What are cannabis concentrates and extracts?
As the cannabis industry evolves, rapidly, dispensaries are providing their customers with new and amazing options for consumption, seemingly, daily. No longer do we only need to solely rely on cannabis flower and edibles. Although those are still great options, new and sometimes bizarre methods are bursting onto the scene commanding our attention because they offer a newfound extreme discreteness, clean refinement, and unrivaled potency. To say we are lucky to be living through this awakening is an understatement as we have some of the best science supplying us with premium products unlike any we have ever seen before.
At the forefront of these offerings are cannabis concentrates and extracts. To a traditional flower enthusiast, this is a strange world and one that can be confusing. But, now that concentrates have become mainstream and occupy a larger space in your local dispensary you most certainly have asked yourself at this point, what the heck are concentrates and how do I use them? Are resin and rosin the same thing? How do we make sense of the names on these new products? What does “Live” listed on products mean? The goal of this article is to answer some of these questions our budtenders get at our Colorado and Michigan High Level Health dispensaries every day. While we aren’t going to go scientifically deep into each form or method, by the end of this article if anyone asks you what concentrates are, you’ll know what’s up.
What are cannabis concentrates and extracts?
The best way to start to understand the terms concentrates and extracts is to think about all the wonderful things you love about cannabis condensed into a smaller form, aka concentrates. The beneficial cannabinoids(THC and CBD) and wonderful terpenes that provide marijuana its flavors and aroma are extracted out of the cannabis plant at different stages and condensed in a delightfully potent form.
As an example, think of concentrated tomato soup that you have to add water to cook. That soup has the smell, taste, and color of tomato but without the peel, seeds, or stem, or anything really that you don’t want in the soup and ultimately improve upon what already existed. For you bakers out there, vanilla extract is another notable example. As you can imagine, that concentration, when applied to cannabis, produces a highly potent form of cannabis, usually in the 60-80% THC range depending on the product with traditional cannabis flower hovering between 15-30% THC, yeah you read that right!
Now all these wonderful terpenes and cannabinoids exist essentially as trichomes which are the glorious little glistening resin glands on the cannabis flower and how you extract those trichomes from the flower is what determines if the product is one of extraction or concentrate. A wise man once told me extracts are concentrates but concentrates can be produced in other manors making them separate from extracts. Confused? Don’t be, extracts are just all made with solvents like CO2, Butane, or Propane blown over dried or frozen cannabis to extract the trichomes. Concentrates are made the same way but can also be made with solventless methods like how bubble hash or kief removes trichomes without the solvent. An overwhelming majority of the products in dispensaries are made through the solvent method of extraction for various reasons discussed later in this article. The end product is yellowish in color and smells like the strain the product was extracted from but much, much more potent. Before we dive into the end products, which are simply changes in appearance and consistency that make the products vary slightly to fit the consumer’s method of intake, let’s discuss how these are listed in dispensary cases.
Why are the names of extracts like another language?
The naming convention for extracts can be super confusing at first. It’s similar to if you’ve ever been fly fishing and someone tells you a black, size 16, foam bodied, elk hair caddis with soft hackle was working great today on the river. All those names mean something but it’s rather confusing at first glance. Most naming conventions hover around the following nomenclature.
- Brand/Company name – Type or Texture – Cannabis Strain – Weight.
So an example of a product on the shelves at a Colorado or Michigan High Level Health dispensary would be…
- High Level Health – Live Diamond Sauce – GG#4 – 1g
Where High Level Health is the producer, Live Diamond Sauce is the type and texture, GG#4 is the cannabis strain, and 1g is the weight of the product. Kind of cool right? Now that we understand how to interpret the names let’s look at the actual products.
Forms of cannabis concentrates
- Shatter – This is one of if not the most popular forms of extract in dispensaries. Shatter looks and feels basically like a Jolly Rancher or glass and is brittle or can “shatter” like glass when handled. This product is always made with hydrocarbon as the solvent and the extraction is performed at cold temperatures to avoid fat profiles present in a warmer temp solvent making it glass-like vs a thicker liquid consistency. Those cold temperatures bring out the terpenes and cannabinoids gently which allow for great tastes and profiles from the original strain. Dabbing is the preferred method of consumption.
- Vape Cartridge – Cannabis oil usually housed in a vaporizer cartridge or carts which are designed for vape pen use primarily. When purchased from a dispensary these are prefilled carts that usually screw onto a vape pen but there are do-it-yourself dab carts as well.
- Budder/Badder/Batter/Wax – For the most part, these names are interchangeable depending on the manufacturer’s preference, consistency, and how long the product sits allowing the terpenes to develop. A solvent is used primarily for the extraction of the terpenes with dabbing being the most likely method of consumption.
- Sugar – An extract with similar qualities to Budder, Wax, and Shatter but with a different consistency produced for the consumer’s preference. Sugar is known for its exquisite terpene properties.
- Diamond Sauce – This product is known by many names that vary slightly including but not limited to sauce, terp sauce, and diamonds. This concoction of THC crystals and terpenes is usually a thick, liquid substance with terp preservation in mind also possessing high THC potency.
- Bubble Hash – This result is an example of a concentrate but not an extract that is made with a solventless process. Bubble hash is made with a series of sieves and ice water to freeze and then shake the trichomes off the cannabis plant falling through the sieving process ultimately separating just the trichomes from the plant. It gets its name for the way it bubbles when heated and the bigger the bubbles the higher the quality.
Live Resin is a process of extraction that has quickly become a very popular way to preserve the cannabis plant in a fresh place and time for extraction. Just as in the process of drying the cannabis plants after harvest for flower, cured or dried cannabis is used for most concentrates and extracts. During the curing process, some degradation of terpenes and flavor takes place. With live resin, however, the plant material is flash-frozen keeping the terpenes fresh and making the extract flavorful with the smell and taste of the original plant at its peak freshness. Because of the aromas and flavors, live resin is super desirable by enthusiasts.
Rosin is different from live resin and certainly not anything associated with chamber pipes or cleaning metal screens for resin. Rosin is also primarily made from bubble hash and can be Cured Rosin or Live Rosin depending on the bubble hash starting material. Dried flower can also be used instead of bubble hash but produces a lesser quality product and is not as common. Rosin can come in shatter, wax, badder type consistencies but is a solventless concentrate and doesn’t require CO2, Butane, or Propane as a solvent.
Can you make your own concentrates?
In most cases, it is advised to leave the extraction process up to the pros as you need serious, lab-grade equipment for solvent extraction. However, rosin presses exist for personal use and are becoming a very popular way to produce amazing concentrates at home.
Extract and Concentrate Guide Recap
This world of extracts and concentrates can seem a little confusing but hopefully, this guide will help you feel more confident when discussing concentrates at the dispensary. So, in conclusion, don’t let the names, methods, or lack of knowledge intimidate you from exploring concentrates as many concentrates are perfect for beginners and pro advocates alike. Just remember to go slow as concentrates are usually twice as strong as the already strong recreational and medical cannabis flower you’ve become to know and love.
Please visit us at one of our seven Colorado and Michigan High Level Health dispensaries and don’t hesitate to ask us anything that’s on your mind about cannabis concentrates.