Marijuana Concentrates & Extracts Guide
A Look into All the Different Types
The world of cannabis concentrates is one that is attracting scores of new adherents every day. That’s because marijuana concentrates and extracts provide you with a way to turn an ordinary experience into something that will blow you away without blowing your mind. Hot on the heels of the legalization wave that's swept the country discussion about this once niche activity has exploded, and everyone wants in. And who can blame them?
Extracts and concentrates are a great way for long time doobie vets to reinvigorate their experience as well as a way for newbies to hit the ground running (or maybe chilling on the sofa with some Doritos and a VR headset instead). They're also in high demand for their many medicinal applications.
What are Concentrates and Extracts?
Cannabis concentrates and extracts are products of the marijuana plant. In essence, they're the result of reduction and refinement processes that extract the concentrated psychotropic compounds in pot (THC or CBD) either through solvent or non-solvent based methods.
Marijuana concentrates and extracts take many forms, but all have the same goal: to deliver maximum effect with minimum effort; typically by way of vaping. The subject is actually a pretty complex one involving lots of unfamiliar terminology. So we're going to put down the box mod and see if we can't reduce the subject itself to a few basic facts.
First of all, there are several reasons why so many people are coming around to marijuana concentrates. These reasons include:
- They’re more potent than flowers - We touched on this at the beginning but it bears repeating because this is the primary reason people prefer cannabis concentrates and extracts to buds. The typical high-quality cannabis bud has a THC potency of anywhere from 10 to 25%. Contrast that to concentrates that commonly come down in the potency range of 50 to 80% and extracts that can have a potency as high as 90%. As you can probably infer from those numbers marijuana concentrates and cannabis extracts need to be approached with caution, especially by novices who may not be entirely prepared for the outrageous blast of potency.
- They can be administered in a number of ways - With tops you’re pretty much confined to rolling it or sticking it in a bowl and sparking it up. Marijuana concentrates and extracts, however, are far more versatile. You can dab them using a dab oil rig. You can ingest them in capsule form (which is fairly popular with people who use them for medicinal purposes). You can place tinctures under the tongue where they're quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Or you can use them in different recipes to provide that party kick. Some folks even like to augment their doobies with a bit of cannabis extract.
- They’re devoid of plant matter - When you extract cannabis concentrate from buds you leave behind more than just the plant matter. You also leave behind the various contaminants and pesticides that were clinging to the leaves and flowers. Extracting only the active compounds also means you leave behind all that lovely tar that’s found in plant material. Something your lungs will thank you for.
- They taste better - In most cases, any flavor tops may have is lost in the combustion process and all you're left with is a pretty sweet smelling smoke. Even with weed concentrate and cannabis extracts the fragrant oils - or “terpenes” - naturally secreted by the plant can be lost during the extraction process. Where extracts and cannabis concentrates have the advantage is that these compounds can be re-introduced after the fact. With the result being a smoke-free, but more flavorful product.
Solvent-Based vs. Non-Solvent Cannabis Extraction
Basically, there are two ways to extract the psychotropic compounds from herb: the solvent-based extraction method or the non-solvent based method. You don't need to have a gold medal buzz going on to get confused about the difference between the two. But let's see if we can clarify it a bit.
Solvent-based extraction is performed using a hydrocarbon such as butane gas. Using this method, the active ingredients are dissolved and separated from the plant material. THC concentrate resulting from this process is sometimes further processed after the fact to remove the solvent residue in order to produce a cleaner, safer vape.
Non-solvent methods of cannabis extraction are nothing new. They've been practiced for centuries and can trace their origins to places like Pakistan and Morocco. If you've ever smoked hash, you have imbibed in a non-solvent cannabis extract. With hash, ice water is used to separate the trichomes from the plant material. These trichomes form the characteristic sticky block any hash fan will instantly recognize.
Dry sifting is another form of non-solvent extraction as is the grinding process that typically generates kief; another non-solvent marijuana extract. Rosin is created using only heat to generate cannabinoid-rich extracts. Whichever method is used no harmful chemicals are involved. A fact that many find very appealing.
7 Different Types of Marijuana Concentrates
Since cannabis concentrates and extracts have become legal in many jurisdictions, their popularity has soared. But before one can enjoy the full fruits of the cannabis plant, one must have some clue as to the different types of marijuana concentrates that will be staring back at them from the vendor’s display.
Below you’ll find the major types of concentrates (and extracts) currently enjoying widespread use as well as their characteristics and any other interesting tidbits of information we feel warrant sharing. Keep in mind that these are common usage names, not scientific designations.
- Shatter - Shatter is a marijuana extract that’s arrived at using the solvent based process we described above. Butane is the solvent of choice when it comes to making shatter, which is so named because of its hard, glass-like appearance. And yes, if you strike it the shatter will indeed shatter into small pieces just like glass. Just not as sharp. Shatter has a reputation for being among the purest, if not the purest, of the marijuana concentrates. And for that reason alone is very popular.
- Wax - Wax marijuana typically takes on a yellow-brown hue and it is usually smoked in a bong or vaped using a box mod or other vaporizer. You should probably avoid touching wax concentrate with your bare hands because it's so sticky. Use a dab tool instead. In fact, the now all-encompassing word "dab" comes from the wax concentrate experience and refers to smoking or vaping a tiny “dab” of marijuana wax.
- Crumble - If there’s a cannabis concentrate called shatter it only seems right there would be another one called crumble. During the process of producing butane hash oil whipping or vacuuming the BHO can transform it into a slightly brittle substance that easily crumbles. This differs from shatter however because it’s not laid out in a window pane style like shatter but instead looks more like a cookie.
- CO2 Oil - So named because sometimes, instead of using butane, CO2 is used to extract the marijuana concentrate and this winds up producing a kind of runny oil that has its own distinct flavor and characteristics. Since the effect you’ll derive from this oil is very similar to what you’ll experience with standard BHO whether one chooses to vape this type of concentrate is really a matter of personal preference. CO2 cannabis extraction is popular for the same reason rosin is popular: because it doesn’t require the use of any chemical solvents which could come back later to haunt the final product.
- Rosin - Rosin has really caught on in the vaping community as of late. Perhaps the biggest reason for the rise of rosin is that is can be coerced out of dried buds, kief or trim using little more than parchment paper, hair straightener and some palm pressure. The final product will resemble hash most of the time; although under certain conditions you may find it takes on a shatter-like appearance.
- Water Hash - There are quite a few ways to produce hash with water. As such there are a lot of different names for water hash cannabis extracts including ice wax, bubble hash, solvent-free wax and others. The basics of producing water hash include mixing the herb buds in cold water and ice and then shifting them about either by hand or using a mechanical device until the trichome heads break off.
- Cannabutter - The celebrity chefs on TV are going to have some catching up to do to top this particular cannabis extract. There’s nothing chemically offensive about this process either. Just mix the buds with butter and the cannabinoids will adhere to the fat in the butter. What could be simpler? Cannabutter is becoming an ever more popular recipe ingredient and has the added benefit of storing well in the fridge.
3 Smoking Methods
There are 3 generally accepted ways of indulging in your favorite cannabis concentrates and extracts: smoking, dabbing and vaping. Below we’ll provide a short description of each.
- Smoking Cannabis - You'd have to have been living under quite an enormous rock for the past, half-century or so not to know that people smoke weed either by rolling it in cigarette papers or by filling a pipe bowl and smoking it that way. Bongs too utilize a bowl like a standard pipe except that the smoke is filtered through water and the smoking process typically results in much larger hits. Smoking these days is increasingly frowned upon because it's, well, smoking. And inhaling the combusted remains of plants is not really good for you.
- Dabbing - To dab marijuana is the process of heating a specially designed “nail” to 900 to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and then applying that superheated nail to a dab of your favorite concentrate. When the super hot nail contacts the marijuana concentrate it turns it into a vapor that can then be inhaled. There's some controversy surrounding dabbing these days as many purists argue that it's not really vapors you're inhaling at all but rather a kind of smoke.
They point to the char marks on the dab nail as proof that combustion is taking place and smoke being produced. At the same time, you'll find just as many dabbers who swear they're inhaling vapors. Everyone can't be right, so we're going with those who consider it smoke.
- Vaporizer - A true vape heats a liquid that produces steam which vaporizes your marijuana concentrate. You then inhale the vapors and enter nirvana. Or Cleveland. Or whatever floats your vaping boat. Vaporizers became popular with the rise of rigorous anti-smoking laws. Smokers were forced to find ways to get their nicotine fix without running afoul of the local anti-smoking cabal. Hence the interest in vaporizers that don't produce smoke.
It wasn't long though before friends of the weed realized they could use the vape to produce an intense buzz. One thing led to another, e-cigs lead to box mods and the rest, as they say, is history. Vaping is without a doubt the fastest growing cannabis-related activity today.
Whether you dab, smoke or vape and whether you prefer shatter or hash or BHO, marijuana concentrates and extracts are the way to go when it comes to consuming cannabis-related products here in the early 21st century. While doobies still have a hard-won place in the stoner's heart, some predict that within a few years the joint will become as rare as the rotary telephone or, better yet, the smoker's lounge. If dabbing or vaping marijuana concentrates is a subject that interests you be sure to subscribe to Medpot for all the latest news and information.