What are the Differences Between an Extract and a Concentrate in the Cannabis World?
This is where there’s some confusion. Because the extraction and concentration processes produce pretty much the same products, people use the words “extract” and “concentrate” synonymously,
Our recommendation is to determine what your objective. If you want a potent high, there are extracts and concentrates that will get you there. If you want to treat specific health problems, you can find that, too. The variety of products offer a variety of consumption experiences. And, some research, good labeling, and a trusted budtender will put the goods in your hand.
Cannabis extracts and concentrates aren’t for beginners. Users need some training, and they produce very different experiences than smoking your first joint.
If you’re thinking extracts or concentrates, you must shop, prepare, use, and think differently about cannabis.
Extract or concentrate, the difference between these products can often be confusing even for the experienced cannabis consumer. The easiest way to determine what kind of product you are getting is by examining the way the product was made. Let’s take a closer look at the differences.
What makes a concentrate a concentrate? A cannabis concentrate is any cannabinoid product that is made through:
1. A mechanical process.
2. C02 (carbon dioxide) without heat or pressure.
3. Or, that uses water, vegetable glycerin, vegetable oils, animal fats, isopropyl alcohol or ethanol.
What makes an extract an extract? A cannabis extract is any cannabinoid product that is made using:
1. C02 with high heat and pressure.
2. Or, uses a hydrocarbon based solvent to extract cannabinoids from the plant material.
For example, if you were to make bubble hash using bubble bags, ice, and water, the process would be mechanical and thus bubble hash would be a concentrate. This is because you are using the bubble bag as a “mechanical” tool to shake or separate the trichomes from the plant material.
Another example of a concentrate would be Rosin. Rosin is a fairly new technique developed within the last couple of years as an alternative to hydrocarbon based extracts. The process uses two steel plates which are heated up and a pressure to squeeze the fresh or dried flowers between the heated plates. This causes the essential oils and cannabinoids to separate from the plant without using a hydrocarbon.
Since this process uses only mechanics and no hydro-carbons or C02, Rosin would be classified as a concentrate. Some other examples of concentrates include but are not limited to kief, traditional hash, full melt bubble hash, Rick Simpson oil, or QWISO (Quick Wash ISO-propyl) concentrate.
Extracts on the other hand are made using hydrocarbon based solvents.
Some cannabis consumers prefer Extracts over Concentrates for multiple reasons. Some of these include, but are not limited to, potency (as hydrocarbon based extracts generally have higher test results), ease of use (C02 based pen tips are very discreet when you’re on the go) and the preservation of certain cannabis terpene profiles.
One of the most popular extracts at the moment is Butane Hash Oil, otherwise known as BHO. This product is known as an “extract” because it uses the hydrocarbon based butane to separate trichomes and their resins from the plant material. After the trichomes and resins have been separated the extractor will then “purge” (physically remove) the butane from the freshly made oil. What your left with is a vaporizable oil that matches the profile of the flower you started with.
Hash is hash right?
Hash (a concentrate) Shatter (an extract)
So what’s the difference?
Extracts are made using solvents. The solvents chemically extract the THC and or it’s components.
Concentrates are made through mechanical processes that isolate precious resin heads.
There are so many cannabis products on the market today that some confusion is bound to occur. One of the points of confusion is over cannabis concentrates and extracts. While the terms “concentrate” and “extract” are often used interchangeably, the differences between the two are actually very important.
Some of the commonly used solvents are butane, propane,CO2 and ethanol. The resultant extract will have its own characteristics in terms of appearance, flavor, and potency based off of what solvent was used. The same methods can also produce wildly different results in terms of flavor and consistency depending on the quality and type of plant matter used, and also on minor tweaks in technique.
• CO2 oil
Supercritical fluid extraction removes THC and terpenes from raw cannabis. Carbon dioxide and pressure are used to extract cannabinoids and terpenes. Using carbon dioxide as the solvent, the resulting extract is considered by many to be “cleaner” than butane or propane-derived extracts. This method results in a viscous, oily liquid. Sometimes thinned with VG/PG or PEG (a medical grade solvent) to increase viscosity. Moreover, CO2 oil is frequently found in vaporizer pens and cartridges.
Processors create CO2 oil for vaping with an expensive process that uses high pressure and carbon dioxide to strip away the cannabis plant material. It leaves an oil with many of the characteristics of the original plant terpenes. CO2 processing avoids the carcinogenic toxins produced in butane processing.
Live Resin: Live resin is a type of BHO, but it has become so popular that it really warrants its own entry on this list. The difference between live resin and shatter is how the flowers are handled pre-extraction.
Shatter is made from flowers that have gone through the typical drying and curing process.
Live resin, on the other hand, is made from fresh flowers that have been frozen. The result is a sticky-sugary extract that preserves more of the natural terpene flavor profile, much to the delight of dabbers everywhere. Terp sauce is another type of BHO high in terpenes, and is in a simi liquid form.
PHO (Propane Hash Oil): The method is similar to BHO, except the solvent used is propane instead of butane. The final product is nearly always a budder. PHO runs at higher pressure during extraction, but a lower temperature during purging.
• BHO (Butane Hash Oil)
Made by placing plant matter in a closed column and washing butane over it and then the solvent is recovered. The solvent pulls THC, CBD and the terpenes. Which is poured out into a thin sheet and placed in a vacuum drying oven.
Afterwards a vacuum drying oven removes any remaining solvents. What’s left behind is highly potent. BHO may take the form of shatter, budder, sugar, sap, or snap ‘n pull or live resin.
In eliminating the plant material, extraction through butane processing produces higher potency products. And, BHO can pack 80% THC.
BHO is marketed in the black and white market as amber, butane honey oil, dabs, earwax, and shatter. Given the risky processing and ultimate potency, users are encouraged to buy at dispensaries where labeling is clear and complete.
Important note It’s very dangerous to try to make it at home (and illegal in Oregon).
RSO (Rick Simpson Oil): Originally created by Rick Simpson to treat his own cancer. RSO is a full plant extract, using all parts of the plant. Made by soaking plant matter in either naphtha or isopropyl alcohol. Afterwards the plant matter is filtered out and the remaining alcohol is removed through distillation. The resulting extract retains a tar-like appearance once the solvents have evaporated. Usually applied topically or orally. This extract is highly sought after for its medical use and is rarely used recreationally.
HHO (Hexane Hash Oil)- Because hexane is highly non polar so, plant matter can be soaked in hexane without picking up unwanted water soluble compounds. Once the hexane has been purged you’re left with a product similar in appearance to shatter. The hexane extraction technique is not safe to do at home, hexane is very flammable, and its fumes are very dangerous.
Hash has an ancient history and remains the primary go-to option in cultures throughout the world. Many cannabis pros process their own hash (hashish). There are several ways to do it, but you basically gather the trichomes from the female plant. Under pressure, the trichomes crush into a brick with a cookie texture. And, you can then smoke it, melt it, or eat it.
Hash has been around since at least 900 AD and has been made by hand, with different cultures developing their own techniques. Made up of compressed trichomes that have been separated from the rest of the plant. Trichomes are the resin glands of the cannabis plant and are highly potent. Many traditional techniques are still in use today, but modern technology has provided hash makers with innovative new ways of refining cannabis.
Hash is pretty much now made one of two ways using either water or done dry.
Hash – Dry Sift Method: Cannabis is first ran over a fine screen, then the resin is ran through to another finer screen that catches the gland heads and allows dirt and other particles to fall through. This process is repeated several times until all of the dirt and excess plant matter have been removed, leaving only pure trichomes. As this method is time-consuming and produces low yields, concentrates produced this way tend to be more expensive.
Hash – Water Method: aka “Water Hash” or “Bubble Hash.” Even though water is a solvent, water extraction techniques are classed as solventless and the resulting products are concentrates.
Made by mixing plant matter with ice and water, stirring and trapping resin heads in a series of bags with different mesh screens on the bottom. Once separated the resin heads are dried, resulting in hash.
Kief consists of the pollen or powdery crystals on the cannabis plant. It covers your hands when handling plants, but you can save it to grind and store as a potent additive in joints and pipes. Because kief sits on the plant’s exterior at the tip of hairs, you may not notice it as you work with cannabis. But, people use grinders and sieves to gather the kief to use or process into hash.
Processors flash freeze buds at their harvest peak to preserve the plant’s specific flavor and aroma in a method called “live resin.” According to HighTimes, “Some of highest terpene concentrates at the 2015 Michigan Medical Cannabis Cup were live resins, but lab tests tell an even more interesting story than that when taken into context. Terpene analyses confirm that live resin indeed has more of a ‘fresh plant’ terpene profile than cured-bud extractions.”
Made by pressing cannabis while applying heat that expelling hash oil. Made from flower, kief, hash, or a combination.
Rosin appears more translucent than other concentrates and resembles oils and shatters that have been produced through extraction (solvent) techniques both in appearance and potency.
Do Not Confuse “Resin”
Do not confuse rosin/live resin with “resin,” the residue from smoke found inside pipes and other smoking devices. (Resin contains less THC than even flower and is not considered a concentrate or extract – it is a byproduct and a bad tasting one at that.)
For the desperate smoker “chamber pipes” make collecting resin easier. Real heads put a joint in the special chamber to get it nice and resinated for a special occasion.
Once your pipe had built up a nice layer of resin. Afterwards you’d scrape up all of the built up brick weed resin and smoke it. Oh, those were the days, brick weed and resin………
Shatter has the look and feel of flawless amber glass. Users consider it the purest and most potent of extracts. This hardened resin is used for dabbing.
A tincture is a liquid cannabis extract processed with an alcohol solvent. A few drops under the tongue, it absorbs quickly into the bloodstream. Less potent than other options, it is still easy to use for medical therapies.
Wax results from a butane process. Super-potent, it sells as crumble, honeycomb, sap, and sugar. Soft and makeable, the wax is amber orange with less transparency than shatter. Experienced users put wax in their dab rigs or crumble as a topping on their favorite bowl.
Your guide to extracts
Cannabis extracts are helpful options for those who don’t like to smoke or feel high. The extraction process releases the best benefits of the cannabis strain, so they are often adopted by medical patients.
The extraction process also enables a focus on one benefit of another. For example, the preparation can emphasize sleeping needs, mood improvement, pain relief, or other physical or psychological need.
Extraction allows closer and clearer dosing measures, in solid, semi-solid, powder, and liquid forms, a continuing battle in other consumption methods.
To keep it simple, here’s how it works: healthy cannabis plants are plump with trichomes. These are crystal, resinous, external glands. They are chock full of the cannabis properties you seek. So, the extraction process tries to pull those properties from the plant in different ways producing different products.
Processors use heat or solvents: alcohol, butane, CO2, hydrocarbons, propane, or water. Treatment will eliminate the plant material and leave the chemical compound you prefer. This takes considerable skill and experience and can be explosively dangerous as a DIY project.
Your shorter guide to concentrates
Concentrates result from a different process to remove trichomes, including grinders, screens, ice washer machines, and bubble bags). It uses a mechanical process without heat or pressure. It uses CO2, animal fats, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, vegetable glycerin or oils, or water instead of butane or harsher solvents.
Users admire the potency and smooth effects of concentrates, especially for medical therapies.
What is the difference between a Cannabis Extract and a Cannabis Concentrate? The easiest way to determine which product you are getting is by looking at how it was made.
Just remember, it’s a concentrate if:
1. It utilizes a mechanical process to remove trichomes from the plant. (Bubble bags, ice washer machines, screens, etc.)
2. It utilizes C02 without heat or pressure.
3. Or, if it utilizes water, vegetable glycerin, vegetable oils, animal fats, isopropyl alcohol or ethanol.
It’s an extract if:
1. It utilizes C02 with high heat and pressure.
2. It utilizes a hydrocarbon based solvent to extract cannabinoids from the plant material.
Next time you are in a dispensary make sure to browse to concentrates and extracts and put your new-found info to the test.