Approaching cannabis concentrates for the first time can often feel overwhelming, to say the least. There’s “shatter,” “wax,” “caviar,” “live resin,” “diamonds,” “sauce,” and “rosin” – to name a few. The sheer amount of concentrate variations can leave even experienced concentrate users confused. To better explain the different types of concentrates and what makes them unique, we’ve broken down the basic extraction forms and the different consistencies you can expect to see at Rocky Mountain Cannabis dispensaries.
At their most basic level, concentrates are a strong “concentrated” form of cannabis, often made to extract high amounts of THC from the cannabis plant. This can sometimes be a turn-off to the novice user who might be THC hesitant – however, many types of concentrates are available in both a pure “dab” form and a cartridge form, with cartridges being a great way to first experience what cannabis concentrates have to offer.
Different types and consistencies of concentrates are most easily distinguished by their method of extraction. Some of the most common types of extraction include ethanol extraction, butane/propane extraction (also known as hydrocarbon extraction), CO2 extraction, and “solventless extraction,” which uses only heat and pressure.
Concentrated cannabis created using an ethanol or alcohol-based method creates what most people refer to as “distillate.” Distillate is one of the most common forms of cannabis concentrates and can be found in many vape cartridges sold at RMC stores and throughout the country.
When extracting THC from cannabis using ethanol, almost everything except THC is stripped from the end product. This means that the Sativa, Hybrid, and Indica effects of the strains that are produced by the terpenes and other cannabinoids are not in the final products. Many companies will then re-introduce terpenes (either cannabis-based or derived from fruit) back into the distillate to create the intended flavor profile.
Distillate is also often used in making edibles. It provides an easy and accurate way to dose cannabis consumables such as gummies, tinctures, drinks, and more.
Hydrocarbon Extraction (Butane/Propane)
Along with ethanol extraction, hydrocarbon extraction is one of the most common methods of extracting THC and other cannabinoids from the cannabis plant – you might have heard the terms BHO (butane hash oil) or PHO (propane hash oil). Butane and propane (often used in tandem) are “blasted” through large columns of cannabis which are then “purged”, or aired out, to remove all of the residual solvents.
The end result is a base extract which can then be turned into a number of different consistencies that consumers may be familiar with. This includes shatter, budder, wax, caviar, sauce, and diamonds. Each consistency results from a different curing method for the concentrate, and the quality of the cannabis that went into the concentrate.
A longer and slower curing method (often using a vacuum oven) usually results in a higher-quality concentrate. BHO/PHO “diamonds” can take up to a month to form and are a result of extended time under heat and pressure.
Unlike ethanol extractions, hydrocarbon extractions retain nearly all of the cannabinoids and terpenes found in the original plant. Terpenes can be separated from the THC during the hydrocarbon extraction and reintroduced into the extracted THC. This creates an extract that has more similarities to the actual cannabis plant.
Hydrocarbon-extracted cannabis can most often be found in the form of dab-able concentrates. But they can also be used to make vape cartridges, and are often favored for their natural cannabis flavor.
CO2-extracted cannabis is not as common as ethanol or hydrocarbon extraction but produces a similar consistency of product to ethanol distillation. CO2 is pushed through chambers containing cannabis (much like hydrocarbon extraction), which produces a concentration of cannabis that retains a high amount of THCa (the base compound of THC). THCa is converted to THC when heated.
CO2 extracts also maintain the plant’s natural terpenes and flavor. These extracts are often used in vape cartridges.
Solventless extracts – or concentrates made without using solvents, such as butane, propane, ethanol, or CO2 – can be seen on dispensary shelves more often these days as concentrates become popular in recreational markets. Solventless extraction can best be broken down by explaining the various processes used in achieving the end concentrate.
Ice water is the most common method of extracting THC trichomes from cannabis without the use of solvents. This produces a compound many people recognize as hash, which is just the “heads” of the trichomes that are separated from the stalks with the help of ice-cold water. Hash is not to be confused with kief, which is simply a term for the smaller particles of cannabis (mostly THC trichomes, but also other plant material) that are sifted through different sizes of screens.
Once the ice water hash is produced, it is pressed between two heated plates (a rosin press) and converted into “rosin” – which has become the industry standard term for extracts made using this method. Dried flower and kief can also be used to make rosin, but there is almost always a distinction at the dispensary level between flower rosin, kief rosin, and hash rosin, with hash rosin usually being the superior product.
Rosin is often preferred due to its high terpene content and lack of possible residual solvents. More and more companies are making rosin as the market grows, and you can expect to find different varieties of this concentrate at any RMC store.
Live or non-live?
Lots of concentrates (particularly BHO/PHO and rosin) are distinguished based on whether or not the concentrate is “live.” Live is a term used to describe any form of concentrate that is made using a plant that is freshly cut from the grow. Typically, this is a plant that is either cut and immediately taken to the manufacturer, or it can be flash frozen and kept at a sub-zero temperature until it is extracted.
Live resin is not to be confused with live rosin. Live resin almost always refers to a “live” extract made using butane or propane, while live rosin refers to fresh plants converted into concentrates using ice water and a rosin press.
Live concentrates are often referred to as non-live concentrates due to the preservation of terpenes and cannabinoids that are in the fresh plant, which did not undergo a curing method. Basically, what you are tasting is the plant in its most natural state.
Stop into any RMC dispensary and let us guide you through the wonderful world of concentrates!