The Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis Concentrates
As the legal cannabis industry continues to experience a golden age of growth, it seems like new forms of the product are hitting the market all the time. This is especially true for concentrates, those items that you know contain THC, but which somehow look nothing like the familiar green cannabis plant. With so many different similar-sounding terms and processes, the burgeoning world of concentrates can be overwhelming to a beginner. So, here’s a walkthrough that will cover everything you need to know about cannabis concentrates.
What are cannabis concentrates?
Cannabis concentrates are the product of extracting THC or CBD from the cannabis plant into a concentrated form. As with other marijuana products, all types of strains are available in concentrate form: indica (relaxing effects), sativa (creative/uplifting), and hybrid strains. As a catch-all term, “concentrate” covers a wide variety of products. Anything from a tincture, to vaporizer cartridges, to the sometimes-confusing terms you may have heard of like “dabs,” “shatter,” “crumble,’ or “wax” are considered concentrates. Let’s demystify some of the types of concentrate that can seem to overlap at first blush.
Concentrates that use solvents to extract THC or CBD:
Wax, sometimes called “sugar wax”, is dry and crumbly, as the name implies. It’s most often used in dabbing, where the wax is heated on a hot surface and inhaled through a dab “rig.” The process of creating wax involves dissolving the plant’s trichome heads in a solvent such as butane, propane, or alcohol. The residue of the solvent is then removed from the extract through whipping, to separate the THC extract from the excess solvent. Because this process heats the product at relatively low temperatures, it preserves more flavor-giving terpenes than some others.
Shatter is created in a process that’s very similar to waxes. However, the initial sludgy product is added to parchment and placed in an environment that creates a vacuum, removing the solvent as the product spreads across the waxy paper. What results from this is a dark amber substance whose brittle quality gives it the name “shatter”.
Live resin is an increasingly popular form of cannabis oil because it preserves a great deal of the smell and taste of traditional flower. People who may find other concentrates too “processed” for their tastes, therefore, may find that live resin combines the convenience and intensity of concentrates with the aesthetic benefits of bud. Its qualities are due to its cannabinoid profile being remarkably similar to a live plant’s; it’s created in a process similar to wax, except using frozen plant material.
CO2 Oil is created using carbon dioxide and high pressure to separate plant matter from its liquid THC. It’s an expensive, high-tech process, but one that results in a clean and environmentally-friendly production process for serious manufacturers. Many THC cartridges produced at scale for vaping weed are created this way today.
Kief is probably at least somewhat familiar to most cannabis consumers. You don’t need a special lab or volatile solvents to produce it; all you need is a good grinder. Kief is visible on the marijuana plant to the naked eye — it’s in the little white hairs (trichomes) that cover the bud. Their tips are loaded with psychoactive cannabinoids.
Rosin can be made at home with a good heat source, like a suitably hot press. Pressing a bud sandwiched in wax parchment while exposing it to high head isolates the oil from the trichomes, leaving a pancaked bit of plant matter surrounded by a surprising amount of liquid extract which can be dabbed without any further processing!
Okay, so that’s a pretty decent beginner’s overview of the most common types of extracts on the market today. But what do you do with one once you have it? What’s the best way to vape weed?
The most common ways to consume cannabis concentrates
Vape pens have grown tremendously in popularity over the last decade thanks to e-cigarettes and the growing acceptance of cannabis generally. They consist of a power source (usually a lithium-ion battery) that heats a tank containing a concentrate. The concentrated oil is vaporized and inhaled by the user. Because the oil needs to be viscous enough to atomize at the output of the temperature by pens, most are the domain of oils and live resin, rather than waxes or budder. There are now some wax pens, like the Xvape VII Pro, available on the market that are capable of vaping wax and shatter. These contain ceramic heating chambers rather than using threaded cartridges filled with oil. Some are even dual-use, capable of also vaping flower (dry herb) in their high-temperature ovens!
Vapes and vape pens are discrete, affordable, and no-fuss, making them an almost universal entry point into the world of concentrates!
Dab rigs are a more advanced concentrate conveyance. Their look and function is similar to that of a traditional water pipe or bong, except instead of a bowl and carb for the ignition of flower, there’s a banger on which you “dab” your wax or budder. Heating is achieved with a torch, which can add a flashy and fun part of the process for those who enjoy the ritual of a session. Still, it can be intimidating to newcomers or people who want a readily-available hit without needing multiple accessories to go along with the experience. Water still cools the hit just like in a traditional bong, and some dab rigs are very clever and elaborate with the design of their percolators, becoming almost works of art in their own right.
E-rigs/E-nails combine the experience of a dab rig with some of the added convenience and safety of a vape pen. That’s because instead of heating the rig’s banger with a butane torch, an e-nail uses a battery-powered heating element. They are commonly available for sale as part of a complete set, but can also be purchased separately for use with existing rigs. E-rigs, sometimes called portable vaporizers, are a newer class of self-contained units like the Puffco Peak Smart Rig, which perform in a manner similar to a traditional dab rig but heat electronically and typically have a sleeker, more compact form factor that’s reminiscent of a lava lamp.
Is Vaping Concentrates More Cost-Effective Than Vaping Flower?
When it comes to concentrates vs. flower, there’s not a simple answer as to which form is more cost-effective. Vaping concentrates regularly can cause one’s tolerance to increase because of the relatively high amount of THC, which in turn could lead to spending more money to achieve the same results if they don’t take a tolerance break to first let their body re-adjust. However, as the concentrate market has flourished, it’s now often the case that a customer walking into a dispensary will pay a higher price for flower, and it’s important to remember that flower won’t keep as long as a concentrate will.
What are the Best Cannabis Concentrates on the Market?
There are so many great products on the market now—consider yourself encouraged to go forth and explore! Here are a few solid contenders to get started:
Cresco Live Resin is full of high-quality flavor as one would expect with a live resin. Its jelly-like consistency makes it perfect for dabbing. After a long and full life on the stem, Cresco’s frosty buds are hand-selected to produce a premium product and immediately flash-frozen, preserving the terpene content of the original plant.
Brite Labs – Jelly Wax Brite Lab’s premium wax extracts deliver a potent cannabis experience. Their methodologies maximize the natural terpenes and cannabinoid profiles found in each strain. The end result is a soft, pliable, jelly-like consistency that is easy to apply and a pleasure to taste.
Cobra Extracts: The highlight of Cobra Extract’s concentrates are their bold flavor. The color and consistency of the shatter show its purity, and the THC levels are strong but not overwhelming.
Flavor- Crubmle – Strawberry Bannana Flavor’s Strawberry Banana crumble has a phenomenal consistency, which makes it easy to handle. The terpene profile is also top-notch with notes of sweet, nutty pine and a subtle earthy aroma.
At first blush, the world of concentrates can seem highly technical and a bit intimidating, hopefully, this guide has set you on the right path for choosing a place to start. the flower vs. oil debate won’t be resolved any time soon, concentrates are hugely popular with aficionados because there’s something that’s the right fit for everyone; they’re potent, convenient, and frankly, they can make for a great smoking experience!