Concentrates are now a cornerstone of the modern cannabis market, thanks to the wave of post-prohibition consumers who want precise dosing, easy application, and all-around greater access to the cannabis ingredients that do the most. Whether for direct consumption in tinctures and dabs, or as the central ingredient of cannabis edibles and topical products, concentrates come in an ever-increasing number of consistencies, product types, and intended uses.
What are Cannabis Concentrates?
The word “concentrate” has evolved into a significant umbrella term for cannabis-derived substances in which cannabinoids, terpenes, and other desirable compounds have been extracted and collected (or concentrated), typically through the use of solvents or exposure to heat and pressure.
The Difference Between Concentrates, Extracts, and Oils
You may hear “concentrates,” “extracts,” and “oils” used interchangeably to describe a variety of cannabis products. “Oils” such as CBD oil, THC oil, hemp oil, hash or honey oil, and cannabis oil can broadly refer to both concentrates and extracts.
The difference between concentrates and extracts is subtle but important. An extract is a specific type of concentrate made using solvents, including butane, ethanol, propane, and supercritical CO2. In other words, extracts are a type of concentrate, but not all concentrates are extracts.
Making Sense of the Different Types of Concentrates
Concentrates are categorized by their appearance and consistency, which in turn depends on whether the concentrate was chemically extracted or made by physically separating the trichomes from the plant matter.
- Kief or Dry Sift: Made by sieving the plant through a series of screens to break whole trichome glands off the plant.
- Bubble Hash: Made by sieving the plant through a series of screens in ice and water to break trichomes off the plant, bubbles when smoked.
- Rosin: Made by applying pressure and heat to the plant, with a consistency that depends on the temperature, time, and terpene content.
Extracts are made by essentially washing the plant matter through liquid solvents such as ethanol, carbon dioxide, propane, butane, and alcohol. Most tinctures, cannabis oils, and distillates are solvent-based extractions.
- Shatter: An amorphous oleoresin with a glass-like consistency, high cannabinoid content ranging from 40-70%, and color ranging from bright yellow to dark amber.
- Badder/Budder: Made from shatter by placing under heat and whipping, achieving a look and consistency similar to that of a cake fondant.
- Crumble: Oil-covered THCa granules with a dry opaque consistency similar to that of honeycomb.
Think of a concentrate as an accumulation of everything you want to get out of the cannabis plant. The goal of any concentrate is to separate the plant matter from the trichomes, the tiny translucent structures that give buds their frosty, sticky coating. Trichomes contain all the cannabinoids and terpenes that give a cannabis plant its aroma, flavors, and most importantly, its effects. The idea is to remove all barriers between the user and the compounds that deliver the goods, which ultimately means it will take less product to achieve the desired effect.
Largely thanks to concentrates, we have more ways to consume and utilize the benefits of cannabis than ever. Concentrates are found in an ever-growing variety of forms and consistencies, which, combined with an expanding variety of consumption methods, only widens the dimensions of the cannabis experience.
High potency is one of the central benefits of concentrates over other forms of cannabis, whether you’re vaping THC oil, dabbing a wax or budder, or using a concentrate to make edibles. When vaporized in a cartridge or through a dab rig, concentrates also offer a similarly fast absorption rate and onset of effect to smoking flower, only without the necessity of combustion. Vaporized concentrates are also known to produce a clearer head-high (when THC-heavy) than smoked cannabis.
In the form of tinctures and oils, concentrates can easily be ingested instead of inhaled. Tinctures were a popular form of cannabis medicine before the 20th Century, but waned in relevance due to our inability to dose them precisely and achieve a consistent effect. Cannabis tinctures have found new relevancy in recent years as we have become better at extracting, isolating, and dosing the plant’s compounds.
How to Consume Concentrates
In general, concentrates and extracts are exceptionally versatile. Many types of concentrates are fit for consumption on their own. Others can be added to food and beverages or infused into edibles. The onset, intensity, and duration of effects you experience from concentrates will depend largely on your chosen consumption method. What follows is a list of consumption methods, corresponding concentrate types, and what you can reasonably expect to feel from each.
Dabbing involves vaporizing concentrates and inhaling them through a dab rig or e-rig. A dab rig is essentially a water pipe that’s typically smaller than a traditional bong. Dab rigs require some accessories and a bit of practice and technique to use, but they also offer unfettered access to a cocnentrate’s effects and terpene flavors.
A “dab” is a term that describes a dose of concentrate intended for dabbing with a rig or vaporizer. Concentrates most often used for dabbing include wax, badder, budder, shatter, sauce, sugar, and crystalline or diamonds. These concentrate types are basically all the same thing (except for crystalline, which is typically an isolated compound such as THC or CBD), differentiated primarily by their consistency.
Over the last decade, vape pens have arguably become the most popular form of adult-use concentrates, valued for their ease of use on the go, immediate onset, and relatively mild high compared to other consumption methods. A vape pen typically consists of a heating battery and a pre-filled vaporizer cartridge.
Outside of vaporizing, taking a tincture, oil, or spray under the tongue is the most direct way to absorb a concentrate. Most tinctures include a dropper that makes sublingual application and dosing easy. Effects typically set in around 30 to 45 minutes after absorption.
Adding to Flower or Joint
Whether made at home or ordered from a retailer, cannabis-infused edibles deliver the strong effects of concentrates without the need to inhale smoke or vapor. Edibles deliver effects at a delayed rate, and typically take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to kick in. The duration of effect is also typically at least 1 to 2 hours.
You can also opt for adding a tincture or extract to your food or beverage, which will also result in a longer wait time for effects to kick in because the concentrate is going through your digestive tract instead of being absorbed sublingually.
What to Look for When Buying Concentrates
The first thing to do when shopping for concentrates is to be deliberate about what you’re using and why you’re using it. Take the above recommendations into consideration and try products/consumption methods that provide a dose and experience that meets your individual needs.
Always buy concentrates from companies that provide a certificate of analysis with every product. Certificates of analysis should come from an accredited third-party testing lab and verify that your concentrate delivers the advertised cannabinoid content and that the product is free of harmful substances and residual solvents.
One of the best ways to make sure you’re getting clean, quality concentrate is to seek out trusted, licensed dispensaries and delivery services to order from. The Grassdoor team comprises engaged cannabis connoisseurs and experts who go to great lengths to ensure the Grassdoor concentrate menu is 100% compliant, high-quality products. We also test every vape cartridge and pen to make sure we’re delivering the best of the best.
Proper Storage Matters
One final note: properly storing your concentrates can go a long way in preserving the product’s potency and longevity; minimizing environmental radicals like heat, air, and excessive moisture preventing premature degradation. Store your concentrates in a cool, dark place whenever possible. Room temperature is sufficient for shorter-term storage, especially if you are minimizing exposure to light. Silicone jars are often used to store concentrates because they are typically easy to open, but they don’t offer airtight protection. For long-term storage, try to use an airtight glass jar whenever possible.