The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Concentrates
„Once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can“ - we couldn‘t agree more, Hunter.
But for us it‘s not just different drugs, but also different forms of the same drug - in this case cannabis. The resin of the plants lends itself to such a variety of concentrates, you can spend a lifetime becoming a true connoisseur of all it‘s shapes and forms. Here we put together a list with all the concentrates and forms of cannabis we know of - if we forgot some, let us know!
First, let‘s look at the word „concentrate“, because there is a common misunderstanding around it. Nowadays, cannabis concentrates refer mostly to butane extractions such as shatter or wax. But of course, good old hashish is also a concentrate, there‘s just a different process behind it. So, for the sake of clarity, whenever the density of the cannabinoids is increased through some sort of process, it‘s a concentrate.
Two types of concentrates: mechanical and solvent based
All concentrates have one thing in common; they separate the cannabinoids from plant matter. The plant‘s external glands, the trichomes, are the psychoactive and medicinally valuable parts. The smell and flavour that makes legendary strains such as OG Kush or Amnesia Haze unique, comes from aromatic flavonoids and terpenes, which give the plant a signature scent. Those molecules - trichomes, flavonoids and terpenes - are stripped of the plant and processed into a concentrated form.
There‘s two ways to achieve this, either using a mechanical tool, or a solvent. Mechanical concentrates have been around for millennia, the oldest form being simple hand rolled charas hashish. It happens naturally; when you harvest cannabis your hands get sticky. So you rub your hands until the resin forms a ball - there you have charas hashish.
Solvent based extracts, on the other hand, are a more recent development, as purified chemicals became widely available only in the last few decades. Concentrates based on solvents allow for a much more refined control over what exactly is extracted, and thus the quality of the end product. Each solvent is binds different molecules and thus will yield a different product.
Hash is the oldest and most common form of cannabis concentrate. It‘s easy to make and very rewarding in the high. In Morocco, modern Hashish manufacturing is a two step process. First, the dried plants are beaten over a fine sieve, which produces Kif powder. Each successive beating lowers the quality of the powder, thus the first sieving is the most valuable. In a second stage, the Kif powder is pressed and processed into Hashish blocks, which are then sold internationally.
The THC content of Hashish is between 40-60%, depending on the plants and the process used.
Kif (or Kief) is made by sieving dry cannabis plant matter through a fine screen. The finer the screen, the higher the quality of the resulting powder. The Kif is what is later processed into blocks of hashish. Some historians believe Morocco only started to produced hashish blocks in the 1960‘s - before only pure Kif powder was smoked.
The fine trichomes of the plant fall of quite easily in cool temperature, which is why in Morocco the production of Kif powder is done during the colder months. Modern production of Kif was greatly simplified with the invention of the Pollinator in the Netherlands. The Pollinator is a dry sifting machine consisting of a screen covered barrel and a motor. The dry herb is placed in the barrel, and through the constant turning, the trichomes will simply accumulate on the bottom of the box. For best results, place the entire machine in a large fridge.
THC content: 40-60%
Charas, Nepalese Temple Balls and finger hash
Charas is originally found in Nepal and the Himalaya regions of India, but has spread to parts of Pakistan. Contrary to Moroccan hash, which is produced from dried plants, Charas is made from fresh, live cannabis buds. Charas is probably the most obvious way to make a cannabis concentrate; as you handle the plant during harvest, resin naturally sticks to your hands. When the hands are rubbed together, the resin is shaped into ball. Nepalese temple balls are the same as Charas - hand rolled hashish.
Solvent based concentrates
These cannabis extracts are created using a solvent (such as water, butane, CO2 or alcohol). The solvent attracts certain molecules that bind with it, thus separating it from the plant matter. Each solvent attracts a slightly different array of molecules, for example, Isopropyl Alcohol tends to extract a wide range of cannabinoids but also chlorophyll and sugars, which make IPA extracts ideal for full spectrum medical applications - but it‘s going to be a dark brown resinous matter with relatively poor taste. On the other hand, butane doesn‘t extract chlorophyll, allowing for the creation of golden cannabinoid-laden extract. But butane requires more advanced equipment to produce a safe and effective product.
Bubble Hash derives its name from the characteristic bubbles that form when it‘s heated. It‘s ultra pure hash that is the result of an elaborate system using various layers of fine screens. Essentially it‘s the same idea as Kif powder, but it‘s produced under water and ice, thereby dramatically increasing the purity. The finest mesh sieve produces a superb full melt extract with a golden shimmer - generally, the brighter the colour, the better the quality. The darker it gets, the more plant matter it contains.
THC content: 40-70%
Dry Ice Hash
This form of Kif is essentially the same thing as bubble hash, but replacing the water and ice with dry ice. It produces Kif with the same quality as Bubble Hash, but it‘s faster and cleaner to produce as you don‘t have to deal with water spills.
BHO - Butane Hash Oil
In dispensaries, this one goes under many names; shatter, goo, crumble, earwax, honey oil, amber glass, moon rocks, budder. They‘re all butane extracts, but differently processed. Some are dry as rock, other as creamy as earwax. Essentially the difference is the amount of water the final extract holds, thus increasing or decreasing its consistency.
BHO is produced by passing butane through a glass tube filled with plant matter, which ultimately produces an extremely pure, tasty and strong oil. From here it‘s up to the producer to further refine the BHO into something like Shatter or Budder.
Shatter is a hard, almost glass like honey coloured product, that as the name suggests, is shattered into smaller pieces. Saying this though, shatter can be quite malleable, allowing it to be shaped. It is an extremely strong concentrate, and the purest form of product obtainable from the butane oil extraction method – it is connoisseur level stuff, and is not for the inexperienced.
Budder is another possible result from using a butane hash oil extraction technique. To create budder, the oil is whipped into a creamy consistency. It results in a product that is light yellow in colour, and has a crumbly consistency. It is sometimes also referred to as super melt, as it burns off without leaving any ash.
BHO Hash Oil / Wax
Wax is another product that can be created through butane hash oil extraction, and is often the result of a failed attempt to create shatter or budder. It does not solidify fully, leaving it in a sticky, honey like consistency.
Solvent reduced Hash Oils
A number of different chemicals are used to produce this type of hash oil; Isopropyl Alcohol, Ether, Ethanol, Naphtha and other more exotic chemicals. Most solvent based hash oils go through a basic three step process: these are 1) Soaking 2) Filtering, and 3) Reducing. The plant matter is first soaked in the solvent for a specific amount of time, then the liquid is separated from the plant matter, and finally the solvent is evaporated - leaving behind only the concentrate. This type of hash oil can be easily spotted by its dark colour, which is a mixture of green and black. This coloration comes from the chlorophyll, which is also extracted, along with the cannabinoids.
The Rick Simpson oil is often produced with Naphtha or IPA, which results in full spectrum concentrate. This is ideal for medical applications, as a wide array of beneficial constituents are absorbed, such as terpenes and flavonoids.
Of all techniques and processes, the CO2 extraction is most likely the safest and tastiest of all - but also the most rare. To perform a supercritical CO2 extraction, access to modern laboratory equipment is required. In a machine specifically designed to extract actives from botanicals, CO2 under high pressure is passed through the plant matter. The resulting product is an extremely potent and pure cream. Because CO2 is completely safe to digest (in fact, we breathe it in all the time), there‘s absolutely no risk of toxic residues.
This is the choice for the kitchen. Plus, it‘s one of the safest extractions out there, as you won‘t be dealing with anything dangerous other than your regular kitchen equipment. The science behind it is simple; the fats in the butter (or any oil, for that matter) bind to the cannabinoids. Cannabutter is an extremely discreet way of taking cannabis, and is ideal for use in cooked goods, turning any food into a cannabis delight. Things like cannabis butter can also be frozen and stored for a long time.
Vegetable Oil Extracts
All fats bind cannabinoids, so anything from olive oil to coconut oil can be used to create a vegetable oil extract. Olive oil in particular has been shown to effectively extract all terpenes and cannabinoids, making it a solvent of choice. Since it is cheap, non-flammable and non-toxic, olive oil cannabis extracts can be safely produced for self-medication. However, since oils cannot be evaporated, it is not possible to create a true concentrate from it.
A cannabis tincture is an alcohol or glycerine solution that contains cannabinoids and other active plant constituents. The alcohol is used to extract and bind to the cannabinoids within the plant matter to create a very strong solution. This can then be dropped under the tongue, or added into food. Often referred to as Green Dragon, a cannabis tincture is made using high proof alcohol, sometimes pure grain alcohol which is diluted before consumption.
Cannabis tinctures can also be prepared with vegetable glycerine, which have the advantage of being suitable for children, such as those suffering from epilepsy.