Dabbing, or dabs refers to consuming cannabis concentrates. Navigating the world of concentrates can be overwhelming for even the most experienced of cannabis users.
Should you get wax or oil, hash or budder, rosin or live resin? There are so many different kinds of concentrates on the market that it’ll make your head spin before you even take a dab.
That’s why we’ve made this cannabis concentrate guide. After reading this article you’ll have no problem finding the kind of cannabis concentrate that’s right for you.
What Are Cannabis Concentrates?
Cannabis concentrates are potent extracts that come from the cannabis plant, or marijuana. Concentrates are exactly that, concentrated. And therefore can be extremely powerful, even putting the most tolerant of stoners into couch-lock.
Extractors employ a variety of methods and technologies to get the cannabinoid and terpene rich resin and oils from raw cannabis plant matter. The extraction method is the most important factor when it comes to differentiating the quality of cannabis concentrates, but more about that later.
Why Try Cannabis Concentrates?
Concentrates have blossomed into mainstream cannabis culture, and for various reasons, dabbing has become popular amongst cannabis consumers. Dabbing is recommended for cannabis users who are experienced and have a developed level of tolerance.
Dabbing Concentrates is More Efficient
Regular users can dab concentrates to experience more of the effects they desire, whether medical or recreational. That’s because concentrates are much more potent than regular smoked cannabis flowers.
Dabs are Cost Effective
Because concentrates have a higher potency, some being nearly 100% pure THC or CBD, users don’t have to use as much product to get results. On one hand this makes it easy to over-consume THC, and on the other hand, for medical users who need high dosages, dabs can be a cost-effective and efficient use of medicine.
Therapeutic Dabs are Fast-Acting
Since concentrates are highly potent, even at low dosages, users will experience a faster onset of cannabis’ effects. For medical users suffering from pain, inflammation, seizures, and more, dabbing may be a serious option to consider if other methods of administration have fallen short.
Smoking vs. Dabbing
Dabbing concentrates is vastly different from smoking cannabis. Smoke from flower can be harsh and leave odors in the home or clothes. Dabbing mostly vaporizes cannabis concentrates, which won’t leave such a heavy aroma of cannabis in the air or on your clothes, at least for long.
Many dabbers would also say that dabbing provides a much more powerful taste and aromatic experience. Quality concentrates have high levels of compounds called terpenes, the chemicals responsible for the various flavors and tastes of marijuana.
Vaporizing concentrated quality dabs removes the smoky taste of flower, providing a clear terpene profile to enjoy, which may also be of great therapeutic value to medical marijuana patients.
Hash History & Charas, The First Cannabis Concentrate
Although concentrates and dabbing seem to be a relatively new trend, cannabis concentrates have been around for centuries. You see, historians believe cannabis comes from central Asia and the Middle East originally. Concentrates were potentially first developed in these regions.
Cultivated for gen throughout Afghanistan, Turkey, and similar regions in the Himalayas. This my friends is where hash and the legendary Charas come from.
Charas are hand-harvested hand-rolled cannabis concentrates. It’s a laborious process and the slower the hand rolling, the higher quality the hash. Extractors use specialized leather suits to walk through cannabis fields at harvest time. Workers make tolas, or little hash-balls, which can be braided into charas by rubbing the resinous flowers against their suits and in between their hands.
Legend has it that Hindu god Shiva would retreat for meditation into the mountains with nothing more than a few tolas. As western spiritual seekers traveled into these regions, following sages and yogis into the mountains where cannabis grows wild, local farmers noticed the value of their hash to foreigners. Thus, concentrates in the form of hashish were soon exported to the rest of the world quickly thereafter.
Cannabis Concentrate Extraction
While charas do still exist, they are particularly hard to find for your average Joe. Modern techniques of cannabinoid extraction look a lot different than hand-rolling hash, but overall the essence is still the same. What’s not hard to find these days are things like shatter, THC wax, and CO2 Oil?
But before you go blowing your hard earned cash on a stash let’s learn a little more about cannabis concentrates, extraction, and the difference between the various types of extracts.
When it comes to concentrates the most important distinguishing factor is the extraction process. Concentrates are made in many different methods, but they can all be grouped into two categories – Solvent-based extracts and non-solvent based extracts.
Solvent & Non-Solvent Methods of Extraction
Cannabis flowers produce resinous oils that contain many different types of cannabinoid compounds, including aromatic molecules called terpenes.
The point of extraction is to separate the cannabinoid-rich oils and terpenes from the plant material. Solvent-based extraction utilizes chemical solvents such as butane, propane, carbon dioxide, and ethanol, to separate the desired compounds from raw plant material. Non-solvent extraction uses water, heat, and pressure technologies to separate cannabinoids and terpenes from raw cannabis.
Different methods of extraction will have different pros and cons. The resulting concentrate’s purity, quality, taste, and consistency will be reflected by the extraction method used. And although concentrates are typically named after their appearances, the biggest differences lie in the extraction process and chemical composition of the final product.
Both solvent and non-solvent based concentrates are great options for dabbing, and while many would side with not using chemical solvent-based extracts due to health concerns, advancements in extraction technology have shown that solvent-based extracts can be safe. Just make sure your concentrate has been analyzed and tested for purity and contamination.
You should leave making solvent-based extractions to the professionals, just for the record. Chemical solvents that are used to extract the cannabinoid-rich resin from raw cannabis flowers are typically considered highly flammable. Specialized “close-looped” systems are needed to prevent the risk of fire and explosion.
Types of chemicals used in solvent-based extraction include,
Essentially, the solvent is passed through the extraction machines where it removes oils and resins from raw cannabis. The result is a chemical solvent and cannabinoid/terpene substance that is unsafe for consumption.
To separate the desired compounds safely from the chemical solvent several different techniques are used to “purge” or separate the cannabinoids.
Each method of “purging” implements different techniques and produces a different consistency and quality in the end concentrate.
Chemical Solvents Used In Cannabis Oil Extraction
BHO – Butane Hash Oil
“Blasting” butane gas through raw cannabis contained within a pressurized system produces Butane Hash Oil. Butane was one of the first solvents used to extract concentrates. And it’s a well-known reason for accidental explosions. Butane has a low burning point and is highly volatile.
Concentrates that can be produced by Butane extraction typically have high potencies and include
- And more
Carbon dioxide extraction refers to using Carbon Dioxide to separate cannabis oils and resins from raw material. Extractors utilize equipment with chambers that are custom made for various levels of temperature and pressure.
Controlling temperature and pressure during extraction allows for greater control in separating various cannabinoids from raw flowers. Cannabinoids each have their own specific temperature at which they become volatile and can be extracted.
If an extractor only wants CBD, depending on how sophisticated their equipment is, they can apply the appropriate settings to their equipment that will extract only that compound. CO2 extraction can yield many different types of concentrates and is generally considered the safest form of solvent-based extraction.
PHO – Propane Hash Oil
The method of using propane for extraction is similar to using butane. Differences include –
- Propane requires higher pressures
- Butane has a higher boiling point
This extraction method uses a lower boiling point than butane. This allows volatile cannabinoids and terpenes to be better preserved during the extraction process. This means the PHO extract will typically have a better taste and consistency than BHO.
PHO has grown in popularity in recent years compared to BHO because it produces a higher quality concentrate and is generally considered a cleaner product. You may find it a bit more expensive than a BHO extract, but the quality makes all the difference.
Ethanol & Alcohol
Ethanol and alcohol are solvents used for various cannabis extractions. Cannabinoids and terpenes will typically dissolve easily in alcohol, and this method is generally considered safer than other extraction methods.
Out of all the chemical solvents utilized for cannabis extraction, carbon dioxide is thought to be the safest. That’s because it’s a natural compound produced in the body, as opposed to butane, propane, and other hydrocarbons. However, ethanol may come in a close second.
This type of extraction, or Supercritical Fluid Extraction, produces amber-colored concentrate oil. Concentrates extracted using this method are considered the safest and purest of solvent-based concentrates. Because of little to no residual solvent and purity of the final product, this is the type of concentrate that is generally used in vaporizer cartridges.
Wax is the result of “blasting” raw cannabis using a closed-loop system. To remove any residual solvent from the “slurry” produced by “blasting”, extractors “whip” the product by hand.
This process can create wax and budder. Both have a cannabis aroma and flavor, but budder has more moisture, making it more of a creamy substance. Wax is typically more crumbly or dry than budder.
Live resin is an incredible concentrate that’s made from raw cannabis that hasn’t been dried or cured. Immediately after harvest, flowers are shucked into food-grade containers and frozen at low temperatures.
Live resin is considered one of the highest quality concentrates in terms of cannabinoid and terpene profiles, taste, and potency. Essentially, a live resin is made the same way as wax or budder, the only difference is that the cannabis used is frozen raw instead of being dried and cured prior to extraction.
Shatter and taffy refer to concentrates created by using a vacuum oven to purge the solvent residue from the desired extract. As in other solvent-based methods, cannabis is “blasted” using a closed-loop system.
The “slurry” of solvent and extract is placed onto parchment paper and goes into a vacuum over. Depending on the skill of the extractor and the equipment being used, it could take an hour to a full day’s work for the “slurry” to turn into shatter or taffy in the oven.
Shatter is typically light to dark amber and exhibits high terpene content, making it aromatic and tasty. Shatter is the desired result of using a vacuum oven, but if the quality of cannabis being used is inferior the end product will not be as easy to handle or snap.
When the concentrate comes out stable in its consistency it can be called shatter, but if it doesn’t purge properly it may end up being more of a malleable taffy-like concentrate, resembling budder more than shatter.
Distillate refers to concentrates that are produced through heat and vapor collection. The process is similar to the way essential oils are made. Advanced systems implement what’s called “short-path distillation” to produce CBD or THC distillate.
While the process can create a pure cannabinoid concentrate, the heat required destroys the terpene content of the product, which is vitally important in how the concentrate will affect you.
Distillate extractors often introduce various terpenes, aromatic compounds found throughout nature, into their distillate to reinstall the flavor profile. Adding terpenes and specific cannabinoid ratios to create a final distillate concentrate allows producers to create strain-specific products that may produce similar effects and flavor profiles of popular strains.
Piecrust, or honeycomb, is a concentrated product made similarly to other solvent-based extracts. Plant material is “blasted” with a solvent using a closed-loop system. The “slurry” is spread onto parchment paper and left in a vacuum oven to remove residual solvent from the desired cannabis concentrate.
Instead of making shatter of taffy at this point, the concentrate is compressed, and in turn, this speeds up the process, but it also changes the appearance and consistency of the final product. Instead of a shiny shatter, the final product has more of a crumbly, piecrust like appearance.
Caviar & Jelly Hash
Caviar and Jelly Hash are creatively constructed concentrates that are highly potent and are typically much more expensive because of it. Cannabis caviar refers to taking dried cannabis flower and soaking it in hash oil.
Then the hash oil soaked cannabis is covered in a coating of kief. (See the Kief description below for more info on Kief). This kief coated, hash soaked cannabis flower is then dried and ready for consumption.
Jelly hash refers to a mix of kief and hash oil. Essentially this process combines a solvent-based extract, hash oil, with a non-solvent based concentrate, kief. The end result is a highly potent cannabis product. Jelly hash is popular among medical marijuana patients who require concentrated and potent medicine.
Rick Simpson Oil
Famous Canadian activist, Rick Simpson, who reportedly cured his own cancer using his proprietary cannabis extract. Rick Simpson oil, or RSO, is a viscous and dark THC-rich resin.
Although infamous among DIY cannabis extractors, RSO hasn’t made much entrance into the legal market. This suggests that other extraction methods may offer cleaner, better tasting, and more efficiently produced cannabis concentrates.
Non-solvent extraction methods do not utilize any chemical solvents to strip cannabis flowers of their prized cannabinoid and terpenoid compounds. Instead, various methods utilize temperature, agitation, and sifting to separate and collect the desired extract, which becomes delicious concentrate, eventually.
Kief & Live Kief
Kief is a classic non-solvent based cannabis concentrate. When marijuana is dried, it’s covered in a dusty,powder-likee substance. This is the part of the plant that actually has the most concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes.
Kief is essentially the dried trichome heads and stalks from cannabis. Anytime dried cannabis is handled, the kief will fall off. Kief is typically collected during trimming or processing cannabis. At the consumer level, kief is usually collected using a three-chambered grinder.
Placing a coin in your grinder can help knock off kief stuck in the screens and bring it to the bottom chamber for collection.
Live kief is the same thing except it’s made from raw, frozen cannabis that hasn’t been dried or cured. Once frozen, raw cannabis gets hit with liquid nitrogen to cryogenically freeze the trichomes. The frozen flowers are agitated on screens. The result is a tasty and potent concentrate of live kief.
Bubble hash is made using ice water, several bags with microscopic pores, and a bucket or other type of container. Ice water helps to freeze the cannabinoid-rich trichomes, making them break off and sink to the bottom of the bucket.
By the way, the trick to making bubble hash lies with the gentle agitation of the cannabis flowers and ice. In large batches, extractors utilize a washing machine-like piece of equipment for the agitation process.
In short, oily trichomes are heavier than the water and don’t completely mix or dissolve into water, therefore producing bubble hash in this method provides a highly potent form of hash regarded as safe and clean. Bubble hash extraction is considered a more natural method of extraction and is valued by those who prefer non-solvent based extracts.
Full-melt Bubble Hash
Full-melt hash is essentially produced using the same methods as bubble hash. The difference is that full-melt uses fresh-cut cannabis flowers that haven’t been dried or cured. And with any type of hash, the final product will only be as potent and tasty as the starting material.
Full-melt is agitated more gently than regular bubble hash, and the idea behind this is to collect only trichome heads, as opposed to both trichome stalk and heads. The trichome heads are where the majority of cannabinoids and terpenes are synthesized and held.
From utilizing only the trichome heads a purer, more potent and aromatic concentrate can be achieved. Full-melt is valuable and typically reserved for dabbing, as it will almost fully vaporize.
Dry sift is essentially kief that has been refined for purity and refining it requires sifting and sieving the product several times in order to eliminate any plant material. You may also encounter Live Sift, which refers to refined, pure kief that’s produced from raw cannabis material that hasn’t been dried or cured.
Bot live and dry kief, or the more pure form called Sift, is generally reserved for adding to smoked flower and not for dabbing. That’s because it doesn’t melt or vaporize fully.
Advancements in equipment used to produce rosin have brought the extraction process to many small producers and DIYers. A rosin press uses heat and pressure to extract the essential oils and desired compounds from raw cannabis.
Rosin is considered to be the concentrate that best reflects the original cannabis used to produce it. That means if you want high-quality rosin, you’ll need to start with high-quality cannabis.
Full-melt vs. Half-Melt
Concentrates are typically rated and priced by quality and consistency. Concentrates, such as bubble hash or rosin, are typically rated on a scale of one to six stars with one being the lowest grade and six being the highest.
A low-grade cannabis concentrate will not be suitable for vaporizing, dabbing, or much of anything beyond smoking or making edibles. A high-grade concentrate may be considered a full-melt product and could be suitable to dab.
Concentrates that fall somewhere in the middle of the grading scale are best reserved for adding to flower and might be referred to as half-melt. Concentrates with these labels might be best reserved for adding to smoke flower, as they will not fully vaporize.
Cannabis Concentrates Conclusion
Thanks for reading! You should be confident in your concentrate knowledge now and be well prepared to navigate the dab world of tools, rigs, and concentrates.
If you found this article helpful then please feel free to share it with others who may also enjoy it! You can learn more about concentrates, dabbing, and cannabis culture in our other articles linked below.