Cannabis Concentrates 101: A Guide

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Cannabis concentrates are next-level dispensary products that take your sesh to another dimension! More potent than your typical joint, concentrates are great if you have a high tolerance for THC or just want to shake up your routine. But the world of concentrates is quite vast, with different products and devices that don’t look anything like flower. New to these products? This cannabis concentrates 101 guide will show you the way.

Cannabis Concentrates, Defined

The term “cannabis concentrates” refers to extracts from cannabis plants. These concentrates contain elevated amounts of cannabinoids, typically THC. Some concentrates have terpenes as well. 

Examples of concentrates include hash, wax, shatter and live rosin, just to name a few. Even with all the variety, all concentrates share a common theme: they contain high cannabinoid potency relative to cannabis flower. However, their differences are many, so when discussing concentrates, it’s important to be specific about which type.

Generally, concentrates fall into two categories: concentrates made with extracts and those made with mechanical separation techniques. 

Extracts pull cannabinoids and terpenes out of the plant’s trichomes, where much of the cannabinoid and terpene content is located. Extraction can be performed with solvents or through a solventless extraction process. Once complete, the extract is treated in a way that creates a unique texture. Some are dry and crumbly, while others are sticky and others are fragile. Examples include the many varieties of butane hash oil (BHO), such as shatter, wax, and crumble.

Concentrates made with mechanical separation don’t involve extraction. Instead, the trichomes are physically removed, collected and made into the final product. These types of concentrates include kief, hash and bubble hash.

How do you consume concentrates?

We’ll break it down: 

  • Add to flower. If you want to boost the potency of your flower, you might add some concentrate to your bowl pack or joint. Kief and hash are especially good candidates for this method, though it can be done with extracts like shatter and crumble.
  • Vaporize with a dab rig. These pipes are designed for extracts such as wax, crumble and budder. They feature a nail or banger that’s heated with a blowtorch. Once hot, place a small dab of concentrate on the banger to instantly vaporize it as you inhale from the mouthpiece.
  • Use an electronic vaporizer. These devices make it easy to try concentrates without blowtorches and dab mats. There are dual-use vaporizers that work with both flower and concentrates and dab pens designed for just concentrates. Every vaporizer is different, so familiarize yourself with the device beforehand and read the manual for instructions. Choose a vaporizer compatible with the type of concentrate you intend to use, too.
  • Vape. Lightweight and portable, vape cartridges filled with distillate or live rosin are easily concealed and discreet. Attach the vape cart to its corresponding battery, and you’re ready.
  • Make other products. Certain types of extracts are great for making edibles, tinctures and topicals. For example, you’ll find gummies made with live rosin or tinctures made by infusing extract with a carrier oil.

How Are Concentrates Made?

Concentrates can be made in many ways, and the process shapes the final product. That’s why when you visit a dispensary, you’ll see concentrates in several shapes, colors and textures. Some of the most well-known methods in use today include:

Dry Sifting

Dry sifting separates trichomes from cannabis plants manually, typically for making hash. It involves stacking a series of increasingly fine mesh screens on top of one another and agitating cannabis flower to remove the trichomes. The trichomes are then collected and pressed into brick shapes.

Ice Water Extraction

This process uses near-freezing water to agitate cannabis plants, making the trichomes brittle and breaking them off. The water-trichome solution is run through a series of fine mesh bags to collect the trichomes and separate them from any remaining plant material. They are then pressed into bricks of bubble hash and left to dry. Bubble hash can be sold as-is or placed in a machine known as a rosin press to produce a solventless extract.

Hydrocarbon Extraction

Hydrocarbon extraction utilizes solvents like butane and propane to pull cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis plant, separating it entirely from plant materials. A major benefit of hydrocarbon extraction is the low boiling point of its solvents. This enables manufacturers to purge the extract of lipids, waxes and residual solvent at low temperatures without damaging cannabinoids and terpenes. 

Hydrocarbon extraction is how Butane Hash Oil (BHO) is made. BHO forms the basis of a number of popular extracts, including shatter, crumble and sauce.

Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol extraction utilizes ethanol as a solvent. It’s usually chilled first and pumped through the cannabis biomass while cold. The cold solvent pulls the maximum amount of cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant, as heat can damage these compounds. Ethanol is especially useful in producing distillates and pulls more water-soluble molecules than other extraction methods.

Supercritical CO2 Extraction

Supercritical CO2 extraction involves subjecting liquid CO2 to temperatures and pressure that cause it to act as both a liquid and a gas simultaneously. It’s then pumped through cannabis biomass to pull cannabinoids and terpenes. The major benefit of this method is that CO2 is a clean, environmentally-friendly solvent that eliminates the need for a solvent-purging step in the manufacturing process. Manufacturers can also easily store and reuse it without additional safety considerations.

Why Do People Prefer Concentrates?

One popular reason for choosing concentrates is the elevated potency. You may find concentrates more effective if you have a high tolerance for THC. Others may want higher levels of THC to manage chronic pain or other medical conditions.

You may also prefer the discretion of concentrates compared to flower may be the priority. Certain consumption methods, like vaping, don’t require lots of equipment or accessories. Unlike smoking flower, vaporizing concentrates also produces a subtle scent that won’t linger. 

There’s also your budget to consider. While the price of concentrates is nominally higher than flower in a gram-to-gram comparison, concentrates can last much longer because so little is used with each session.

Different Types of Cannabis Concentrates

While there’s lots of variety out there, you’re almost certain to encounter these six types of concentrates at nearly any California dispensary.

  • Hash: Hash is one of the oldest known concentrates. It comes in a brick, and small pieces are shaved off. Hash is typically added to a bowl or joint and can also be consumed independently.
  • Oil: Cannabis oil is an extract most commonly found in vape cartridges. Oil can be produced using hydrocarbon, ethanol or CO2 extraction. Oil is generally vaporized or used as an ingredient in other cannabis products.
  • Rosin: This viscous, solventless extract is made by placing bubble hash in a rosin press, which applies heat and pressure to squeeze the cannabinoids and terpenes from the bubble hash. Rosin can be sold as-is, added to a vape cartridge or used as an ingredient in other cannabis products.
  • Shatter: Shatter is a variety of BHO made by pouring the extract into a thin sheet and allowing it to harden. The glass-like sheet can then be broken or shattered into small shards. Shatter is generally vaporized with a dab rig or portable vaporizer. It can also be added to a bowl.
  • Wax: This variety of BHO is agitated during the purging process, creating a consistency similar to a melted candle. Wax, like shatter, is vaporized with a dab rig or portable vaporizer but could be added to flower and smoked as well.
    Budder: This concentrate is whipped after extraction to create smooth buttery consistency. Like wax and shatter, it’s often vaporized but can be added to flower and smoked.

Inevitably, you’ll encounter other concentrates like THCA diamonds, sauce and live resin, as well as emerging new types of concentrates. If you’re curious about them, a trusted and knowledgeable budtender can guide you.

What You Need To Know Before Trying Concentrates

Before trying concentrates, the most important thing to know is that they are extremely potent compared to cannabis flower (we just can’t say it enough). Concentrates range from 50 percent to more than 90 percent THC content, whereas some of the strongest cannabis flower out there hovers around 30 percent or slightly higher. Consuming even a small amount of concentrates could prompt an intense experience or trigger anxiety. It’s best to begin with just a little bit until you know how concentrates will affect you. Only increase how much concentrate you consume when you have a better idea of how they make you feel.

Fortunately, if you know how a given concentrate is likely to affect you and manage your dosage accordingly, your next session is more likely to go off without a hitch. Just be sure to mind the potency of the product you’re consuming beforehand.

It’s also important to note that the different textures can affect how each type of concentrate is consumed. Some concentrates may be too sticky or runny to work with certain devices, while others may be difficult to roll. And if you’re using an electronic vaporizer, read the manual for tips and advice on which concentrates are best for that device.

How To Shop For Cannabis Concentrates

Get a quality product that’s tested, safe and right for your needs with these tips.

Consider Potency

It bears repeating that concentrates are significantly more potent than cannabis flower. Even if you have a joint or bowl every day, you should try concentrates with this in mind. Always check the cannabinoid profile of any product before trying it.

Also consider THC:CBD ratio, which plays a factor in the level of intoxication you can expect. A concentrate like hash, for example, may have lower levels of THC and higher levels of CBD than a vape cartridge filled with cannabis oil. Choose your product accordingly.

Know Your Terpenes

Some concentrates contain robust terpene profiles while others have almost no remaining terpenes. These compounds influence the flavor and experience of a cannabis product, so shop with this in mind if you want to experience the full flavors and aromas of flower.

For example, live rosin is likely to contain a similar terpene profile as the strain from which it’s derived. A THC distillate, on the other hand, contains no terpenes whatsoever. If you want an experience that’s similar to the original strain of flower, you may opt for a concentrate that retains terpenes well.

Choose Your Consumption Method

Not all concentrates can be consumed in the same way, so it’s important to know your consumption method before buying. BHO-based concentrates are good with dab rigs, while you should skip hard-to-handle concentrates if you plan to roll. 

Buy From a Licensed Dispensary

Licensed dispensaries carry products tested for safety and quality. Concentrates, in particular, should always be tested, as improperly made concentrates can contain residual solvents in addition to other contaminants like mold. Choosing a licensed dispensary like Hello Cannabis is the best way to ensure the concentrates you buy meet health and safety standards.

Shop Top Concentrates at Hello Cannabis

Now that you know the ins and outs of cannabis concentrates, it’s time to try them! We have a range of concentrates at Hello Cannabis and are sure we have the product you want. Need more guidance? Stop by our Vista dispensary to talk with a team member. We’ll happily match you with a product that will make your day!

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