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Cannabis 101

What are cannabis concentrates? A how-to guide

03.01.22 - 4 min read

Summary: 

  1. Cannabis concentrates are the resulting product of the extraction of desirable compounds from the marijuana plant. 
  2. There are various extraction methods thus various types of concentrates. 
  3. Cannabis concentrates have higher THC levels and should be used carefully. 

Food for thought: a 2018 survey showed that 81% of American adults believe cannabis can be beneficial to their health. As the public’s interest in the plant continues to increase, it’s no surprise that innovative products keep hitting the market.  

Cannabis concentrates provide a perfect example of how our use of the plant can benefit from cutting-edge technology. Complex and diverse, the world of concentrates often involves using modern science to zero in on specific flavors and potential effects associated with different cannabis compounds.  

As you might’ve guessed, there’s a lot of info to absorb when it comes to concentrates. If you’re wondering where to start or have some experience but could use a cheat sheet, read on—we’ll take you through everything you need to know. 

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So, what are marijuana concentrates, exactly? 

Cannabis concentrates are the resulting product of the extraction of desirable compounds from the marijuana plant. During the extraction process, you end up with a substance rich in cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that’s typically high in potency. There are various extraction methods and, as a result, various types of marijuana extracts. [Source

What are marijuana extracts? 

Extracts contain a purer form of cannabinoids. They can be both THC and CBD-based. THC is the cannabinoid that can make you feel intoxicated, while CBD is not typically linked to this kind of effect. There’s more than one way in which cannabinoids can be extracted, and new methods of extraction are still being discovered. 

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Extraction methods 

Solvent-based extraction 

This method of extracting the cannabis concentrates is done with the use of an evaporative chemical. Solvent-based extraction makes it possible to break down the trichomes (which are filled with cannabinoids and terpenes), separating them from the plant itself. When the process is complete, you’re left with a concentrated batch of trichomes. 

This extraction is thought of as an efficient, cost-effective way of gathering the most important compounds of the plant.  

A variety of solvents can be used with this method including ethanol, butane, carbon dioxide (CO2) and olive oil. [Source] 

Solventless extraction 

Another method of gathering marijuana concentrates involves solventless extraction. In this process, the cannabinoids are extracted without the use of a solvent. Instead, they’re extracted primarily through the use of water. While water can cause some terpenes to dissolve, it doesn’t interfere when it comes to separating trichomes from the plants. 

Types of marijuana concentrates 

If you’re new to concentrates, you might be wondering about some of the terminology out there. Shatter, wax, crumble, budder, batter—yep, there’s plenty of slang floating around. Feel like you need a glossary to decode some of the products popping up at your local dispensary? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! 

Shatter 

One of the purest concentrates, shatter gets its name from the fact that its glass-like structure can cause it to easily shatter. 

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Crumble 

Like shatter, crumble also has an obvious name. This concentrate tends to crumble easily because the wax becomes brittle during the BHO (butane hash oil) vacuuming process. 

Sugar 

This marijuana concentrate gets its name from its appearance. It’s made from the dried flower of the cannabis plant and has a consistency like that of wet sugar. A lot of people are drawn to its flavorful aroma. 

Budder & batter 

Shatter is used as the base to create budder and batter. It has a rich aroma and is whipped, allowing it to contain equal parts of both cannabinoids and terpenes. 

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Sauce 

If the robust flavor is important to you, then the sauce is a concentrate you’re likely to be happy with. The flavor derives from the high level of terpenes. It looks similar to marmalade. 

Wax 

This is the stickiest form of all the cannabis concentrates. That’s why the “dab” method works best with wax concentrates. The oil crystallizes during the extraction process and gives it its wax texture due to agitation. 

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Kief 

Those who grind the cannabis flower themselves in order to smoke it readily have kief on hand. This is because it automatically gathers in the cannabis grinder, falling to the bottom during the grinding process. Interestingly enough, kief actually becomes a more potent compound than the flower itself. 

Hash 

With a THC level of up to 90%, hash is one of the most potent extracts available on the market. It’s made from the glands along the surface of the marijuana flower, called trichomes. It comes in both a dry form and an oil form. 

Rosin 

One of the more popular marijuana concentrates is rosin. It’s often extracted from dried marijuana buds, although it can also be extracted from water hash. It’s one of the simplest concentrates to make. 

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Jelly 

The jelly concentrate is made by mixing a form of hash known as “bubble” hash, with hash oil. This gives it the consistency of jelly and makes it even more potent than the bubble hash or the hash oil itself. 

Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) 

Don’t let the tar-like consistency of Rick Simpson Oil (or RSO) turn you away from it. This concentrate can be a good alternative for those who have a high tolerance to THC and want something extra potent. RSO is a whole-plant extract that contains flavonoids, terpenes and cannabinoids. 

Dablets 

Another newer concentrate: dablets. Measured pieces of cannabis concentrate that are enclosed in a genuine mineral-based ceramic, they’re thought to make dabbing a much cleaner and simpler process. 

Diamonds 

One of the newer concentrates, diamonds have quickly become one of the most popular as well. They’re made by mixing the cannabinoids and terpenes in a rotary evaporator, filtering out the plant pieces. 

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Pearls 

Also known as “dab beads” and “banger beads,” these are created by being soaked all the way to the flower stem. With isolated THCA they’re quite potent and because of their simple form, the dosage recommendations are easy to follow. 

Honeycomb 

Honeycomb concentrates are a form of hydrocarbon extracts. Solvents like butane and propane are used when making honeycomb. It has a consistency that’s similar to pie crust and it’s one of the most potent forms available, with a concentration of between 60%-80% THC. 

Resin 

Many people opt for resin because of its taste, which most likely accounts for its popularity in the cannabis market. 

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How to use concentrates 

Now that you have an understanding of the different types of cannabis concentrates, we’ll help you get a better sense of how to use them. Here are several techniques, along with a list of which concentrates work best for different methods. (Note: always remember that each state has its own unique cannabis regulations, so it’s important to stay informed about what consumption methods are legal where you live.) 

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Dabbing 

The process of dabbing involves heating a cannabis concentrate to a high temperature. You then inhale it to gain the maximum benefit of the concentrate. You’ll need certain tools in order to dab correctly, all of which can be easily found. 

There are also several steps you’ll want to follow. Just remember to start with a small amount and work your way up. Dabbing is far more potent than using a flower in its basic form, so you won’t need to use as much to get the same effect. 

Steps to dabbing: 

  1. Safety first! Ensure that you’re in an area that’s free of any aerosols or other harmful elements. 
  2. Turn your torch on and allow the nail to become red hot. 
  3. You can turn off your torch once the nail is hot enough. You’ll want to let it cool for about 10 seconds if you’re using titanium and about 45 seconds if you’re using quartz. 
  4. On the nail, apply a dab of the concentrate you’re using. Inhale it slowly to get the full effect. 
  5. Remember to cap your dabs as you finish inhaling, then simply exhale. 
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The tools you’ll need in order to utilize the dabbing method: 

  • A water pipe similar to a bong called a dab rig. 
  • A nail, which holds the concentrate and has a bowl-like shape. It’s available in different sizes and orientations. 
  • A mini-torch that uses propane. (Many people opt for the kind typically used in cooking.) 
  • The cannabis extract of your choice. 
     
    The most common concentrates to use when dabbing are solventless, including: 
  • Wax 
  • Shatter 
  • Rosin 
  • Dablets 
  • Diamonds 
  • Pearls 
  • Sugar 
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Vaping 

If you’re on a budget, one of the most important benefits of vaporizing is how little waste there is. Vaping allows you to use every bit of the concentrate without any waste. Vaping also adds a lot of conveniences. There are many types of vaporizing devices on the market now, including ones that fit in your pocket like a pen. 

The most popular tool for this method? A vape pen. There are many unique features that make it function efficiently. This includes a battery that provides power to the device, so you don’t need to worry about propane like you do if you’re using the dabbing method. Plus, there’s also the mouthpiece, the heating chamber, the charger for the battery, and the dab tool which is used to hold the concentrate itself. 

In order to use your vape pen, you’ll need to do the following: 

  • Make sure your battery is charged. There’s nothing worse than being in need of your concentrate and realizing you don’t have the battery power to take it. 
  • Put the vape pen together according to the directions. You might need to tap it in order to get it to activate. You’ll also want to make sure it’s tightly fastened. 
  • Place the concentrate into the heating chamber. Then, connect the mouthpiece. 
  • Now all that’s left to do is inhale. Hold down the button on the vape pen each time you inhale. You’ll know that it’s working if you’re able to taste the concentrate when you exhale. 
     
    The most common concentrates to use when vaping include: 
  • Crumble 
  • Budder and batter 
  • Honeycomb 
  • Wax 
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Other ways to vape 

While vape pens are the most popular form of vaping, there are other ways you can vape. 

  • E-Rigs have a water attachment, keeping them cooler than the typical vape pen. 
  • Non-pens use a skillet system. 
  • Desktops use a tube or balloon and are helpful when more than one person is vaping at a time.  

Bowls 

Using a bowl is probably the least popular way to inhale concentrates. However, it can be done. Most of the time people will place a concentrate on top of a flower bud. Hold a lighter to the wax (the most common concentrate to use in this situation) until it melts together. Just be sure it doesn’t boil or begin to vaporize completely. 

The tools you’ll need in order to utilize the bowl method are simply the bowl itself and some form of lighter. The most concentrates used in tandem with a bowl include wax or wax-based concentrates. 

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How to store concentrates 

Learning how to properly store different types of cannabis concentrates is just as important as knowing how to use concentrates. This is because, without proper storage, you can lose both the quality and potency of the concentrates. 

For short-term storage, you can use a silicone jar. This will keep your extract fresh without the inconvenience of needing a complicated storage technique. Another idea for temporary storage is to use parchment paper. Just be sure to cut only the amount you need and keep it folded up tightly. 

When you’re in need of long-term storage, you can freeze extracts in a glass jar, such as a mason jar. This works best for concentrates that are not sticky. Otherwise, they’ll stick to the glass and be difficult to remove. 

(Note: always remember to label your concentrates and keep them out of the reach of minors.) 

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Sources:

  1. Lazarjani MP, Young O, Kebede L, Seyfoddin A. Processing and extraction methods of medicinal cannabis: a narrative review. J Cannabis Res. 2021;3(1):32. Published 2021 Jul 19. doi:10.1186/s42238-021-00087-9 
  2. Two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization | Pew Research Center 
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