Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis Concentrates

July 6th, 2016

The wide world of concentrates can be very confusing for new and even experienced cannabis users. Extraction method, starting material, consistency, potency and purity are all factors which determine the quality of your cannabis concentrate. We’ve put together this beginner’s guide to help you better understand these factors and choose a concentrate that’s right for you!


What are the benefits of using concentrates?

Patients needing a swift, potent dose of cannabis to ease symptoms may find dabbing or vaporizing concentrates to be an efficient way to deliver relief. Clean, pure concentrates are also considered to be a healthier choice because they strip out resin-producing plant material.

What is cannabis extraction?

Cannabis extraction is similar to the processes used to decaffeinate coffee, produce vitamins and minerals, and create essential oils. In cannabis, the main compounds producers are looking to extract are cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) and terpenes – these compounds provide the aroma, flavor and effect of the final product.


How are cannabis concentrates extracted?

Concentrates are made using a variety of extraction methods and solvents in processes that utilize pressure in a safe, closed-loop system. Cannabis concentrates can be divided into two main categories:

  1. Solvent Extractions

Solvents strip compounds from the plant, leaving behind a highly potent liquid solution. Popular solvents include: butane, propane, CO2, and alcohol.

  1. Solventless Extractions

Solventless extractions do not introduce any foreign substances. Although water is technically a solvent, ice-water extractions are typically classified as solventless extractions in cannabis.


How do I determine a concentrate’s quality?

Many people refer to concentrates by their consistency, i.e. shatter, budder or wax. However, the same extraction method can deliver a variety of consistencies in the final product, so this alone does not indicate quality.  The only guaranteed way to determine concentrate quality is lab testing. Lab tests measure residual solvents, contaminants, and cannabinoid content.


What are common forms of concentrates?

  1. Shatter (Glass, Slabs, Sheets)

Shatter is smooth, clear and solid. It is considered to be one of the purest and most potent forms because it involves a second extraction process that removes fats, lipids and waxes. This can result in up to 80 percent THC. However, it also means that almost all of the terpenes are lost in the process.


Image: Slate


  1. Wax (Budder, Crumble, Honeycomb)

Unlike shatter, cannabis waxes have lost their transparency through extraction. Wax can take on different consistencies based on heat, moisture, and the texture of the oil before it is purged. Runnier oils tend to have more moisture and form gooey waxes also called ‘budder,’ while the harder ones are likely to take on a brittle texture known as ‘crumble’ or ‘honeycomb.’ Some waxes retain more terpenes and tend to be more flavorful, with high THC percentages.


  1. Oil (Supecritical CO2 Oil, Hash Oil, Butane Hash Oil, BHO, RSO)

Oil is a gooey, sticky liquid that can be hard to handle. For this reason, oils are often offered in plastic syringes for easier use. Oils can retain a full flavor profile, however, THC levels tend to be less consistent.


Image: Whaxy


  1. Rosin (Live Rosin, Resin)

The consistency and clarity of rosin can range from clear shatter to creamy budder. This method uses low heat and high pressure to extract concentrates from flower or hash, instead of using solvents. To make your own rosin, all you need is flower, parchment paper, and a hair straightener!


Image: Leafly


  1. Kief (Dry Sift, Pollen)

Kief are the tiny, sticky crystals that cover cannabis flowers. Due to the high concentration of terpenes and cannabinoids in resin glands, separating kief crystals from plant matter is a great way to consume cannabis while reducing the amount of charred material you take into your body.

BPG Kief

Image: All Bud


  1. Hash (Hashish, Ice Water Hash, Bubble Hash)

Simply put, hash is kief that has been heated and pressurized to form a soft, green ball. Applying heat and pressure to kief changes its composition by rupturing the resin glands, thus producing different consistencies.

BPG Hash

Image: Leafly


How do I consume concentrates?

There are a variety of ways extracts can be consumed, each with a different level of difficulty and equipment required. To consume concentrates, a concentrate is heated by the device until a vapor is released, which is then inhaled.

  1. Dab/Vape Pens

Pens offer a portable option for smoking wax/shatter/oil. Some pens use a pre-loaded cartridge; others have internal chambers to be loaded with concentrate by the user.

BPG Dab Pen

Image: Vaposcan


  1. Dab Rig

Using a dab rig requires special equipment and is probably the most difficult way to consume cannabis in general. New technology is being developed which is making dab rigs easier to use, but this equipment can be expensive.


  1. Other

Concentrates are also commonly consumed with flower. Many patients coat their joints or bowls with concentrates for an added dose of relief.


Where do I store my concentrates?

Because cannabis concentrates are often sticky, we recommend storing them in parchment paper or non-stick silicone containers.


Did you know?

Just as the number 420 has a special meaning in the cannabis community, so does 710! 710 when flipped upside down spells “OIL.” With the rising popularity of concentrates, many cannabis users celebrate 7/10 as “Dab Day.”


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