Cannabis Concentrates

How are Cannabis concentrates made?

Concentrates are quite popular, not only are there so many different types of concentrates (hash, shatter, badder, crumble, just to name a few), but there are a dizzying number of ways to prepare them.
This guide will explain how cannabis concentrates are made.

What are cannabis concentrates?

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“Concentrates” is a broad term describing cannabis products with elevated cannabinoid potency (usually THC) beyond the levels typically seen in cannabis flowers, while flower can contain up to 30% THC (and more than 30%, depending on the strain and grower), concentrates contain between 60% and up to 90% THC.

Concentrates include a wide range of products some of them are the: Kief, hashish, oils and waxes; Many of these, especially the dabs, come from the same extract but have different textures and appearances due to the way the extract is treated.
For example, shatter is an extract that is placed on a leaf to cool, giving it a brittle consistency, and when the same extract is whipped, it becomes fluffy and frosting-like.

Concentrates are broadly divided into two subcategories:

  • Extracts: They use a solvent to extract the content of cannabinoids and terpenes.
  • No Extracts: They use mechanical separation to achieve the same objective.

Butane hash oil (BHO) is an example of an extract, while hashish is an example of a mechanically separated concentrate.

How are the concentrates made?

Concentrates can be prepared in many ways, each of which has its own advantages.
The method a manufacturer chooses influences the final product in several ways, such as its:

  • Power
  • Taste
  • Aroma
  • Texture
  • Consistency

Each method can also be tailored to the preferences of the manufacturer, who may introduce additional steps or post-processing techniques to develop their signature approach to concentrate production.

Although the steps may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, these five processes are among the most common methods for producing concentrates:

Mechanical separation

Mechanical separation is any method in which trichomes laden with cannabinoids and terpenes are removed from the plant by physical means, rather than using a solvent.

This method has existed at least since the 12th century, when the production of hashish began in Persia.

Back then, mechanical separation was as simple as rubbing the cannabis flower between the hands and collecting the sticky resin that remained.

Today, mechanical separation is a bit more sophisticated and uses fine mesh to separate the trichomes.

Hydrocarbon extraction

Hydrocarbon extraction is a method that uses butane (and other hydrocarbons, such as propane) as a solvent.

The main benefit of hydrocarbons is their low boiling point, which allows manufacturers to purge residual solvents from their extract at temperatures that do not destroy the precious cannabinoids and terpenes.

Ethanol extraction

Ethanol extraction is another solvent-based extraction method used to separate cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant.

Often performed at cold temperatures to better preserve these compounds, the main benefit of this method is that ethanol extraction can be performed at low operating pressures, making it a cost-effective method.

Supercritical CO2 extraction

In this extraction method, temperature and pressure are closely controlled to force CO2 into a “supercritical” phase, where it behaves simultaneously as a gas and a liquid.

A main benefit of supercritical CO2 extraction is that it leaves no residual solvents, so it does not require a purge step like hydrocarbon and ethanol extraction.

However, CO2 alone tends to extract the same handful of terpenes regardless of strain, resulting in similar flavors and odors in all concentrates produced by this method.

Ice water extraction

Ice water extraction is a solvent-free method that begins with what is technically a mechanical separation process.

The cannabis biomass is placed in near-freezing water and agitated so that the cold, brittle trichomes are loosened from the plant material.

Then, the mixture of water and trichomes is drained through a series of fine mesh bags, where the trichomes are captured as the water flows.

Once drained, the trichomes are collected and pressed to form bricks of “bubble hash” and left to dry.

Bubble hash is pressed to create rosin, a solvent-free concentrate prized for the way its cannabinoid and terpene profile mimics that of its parent strain.

Hydrocarbon extraction and ice water extraction are the focus of attention.

These two methods allow a higher degree of control to produce the best quality product possible, find out more about this topic.

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