Cannabis concentrates are extracted from cannabis plants using a variety of methods. Here’s what you need to know about the most common types.
Types of Cannabis Concentrates
The growth of medical and recreational marijuana markets across North America has created more opportunities for consumers beyond dried flower and edibles. Concentrates, derived from solvents such as butane and CO2 (in states where it’s legal) or ice water and extraction machines (where permitted), are a booming business for producers seeking to take their products’ effects to the next level.
“Cannabis concentrates have been around since man discovered that he could apply heat to cannabis and produce something new,” says Marshall Hayner, CEO of MediPets in Los Angeles, CA.
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Today, the process of extracting concentrate from plant material is more sophisticated than ever. The diversity of extraction methods and ingredients has resulted in a rainbow of cannabis concentrates including oils, waxes, distillates and isolates.
Cannabis Concentrates Extraction Methods
The extraction methods used to produce each type are often determined by the desired final product’s texture (greasy versus smooth) and consistency (such as hash versus shatter). “Butane is a very efficient solvent that can be easily condensed at low temperatures,” explains Hayner. Butane hash oil
(BHO) is a viscous, translucent “dab” generally sold in small glass vials and packaged with a tiny blowtorch for dabbing purposes.
Butane extraction methods are often unsafe and rely on makeshift equipment due to the high risk of explosion. In fact, in some states, butane extraction is completely illegal; for Californians, the process has only been permitted as a medical extraction method.
Conversely, CO2 extraction allows concentration producers to use safer, professional equipment with temperature and pressure controls. “We can also capture the terpenes from plant material better using this solvent,” says Hayner. Terpenes are the pungent, aromatic oils secreted from cannabis plant glands. They give each strain its distinct smell and flavor profile.
The CO2 extraction process involves compressing supercritical carbon dioxide to extreme pressures in order to force it into a liquid form through a tube called a wand which is placed on top of cannabis buds. The end of the wand is opened and liquid CO2 is forced into a container which contains plant material. The CO2 absorbs terpenes and cannabinoids from the cannabis, creating what’s known as an extract or concentrate. The excess liquid is then expelled through another tube, leaving behind a highly-concentrated oil
that can then be used in food products such as tinctures, topicals or edibles.
The oil is then filtered using a series of increasingly fine filters and vaporized to dryness to remove any residual moisture. The resulting concentrate can be used to create shatter, waxes or other potent products.
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“There are a lot of different kinds of CO2 concentrates,” explains Hayner. “The best way to categorize is by texture and consistency.”
Concentrates: Textures and Consistency
Oils are runny, clear and generally the most common type of concentrate
available. Likewise, it’s their most accessible form for consumers since they can be used in everything from edibles to topicals.
Waxes and shatters are generally harder and more solid since they’re typically made from a combination of oils and waxes, also known as “butters.” These products are not as easy to dab but offer longer-lasting relief that’s sometimes preferred by medical users or concentrate connoisseurs. Waxes and shatters also have a higher cannabinoid content than oils which is preferable in the medical community.
“The only downside to waxes and shatters is certain people aren’t comfortable smoking them,” says Hayner. “If you don’t like vaping or dabbing
, try an oil.”
Although each type of concentrate has its benefits, oils are usually the most popular since they’re also one of the most versatile forms of concentrate.
“There’s a lot more you can do with an oil than you can with other types,” says Hayner. “They pair well in foods without leaving that ‘hash’ taste or smell.”