4 Myths about Concentrates - Debunked

Curious about concentrates? Let’s shatter the myths.

Concentrates are at the forefront of cannabis industry, quickly gaining popularity in marijuana culture. However, like all rising stars, concentrates, too, have been prone to some rumors.

We are here to debunk four of the common myths surrounding concentrates.

1. You get ‘too high’ from concentrates.

Ever hear the expression “just a dab will do ya’?” There’s good reason behind it. Concentrates are absolutely stronger than cannabis flowers. For simplicity’s sake, you get about 15 to 20 percent THC from a joint. Concentrates can yield between 70 and 90 percent. But this doesn’t mean you’ll get uncomfortably stoned from concentrates. The best approach if you’re new to dabbing: Start small and build up.

Here’s a pro tip? The hotter the temperature, the stronger the high. Lower temperatures yield a greater flavor and less THC. If you’re new to dabbing, you should simply dab smaller amounts. It’s akin to hard liquor having a higher-alcohol content than, say, a wine cooler. But, of course, marijuana use is much safer because you’re not going to overdose on THC like you could alcohol.

2. Concentrates are the ‘crack of weed’

This is perhaps the worst myth of them all. Some have erroneously likened dabbing to free basing cocaine. Let’s get this out of the way: There’s no comparing THC to cocaine, a dangerous drug that can have life-threatening effects. But where did this illogical comparison even come from? We’re guessing it’s because you need a special rig and a torch to dab -- an image, that, without proper context, could be jarring to those unfamiliar with concentrates. That’s to say seeing the torches could cause people to jump to unfair conclusions. Morgan Fox, of the Marijuana Policy Project, compares the difference between shatter and flower to that of someone who prefers to sip whiskey as opposed to drinking a beer. When people are educated about proper dosage according, to Fox, it doesn’t present problems.

3. All concentrates are created equal.

Within the cannabis industry, there’s a lot of diversity, creativity and expertise that goes into the process of making concentrates. Live Resin is like a fine wine. It’s well-rounded, full of flavor, and will give you just the right dose of THC. It’s a connoisseurs number one product because of the complexity andthe experience. Meanwhile, the dry concentrates like wax and shatter will give you a varied high, and aren’t as flavor-packed as the live resin. Distillates are the most potent concentrates and will deliver the most predictable high. That’s because in distillates, THC is the only cannabinoid left, removing the “entourage effect. The “entourage effect” explains how cannabis compounds influence one another, and, in turn, how they impact your body. By removing the entourage effect, your high from distillates will be the same every single time.

4. It’s dangerous!

We can blame this myth on online forums and videos encouraging amateurs to create their own concentrates. This is not a good idea. Concentrates are best left to the experts operating in a regulated market because it’s a high-tech endeavor. Quest Concentrates, for example, uses cutting-edge technology that includes cryogenic freezers, vacuum ovens, distillation equipment, temperature control systems and a top-of-the-line, closed-loop extraction systems. The takeaway? Don’t try this at home. Especially not in a makeshift lab.

Concentrates 101: How to consume them — dabbing, vaping and more

Part 2: There are many ways to consume marijuana concentrates, and it can seem like a pricey and overwhelming endeavor. Learn about the options.

There are almost as many different methods for consuming concentrates as there are different types of concentrates available.

It can be quite overwhelming to someone who just wants to give something new a try, especially when it often required $100-plus in equipment purchases. Additionally, not all ways of consuming concentrates are created equal, they all have their pros and cons for different types of users.

Probably the most accessible way for new users to consume concentrates is by crumbling them up on top of a pipe bowl or into a joint. This allows people to essentially “dip their toe” into the concentrate pool and see if they even like the additional potency offered by these products. The downsides to this method are that it doesn’t allow the user to experience the concentrate itself directly and that much of it ends up wasted as part of the smoking process. Only recommended for those who have no other choice and no other equipment to smoke or vaporize concentrates, this is basically the most Luddite, caveman style of smoking concentrates.

Hash Pipe

There are specialized pipes intended for the consumption of hash (primarily water hash or kief, but certain pipes can work with oil and solvent extracts as well). These pipes generally require nothing more than a good lighter and occasional replacement screens, and allow the user to experience the hash on its own without the flavor and smoke of flowers. The relatively small entry price makes this option appealing to those who have more than a passing interest in concentrates and want to really see what the new world of cannabis is all about.

Vaporizer

There are two main types of vaporizer: portable and desktop. Though the large, expensive Volcano-style vaporizers still exist on the market, they don’t tend to work particularly well with concentrates.

 

or the most part, these at-home units have been replaced by portable, convenient “vape pen” options which range in price from $30 to $200 depending upon features and quality. Rather than being tethered to a power outlet for the entire smoking session, these devices can be charged via USB and taken anywhere, allowing the user complete mobility. Most personal vaporizers of this ilk can accept only solvent-extracted concentrates (wax, shatter, oils), but some can also vaporize high-quality water hash and even flowers if they are designed to handle various substances.

Vaporizers allow the user to experience the pure flavor of the concentrate while avoiding any actual combustion of the material, which generally makes it an easier experience on the lungs and results in less carcinogens and tar than smoking.

A vape pen used for concentrates on display at LivWell Broadway in Denver. (Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file)

The downside to portable vaporizers is that many of the units on the market have weak batteries or heating elements and tend to give mediocre hits, which don’t completely vaporize the concentrate and result in degraded flavor and lesser effects compared to a more thorough way of consuming such as smoking in a hash pipe or dabbing (see below). The other downside to many portable vaporizers is that they have been linked to nefarious chemicals such as arsenic and boron, which are often left as residuals during their manufacturing process (most of these units are made in China, where regulations are looser). It is suggested that you study your options before purchasing any vape pen, as there are high-quality units on the market that are free of these issues.

Dabbing

Today’s most controversial yet arguably most effective way of consuming concentrates is dabbing. The process involves vaporizing concentrates on a hot surface (the “nail,” generally made of titanium, quartz or ceramic) and then inhaling them though an “oil rig,” which is a specialized pipe meant for this use.

For all the older hippies in the audience, this is basically the same thing as a “knife hit,” but fancier and way less harsh on your throat.

Through the aid of a butane torch (or an electronic heating element in the case of “e-nails” — the newest and most expensive pieces of equipment for concentrate consumers), the user heats up the nail, places their concentrate of choice on a “dabber” (again, usually titanium, quartz, or ceramic) that allows them to safely dab the concentrate onto the hot surface. Ideally, the temperature of the surface should lie between 550 and 750 degrees Fahrenheit, with the higher end of the spectrum causing a more thorough vaporization and the lower end of the spectrum preserving more flavor and terpene content.

The cost of a proper dab rig can vary from as little as $50 to as much as $50,000 for some of the ultra-artistic, rare pieces made by the most revered glassblowers in the world.

Do you have other questions about the methods for consuming concentrates? Let us know in the comments below.

Written By: Ry Prichard

    Concentrates 101: What’s on the market, from kief and CO2 oil to BHO

    Part 1: Learn about the ways THC is extracted from marijuana, including the dry sieve method for kief, cold-water hash, CO2 oil, butane hash oil and the new rosin trend.

    Though cannabis in general has a learning curve, perhaps the most intimidating and mysterious aspect for new users is concentrates.

    When a customer walks into a medical dispensary or recreational shop looking to try something new, a query about concentrates often results in a barrage of unfamiliar terms, and he or she has little to no frame of reference for quality, dosage, expected effects or ways to consume.

    While images of people rolling up joints, smoking pipes or bongs and eating trays of pot brownies are the primary images of cannabis consumption in the media, concentrates for the most part have only recently started to be seen on shows like Comedy Central’s “Broad City” and “Workaholics,” making them the new kid on the block in terms of cultural representation.

    The truth is that most new users have absolutely no idea how to consume something like the wax or shatter that is now common on store shelves. This series is intended to help educate and remove some of the mystery from this emerging aspect of the industry.

    Types of Concentrates

    Many know concentrates as simply “hash,” but most of what is in today’s shops bears little resemblance to the traditional hand-collected, mechanically-separated hash that has been produced for thousands of years throughout the world. Most older cannabis users know hash as the blond- or black-colored bricks smuggled into the United States and Europe from places like Lebanon, Nepal and Morocco, which for the most part was only passed around among the more serious cannabis users of the era. While some shops and infused-product manufacturers do make hash using semi-traditional methods, the majority of concentrate producers have moved into solvent-based extraction techniques, where the essential oils of the plant are stripped using either a specific chemical solvent or a combination of heat and pressure. Let’s break down the most common types of products:

     

    Kief

    Also known as dry sieve (sometimes “dry sift”) hash, kief is the simplest of concentrates. Kief is composed of the trichomes (the crystalline structures coating the outside surface of the flowers) broken away from the dried plant material, usually via specialized filtering screens and a little elbow grease. Kief is generally considered a lower-quality extract, but some top-flight extractors can produce an extremely clean and flavorful product using this method. THC content can range from 20 percent to 60 percent. This process at its highest level yields nothing but the largest, most perfect trichome gland heads and none of the gland stems, plant matter, etc. that generally clouds the quicker, lower-quality kief extractions. While it is certainly available in Colorado dispensaries, compared to three years ago, it is much harder to find because of the prevalence of solvent extracts and the low return that it provides to commercial growers.

    Water Hash

    There are various techniques used in the production of water hash, and the resulting products have many forms (bubble hash, solventless wax, ice wax, among others). The basic principle is this: plant material (either dry or fresh-frozen generally) is mixed with cold water and ice, then agitated manually or mechanically in order to break off the now-brittle trichome heads. This solution is then filtered through specifically-sized screens to remove anything undesirable, leaving behind a relatively pure finished product that typically tests between 50 percent and 80 percent THC. The most common way that water hash is extracted is using a series of microscreen fabric bags (generally referred to as “bubble bags”) which remove various grades of product according to the size of particles they allow through.

    Ronnie “Ras” Weir folds and presses extracted trichomes during ice-water extraction as he makes Rasta Bubble hash in March 2013. (Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

    Most water hash processes result in a golden to brown-colored product with a granular consistency, but the newest trend in high-quality water hash is pressing it with heat between pieces of parchment paper, which results in a taffy or shatter-like consistency which can be very light in color and almost clear in the highest quality extractions. The best water hash rivals the best solvent extracts in potency, terpene content and general beauty. However, it takes a special combination of quality plant material, proper extraction technique and post-extraction handling to achieve this level of quality. Water hash products are available through many retailers and are also often used in edibles, but definitely make up a smaller piece of the concentrate market than solvent extracts.

    CO2 Oil

    This variety of extract is created using carbon dioxide compressed at high pressures until it becomes what is known as a “supercritical fluid,” which then is able to strip the essential oils of the cannabis plant much like hydrocarbon solvents. CO2 oil is generally a loose, orange-tinted oil that can be either clear or opaque depending upon the finishing processes used after extraction, and THC content tests between 50 percent and 75 percent. The appeal of this method for many is that it is non-flammable and contains no chemical solvents. The machines required to do CO2 extractions at any kind of commercial scale can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    How do you consume your cannabis?

     

    Butane Hash Oil (BHO)

    Perhaps the most common type of extract on the market, BHO has a variety of names (wax, shatter, crumble, oil, errl, honeycomb, moon rock, nectar, etc.) but like water hash, the basic principles of extraction are the same across all of them, with the variations in appearance and texture mostly coming in finishing processes. To make a butane concentrate, butane is pressurized in a vessel and washed over plant material (usually dry, but sometimes fresh-frozen — more on that below), then the resulting solution is collected. The hashmaker must remove any residual solvent from this solution, so the next step generally is applying heat (butane has a low boiling point) and vacuum (which lowers the boiling point further) in order to make this process easier and faster while retaining the highest amount of flavorful terpenes andcannabinoids in the finished product. BHO generally tests between 60 percent and 90 percent THC, making it perhaps the strongest concentrate on the mainstream market.

    Shatter made using “BHO” butane hash oil extraction. (Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

    Note: Other hydrocarbons such as propane and hexane can be used in much the same way as butane, though the final product is different in color and flavor when using different solvents. Many manufacturers are starting to use blended gases to create signature products tailored to their desired consistencies and flavor profiles. Also, when fresh-frozen whole plants are extracted instead of dried plant material, that process is called “live resin.”

    Rosin

    The newest and hottest type of extract on the scene right now, rosin is extracted from either dried buds, trim, or lower-grade water hash/kief. What is unique about rosin is that it can be made with nothing more than a standard hair straightener, parchment paper and some hand-applied pressure. When the material is smashed and heated quickly between the parchment sheets, it extrudes some of the essential oils present in the plant, resulting in a golden shatter or oil-like extract that looks similar to pressed high-quality water hash or even solvent-extracted shatter. Rosin is a fairly recent development, so its availability in dispensaries is still somewhat limited, as is data about its potency; but early reports on some rosin extracts have showed numbers between 50 percent and 70 percent THC, similar to that of high-quality water hash.

    Written By: Ry Prichard