Cannabis Concentrates 101
Have you ever come into Kēlo, seen a section labeled “Concentrates” or “Vapes,” and wondered what was inside those colorful bags and boxes? Concentrates or Extracts as they are often called, are an avenue of cannabis that provides consumers with supercharged potency and purity. They are often used by those who prefer not to use combustion, have a high THC tolerance, or prefer what is often a more discreet way of consuming cannabis. Marijuana Extracts are not recommended for use by those who have minimal experience with the plant, as the high level of potency can create an uncomfortable experience if you are unprepared for it. But for avid consumers, weed vapes and concentrates can be a fun option to explore.
What are Concentrates?
Concentrates are a form of cannabis that is used in a wide range of inhablable, ingestable and topical products. These products can be broken into a few categories: edibles, oils, topicals, vapes and inhalable concentrates. Today we’ll be covering inhalable concentrates and vapes which include products like: Live Resins and Rosins, Hash, Shatter, THC Diamonds, and many other forms of concentrated THC, often referred to as “dabs.” They can come pre-packaged in a cartridge for the consumers’ convenience or loose in a container for those who prefer other vaporization methods. These products are often more expensive than regular cannabis as they require a lot more time, material, and expensive machinery to produce. To dive into the different forms of cannabis concentrates, we will first break them into two subcategories: Solvent based and Solventless Concentrates.
What are Solventless Concentrates?
Solventless forms of concentrates are made without the use of a solvent through physical processes. Examples of these concentrates include Hash and Rosin.
Hash (or Hashish) may be the oldest and most well-known type of weed concentrates. It is also one of the few popular weed concentrates made using purely physical processes. Hash typically comes in a little puck made up of compressed cannabis trichomes. However, the format depends significantly on the type of hash, of which there are many.
The most popular types of hash are Dry Sift and Bubble Hash. To make Dry Sift hash, marijuana is rubbed against a fine screen then the product, which should contain mainly trichomes, is sifted through multiple screens for purification. Bubble Hash, on the other hand, involves submerging weed in bags of ice-cold water and stirring or shaking it to freeze and break trichomes off the flower, which are then purified through sieves.
Rosin is a form of extract that involves placing marijuana in a hot press and applying heat and pressure to it to release oils. It can be made using dry flower or live flower (meaning the flower was frozen after harvest). When Rosin is made using live Marijuana flower, it creates live rosin. This type of Rosin is considered higher quality as more terpenes are preserved when using live cannabis flower to make extracts.
What are Solvent Based Concentrates?
Most cannabis extracts are made through chemical processes which use a solvent. These solvents range from Hydrocarbons like Butane and Hexane to Isopropyl, or CO2, and their purpose is to strip the trichomes off marijuana. There are many different forms of solvent concentrates to explore.
BHO (Butane Hash Oil) is a popular and often inexpensive weed extract made using liquid butane. Some people may have a bad association with this type of extract as producing BHO- particularly at home without proper tools and experience, can be extremely dangerous and has caused many injuries and even deaths. This is primarily due to the flammability of Butane. Luckily, new and safer ways to produce this product have been developed since the legacy market days.
Nowadays, most solvent based concentrates are made using a closed-loop system. This ensures the solvent does not make contact with the atmosphere, creating a safer production process. This system typically includes a containment tank where marijuana is suspended in a solvent and a collection tank where solvent and crude concentrate oil is collected. Depending on the system’s complexity, steps and containers like vacuums and condensers are often added. When concerning hydrocarbons, what is essentially happening is waxes, fats and lipids in cannabis bind to the hydrocarbon, which is then purged to leave only the valuable active compounds.
After the initial hydrocarbon extraction process, the end product is often refined. The time spent doing this and the overall process can create different quality and texture for the end products. When purging is done using a long, slow process (typically under low heat), the result is often much higher in terpenes. There are even products that are labeled as “Terp Sauce,” which essentially means they contain a super high concentration of terpenes. These can be sold separately or in combination with products like distillate or diamonds.
Live Resin, which is technically also BHO, uses live, frozen cannabis rather than dried buds. Using live cannabis, frozen immediately after harvest, creates a product with much higher terpene content, meaning it is much more aromatic and flavourful. The end product is considered more high-end and preferred by many but often contains less THC in return for higher terpene content.
Distillate is one of the most potent concentrates on the market. Products labeled as a “distillate” have essentially been stripped of all but one type of cannabinoid. While these products are incredibly potent, they lack the aromatic and flavorful experience offered by products containing terpenes. So many producers will supplement these products with flavour after the fact. These flavors are often labeled as “botanical or cannabis terpenes,” meaning they are naturally derived from plants like (if not) cannabis and added to the distillate. Distillate is often the main ingredient in prefilled vape cartridges or “dab pens.”
What about Oils, Edibles and Topicals?
These products use concentrated cannabis for simple infusion. Cannabis oils, which are often taken sublingually (meaning they go under your tongue), are technically concentrates as well. They are often made using Isopropyl or CO2 extraction. Marijuana Oils can be a cost effective replacement for edibles like chocolates and gummies. They typically come in 30mL containers and a dose which can range from 1mg to 30mg of THC is typically measured in only 1mL. Edibles also contain concentrates, some even contain live resin, to make the resulting weed gummie or chocolate a full spectrum product, offering more cannabinoids for users. Topicals also use concentrates to make it easy to infuse thc and cbd into a lotion or bath bomb. Whilst the potency of these products remains high, it is important to remember that they are intended to interact with the cannabinoid receptors in your skin, rather than absorbing into your bloodstream. That means that for the most part, they are not meant to have any sort of psychoactive effect on people.
Can I find Concentrates at Kēlo Cannabis?
In the heart of Kelowna’s North End district, Kēlo carries many types of cannabis concentrates. We have a wide selection of hash, shatter, live resins and oils. We offer everything from high CBD to high THC oils. We also carry many different kinds of marijuana edibles, including fast acting, live resin, and full spectrum products. Our guides are extremely knowledgable and happy to answer any further questions about concentrates you may have!
Tanney, C. A., Backer, R., Geitmann, A., & Smith, D. L. (2020). Cannabis Glandular Trichomes: A Cellular Metabolite Factory. Frontiers in Plant Science. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2021.721986