The world of cannabis concentrates can be pretty confusing. Distinct terms are used basically interchangeably, each form of concentrate has multiple names and there’s a whole layer of complexity in terms of extraction methods that can be pretty difficult to get your head around.
But really, when you break it down and make some effort to be consistent in the terminology, weed concentrates are really just various forms of purified cannabis, so the cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) can be enjoyed outside of the usual plant form. There’s a lot more to it than that, of course, so here is everything you need to know.
- Cannabis concentrates are basically purified forms of weed with higher THC, CBD and other cannabinoid content.
- They come in a huge range of types, differentiated by extraction method and consistency.
- Solvent-based extraction uses butane, propane or CO2, while solventless only uses heat, agitation and pressure.
- Choose which type of cannabis concentrate to use based on the cannabinoid and terpene content, as well as the consistency.
- Concentrates can be smoked, vaped or dabbed.
- Concentrates get you high with less material and less smoke, but you need to be careful with dosing.
What Are Marijuana Concentrates?
Cannabis concentrates are extracted, purified weed with higher THC and CBD content.
A weed concentrate is simply a form of cannabis where the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant have been purified or extracted in some way.
While you get plenty of cannabinoids from smoking the flower of the plant, the potency in terms of THC is typically around 10 to 25%, with the rest being made up of inactive plant material and other cannabinoids.
For concentrates, the goal is to remove the unnecessary components and produce something that primarily contains cannabinoids and terpenes (which give weed its characteristic aroma), with the end result often being 50 all the way up to 90% THC or higher.
In terms of appearance, marijuana concentrates can look like anything from amber-colored glass to oil or even a thick wax-like substance. This is the source of much of the confusion surrounding the terminology, so we’ll go over the various forms a little further down.
Weed concentrate gets you more high from less material
People mainly use cannabis concentrates to achieve a quicker and more potent high, without having to consume as much material.
Essentially, rather than rolling a whole joint or packing the bowl of a bong, you can take a quick dab or vape of a concentrate and get the same effect with much less material. It’s also a pretty convenient form for using on-the-go in a vape pen or portable dab rig; much easier than bringing a gram or two of bud with you.
Another benefit of concentrates comes for medical users, because smoking isn’t really recommended for obvious reasons, but you can easily vape concentrates or at very least dab them. Neither of these approaches create smoke (in ideal situations), which makes them substantially safer to use.
Types of Weed Concentrates
There are tons of different types of weed concentrates, and generally speaking they’re differentiated by their texture and appearance.
All of them have more similarities than differences, because they all meet the basic definition given above. Also, it’s important to note that this isn’t an exhaustive list, because the names are very community-created and some people will use more sub-divisions than others.
- Shatter: This is one of the purest forms of weed concentrate, made with butane extraction and then purified to the point where it looks like amber-stained glass. This is where the name comes from: you can basically shatter it. It’s a little sticky though, and the texture is sometimes looser, so you can snap and pull it apart like taffy.
- Wax: As the name suggests, wax has a wax-like texture, but otherwise it’s pretty similar to shatter. The softer and stickier nature of the extract means that you can really only consume it by dabbing or vaping it, and you’ll need a tool to apply it without losing tons on your fingers.
- Live resin: This is a different type of concentrate from most, basically distinguished because the cannabis isn’t dried and cured after harvesting, instead being frozen immediately after harvesting. This leads to more terpenes (the aroma-giving molecules) in the final product and a better flavor profile, as well as different experience due to the entourage effect. The actual concentrate is similar to many others, a little wetter than a wax and dark yellow in color.
- Live rosin: This is basically rosin (which is similar to shatter but made without solvents, just using heat and pressure) except with the same approach to harvesting as live resin. In short, it’s rosin with more terpenes. Live rosin does not require solvents though, because the lack of drying means there’s more moisture than usual in the cannabis.
- Distillate: Distillate is a form of weed concentrate where only one cannabinoid is present, essentially having been distilled to a single ingredient. This also means there are no terpenes present in the mix, which means it doesn’t have the typical aroma of cannabis. It comes in oil form and is generally very potent in terms of THC or CBD content.
- Kief: Kief is the pure trichome dust that you find in the bottom of a multi-level grinder. In essence it’s the cannabinoid-containing part of the plant that has been physically separated from the rest of the plant. You get terpenes and the full spectrum of cannabinoids, but there is no risk of solvents or other chemicals in the product.
- Taffy: Taffy is a rosin concentrate with a taffy-like consistency. Since solvents aren’t used in the manufacturing process and the consistency isn’t completely solid, it’s a popular choice for dabbing.
- Hash oil: Hash oil is a thick, oil-like substance made from cannabis or hashish, containing THC, CBD and other cannabinoids, in addition to terpenes. In essence it could really be just called marijuana oil. Different types can be distinguished by the extraction method, with butane hash oil (BHO) and CO2 oil being particularly common. There is also a newer method called full extract cannabis oil (FECO), which is a whole-plant extract that’s much thicker than traditional hash oil, and can only really be used orally, in grain-of-rice sized amounts.
- Budder/badder: Budder and badder are types of weed concentrate that have a butter or cake batter like consistency. The lighter consistency makes them suitable to spread on joints, and makes them very easy to dab. They usually have a yellow to bright orange coloring.
- Crumble: Crumble is similar to budder or badder, except the texture is more crumbly (hence the name), with a duller finish but a similar color. This is sometimes called honeycomb because of the texture and appearance.
- Caviar: Caviar is a little different to the other entries on this list, because it’s actually built around a bud, but that has been coated in hash oil and then covered in kief. In short, it’s high-quality cannabis covered in two different types of concentrate.
- Sugar: This is a type of concentrate that has a consistency like wet sugar sap, anything from amber to bright yellow in color.
- Sauce: Sauce is a thicker, stickier version of sugar, with a more notable crystalline structure.
- Sap: Following the trend of naming concentrates after their consistency, this is a high-THC concentrate with the consistency of tree sap. It’s basically a viscous liquid, similar to sauce and sugar.
- Crystalline: This is a pure cannabinoid (generally THC or CBD) in pure, crystalline form. This is basically a pure white crystal or rock, with no terpenes and so no distinctive flavor.
- Diamond: This is basically a form of crystalline made from live resin, which is then purified further to produce diamond-like crystals. However, don’t be thinking of the rocks you find on rings: they’re normally no more than a few millimeters across.
- Bubble hash: Bubble hash is a form of concentrate made by separating the trichomes from the plant, in a similar way to kief. But it’s distinct because much smaller mesh is used, ideally just capturing the THC, CBD and other components with no plant matter at all. The name comes from the fact that it bubbles when you light it.
Choose which cannabis concentrate to use based on cannabinoid content, texture and terpenes
As you may have picked up from the descriptions above, most types of concentrate are pretty similar to each other.
The most important things to consider are the consistency of the concentrate, the mixture of cannabinoids and the presence (or absence) of terpenes.
For most purposes, you’ll want a mixture of cannabinoids rather than a crystal-style only THC/CBD blend, because of the “entourage effect” (essentially, a mixture of cannabinoids is better than the sum of its parts), and terpenes are an important addition for most people so you get the typical aroma.
For consistency, you need to think about how you want to use it. If you’re dabbing or vaping, most options work reasonably well, aside from FECO or kief. If you’re smoking, the options are much more limited, but budder, badder, crystalline, bubble hash or kief work well, as well as caviar if you want something really special.
Availability can vary quite a lot depending on where you are, owing to the varying legal status. But if you’re in a legal state, finding sugar, sauce, bubble hash or budder/badder is generally pretty easy, as well as hash oils.
Concentrates are made by extracting cannabinoids, either with or without solvents
There are a few different methods manufacturers use to make concentrates, but the simplest way to distinguish between them is whether or not they use solvents in the extraction process.
Solventless extraction is used for rosin, rosin budder, kief and various types of hash. Unfortunately options are more limited in this area, because solvents make the whole process a little easier and generally allow for a wider variety of consistencies. However, if you want something more natural and without safety concerns, it’s a great way to go. Although it must be said that there are many high-quality solvent-based extractions, so safety isn’t a huge concern if you use a good company or CO2 extraction.
Solvent-based extraction is simpler and most of the options listed above use it. These involve using a solvent like butane, propane or ethanol to remove the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material. After this process, the solvent is evaporated away to leave a reasonably pure extraction of the stuff you want. CO2 extraction is also classed as solvent based (if you want to get into the science, it uses “supercritical” CO2, so it has qualities of both a liquid and a gas), but it’s completely safe because residual CO2 isn’t a health concern at all. This is why many companies use it, although the process isn’t exactly something you could do at home.
You can smoke, vape or dab concentrates
There are many options for consuming your marijuana concentrates, but really most people either smoke, vape or dab weed concentrates. Here’s a quick run-down of the options:
- Smoking: It’s hard to imagine a cannabis user unfamiliar with this: put the concentrate in a joint, pipe or bong, set it on fire and inhale what comes out. The downside, of course, is that smoking – even weed – is bad for you.
- Vaping: You can vaporize concentrates too, which basically involves heating the material to the vaporization point without actually combusting it. This reduces the number of harmful chemicals that make it into the smoke and is also more efficient than simply smoking the material.
- Pre-filled carts: The simplest way to get into vaping is to use pre-filled carts, bought from a reputable vendor. It’s easiest because all you have to do is attach the cart to your pen and you’re good to go.
- Portable vaporizers: This approach basically gives you the equipment you need to vaporize the material (whether a portable dab rig or a coil-based concentrate vaporizer) and then you find the material to use yourself. This is the most flexible (and reliable) option if you’re going to vape your concentrates.
- Dabbing: Dabbing is basically like vaping, except you produce the vapor by heating a “nail” (usually made of quartz) and then applying the material to it. The heat from the nail instantly vaporizes the material, and then you inhale it through a bong-like attachment. This is quick, it provides a great hit from your material and it’s quite fun to do too. Getting a rig can be expensive, because you need a torch and many components, but you can get an e-rig if you want the benefits of both dabbing and vaping.
Using concentrates means consuming less smoke or vapor, generally improving safety
Using marijuana concentrates pretty much has all of the benefits of using cannabis in any other form, with some extra benefits thanks to the greater potency.
From a medical perspective, if you’re looking to get your dose in as safe a way as possible, but don’t want to use edibles, they reduce the amount of smoke or vapor you have to consume substantially. In short, the more vapor or smoke (especially) you consume, the bigger the health risk involved.
With concentrates, the amount you have to use is so much less that concentrates are a huge step up. Additionally, if you want pure THC or CBD for medical purposes, using a concentrate is basically the only way to get that and nothing else.
For recreational users, the benefit is that you get way higher using concentrates. It’s fun because of the huge variety of products available, but it’s a great way to go from 0 to 10 pretty damn quickly. And the health benefits mentioned above carry over here too – if you want to get high, why consume more smoke or vapor than you need to? Take a tiny dab and you’ll be as high as you would get from a whole joint.
The side effects of weed concentrates are related to the amount of THC you consume
Most of the side effects of weed concentrate boil down to the fact that it’s much higher in THC than typical cannabis. This brings a risk of over-consumption, and so dosing is the main thing you should be careful about. If you have way too much THC, you could end up with side effects such as:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Rapid heartbeat
However, if you take care over dosing, and ideally start low, working up to a suitable dosage, then your experience will be very much like taking cannabis normally. Again, owing to the greater strength of cannabis concentrates, there is more of a risk you’ll end up dependent on cannabis if you dab or vape concentrates.
Finally, two other safety issues are worth mentioning.
Firstly, if you’re dabbing using a nail and a torch, you – of course – need to exercise the same care around hot objects as you would when cooking, for instance. Nails get hot and torches are unforgiving.
Secondly, it’s important to buy your concentrates from a reputable vendor: in legal states, there are standards concentrates have to meet, to ensure that only (harmless) trace amounts of any solvents are present in the finished product.
Marijuana concentrate has THC, CBD concentrate essentially doesn’t
When you get a standard weed concentrate, you’ll have THC, CBD and many other cannabinoids in the mixture. This is because they’re made from the usual strains of the cannabis plant, and they contain both. So whatever the process, unless it goes through extra processing, you’ll get all of the cannabinoids you find in the natural plant.
CBD concentrates, on the other hand, are generally made from “hemp.” This is a low-THC, high-CBD form of the plant, and so when manufacturers go through the extraction process, it’s easy to get an extract that is high in CBD but only has 0.3% or less of THC. This means it won’t get you high, but in many cases this is preferable for medical or everyday use. THC has medical benefits too, of course, but the fact you will get high makes it a bit more difficult to use and still complete your business for the day.
Weed Concentrates Glossary of Terms
There is a lot of different terminology used for cannabis concentrates, and while we can’t cover everything, here are some of the key terms you might encounter:
- Agitation: Literally agitating cannabis flower to break off the cannabinoid-containing trichomes.
- Alcohol extraction: Using alcohol to extract the cannabinoids from the plant.
- Banger: A term for the bowl-like attachment on a dab rig, which is heated to produce vapor from the concentrate. Usually made from quartz or titanium.
- BHO: Butane hash oil, a cannabis concentrate made using butane for extraction.
- Blasting: The term often used for running a solvent through the cannabis to extract the trichomes.
- Bowl: The part of a bong or pipe where cannabis flower is added.
- Bubbler: The water-pipe attachment on a dab rig.
- Cannabinoids: The important molecules present in the trichomes of the cannabis plant, including THC and CBD.
- Carb cap: A cover for the nail section of a dab rig, basically intended to restrict the airflow during dabbing to aid vaporization. They also often have dab tools attached.
- CO2 oil: Cannabis oil made using CO2 extraction, where supercritical CO2 is used for blasting rather than a solvent.
- Dab mat: A silicone or rubber mat you place under your dab rig to protect it during use.
- Dabbing: The process of consuming cannabis concentrates by heating a nail and “dabbing” the concentrate onto the surface, causing vaporization.
- Dabs: A term used for concentrates that can be dabbed.
- Decarboxlation: Heating cannabis to turn the inactive versions of the cannabinoids into the forms that have an effect on the body. It’s a necessary part of the production of many cannabis concentrates.
- Dewaxing: Removing the waxes and fats from the extract to produce a concentrate.
- Dome: A part of a dab rig, intended to help you capture more of the vapor by covering the nail.
- Downstem: The part of a bong or dab rig that connects the bowl or nail to the main water pipe.
- E-nail: A nail that works electronically, basically a cannabis vaporizer for dabs.
- E-rig: A combination of an e-nail with a full rig, essentially a complete electronic dab rig.
- Flower: A term for the “bud” of the cannabis plant.
- Glass: A generic term for a glass bong or dab rig piece.
- Hemp: A form of the cannabis plant with very low (typically less than 0.3%) THC, used for industrial purposes or making CBD oil.
- Hydrocarbon extraction: A form of extraction for weed concentrates that uses hydrocarbons such as butane or propane in the process.
- Micron grade/screen: A fine-grained mesh used in the production of bubble hash, to collect the trichomes from the plant while stopping any plant material from passing through.
- Nail: The bowl-like attachment on a dab rig that is heated before dabbing, usually made from quartz, ceramic or glass.
- Percolator: An additional water chamber used on a bong or dab rig to increase the filtration of the smoke.
- Reclaim: Concentrate leftover or recollected in a dab rig after use, generally less potent than the original concentrate.
- Residual solvent: Solvent leftover in the concentrate from the extraction process. This is tightly limited in legal states.
- Resin: Resin is a term used both for the trichome mixture used to make hash, and for the sticky residue you find on the inside of your bowl after using it multiple times.
- Solvent: A generic term for something that can have chemicals dissolved in it; for weed concentrate this is the solvent used to extract the cannabinoids.
- Strain: A specific variety of the cannabis plant, with each strain having different qualities (for example, terpene mix or THC and CBD content).
- Terpene: The chemicals in cannabis that produce the smell of the plant.
- Tincture: A marijuana concentrate in liquid form, often with glycerin as the carrier and consumed orally.
- Topical: A cannabis concentrate intended to be applied to the skin topically.
- Torch: A mini blowtorch (like you’d use in cooking) used to heat the nail or banger on a dab rig.
- Trichome: The “crystals” that grow on cannabis plants and contain the THC, CBD and other cannabinoids. They look like long, thin mushrooms under a microscope.
- Vaporizer: An electronic device used to vaporize marijuana or weed concentrates.
- Winterization: The process used to remove waxes and lipids from a concentrate.
Cannabis concentrates may have tons of different – and barely distinct – terms used to describe them, and the methods to use them can seem a little arcane at first, but once you’ve grasped the basics you’ll be right at home. Getting into concentrates is a great way to “level up” your consumption, offering a more intense high from less material, and opening up a whole new world of cannabis to explore.