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Cannabis concentrates are all the rage today, thanks to the technique of extracting as many cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids as possible. For example, THC levels in concentrates can be as high as three-or-four times the amount of flowered cannabis.

But with an increase extraction method comes confusion over the many types available.

Solvent-based extracts most commonly use butane, often found in butane hash oil, dubbed BHO, which can also take the form of wax or shatter. Flower or trim is placed in a receptacle tube while butane is forced through, which strips the plant matter of its cannabinoids. The material is contained while the gas is released. Butane was one of the first solvents used in concentrate extraction but as this report points out:

“the blasting method has been deemed dangerous after causing explosions that resulted in the death of several amateur manufacturers, but there’s a safer process for those who still want to make concentrates.

Using closed loop extraction machines, filtration systems keep the solvents from becoming loose. In U.S. states like Colorado, concentrate makers are legally required to use a sanctioned machine in order to produce products.”

Going solvent-less has been a priority for some licensed producers in Canada and the U.S. Water, heat and pressure are mainly used for this method. Such a process typically involves applying ice to chill cannabis flowers to sub-zero temperatures, and then agitating the resin glands to detach from the skin of the flowers. Heat and pressure extraction methods are sometimes used to make non-solvent concentrates as well.

Typically speaking, non-solvent concentrates are easier on the lungs, highlight the product’s flavor and aroma, and provide more potent effects, when compared to other extraction methods.

Leaf Science points out that bubble hash is typically made solvent-free: “To make bubble hash, trichome-rich flower buds are typically frozen. They are soaked in ice water, agitated manually, and then filtered through ‘bubble bags’. These bags are plastic filtration bags with holes of increasingly smaller size. Freezing serves to separate the THC-rich trichomes from the flowers.”

Rosin is also a solvent-less extract, which uses a combination of heat and pressure. The cannabis is pressed to pull out a resin commonly called rosin. This concentrate can be made quite simply with parchment paper and a hair straightener; but most high quality rosins are created using a hydraulic or mechanical press capable of applying a large amount of pressure.

You also may have heard the rather popular term “kief.” This type of concentrate is composed of the trichomes broken away from the dried plant material, usually via specialized filtering screens and a little elbow grease, as The Cannabist notes. “Kief is generally considered a lower-quality extract, but some top-flight extractors can produce an extremely clean and flavorful product using this method. THC content can range from 20 percent to 60 percent.”

Consumption methods vary for solvent-less extracts, but the most common methods include vaping and dabbing. When used with cannabis, some consumers prefer opting for a pipe or bong.

It will be intriguing to watch the concentrates space in the next few years as Canadian LPs ramp up their product lineup, and as more technological advances lower the barrier to entry to this advanced cannabis process.

  1. https://merryjane.com/culture/the-difference-between-solvent-and-solventless
  2. https://www.leafscience.com/2017/11/03/what-is-bubble-hash/
  3. https://www.thecannabist.co/2015/06/19/marijuana-concentrates-kief-bho-water-hash-co2-oil-wax-shatter/36386/

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