If you’re not an expert, cannabis concentrates can be a little confusing. There are many variables that go into any concentrated cannabis product. Hemp concentrates have different chemical compositions, which means THC, CBD, or terpene levels per product can vary significantly. There’s a lot of information here, but if you’re new to these products or processes, don’t be afraid! I am here to help you understand what each product contains and how they are extracted. First, let’s start slowly and start with what a cannabis concentrate really is.
A cannabis concentrate is an excess material left over after removing unnecessary plant matter from a cannabis plant and preserving cannabinoids and terpenes from the original plant. Essentially, the process concentrates the plant material into a much smaller and generally sticky substance. Cannabis concentrates are generally much more effective due to their high THC content of an average of 45 to 85%, while traditional flowers contain 15% to 30% THC. When removing concentrates from the plant, the main purpose (as well as changing the consistency) is to preserve the popular cannabis elements that affect their strength, and aroma. These two elements are cannabinoids and terpenes.
Hemp contains two important cannabinoids: CBD and THC. Each cannabinoid has unique properties that produce different effects and potency levels. CBD is often known as a non-psychoactive property that has become popular in health products due to its healing, calming, and anti-inflammatory properties. THC is the psychoactive element known to produce a happy and euphoric experience. Depending on the stem of the plant, the THC level varies with effectiveness.
Terpenoids or terpenes are aromatic components of hemp flower oils and are responsible for the indistinguishable aromas and fragrances of hemp in particular. However, terpenes are found in all plants and fruits, not just hemp. There are more than 200 terpenes that produce common flavors such as strawberry, citrus, mint, and pine, especially in cannabis plants. Therefore, it is important to retain terpenes during the extraction process so that the final product retains the aromas and flavors of traditional flowers.
How Cannabis Concentrates Are Produced?
Cannabis concentrates are extracted in a variety of ways, but the two main methods involve solvent-based and solvent-free extractions. It may seem a little complicated, but it is an important process that will become more meaningful over time. For starters, the way you extract your cannabis determines the type of concentrate you can produce.
Solvent-based extractions are very similar to what they sound like: A chemical such as butane, carbon dioxide, ethanol, or propane is used to dissolve the plant and gently extract cannabinoids and terpenes. Think of it as a high school science experiment where you can fall asleep using two different chemicals to find a solution. Or just think of a common solvent like nail polish remover – you want to remove the paint without damaging your nails. Additionally, solvent-based extractions are often used by breeding centers where hemp concentrates are mass extracted and then subjected to a washing process. This is another chemical process in which the remaining solvents evaporate.
On the other hand, there are solvent-free extractions that do not use chemicals such as propane or butane, but instead physical methods in which pressure, filtration, or temperature is applied to the plant material to extract a substance. These solvent-free extraction tools are more geared towards individuals. Solvent-free extractions also produce a variety of concentrated hemp products that are more popular in the artisan industries due to the natural extraction process. There is definitely some trade in the process, but as with solvent-based methods, the goal is to remove cannabinoids and terpenes without harming them.
Just as there are many ways to obtain cannabis, there are many different types of concentrates and ways to consume them. The world is your oyster when it comes to cannabis concentrates, and each version has its own characteristics and levels of action. To differentiate the different types of each cannabis concentrate, they fall into two main categories: solvent-based and solvent-free hemp concentrates. Again, such concentrates are most commonly extracted in large quantities and require the conversion of a large number of flowers into a significant amount of these consistencies. Let’s take a look at solvent-based hemp concentrates:
Oil concentrates are thick and liquid and are usually made with CO2. This extraction method is popular because you don’t need such a high temperature to extract the oil. The process also helps to retain more terpenes, which are known to help keep the taste and aroma pure. Oil concentrates are sometimes referred to as CO2 oil and are mostly used in disposable steam cartridges. Butane Hash Oil (BHO), also known as hydrocarbon extract, is a hemp concentrate that uses butane and propane as chemical solvents under pressure, as you might guess. These solvents allow for a closed circulatory system that ultimately removes essential oils from the cannabis plant.
Hydrocarbon extracts are popular among extractions because they allow them to better preserve the original cannabinoids and terpenes compared to other hashing methods that disrupt the chemical composition of the plant. The effectiveness of BHO extracts varies, but the most common form of the product is buffer. This process allows BHO to evaporate compared to other forms of cannabis used to make swabs. The distilled oil is often referred to as a crude extract, which basically means that high terpene levels are maintained throughout the process. This oil can be further refined to only contain THC or CBD compounds, this pure form usually has little or no flavor.
The pure forms of distillates are widely used in foods and various topical products. This process leads several different chefs to cook innovative foods like hemp farm mix and taco spices, as well as cannabis recipes so that the effects of cannabis are preserved without the overwhelming taste. Shatter is a turbid and sometimes amber-colored concentrate made by extracting BHO hydrocarbons. It looks very like glass and can “break” into several pieces. It is a sticky, hard, and sugar-like substance that many experts consider as the purest form of cannabis concentrate. In addition, the shatter is often passed through another filtering process to maintain its super high efficiency.
Although this concentrate is similar to crumble, wax has a much softer texture, is viscous, and is very sticky to the touch. Typically yellow and gold textured, this concentrate often requires a piercing tool because of its stickiness and can be used in a vape or rig. Some waxes can be transformed into a drier texture with the help of increased levels of heat and moisture during extraction, resulting in crumbs or “combs” that sound like a real hive. For comminution, several post-extraction processes are required to collect the more viscous oily matter and restore the honeycomb structure. Live Resin is a cannabis concentrate that uses frozen plant material to help maintain the cannabinoid profile. Thanks to this extraction process, terpenes can be preserved like a living plant. The material often looks shiny and varies between gold and amber colors. More importantly, live resin is popular for its strong aromas and flavors due to the high levels of terpenes that are often retained in other extraction processes.
Of course, solvent-free hemp concentrates are made without the use of chemical solvents and can be made at different levels of heat, pressure, or filtration. Let’s take a look at the common types of solvent-free hemp concentrates: Budder is a solvent-free poppy oil made by processing the resin and adding a small amount of heat to preserve the structure of the dough. This creamy consistency is considered an easy to use texture for piercing and stronger flavors. This is another technique popular with home improvement enthusiasts as it can be easily poured into resin with a hot rod.
Like most solvent-free concentrated products, the rosin is created by heat and pressure on the hemp flower or more commonly on the buds. This creates a thick, syrupy texture with a deep yellow color that retains most of the plant’s terpenes and flavors. Rosin is also often made with a hydraulic press that can be made with commercially available equipment and devices, making it popular for home improvement.
Types of Cannabis Concentrates
Kief is the most basic concentrate. Kief consists of dry plant material, usually trichomes (crystal structures covering the outer surface of the flowers) processed with special filter sieves and some grease. Kief is generally thought to be a low-quality extract, but some premium extractors may use the dry sieve method to produce an extremely clean and aromatic product. The THC content of kief varies between 20% to 60%.
- Dry Sieve
A popular form of the solvent-free poppy is the dry sieve. Simply put, the dry sieve is a sleek kief version that slides between a series of screens so that only the trichomes remain. Thanks largely to the simplicity of the process, this method is one of the easiest ways to make hash. At some point, all you need is a few good sieves to filter the plant material, a good starting material, and some time to make a good quality dry-sifted poppy.
The quality level is usually determined by the amount of plant material and the delivery of trichome stems in the final product. This higher-level process results in nothing but the largest and most perfect trichome heads, and no gland stems, plant matter, etc. which often prevents faster, lower-quality kief extractions remain. The purest desiccant sieve mix should melt completely when exposed to heat known as a full melt drying screen blend.
The hash that is derived from the cannabis plant has been around for centuries, and there are many processes by which cannabis can be produced. One of the most common methods of making high-quality solvent-free marijuana is by using the ice water extraction method. The main purpose and basic idea of the ice water extraction process are to isolate trichome heads containing cannabis essential oils from the stems and plant material with little or no value.
The quality of the resulting mix is usually determined by the size of the insulated trichome heads and the degree of melting when heated (a full melt is best). The most important stage of this process is the drying of the final product. If the hash is not dried properly, mold and other microbiological things that could potentially be harmful to your body can develop.
The powdery kief covering the hemp flower can be collected and turned into hash. In addition, solvents such as ice water or ethanol can be used to remove cannabinoid-loaded trichomes more effectively from the cannabis plant. Although hash is not as effective as BHO and other hemp concentrates, it is still highly demanded in the cannabis cultivation market worldwide due to its clean and natural extraction process.
- Butane Hash Oil (BHO)
Butane hash oil, usually known as BHO, is a kind of hemp concentrate made utilizing butane as the primary dissolvable. While various factors can decide the last consistency of the BHO (basically temperature), individuals utilize various names when alluding to various textures. For instance, shatter refers to the glassy consistency that often splinters when processed. Budder, honeycomb, crumble, and sap are utilized to depict an assortment of textures, in spite of the fact that they throughout the fall under the BHO class.
With this form of extraction, the THC content can reach 80-90%. This makes BHO a popular choice for many medical marijuana patients with chronic pain, insomnia, and other persistent symptoms. Always make sure your oil has been lab-tested for purity, as it may contain improperly purified BHO, butane, pesticides, or other hazardous contaminants.
- Supercritical CO2 oil
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a supercritical liquid, meaning it becomes liquid under pressure. CO2 is also a pure chemical that occurs naturally and leaves no residue. Indeed, supercritical CO2 extraction is as of now a standard extraction strategy for the food, chemical cleaning, and herbal supplement businesses. It is likewise a typical food additive substance.
In CO2 extraction, low toxic compounds are extracted. A high-pressure cannabis container should be used. Supercritical CO2 is introduced into the tank and pumped through a filter where it leaves the plant material when the pressure is released. Supercritical CO2 then evaporates and dissolves in cannabinoids.
- Rick Simpson Oil (RSO)
Also known as Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), whole hemp oil can be taken orally or applied directly to the skin. Sublingual application is the preferred treatment method for many cancer patients. Not only is it a convenient way of taking the drug, but administration via the mouth lining provides rapid and effective absorption directly into the systemic circulation due to the increased bioavailability of cannabinoids.
Note: Whole plant hemp oil is not the same as hemp seed oil. Hemp seed oil is a cold-pressed oil made from the seeds of the cannabis plant. It is rich in essential oils and is used primarily for its nutritional benefits. You can easily buy it from health food stores. The true whole vegetable oil from the cannabis plant is made from the buds/flowers of the female cannabis plant and is also made from THC, CBD, CBN, etc. It consists of many different cannabinoids, including terpenes and other compounds. Many other companies are currently selling their own versions of Rick Simpsons Oil, some high in THC, while others contain only non-psychoactive compounds such as CBD. Be sure to do your research before manufacturing/purchasing RSO products.
Rosin has received a lot of attention in the medical cannabis community recently, and for good reason. The rosin technique is fast, easy, and economical so anyone can generate high-quality solvent-free hashes in seconds. To start making rosin, you only need a few basic tools to create a high-quality end product, but not as many as you would need in other extraction techniques.
The Best Cannabis Extraction Methods to Create Cannabis Concentrates
Cannabis extraction methods are utilized to separate the cannabis components and extract them from the matrix of the plant. Different methods can break the material of the cannabis plant into pieces or extracts containing different chemicals. In addition to cannabis, extraction techniques are often used to isolate some desired compounds including cannabidiol (CBD), and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In addition to the most well-known cannabinoids, scientists have identified more than 550 chemicals, including compounds such as terpenes in cannabis in general.
The following paragraphs describe the most common methods of cannabis extraction to obtain a cannabis concentrate. Before discussing these methods, remember that cannabis extraction is not cooking but chemistry. Therefore, some knowledge of analytical methods as well as actual laboratory equipment is required to perform these methods accurately and safely. In many cases, reagents and their use can create dangerous situations. Therefore, many techniques require safety equipment. It is equally important that the extraction process is performed correctly and the results are independently verified by appropriate analytical tests to obtain a product that is safe for humans.
Cannabis Alcohol Extraction
Some common forms of cannabis extraction are based on a solvent such as alcohol. In short, cannabis is soaked with alcohol, usually ethanol, then the plant is extracted, the liquid is filtered, and the alcohol is removed through some form of evaporation. One of the biggest challenges is the natural polarity of solvents such as ethanol; This means that they tend to mix with water and dissolve molecules like chlorophyll. It is important to remove chlorophyll from the extract as it produces an undesirable bitter taste.
This process can be done at atmospheric pressure, but the temperature must be carefully controlled, especially during evaporation. This process can also be time-consuming and should be done carefully to avoid hazards as ethanol is highly flammable. One of the great advantages of this type of extraction is that there is no risk of remaining toxic chemicals remaining in the final hemp extract and that all the compounds can be extracted together, mainly cannabinoids and terpenoids.
Cannabis CO2 Extraction
Using all types of reagents can increase cleaning time and cost. Therefore, various techniques should be considered, including CO2 extraction. Instead of alcohol, this method uses carbon dioxide to extract the hemp components from the plant matrix. But here high pressure and heat are used to make CO2 supercritical, so it’s like a liquid and a gas at the same time.
Also, this method can be customized to extract certain compounds by varying the temperature, pressure, or working time, possibly a combination of these. Also, one study found that different compounds concentrate at different rates in the same process. Therefore, the extract should be analyzed, especially if certain compound concentrations are desired.
After the hemp components are removed, the supercritical CO2 enters a condenser and turns into a liquid that can be filtered and reused. Therefore very few reagents are used. This makes this method economical and reduces the need for waste disposal. If CO2 is still present in an extract after processing, it will evaporate. This is particularly important for all medical preparations, as a manufacturer using this method can guarantee that no residual solvent will be left in the final product. For example, Apeks offers supercritical extraction systems with high production and even outdated systems. This gives customers a set of prices to consider.
Cannabis Propane/Butane Extraction
Using butane as an extraction solvent creates what is known as butane cannabis oil. It is possible to remove the butane solvent by evaporation under vacuum. The vacuum converts the butane from a liquid to a vapor, making it easier to remove. This type of extract is also known as strip. This is a transparent material that usually contains THC, CBD, and other chemical components including terpenes. To really break down the tough butane cannabis oil, terpene levels need to be kept low otherwise it will act as a solvent that will soften the extract. The correct initial sample can help reduce terpenes in the final product, starting from dried flowers for example.
Even without additional steps, this method has some potential dangers. First, butane burns easily in the gas phase. Therefore, the temperature used must be carefully controlled, otherwise, there is a risk of a gas explosion. In addition, a system must include circulators that separate and recycle butane. The extraction process should reduce the amount of butane left in an extract. However, in all cases, analytical testing should be done to ensure the removal of butane as it is highly toxic to humans. This risk may make this method a less desirable option, especially for pharmaceuticals. Unless the user takes special precautions and uses tests to limit the amount of butane remaining in the product, increased analytical testing and stricter regulations for acceptable residual butane levels can limit this method to many applications. A third-party analysis is generally needed to verify the safety of an extract.
Butane extraction produces delicious extracts with higher terpene content than CO2 extraction for example. Instead of butane cannabis oil, some manufacturers produce propane cannabis oil. This process uses liquid propane instead of butane. Here the high pressure liquefies the propane and the extraction takes place at a lower temperature because the boiling point of propane is lower than that of butane.
Extraction temperature affects the ingredients extracted from cannabis. So these two similar methods, butane, and propane extraction yield different extracts. However, as with the butane process, special attention should be paid to propane extraction to remove and detect as many chemicals as possible.
Extraction Without a Solvent
It should also be noted that there are more basic techniques for making cannabis concentrates and extracting the desired components from the matrix of the plant. Kief, for example, can be separated from hemp buds by simply crushing and sieving. These crystal formations are part of structures called trichomes found in many plants, including hemp. Cannabis trichomes are primarily protective structures formed by female plants during flowering. The intense bitter taste and strong aromas irritate the herbivores and are also believed to inhibit fungal growth. When kief is separated from hemp bloom, it looks like dust or pollen. Since cannabinoid and terpenoid production is particularly concentrated in trichomes, this powder can be added to hemp preparations or taken as a standalone product to increase its effectiveness.
Traditional cannabis or hashish is another example of the more basic, solvent-free cannabis extract. Once again, the goal is to separate trichomes from plant material as they contain the highest concentration of desired compounds. There are two main methods of hashing: The first is to take frozen hemp buds and cut them into smaller pieces on the screen. The other main method of solvent-free hash extraction is to use ice water to separate the trichomes from the egg yolk. After drying, they can be pressed into a chopping block.
Rosin is made from flowers, poppies, or mold and is a translucent substance that usually has a watery consistency. It is produced by applying heat and pressure to the extracted material, resulting in a longer and more expensive product, very similar to solvent-based butane extraction. Analytical tests have shown that this simple method extracts cannabinoids and terpenes efficiently without the risk of leaving behind toxic residual solvents such as butane.
The simplicity of this approach is undoubtedly its greatest appeal. Hobbyists can make very strong resin extracts using a hair straightener, parchment paper, a gathering tool, and heat resistant gloves. A flat heat press machine is used to press the material at a certain temperature and pressure and the extract is scraped off.
Health Effects of Cannabis Concentrates
There are some undesirable effects associated with using cannabis in any form, but more research is needed to understand how concentrates’ use may differ from using dried cannabis buds. Cannabis concentrates are very rich in THC. Solvent-based products tend to be particularly effective. Documented THC levels average 54-69% and above 80%, while solvent-free extraction methods produce average THC levels between these 39-60% levels. The samples seized by the US Drug Enforcement Agency average just over 15% THC. Not only concentrates are high in THC, but swabs breathe the entire amount simultaneously. As a result, concentrates can quickly release large amounts of THC into the body. The risk of physical dependence and addiction increases with exposure to high THC concentrations and higher THC doses are more likely to cause anxiety, restlessness, paranoia, and psychosis. More research is needed to understand how the use of concentrates affects these risks.
Impurities in concentrated products can also be a concern. One study found that 80% of the concentrated samples tested were contaminated not only with pesticides (which is also an issue for dried buds), but also the residual solvents that were not present during its production process. For example, BHO users are likely to inhale butane and other contaminants along with evaporated THC. It is important to note that direct inhalation of concentrated butane carries several risks, including reported deaths, in recreational inhalers. However, the adverse health effects that can be caused by inhalation of butane, other solvents, or contaminants remaining during the buffering process are unknown.
The manufacturing process itself can be dangerous when solvents are used to concentrate. Few people using butane to make extracts at home have caused fires, explosions, and severe burns. A 2015 study on the effects of cannabis legalization in Colorado revealed that the University of Colorado Burn Center has recorded a significant increase in the number of amateur THC butane extraction operations over a two-year period, some affecting more than 70% of the body surface.
Producing BHO is against federal law, and even in some states such as Colorado and California where adult cannabis use is legal, it is illegal to produce cannabis oil from flammable liquids. In Colorado, state authorities recommend other methods that use non-flammable dry ice (CO2), ice water, or purchase the product from a licensed retail store. Most licensed commercial manufacturing facilities use a safer extraction system that prevents solvents from being wasted or accidentally exposed to the open air.
Best Books About Cannabis Concentrates That You Can Buy Online
- A True Guide To Cannabis Concentrates: A detailed analysis of how different types of cannabis concentrates is being made and so much more!
- Essential DIY Cannabis Extracts and Concentrates: Practical guide to original methods for marijuana extracts, oils and concentrates
- Beyond Cannabis Extracts: The Handbook to DIY Concentrates, Hash and Original Methods for Marijuana Extracts
- UNIQUE CANNABIS EXTRACTS: The Succinct Guide on How to Make Marijuana Extracts for Cooking and Other Health Benefits