Does the phrase “cannabis concentrates” leave you scratching your head? If so, you’re not alone: Since they first took the cannabis world by storm in the late 1990s and the following decade, marijuana concentrates have grown to become one of the most exciting—and most misunderstood—products in the wide world of weed.
Compared with flower, cannabis concentrates offer a notable increase in cannabinoid content, sometimes reaching into the 90% range, as opposed to the most potent flower which tops out in the high 20% zone. Take this as a sign that all weed concentrates should be approached with careful understanding.
But that’s only the beginning of the story. Sometimes called “extracts,” cannabis concentrates provide a highly potent, shelf-stable, and effective way to access the cannabis plant’s medical benefits. And while some users prefer purpose-built dabbing rigs to consume extracts such as live resins, wax, and shatter, other forms of weed concentrates—including classic hash or high-tech CBD oil—require little in terms of specialized equipment.
But make no mistake, the world of cannabis concentrates is broad and potentially confusing. Adding to the confusion, some products have very similar-sounding names.
Let us get you started on the right foot with this quick guide to the types of marijuana concentrates you’re most likely to encounter. In it, we’ll share helpful information about how they’re made, what their effects are, and how to get the most out of this uniquely potent and useful family of cannabis products.
Cannabis Concentrates: Solving the Solvent Question
When it comes to classifying marijuana concentrates, one of the very first questions to ask is whether or not they’re produced using solvents. In this case, solvents include any chemicals used to separate the active ingredients in cannabis—the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other components that may deliver medicinal benefits as well as contributing flavors and aromas—from the plant matter itself.
It’s important to know that even when marijuana concentrates are produced using solvents—typically ethanol, butane or carbon dioxide, among others—the solvents are carefully and completely removed from the product before it’s packaged or available to consumers.
Are solvent-based concentrates “better” than solventless ones? That’s entirely a matter of personal preference. Some aficionadoes believe that because solventless concentrates—such as hash or rosin—don’t require the use of any chemical solvents, they are inherently superior. But a carefully made and lab-tested solvent extract such as BHO or wax will still deliver high potency and superior flavor and aroma. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide which style best suits your preferences and purposes.
Marijuana Concentrates: Solventless Products
Let’s begin with a few of the most popular solventless weed concentrates: kief, hash, and rosin.
Kief: While not really a marijuana concentrate in the modern sense, kief is an important product (and the essential building block for the next one on our list, hash). Kief is made by mechanically separating and concentrating the gooey trichomes coating the cannabis flower. It typically appears as a very fine, light-colored powder, and can be consumed on its own or added to cannabis flower in pipes, bowls, or joints.
Hash: While cannabis concentrate might appear like a modern invention, one product dates back centuries: hashish, or hash. Made of pressed kief, these dense and sticky blocks can range from dusty tan to nearly black in color. While hash’s popularity has faded since the introduction of modern marijuana concentrates, it remains a fairly potent—and certainly flavorful—way to try a very ancient form of cannabis concentrate.
Rosin: Perhaps the simplest of marijuana concentrates, rosin is produced by applying mild heat and pressure to cured cannabis flower. Because it requires so little in terms of specialized equipment or solvent additives, rosin is popular among those cannabis fans who desire a concentrate in one of the purest, most unadulterated forms it can take.
Marijuana Concentrates: Solvent-Based Products
On the other end of the spectrum are the solvent-based cannabis concentrates. Because they involve the use of potentially flammable compounds such as butane, they’re carefully produced using laboratory-grade equipment and skilled techniques. In return, solvent-based concentrates offer a nearly unlimited range of textures, consistencies, flavors, and potencies. Some of the most common include BHO, live resin, CO2 extracts, batter, budder, and wax.
BHO: Short for “butane hash oil,” BHO also goes by the name “hydrocarbon extracts.” Considered by many to be the first modern marijuana concentrate, BHO tends to preserve more of the flavorful terpenes and potent cannabinoids than other solvent-based techniques. It’s often processed into a format called “shatter”: dried, translucent candy-like shards of concentrate, often consumed in a specialized dabbing rig.
Live Resin: A relative newcomer to the scene, live resins are a type of cannabis concentrate made from flash-frozen cannabis flower. Because this method preserves an extremely high proportion of terpenes, some people describe the flavor of live resins as almost “hyperrealistic.”
C02 Extracts: Perhaps the most popular type of weed concentrates, CO2 extracts leverage temperature and pressure on cannabis flower. One of the most common uses of CO2 extract products is the oil in vape cartridges. While arguably not as nuanced as other extraction methods, it still remains a potent, effective, and cost-effective model.
Wax, Batter, and Budder: Like BHO, these similar forms of concentrates tend to preserve more of the cannabis plant’s native terpenes and cannabinoids. The concentrates’ names refer more to their consistency than to any intrinsic quality. Batter and budder appear as smooth and salve-like products, resembling stiff cake batter or creamy butter, depending on which product you favor. Wax tends to be thicker and harder, with a consistency approaching melted candle wax. Any of them can be consumed in a dab rig, or used to add a smooth boost of flavor and potency to cannabis flower in a joint or pipe.
It’s important to note that batter and budder in particular are less shelf-stable than other concentrates. To maintain their creamy consistency and bright appearance, they should be stored in sealed and light-proof containers, away from excessive heat and cold.
Cannabis Concentrates: Wrapping Up
We sincerely hope this guide sheds light on what can sometimes be a confusing and jargon-heavy corner of the cannabis world. And while concentrates may not be for everyone, for some cannabis fans, they provide a potency and convenience other products just can’t match. If you’d like to know more about the concentrates we offer or how to use them, just ask! We’re always here to help.