ˈkänsənˌtrāts | Noun
Are you (too) familiar with hash, shatter, rosin, crumble, wax, crystalline, etc.? They are potent cannabis concentrates or substances made from hemp or marijuana that contain the most desirable plant compounds — cannabinoids and terpenes. These products come in many forms and textures. They typically include the non-active forms of cannabinoids and need heat to activate and produce their effects. On the other hand, users infuse concentrates that contain active cannabinoids into edibles, tinctures, and topicals to get the benefits without applying heat.
“If you want a potent dose of pure hemp cannabinoids and terpenes, aim for concentrates.”
“Did you know that all cannabis extracts are considered concentrates?”
What are Concentrates?
They are potent cannabis products made from the plant’s juiciest parts or the trichome glands. The trichome glands are the tiny, sticky hairs that cover the plant and give its crystal-like, frosty feel. They produce and hold cannabinoids and terpenes, the two most important cannabis molecules. Concentrates isolate and accumulate cannabinoids and terpenes from the trichome glands. Packed with the most beneficial compounds, they are more potent and pure than flower, hence their rapid rise in popularity.
Many people use the terms concentrate and extract interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference between the two. Extracts are a subcategory of concentrates made using a solvent. That means that all extracts are concentrates, but not all concentrates are considered extracts. Some concentrates are made without the use of a solvent, like kief and rosin.
What are CBD Concentrates?
CBD concentrates are made from the trichomes of the hemp plant and contain very high levels of cannabidiol. They offer a potent dose of pure cannabidiol or cannabidiol mixed with other cannabinoids and terpenes — in an instant. Due to its fast-acting effects, people prefer these products over other forms of CBD.
Concentrates first appeared as marijuana products with high THC levels, of course, with the purpose of getting high. Now, we have the same types of textures like crystalline, wax, crumble, shatter, etc., but instead of THC, they contain pure, high CBD levels. This is excellent news for people who need a strong dose of cannabinoids and terpenes for medicinal purposes.
Origins of Concentrates
We can’t discuss the origins of these products and not mention the oldest one — hashish. Hash is arguably the most prolific method of making these substances. It’s hard to know the exact origin of hashish. The oldest recorded method of making concentrates was hash, found in 8th and 6th century BCE Assyrian texts.
Experts believe that hash spread from its unknown original point (they assume Central to Southwest Asia) through Persia or India. The first forms of hashish were kief or cannabis sifted through a sieve that removes the trichome glands. The kief is then exposed to heat and pressure and molded into bricks or rolled balls, known as hash. Hand-rubbing hashish into small resin balls turns the concentrate into charas.
A tincture is an extract in a liquid such as alcohol or glycerin. Tinctures made from cannabis became an important medicine in the mid-to-late 19th century when Western medicine adopted this plant and its uses. Cannabis reached its peak in Europe during the 1980s in the form of extracts and tinctures.
Later on, in the early 20th century, these products declined in use because of inconsistencies in effect. Manufacturers back then didn’t have the knowledge to isolate active components of the plant, which made it difficult for them to provide consistent potency and an accurate dosage in their products. This setback was impossible to overcome because of the development of emerging medical and legal restrictions throughout the century. So, medicines like injectable morphine wiped out the use of cannabis tinctures as medicine.
Now the cannabis plant in both varieties (hemp and marijuana) is getting legalized in many parts of the world. The advances in technology give consistency to the product, allowing users to get the same amount of cannabis compounds every time.
While in the 20th century isolating certain components of the cannabis plant was impossible, today, it’s changed the game for the plant’s reach. Isolations of certain cannabis compounds like cannabinoids made the plant available for everyone as a medicine in its concentrated form. With isolates, many people who don’t want to be sedated by THC can take CBD or a mixture dose of both and still enjoy the plant’s beneficial properties.
Scientists first isolated cannabinol (CBN) from the plant. This cannabinoid is the one that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) breaks down into after prolonged storage. Cannabinol was first isolated at the end of the 19th century from a red oil cannabis extract. British chemist R.S. Cahn classified its chemical structure in 1932, paving the way for its chemical synthesis by Tood and Adams in 1940. Two years later, a group of pharmacologists made the first THC cannabis extraction.
They are concentrates made with the use of a solvent. The first book that explains how to make extracts is the 1973 book “Cannabis Alchemy: The Art of Modern Hashmaking,” by D. Gold. The author became interested in developing extract techniques and entered the world of underground cannabis chemistry in San Francisco.
Two decades later, concentrates experienced another turning point when John Davis wrote about “turning trash leaf to honey oil in minutes.” In 1999, he put instruction about the “open blasting” method of making concentrates on the website the Vaults of Erowid. This was the first time someone mentions butane as a solvent for cannabis extraction.
This method is incredibly dangerous and should not be performed at home, which was something the author didn’t foresee. As a result, major accidents followed because people were trying to “open blast” at home. People exposed butane fumes to the environment, causing explosions that lead to serious or fatal injuries. Eventually, the author patented the extraction, and the method is now known as one of the first “closed-loop systems” to extract cannabis oil.
DISCLAIMER: This method of extraction is illegal and extremely dangerous. It should only be performed by trained, experienced professionals with proper equipment and safety precautions.
Budder is a cannabis concentrate consistency with a malleable texture that looks and feels like cake frosting. This consistency emerged in the market in the mid-’90s. It was created by BudderKing, a Canadian concentrate maker who approached the founder of Da Kine Smoke and Beverage Shop, to distribute a sample of the extract from the shop, called “Butter Hoots.” He shared his budder-making technique with the world in Cannabis Culture magazine in 2005.
Decades later, extracts like shatter, crumble, and sauce are available in dispensaries as the industry continues to evolve. Shatter had its peak from 2010 to 2014, badder in 2015, and distillate made its debut in 2013. Hemp CBD concentrates are booming right now, in 2020, and are the future of the hemp industry. Full spectrum extracts are still one of the most popular ones, but people want to know about concentrated forms of purer CBD, like crystalline.
Starting Material for Concentrates
These substances can be made from any part of the cannabis plant, either dried and cured or fresh. The three most common processes are trim run, nug run, and live resin.
Trim cuttings are the small sugar leaves removed from the cannabis plant. A trim run concentrate is a product made from these excess leaves that contain fewer trichomes than cannabis buds. The end product is a cheaper concentrate that creates a less harsh smoke. These “trim” parts of the cannabis plant were typically discarded until processors decided to make use of them and create a product with the same potency as nug run.
Nugs are high-quality cannabis buds (flowers) grown specifically for extraction. A nug run is the concentrate extracted from dried and cured small nugs. These nugs are the most trichome-rich part of the cannabis plant. They produce one of the most potent and flavorful concentrates possible. A nug run concentrate can come in various consistencies from shatter to sauce.
A term that describes a concentrate made from fresh cannabis plant material. Live resin extraction is done on fresh, flash-frozen cannabis plants that have not been dried or cured. This method aims to retain the terpenes that are lost during the drying and curing process due to high temperatures. Live resin concentrates are high-grade and flavorful because of their high levels of terpenes.
How Are They Made?
Processors use one of two main ways to produce concentrates:
- Mechanical separation: physically separating the trichome from the plant without using a solvent.
- Chemical extraction: using a liquid solvent to dissolve the trichomes from the plant.
The physical separation of the trichomes involves breaking and removing them from plant material by shaking or pressing. Kief, for example, involves shaking cured cannabis through a series of screens. The screens have a specific size to ensure only the trichome glands separate and make it into the final product. Some mechanical separation methods use centrifugal action, filtration, and gravity separation to remove the trichome glands from the plant. Other methods include:
- Using heat and pressure to remove the cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis plant. The final product is known as rosin. Similar to an oil press, the plant material undergoes heat and pressure until the resin glands are excreted from it.
- Combining ice, water, and ground plant material in a vessel and agitating it until the trichome glands break off and sink to the bottom of the vessel. This method is known as the ice-water method.
- Sieving the ground plant in a mechanical tumbler composed of screens, or by hand, to gently remove the exposed trichomes and get kief.
- Extraction of terpenoids using water in steam form.
Solvent-based or chemical extractions use a chemical solvent to dissolve the trichomes from the plant. These are the most efficient methods to remove trichomes from the cannabis plants and are preferred in the commercial cannabis industry.
Manufacturers use solvents like butane, propane, ethanol, and carbon dioxide in liquid form and remove any traces of the solution before it’s safe for consumption. They use solvents with extremely low boiling points to maintain the full spectrum of cannabis compounds. They don’t want them to evaporate due to high temperatures used to remove the solvent from the solution.
Most Common Concentrate Consistencies
Now, we’re at the fun part. Once processors remove the goods from the plant material, they transform the solution in various forms. The form of the final product allows you to choose your preferred concentrate texture. These final textures and colors don’t necessarily indicate the taste or effects of the product but dictate how you can use them. The delicate textures of cannabis concentrates result from deliberate steps taken before or after extraction, known as “post processing techniques.”
- Live kief
- Dry sift
- Bubble hash
- Full melt
- Snap-and-pull (taffy)
- Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)
How to Use?
There are several ways to consume cannabis concentrates safely and effectively. You need some equipment to smoke or dab a cannabis concentrate to activate the cannabinoids and terpenes properly. You can sprinkle them on some flower, dab them (preferred option), vape them, or put them in edibles.
Sprinkle on Flower
Concentrates increase the potency and improve the flavor of cannabis flower. Sprinkle some kief or add a few drops of concentrate oil to your hemp flower or pre-rolls and pre-roll blunts. You can also roll a blunt, dip it in some oil and sprinkle some kief on top. This is an easy and cost-effective way to consume cannabis concentrates and increase the potency of your favorite hemp flower strain.
Make sure to check how to consume each concentrate because they are easily flammable and burn fast. Knowing how to smoke them ensures you don’t waste a puff. If you’re experienced in smoking hemp flower, this method may be the best one for you as a beginner.
One of the most popular consumption methods (and considered the best one) of cannabis concentrates is known as dabbing. This method offers a potent dose and flavor-packed experience if the product is rich in terpenes.
To dab, you’ll need a device called a dab rig. A dab rig is a glass pipe (similar to a bong) designed specifically for this purpose. A key component of a dab rig is a titanium, quartz, or glass nail. To use this device, you need a lighter (typically a butane torch lighter) to heat up the nail to the desired temperature. The temperature is achieved fast, so place the dab on the nail and inhale at the same moment because it evaporates quickly.
You can also vaporize these substances using a portable or handheld vaporizer. To use this device, you’ll need to fill a chamber with your desired concentrate and attach the chamber to a battery that heats up the substance. Vaporizers typically don’t require any additional equipment like dab rigs.
The most effortless and enjoyable method of consuming concentrates are pre-filled vape pens. A vape pen is a combination of a pre-filled cartridge and battery that heats the substance when activated.
How to Store Your Concentrates
The key to properly storing the concentrate is to keep them away from heat, air, and humidity. Exposure to outside elements will change their potency, texture, and flavor. As a rule of thumb, all concentrates are stored in a cool, dark place. In the short-term, you can keep them in a room temperature setting.
Long-term storage requires you to use an airtight container and put it into the refrigerator or freezer. Keep in mind that freezing a concentrate comes with some risks. If not properly sealed, they may accumulate moisture and become harsh to dab. With a proper container, you’ll minimize this risk, but it’s best to make, buy, or use them fresh.
What’s the best container to store your cannabis concentrate? Typically, something between a glass jar, a silicone jar, or parchment paper, but depends on the consistency of the substance. For example, budder and sauce are usually stored in a glass jar, which is the go-to for long-term storage. Silicone jars make it easy to access and remove the concentrate, but they don’t have an airtight seal, which makes them unsuitable for long-term storage. For solvent-based extracts, parchment paper is another short-term storage option.
Concentrates are the future of cannabis, fusing terpenes and cannabinoids into potent and flavorful products.