WHAT ARE CONCENTRATES?
Shatter, Budder, Live Resin, Crumble, and Bubble Hash are all different concentrates. Basically, concentrates are made from flower and may use different extraction methods to isolate the cannabinoid compounds, terpenes (the essential oils found in all plants), and trichomes (the little hairs found on a flower) from the plant matter. With concentrates, you can get higher than 50% THC, whereas with flower, you get closer to 20%. This can make medicating with concentrates challenging to manage. If you are new to concentrates and are learning your limitations, it is advisable to begin slow.
Concentrates all start the same: by extracting terpenes, those lovely healing compounds, and oils from the flower. This can be done a number of ways, but there are three stand out extraction methods that top the charts, which are briefly summarized below:
This is the oldest method as far as using plants for medicinal purposes. Dried flower is soaked in ethanol or alcohol to extract the compounds. A machine is then used to heat the ethanol to the point of evaporation. After the liquid has evaporated, what you have left is a sticky oil that is commonly used to make tinctures, edibles, and concentrates. This is basically how all tinctures start.
Cannabinoid extraction with butane is a very specific science and can be highly volatile if not done with an exact methodology. Most often, a glass or stainless steel cylinder is filled with dried flower, and a very fine mesh screen is used to cover one end. Next, the container is filled with butane. The butane extracts the desired compounds and oils and slowly drips through the mesh screen (kind of like a coffee filter, only cooler).
After extraction, using laboratory equipment, a complicated heating or “bathing” and cooling technique is used to slowly evaporate and extract the butane. What you are left with is a sticky oil ready for the next step in production, which will vary based on the desired end result. As this extraction process is the most common, it’s also the foundation for a ton of different concentrates including shatter, budder, crumble, oil, and wax. This method is specific to the type of consistency it produces.
CO2 (CARBON DIOXIDE OR SFE)
CO2 extraction is a very specific process as well and is also referred to as Supercritical Fluid Extraction. A cylindrical vessel is used to house the flower, and then various pressure and temperature controls are used to force CO2 through the plant. With very particular pressures and temperatures, cannabinoids, terpenes, trichomes, and waxes will release from the flower and collect separately. Through alternating temperature and pressure with the solvent (gases other than CO2 can be used, but CO2 is actually FDA approved and the safest, most popular choice), different results are generated, creating things like wax and crumble.
So, with the extraction methods out of the way, here are some different concentrates that can be produced.
They call it “live” for a reason. This method actually preserves not only the cannabinoids and terpenes of the plant, but also the energetic matter of a living, flowering plant. Cannabis flower is cut fresh and, instead of being dried, is flash frozen, which preserves far more cannabinoids, trichomes, oils, and terpenes for extraction than dried flower. Once the product is finished, specialized equipment is used to extract the resin (a term for the combined healing compounds extracted) from the frozen plant to make live resin.
With this method, whole cannabis plants are submerged into large buckets of iced water. As the plant freezes, the trichomes break off from the plant matter, freezing and suspending in the water. Once the plant matter has been stripped of cannabinoids, the water is filtered for extraction. The trichomes and other compounds are then thawed and dried, which produces and leaves you with a dried, sticky powder that can be formed for use.
Budder begins like many other concentrates, by being extracted from plant matter using BHO. With budder, after extraction, the oil is then whipped until it has the consistency of a softened wax or whipped butter. The budder can then be used for dabbing. This technique tends to produce a slightly lower amount of THC, but is known for having the highest levels of naturally occurring terpenes in a finished product.
Shatter is, without a doubt, one of the most pure products out there. It’s also one of the most potent, reaching around 80 percent THC in a finished product. This concentrate begins with a butane (BHO) extraction. Shatter, however, actually uses a double butane extraction method that really filters out substantially more of the remaining plant matter and fats from the product. Once the extraction process is complete, the resin is poured onto a flat surface and is dried. Once dried and hardened, this end product has a reputation for resembling glass. It breaks easily when cold, hence the name shatter.
Last, but not least, we have crumble. With a specific heating and cooling technique used during extraction, this concentrate develops. The end result is a crumbly and crystallized sort of honeycomb.
Whether it’s shatter, crumble, wax, resin, hash, or RSO, there’s a concentrate for every mood, every person, and every need. Just remember to medicate carefully and start low and slow.