Cannabis extracts are growing more and more popular among consumers. Dabbing is quickly becoming the preferred method of cannabis consumption in many places as it provides a potent dose of THC in a quick and flavorful hit. As the industry has grown, so has the science behind cannabis extraction. Once upon a time, the marijuana plant had to be physically beaten in order to extract the powdery keef from the leaves and bud. That keef was then pressed into traditional hash. Gas extraction techniques changed the way we consume THC and have paved the way for a new generation of solventless concentrates.
Wax, shatter, crumble and the majority of marijuana extracts are simply a concentrated form of THC. They are extracted from the cannabis plant using various high pressure gasses, typically butane or carbon dioxide. Gas is injected into a cylinder containing trim or dried ground bud. The cold temperature of the gas and the pressure at which it is injected, forces the THC and other cannabinoids out of the plant, which is then collected on a tray or hot plate. What you are left with is a highly concentrated THC extract as potent as ninety-percent. Now whether it turns out to be a wax or a shatter or other form depends on a number of factors including the gas used, the temperature and the method of purging.
Purging involves removing any excess gas from the concentrate, to cut down on unnecessary human consumption. Butane is great for extraction but not great to ingest. A proper purge is often done in a vacuum chamber. The extract is warmed up to soften it while a vacuum pulls all of the air out of the chamber. The process pulls bubbles of butane out of the concentrate, often leaving it covered in holes, like Swiss cheese. It is this vacuum purge process that also causes the honeycomb chambers often found in wax and crumble. While this process is how most concentrates are made, there are some new dabbable choices on the market that are taking extracts to a whole new level.
Live resin has made quite a name for itself recently. The extraction process is similar to your standard wax or shatter with one major difference. Instead of using dried trim and bud, live resin use fresh cut then frozen bud. Why does this make a difference? In a word, terpenes. Terpenes are responsible for the flavor of your cannabis, however, the more we learn about them, the more we realize that terpenes themselves greatly impact your buzz. The standard drying process degrades what are considered the lighter terpenes, therefore using fresh cut frozen plants helps to preserve flavor and add an uplifting quality to your high.
The latest and greatest dabbable concentrates to hit the market are part of a new generation of solventless extracts. There are many forms available but they all come from pressed rosin. Rosin is a golden sap within the bud that is THC rich. It is extracted from cannabis by applying great pressure to the bud while simultaneously heating it until fresh amber rosin pours out. It is a simple method of extraction that does away with the need for compressed gas and purging. Some new solventless extracts are being infused with terpenes resulting in a potent dab laced with incredible natural flavors. As extraction technology progresses, concentrates are becoming more powerful and packed with delicious flavor. It will be interesting to see what the market has in store for us next.
Cory Hughes is a former police officer turned cannabis cultivator and writer. After years of being on the wrong side of the law, Cory decided to hang up his badge and gun and move into an industry that truly has the potential of bringing people together. He has been an active part of the Colorado cannabis culture and has worked as a horticulturist in dozens of licensed grow operations. Cory now looks to share his knowledge of cultivation and horticulture with the world.