Cannabis concentrates, as the name suggests, are concentrated forms of cannabis. They’re incredibly potent and highly effective. They also have numerous applications.
There is a vast array of different types of concentrates, including oil, hash, shatter, wax, budder, and rosin. They can be smoked, vaped, or added to edibles. Here are some of the methods used to create cannabis concentrates.
Hydrocarbon extraction is one of the most popular methods used for making cannabis concentrates. It’s the same process used to make essential oils and oil-based fragrances. The process involves using butane, propane, or hexane to pull the cannabinoids and other compounds from the plant.
Hydrocarbon extraction begins with the placement of the cannabis plant into a tube. A machine pushes the butane, hexane, propane, or mix of hydrocarbons through the vessel and over the plant material so that it draws out THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids, along with terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds.
The infused solvent collects in another vessel. Here, it’s heated to evaporate the hydrocarbons and remove any other unwanted toxins such as pesticides. For concentrates made using butane, a gold-colored substance remains. The consistency of the resulting substance, called butane hash oil (BHO), depends upon the temperature used during the evaporation process. You can use the oil as is. Extractors can also crystallize it to create shatter.
CO2 extraction (also known as supercritical CO2 extraction) offers a more natural way to extract cannabinoids and other compounds. The term “supercritical” refers to a gas (CO2 in this case) that gets exposed to high pressure. The process converts the gas into a liquid.
Much like hydrocarbon extraction, the supercritical CO2 passes over the cannabis plant material and pulls out the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other desired components. The CO2 is extremely cold, which preserves the natural attributes of the strain, including the flavor and aroma. It naturally reverts back to a gas and evaporates from the concentrate without the need for heat. The resulting concentrate is thin, making it ideal for vape pens.
Ethanol is one of the oldest solvents used for creating cannabis concentrates. Its main advantage is that it works much faster than butane and other hydrocarbons. The disadvantage to the solvent, however, is that it often extracts unwanted compounds as well, including chlorophyll and tannins.
Undesirable compounds need to be removed to create a pure concentrate. The process often involves passing the liquid through an activated carbon filter. Finally, the concentrate is heated to remove the remaining ethanol.
Some concentrates don’t require a solvent to make. Physical extraction involves separating the trichomes from the cannabis plant using actions such as pressure and heat. Dry sift, for instance, involves shaking the plant through a series of screens. These screens are specific sizes to ensure that only the trichomes pass through. Rosin involves the use of pressure and heat to squeeze the compounds from the plant.
There is a wide array of different cannabis concentrates. Each type requires a specialized extraction method to ensure that only the desired compounds are in the final product and that the concentrate is safe for use. Understanding what’s involved to create them enables you to choose the best concentrate for you.