Cannabis Extracts/ Concentrates
Things have changed regarding marijuana since I started toking in the 70’s. Nowadays there is lingo such as Shatter, Wax, Honeycomb, Crumble, Sap, Budder, Pull-and-Snap, Taffy, Dabbing, Vaping and others, WTF? These are just some of the slang words that cannabis extracts or concentrates have earned through their popularity in recent years. Marijuana concentrates are a complicated issue in the ever-expanding weed marketplace nowadays.
For those of you who are new to the concentrates game, a cannabis extract is any oil that concentrates weed’s cannabinoids like THC and CBD. These concentrates are extremely potent (they typically hover around 75% but can allegedly go as high as 90% ) and are also extremely difficult to heat up. Concentrates are the product of cannabinoid extraction processes using a solvent such as butane. The goal of concentrates is to eliminate all plant matter and extract the resin from the plant matter. Concentrates are made by mixing cannabis plant matter with a solvent. Then, the solution is usually strained and purged to remove all plant matter and any dangerous solvents from the product. Once the extract is purged of the solvent, usually butane, you’ll generally have a shatter-like oil. Agitating the oil through various methods makes this into a wax. It can be a dangerous process since flammables are used, so leave it to the professionals my friends.
Shatter is the product of butane hash oil extraction. It’s achieved through skillful purging of the butane and cannabis solution, often employing the use of a vacuum. The product is a clear, often yellow or orange hue. It’s very malleable, almost like taffy.
Shatter, with its beautiful amber glass transparency has a reputation for being the purest and cleanest type of extract. But translucence isn’t necessarily the tell-tale sign of quality – the consistency and texture of oil comes down to different factors entirely. The reason shatter comes out clear has to do with the molecules which, if left undisturbed, form a glass-like appearance. Heat, moisture, and high terpene contents can also affect the texture, turning oils into a runnier substance that resembles sap (hence the commonly used nickname “sap”). Oils with a consistency that falls somewhere between glassy shatter and viscous sap is often referred to as “pull-and-snap or taffy”
Wax is also the product of a butane hash oil extraction. It’s often the product of a failed shatter extract, as there are still residual fats, lipids, and possibly butane left due to improper purging techniques. Weed Wax refers to the softer, opaque oils that have lost their transparency after extraction. Unlike those of transparent oils, the molecules of weed wax crystallize as a result of agitation, often through whipping the oil into a more stable consistency. Light can’t travel through irregular molecular densities, and that refraction leaves us with a solid, non-transparent oil.
Just as transparent oils span between shatter and sap, wax can also take on different consistencies based on heat, moisture, and the texture of the oil before it is purged (the process in which residual solvents are removed from the product). Runny oils with more moisture tend to form gooey waxes often called “Budder,” while the harder ones are likely to take on a soft, brittle texture known as “crumble” or “honeycomb.” The term “wax” can be used to describe all of these softer, solid textures.
Shatter can turn to wax
Sometimes shatter will ‘wax-up‘ after being stored over a period of time. The agitation that turns shatter to wax is occurring either because of residual solvent trying to evaporate or because of terpenes trying to evaporate. Shatter is slightly unstable and tends to degrade into budder over time. THCA molecules tend to crystallize by coming together, but the viscous nature of the oil slows this down. Still, it eventually happens to a lot of shatter at room temperature or higher. Refrigeration is key for preserving extracts, but it needs to be done right. Improper handling upon thawing can lead to the introduction of moisture and quick degradation of all your product.
There’s a reason cannabis extraction is now as big a part of competitive Cannabis Cups as flowers; the knowledge and care that goes into extracting oils is as complicated as the art of growing the plants they are derived from. Every step of the extraction process demands a balance of art and science, beginning with the selection of starting material and ending with the purging and storage process.
Dabbing, Vaping and more
There are many ways to consume concentrates. There are many options. It can be overwhelming to someone who just wants to give it a go, especially when it comes to purchasing equipment costing $100-plus. Also, not all ways of consuming concentrates are created equal, they all have their pros and cons for different types of users.
Vaporizing is one of the healthiest methods for inhaling marijuana concentrates. You can vaporize almost any form of concentrate. Many kinds of vaporizers are sold online and at head shops. Vaporizers are specifically manufactured to heat THC to the optimal vaporization point so you can experience the purest high without unnecessary waste or toxins.
Dabbing is quickly becoming one of the most popular methods for consuming marijuana concentrates. Special ‘dab rigs‘ provide all of the required attachments you will need to “dab” with. You can also purchase bong and water pipe attachments at most head shops that replace the bowl with a “skillet” or “hash nail.” To dab, heat up the skillet using a torch, drop the concentrate onto the heated glass surface and then inhale the smoke through the chambers of the bong or rig. Dabbing burns concentrate at temperatures very close to THC’s vaporization point — making dabs one of the healthier smoking methods. However, dabbing often results in a very intense high, so we recommend only those who are veterans with marijuana to try this specific method.
You can find concentrate bowl attachments for ‘bongs‘ and ‘bubblers‘ in most head shops or online. Place the extract at the bottom of the concentrate bowl and then heat it using a stick, known as a glass wand, which vaporizes the concentrate upon contact. Glass wands are just one form of the burning tools used for smoking concentrate out of bowls. Other heating methods fail to vaporize efficiently, which causes combustion and carcinogenic smoke. These alternatives include soldering irons, butane lighters and hemp wicks. While hemp wicks don’t vaporize, they can help you avoid the harmful chemicals released from butane lighters.
This simplified explanation of oil consistencies and how to consume them is only a scratch on the surface of this product cannabis extracts, and it’s exciting to imagine how much further science and technology will carry its potential.
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