Over the last few years, cannabis concentrates have taken the medical and recreational markets by storm. Whether its shatter, budder, wax, sugar, sauce or rosin, concentrate makers have an answer for your call to consumption. Concentrate makers have honed their process to create some of the tastiest and most potent marijuana concentrates, but there isn’t one right way. There are a variety of methods used by concentrate makers and all have their pros and cons. These are a few tried and true methods – maybe not the best, but they are accessible to even the do-it-at-home crowd.
One of the oldest forms of extraction involves using ethanol. With this method, you soak the plant material in ethanol and then use a purging process to remove the ethanol.
This is often done using a machine called a Roto-Vap that is used to heat the marijuana-ethanol solution in order to evaporate the ethanol and reclaim it for later use. This can also be accomplished by heating your solution in a hot water bath, but you won’t be able to collect the evaporated ethanol.
The remaining cannabis oil can then be used to create tinctures, edibles, and concentrates.
Butane is another popular medium used to extract cannabinoids from cannabis plants. This is one of the more dangerous methods as well.
Butane extraction can be done at home using simple equipment and is also done on large scales, but the process is relatively the same. To start, fill a tube (metal or plastic) with plant material. The better quality material used directly affects the quality and yield of the extract.
Then cover one end with a filter or mesh screen with holes small enough to prevent any of your plant material from seeping through. Now, spray the butane into the tube and allow the resulting cannabis-butane solution to drip into a glass dish that is placed below the filter end of your tube.
At this point, the butane must be purged from the solution for safety. This is accomplished by heating the solution in a hot-water bath. As you slowly heat the butane solution, it will begin to bubble – that is the gas escaping.
The water-bath will quickly become cold, so changing it frequently is key to purging all the butane. The remaining “goo” is cooled and then used as the concentrate known as shatter.
Supercritical fluid extraction is another common method used to extract cannabinoids from cannabis. While it is possible to use other gasses in their liquid form, C02 is the most commonly used gas in this method.
C02 is a connoisseur’s preferred extraction medium because it compresses beyond its “critical” point at around 90 °F, a temperature well below the deactivation temperature for cannabinoids and terpenes. This means more flavor and a clearer high from C02 derived concentrates.
This extraction method relies on pressure and temperature to extract the terpenes, cannabinoids, and waxes from the cannabis material. Extractors put their material in an extraction vessel and then force the C02 liquid through the vessel.
While controlling pressures and temperatures, the cannabinoids, terpenes, and waxes will separate and collect in various chambers attached to the vessel.
Extractors know at which temperature and pressure each terpene, cannabinoid, and wax separate, from the homogenous solution of marijuana material. This way they are able to target certain flavors and “types of high” produced by the genetics they are using.
Extract your opinion
There are plenty of methods used to successfully create cannabis extracts – deciding which to use will depend on your desired outcome and how you plan to use your extracts.
Keep in mind that when extracting cannabis, you are concentrating all the “bad” chemicals and mediums in your finished product. This means you need to be sure to purge your medium completely and also have some sense about the chemicals (if any) used in the cultivation of your plant material. Safety is key!