Cannabis Concentrates and Extracts: A Quick Introduction
Cannabis is a plant full of highly valuable terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavourful resin. This blog describes different ways of extracting the desired compounds.
Cannabis extracts and concentrates provide highly efficient ways to get stoned, or medicated, if you prefer to put it this way. There is proof that mankind used cannabis extracts since the 18th century but humans used cannabis as a medicine way earlier in earth’s history.
It’s a fact that cannabis tinctures were often used by the royal upper class. Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom and Ireland for example, used cannabis extracts to treat various medical conditions, and, to rule the empire in a laid-back and relaxed way, of course. Her majesty would have been one of Royal Queen Seeds’ best customers if we would have launched our genetics and CBD-Oil a few hundred years earlier. Anyway, we thought, better late than never.
One can observe the upcoming of various new types of concentrates, since the legal marijuana movement in the US allowed an industry to flourish, and yes, to literally grow. This blog is meant to give interested cannabis enthusiasts a quick introduction to different kinds of cannabis concentrates.
WHAT ARE CANNABIS CONCENTRATES IN GENERAL?
It may sounds like a silly question but why not define what we’re talking about before diving into the details. The technical process of extracting active ingredients, like THC or CBD for example, from the cannabis plant, is often more or less the same with different types of concentrates. Most of the time, temperatures play a superior role, meaning that the plant matter is often exposed to low or high temperatures, in order to collect as much trichome heads or -glands as possible.
There is a big variety of concentrates because all kinds of carrier materials, and different kinds of extraction methods are being used. The chosen carrier material, along with the specific method, gives the cannabis extract a certain texture, flavour, potency, and appearance.
BRIEF DIGRESSION: TRICHOMES
It makes sense to talk about trichomes in the context of extract production. It’s a wise decision to buy a good magnifying glass online, to observe the building and development of trichomes on your buds. The small ones that jewelers use to examine the quality of diamonds seem to work fine.
Back to trichomes, there are basically three different kinds:
1. Bulbous trichomes
They are the tiniest among trichomes, only 25-30 microns tall. The stalk and the head are both formed by only 1-4 cells. When plants are getting closer to reach their point of full maturity, they usually form a tiny little bubble with some resin in it.
2. Capitate-sessile trichomes
These trichomes can be found in much larger numbers than the bulbous trichomes. It appears as if these trichomes don’t really have a stalk, like if they would sit directly on the plant. The gland often consists of 8-16 cells, giving this trichome a total diameter of about 25-100 microns.
3. Capitate-stalked trichomes
These trichomes are also known as glandular trichomes, and are perfect for any kind of extract or concentrate production. They are the largest in size, with 150-500 microns, and are responsible for producing the majority of cannabinoids. Extract production usually works from the phenomenon that heads of capitates-stalked trichomes, can be easily separated from the stalk. The reason for this is a layer of cells, separating the head, and the stalk of a trichome. This layer of cells gets broken down, and trichome heads are collected in some kind of carrier material.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONCENTRATES AND EXTRACTS
1. BHO (Butane Hash Oil)
Butane Hash Oil or BHO is the generic term for things like shatter, wax/budder, crumble, and pull-and-snap, things we ‘re going to talk about later. What sounds delicious and potent usually is delicious and potent! So called “dabbers” commonly use BHO’s to get the desired effect, without having to smoke vast amounts of bud. The organic compound butane (C4H10) is being used to extract terpenes, CBD, and THC, from the plant matter. Butane is highly flammable what makes a certain expertise necessary to produce BHO’s. Obstacles are there to be overcome though. THC levels of more than 80% should be motivation enough.
2. Ice-Water Hash (Bubble Hash)
This is the most common way for hobby growers to produce delicious, high-quality hash. You can buy many different kinds of kits online, all working by the principle of exposing buds and trim to very cold water, with ice cubes or crushed ice in it. The very low temperatures help to strip the trichomes from the plant matter. By filtering the cannabinoid-infused liquid through bags that have different sized mesh material at the bottom, one can produce home-made hash. Ice-water hash is also something that can be a good alternative to cannabutter, when large amounts of trimmings need to be processed after harvest.
3. Fresh-frozen Hash (Live Resin)
Fresh-frozen Hash or live resin is an upcoming phenomenon among hash makers. It can be another option with a few advantages in comparison to the classic ice-water method. It’s so successful because it can produce similar amounts of hash from the same amount of plant matter but in a much better quality. The flavours are closer to the original aromas of the plant because one uses freshly harvested plants, in the case of live resin for instance. By only cooling the flowers to about 4 °C, and not freezing them, ice crystals won’t build inside the plants cells. With no ice crystals that can bust open cell walls, which leads to a release of great amounts of chlorophyll in our final product, we can observe a much purer quality, and better taste. Here is a link to a blog that provides more information on live resin.
4. Kief (a.k.a dry sift)
The extraction method to produce kief is rather simple and works mechanically, without any kind of carrier material or solvent. It’s the stuff most grinders have an individual compartment for, at the bottom. By running dry plant material through screens with different sizes, trichomes are forced mechanically to fall off the buds or trimmings. Having some natural “angel dust” in your stash box, to spice up a spliff from time to time, is definitely nice.
5. Wax (or Budder)
Wax is a wonderful thing to smoke. The name derives from the fact that those extracts have a waxy and soft consistency. Butane is getting pushed through the plant matter with the result of extracting large parts of essential oils and active ingredients. After evaporating the remaining butane, one gets this highly potent wax, with THC levels of sometimes over 90%. Potheads and patients who experienced problems with a high tolerance to THC because of frequent consumption, only need to smoke tiny amounts of wax, to reach the desired effect.
This type of Butane Hash Oil uses the exact same extraction method that is being used to produce wax or budder. The big difference is the glass-like consistency in the stable form of the final product. It can be broken into tiny pieces, just like shattered glass. Shatter is made by applying higher temperatures at the end of the BHO process, resulting in more moisture being released from the wax, leaving highly potent shatter behind.
7. CO2 Oil (often CBD Oil)
Using CO2 to extract the desired compounds of cannabis from the plant is also very common. CO2, together with a good amount of pressure, forces compounds like THC, CBD, and terpenes, out of the plants cells. Royal Queen Seeds is offering a premium 4% CBD Oil that is made by experts, constantly quality-checked and monitored, just to ensure to maintain the highest quality available on the European market today. This can be a good option when you came to the conclusion to try some CBD Oil, before investing large sums in technical equipment to make your own. Queen Victoria would have done the same!