Rosin, Shatter, Wax, BHO, Oil: what are cannabis concentrates, and how to use them properly
Enter the realm of the sticky, gluey, THC-packed cannabis concentrates. Concentrates are a relatively new form of consuming cannabis that is becoming increasingly popular thanks mainly to the widespread legalization in the USA. Cannabis enthusiasts love concentrates: they are flavourful, super-potent, easy on the lungs. Curious? In this article you will learn which are the best cannabis concentrates, how to use them properly, and how to get the most out of them.
What are cannabis concentrates?
In simple terms, cannabis concentrates are the active compounds in cannabis after they’ve been separated from the fibre and other plant matter. The whole purpose of concentration is to identify which part of the plant contains the most cannabinoids, and to separate this part from everything else.
In some ways, the very first step in concentration happens when growers separate the cannabinoid-rich buds from the leaves, stems and other parts of the plant. Back in the 70s, if you purchased a bag of Thai weed, you’d find in it leaves, seeds, stems and buds. Nowadays, a bag of weed is only buds, so the cannabinoid to plant matter ratio is much higher.
Taking concentration to the next level
So, a bag of weed containing buds only has a higher concentration of cannabinoids compared to a bag of weed that has buds and leaves mixed together. Now, would you prefer to buy a 5-gram bag of shwag for 10 euro, or would you prefer to buy a 5-gram bag of premium buds for 50 euro? Most people would choose the second, and that’s why concentrates make sense. Wouldn’t it be good if you could concentrate even more those precious cannabinoids from weed?
Throughout humanity’s love story with weed, growers agreed that concentrating cannabinoids was a great idea. This is because, with concentrates, storing becomes easier and less demanding in terms of space. You get the same quantity of active compounds in a much smaller space. Furthermore, concentrates can be kept for longer and are easier to conceal, which is a good thing when you are dealing with something that is not popular among authorities.
The history of concentrates
The history of concentrates begins for practical reasons. Storage, concealment, preservation and potency pushed humanity towards the invention of cannabis concentrates. If you think about it, such premises are the same that pushed humanity to make cheese out of milk, jerky out of beef, wine out of grapes.
When it comes to cannabis, it is believed that the first concentrate to ever be made is live resin. Live resin, called charas in India, is made by rubbing living cannabis plants with bare hands during the late flowering stages. Plant after plant the resin, as well as some pistils and tiny fragments of sugar leaves, form a thick black layer on the hands of the charas-maker. At the end of the day, the charas-maker sits in front of a fire to warm up the hands, and slowly works to remove the resin from the palms. The final product is then collected, stored, and smoked in clay pipes called chilum.
Dry sifted hash
The second oldest form of concentrate is hash. Typical product of the Middle East and northern Africa, hash differs from live resin mainly because it is obtained from dried plants. The plants, once they have lost most of their humidity, are passed over sieves. The trichomes collect on a sheet of material placed below the sieve. The advantage of using this method is mainly related to higher volumes of trichomes collected in comparison to dry resin. Another advantage is that, by using different sieves and different agitation techniques, hash-makers can obtain a great variety of products; from “00” hash (pure, fully-ripe trichome heads) to green kief (smaller trichome heads, trichome stalks and plant matter).
Which are the main types of cannabis concentrate nowadays?
Much has happened in the world of cannabis since the dawn of hash and concentrates. The effort is mainly directed towards producing the purest possible concentrates, which means having a trichomes-only product with little or no plant matter in it. The purpose is to have the most potent concentrate. Something that can be vaporized, thus limiting the amount of combusted plant matter and increasing the beneficial effects of cannabinoids. Below you’ll read about the most popular “modern” concentrates.
Hash: bubble hash, dry sift, live resin
Hash is still quite a thing nowadays. Hash makers are raising the bar each time, in a constant effort to reach the perfect concentrate. Live resin still has to be produced in the traditional way, while dry sift can benefit from technologies such as pollen tumblers. Dry sift can be purified with a relatively new technique called “static tech”, which uses static electricity to separate the trichomes from the rest. Static tech dry sift is so pure that you could use it with a banger or an e-nail as you would with oil. This particular product is called “full-melt hash”, because it melts without leaving any trace of plant matter.
Another popular technique used to make hash is the bubble hash tech. In this case, hash makers separate the trichomes by washing cannabis in ice-cold water and then filtering the water-trichome mixture with nylon sieves. Lots of hash makers choose the bubble hash technique over dry sifting, because it does make the process of separating the trichomes easier. However, water is a powerful solvent capable of extracting a lot of chlorophyl from the plant.
Dry freezing plants
The ultimate technique in hash making is called dry freeze. The whole idea is to preserve as much as possible the terpene profile of the plant at the time of harvest. Once harvested, the plant is frozen and dried using dry ice or a professional dry freezer. This will preserve the plant characteristics until they will be processed, usually with bubble hash tech.
Oils: ethanol oil, Rick Simpson oil, butane honey oil
Even more concentrated than hash, are the oils. Oils can contain up to 60% cannabinoids or more. There are some differences between one type of oil and the other. Let’s see the main ones.
Ethanol oil, made out of cannabis or hash, was very popular in the 90s. It doesn’t have a strong smell, but it’s super potent. The idea behind it is very simple: ethanol has the ability to dissolve trichomes without dissolving chlorophyll. Once the cannabis buds or hash have been washed with ethanol, the liquid is left to evaporate until no more ethanol is left. What remains is a sticky brown goo, which is mainly cannabinoids. Ethanol oil should be made with 100% pure ethanol only. Once ready, it can be vaped, smoked in a joint, or used orally.
Rick Simpson Oil
Invented by the legendary Rick Simpson, who used this type of oil to treat a number of health conditions, Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) is mainly used orally. The process is somewhat similar to the one used for ethanol oil: using a solvent, then letting the solvent evaporate. The main difference is that, since Rick Simpson Oil is meant to be ingested, it contains lots of chlorophyll. Considered a “full spectrum” type of concentrate, Rick Simpson Oil is made by letting the whole cannabis plant sit in the solvent (traditionally naphtha, but ethanol works just as well) for several days, to extract all of the chemical compounds in the plant.
Butane Honey Oil
Sometimes referred to as shatter, butane honey oil is an extremely pure product obtained by using butane, a gas, as a solvent. Butane has a great ability to strip the resin from the plant quickly and efficiently, without extracting any other compound. The final product obtained with this technique is a semi-transparent, brittle product with fantastic flavour and potency that is best used with a banger or a nectar collector.
Rosin: Dry sift rosin, bubble hash rosin, live resin rosin, flower rosin
Rosin is becoming increasingly popular among cannabis enthusiasts. Rosin is somewhat similar to BHO and ethanol oil in terms of purity and potency, with the main difference being that it is extracted without solvents. To produce rosin, hash makers press a number of different starting materials using heat and pressure. Depending on the starting material, you’ll get different results.
Dry sift rosin
Dry sift makes a great starting material for rosin. Dry sift is pre-pressed using a traditional pollen press. It is then placed in a special nylon bag, and then pressed again using heated metal plates. The result is a delicious rosin with a distinctive cured hash flavour.
Bubble hash rosin
Another great starting material for rosin is bubble hash. Similar to what happens when pressing dry sift, bubble hash is bagged and then pressed with heated metal plates. Some of the top-quality bubble hashes deliver up to 80% return in rosin. The flavour is milder compared to dry sift rosin, but the bigger yields should compensate for that.
Live resin rosin
One of the most sought-after types of rosin is the one made with live resin. In this case, the plants are flash-frozen using dry freezers, then washed or sifted to separate the trichomes. Trichomes are then bagged and pressed with heat plates. The rosin obtained with this technique preserves all the flavour and chemical compounds of the living plant, hence ensuring a concentrate that fully embodies the qualities of the starting strain.
How to use cannabis concentrates
Cannabis concentrates excel in versatility. There are several ways of using them, and you’ll surely find the way that is best for you. Read the paragraphs below to find some inspiration.
Edibles are a great way of consuming concentrates. Almost every concentrate can be eaten safely: as a matter of fact, Moroccans traditionally consumed hashish orally. Remember though the two golden rules of edibles: 1) the material, at a certain stage of the transformation process, has to be decarboxylated (it means that it has to be heated up to approximately 120°C for approximately 20 minutes); 2) edibles kick in slower, harder and longer compared to joints and vaporizers.
Dabbing is the process of heating up a metal, ceramic or glass surface (usually a banger) and then smearing on it a little piece of concentrate. The vapour production is instant. Vapour can be hot; this is why most dabbers dab through a bong.
Enails are essentially metal, quartz or ceramic bangers that are heated with an electric resistance rather than with a torch. The main advantage is that you can control the temperature very precisely, without any guessing involved. Dabbers generally prefer to use enails in combination with a bong to cool down the vapour.
Wax pens are essentially portable-size enails. They are very convenient for vaping on the go. They are compact and discreet. Some of them feature special adapters to use them through water for added efficiency.
Bongs and joints
Nothing stops you from spreading some of your concentrates on a joint, or from adding a little piece on top of a bong bowl for added flavour and potency.
Cartridges are possibly the most practical way of using concentrates. Cartridges are disposable little devices that require nothing more than a 510 battery or a 510 box mod to function. They taste good, pack a punch and can be used in public without drawing too much attention.
Nectar collectors are, to put it simply, glass or metal straws that can be heated up with a torch. As the hot tip of the nectar collector approaches the concentrate, it will start to vaporize it. The best nectar collectors, such as this one, feature an integrated water-cooling system.
Advantages of cannabis concentrates
As you have seen, potency and purity are two of the main advantages of concentrates. However, this is not all. There are other interesting advantages of concentrates, here they are:
Forget those clumsy glass jars. You can have the same quantity of cannabinoids contained in 100 grams of weed in 10 grams of concentrate. That’s right, you’ll cut the storing space needed by approximately 90%. Not to mention the fact that, in general, concentrates are less susceptible to moulds and spoilage.
Concentrates pack a lot of flavour in a tiny package. Don’t let yourself be fooled by appearances: a rice grain-sized dab of concentrate can deliver an unmatched flavour experience. The best way to consume concentrates for flavour is to use a good quality quartz banger or an enail.
Maximum potency method for using concentrates
The best method to achieve maximum potency when using concentrates is to use a banger or a nail, and to filter the vapour through water. A good banger will ensure a quick, efficient vaporization, while the water filtration will help you inhale lots of vapour in one go, without burning your throat.
Maximum discreetness method for using concentrates
The best method to vaporize concentrates in a discreet way is to use a wax pen or a cartridge. Wax pens and cart pens are very similar to e-cigarettes. Take them with you for a quick hit on the go anywhere you are.
Can I make my own concentrates at home?
You surely can. Follow our blog; we will soon publish the best recipes and techniques to make your own concentrates at home. Stay tuned!