cannabis plant, obtained by heating cannabis flowers and leaves with a solvent. The solvent is typically a grain alcohol like Everclear. Sometimes extractors use isopropyl, though a high-proof grain alcohol is thought to yield best results for people making it themselves.
You do not need to dab RSO. Rather, you can simply squirt a little in your mouth with an oral syringe. You can also use it to fill empty pill capsules or place a drop on a toothpick and put it under your tongue. This oil is most commonly used by medical cannabis patients, especially for those with cancer or seizure disorders.
Live resin is a newer extraction technique that packs a flavorful punch. Buds are flash frozen after harvest. The resin (trichomes, oils) are then extracted from the frozen plant. Laboratory equipment is used in the process. The fast freezing of fresh flowers preserves more of the terpenes and cannabinoids before extraction.
As cannabis buds age, aroma molecules and cannabinoids break down and degrade. This flash freezing process intervenes and saves the terpenes and compounds found on the fresh flower. This makes for a more flavorful, unique dabbing experience.
Shatter is one of the most common concentrates for dabbing. It’s also one of the purest and most potent extractions. In order to make shatter, cannabis materials go through a double extraction. This removes a large majority of the fats and other plant particles from the oil.
The end result is a glass-like sheet of hardened cannabis resin. The overall consistency is similar to hard candy. Shatter can contain up to 80% THC, making it one of the most potent cannabis concentrates around. Yet, while this stuff is very psychoactive, it is also less flavorful than other concentrates.
Shatter can be a little difficult to work with, especially as it ages. If your shatter is too brittle to use effectively, heat up your dab tool just a little bit to better break off and pick up the oil so you can actually consume the stuff.
Bubble hash is a type of hash that often bubbles when you heat it. To make traditional hashish, hashishins typically use a screen or a sieve, to extract resin glands (trichomes) from cannabis flowers. The extracted material is then collected into a powder, which can be pressed to make a brick or ball of hash.
You get bubble hash when you add an ice water extraction to the mix. Trichomes are extracted from cannabis flowers by agitating them with ice water. There are a few different ways to do this, but it’s common to mix frozen trim or flower with quite a lot of ice and cold water in a large bucket.
The mixture is then stirred around, which breaks frozen trichomes from the plant material. This plant material is then strained from the ice water using straining bags, often called bubble bags. The end mixture is dried overnight, transforming a wet goo into a more compact and sticky powder.
Budder is similar to shatter, but it often contains more terpenes and less overall THC. Like shatter, it is made via a butane hash oil (BHO) extraction technique. Unlike shatter, budder is whipped into a creamy goo that is easy to work with. Overall, it has the consistency of a whipped butter or ear wax.
If you find that your budder is too wet, you can always place it in the freezer to harden it up prior to dabbing. While shatter maintains its crystalline consistency and is translucent, budder falls under the “wax” classification as it is opaque and, well, waxier.
Sugar wax is another category of BHO. After cannabis resin is extracted with a solvent, the oils are then heated to “purge” or evaporate out the solvent from the plant oils. Sugar wax forms during the heating process and can be a result of fats (lipids) that have not been properly extracted while making a shatter.
Some strains are also more prone to sugaring than others. If your shatter turned into sugar wax, it could be possible that the strain contained terpenes that hold onto water, or that the trichomes on the strain had a thicker lipid (fat) cuticle.
Over time, some shatters can also “sugar up” and resemble sugar wax. The outer part of the wax becomes a bit crystalline and shines. The overall texture, however, is crumbly and easy to work with. Sugar wax will be opaque with a distinct sheen on the surface.
A crumble is very similar to sugar wax. It is also made using BHO extraction techniques and forms its texture during the heating and cooling process. The difference is that crumble lacks the same crystally shine. Rather, it falls somewhere in between sugar wax and whipped budder.
Crumbles are easy to work with. As the name might suggest, it is a waxy concentrate that “crumbles” to the touch. This means that you can easily scoop it up onto your dab tool. Crumbles, however, can get a bit dusty or flakey when they lose moisture. Make sure you keep crumbles in a cool dark place in a size-appropriate container.
Sometimes crumbles can have something akin to a honeycomb consistency as well.
Unlike the majority of concentrates on this list, CO2 oils do not use butane as a solvent. Rather, cannabis resin is extracted with CO2 gas. The result is a liquid-y extraction that is often used in pre-filled vaporizer pens. Depending on the extraction techniques, some professionals can get a more gooey consistency from their CO2 oils.
The primary benefit of using CO2 is a cleaner extraction. Butane receives a lot of criticism as many concentrates may contain trace amounts of the carcinogenic solvent. CO2 solvents also leave behind more terpenes, creating a more flavorful product.
While all of the extractions thus far have used a solvent, rosin is made by using heat and pressure. Cannabis trichomes are melted and pressurized into a sticky, translucent goo. Cool thing is, you can make this right at home in just a couple of minutes.
Rosin is the McGyver way of creating something akin to shatter. Basically, you take a cannabis flower or some kief crystals and place them in some parchment paper. You then fold the parchment paper over your cannabis. Using a hair straightener, you heat the kief or dried bud to melt and extract the resin glands.
When you’re done pressing your cannabis, you then have a sticky, dabbable concentrate left to the parchment paper. Easy enough, right?