Rather than smoking cannabis flower, these days, cannabis-enthusiasts are preferring to vape or dab their favorite danks.
These smoking methods increase the bioavailability or the proportion of marijuana that enters the circulation when introduced into the body and to have an active effect. They also hit fast and effectively.
Given that ol' Mary Jane concentrates typically contain 65+% in THC, canna-consumers have never been getting so much bang for their buck.
But as concentrates evolve every day, it can often be hard to keep up with all the lingo. Solvent-based extractions, solventless extractions, and solvent-free extractions? What’s the difference? Let’s dive in.
A Closer Look at Concentrates
As with magical marijuana growth itself, concentrates come in many different forms and are made from a variety of methods.
Solvent-based extracts first became a thing in the early 2000s. These are some of the most popular ways in which people enjoy marijuana concentrates.
Solvent-based extractions promote chemical solvents to expose the cannabis plant’s extremely potent resin glands.
Butane Hash Oil (BHO) utilizes the chemical, n-butane, which has a high purity compared to regular butane.
The common availability of the compounds of butane and propane (PHO) make solvent-based extractions idle for small to large scale productions.
Due to butane and propane being very flammable, BHO production is incredibly crude and extremely dangerous. Specialized professionals use a special closed-loop system to clean/purge any remaining BHO. Unrefined oils must be purged before any of it can be fit for consumption.
It then becomes...
Marijuana waxes are made by using butane or propane as a solvent. This will extract cannabis and its terpenes.
The result is a texture determined by heat, vaporization, chemical recomposition, and the purge of any residual chemicals. It turns the substance into a bee wax/ear wax-like matter of extreme potency.
Shatter’s production forms from separating raw cannabis through heat, compression. And inducing a solvent-lead vacuum chamber purge.
CO2 oil is a special solvent-based concentrate. The extraction technique ensures no unwanted plant-material sneaks into the batch. CO2 oil is made using high temperatures with high pressure, supercritical form of CO2 as the solvent.
The oil takes expensive, high-tech equipment to produce. CO2 is seen as a natural solvent and offers a low carbon footprint.
Solventless extracts are, well, without solvents. This means that these are concentrates claiming to be absolutely solventless. Or rather, they have never contained any butane, propane, or similar solvents. These are the most “organic” of the marijuana concentrates.
Kief is a craft-based approach to separating trichomes from marijuana plant material. This is created by the use of extremely fine micron screens and some good ol' elbow grease (grinder, anyone?).
This style of solventless extraction is known as dry sifting.
Dried buds are rubbed over a screen to separate the trichomes. Back and forth, this turns surrounding trichomes into a pile of THC crystals or kief.
Fresh, dry sift kief is a great way to blitz out. Go ahead and sample that precious goodness collecting in the bottom of your weed grinder and remember why it's such a classic.
Bubble hash is a classic, high potency THC concentrate. The hash is made when the cannabis flower is submerged in ice-cold water and vigorously agitating the flower using fine micron bags (Bubble Bags) to filter out the plant material. The byproduct is a golden solventless delight that is safe for anyone to try making.
Rosin is a highly versatile concentrate made from flower, kief, or hash.
The concentrate is made from high temperature and extreme pressure. The reaction results in a gooey, solventless treasure that preserves more terpenes and cannabinoids than any other extraction methods.
A simple way to produce rosin is by squishing a bud, wrapped in parchment paper, with a hair strengthener. As for the professionals, they use specialized machine presses which allow for stronger temperature control.
Marijuana caviar and Moon rocks are a relatively new way to enjoy solventless marijuana extractions. They are high-quality marijuana buds that were dipped in hash oil and rolled in a fine layer of kief. This beautiful combination leads to potencies between 50-90% THC.
And, alas, the Solvent-free Extraction
You might be asking yourself, “didn’t we just go over solventless extracts? Isn’t that the same deal?”
I know, it’s confusing but solvent-free isn’t the same as solventless.
A solventless extraction never uses a single solvent throughout the production process. More organic if you will.
A solvent-free extraction is one that uses solvents and then purges the solvent at the end of the process. This wording can be a bit confusing but then again, the English language is weird as hell.
The end product is supposed to have 0 ppm (parts per million) of solvents present.
Marijuana distillate is a golden delight and an example of a solvent-free extract. The distillate is made through the actual process of distillation, think the way whiskey is made. For cannabis, distillation is achieved through fractional, short-path distillation.
It begins as crude cannabis oil (plant material still present) and is purified through winterization and decarboxylation.
The crude marijuana oil is mixed with ethanol or alcohol. The mixture is then placed in a frozen environment for 1-2 days. When the distillate mixture is removed, impurities from the crude oil are separated and fall to the bottom by using colder temperatures.
The solvent removal process occurs when heat is applied, heated to the point which eliminates specific acids. Such heat allows cannabis compounds such as THCa to change into 100% THC. THCa alone does not get you high until the actual decarboxylation occurs. The process helps cannabinoids interact and hit correct brain receptors in your body.
Health and Solvents
Because of the way they are made, solventless extractions are the “healthiest” way to enjoy your favorite concentrates.
They do not contain any contaminants such as butane or propane. But be wary of where you buy. Although lab-grade butane is nearly pure, it is expensive to buy and hard to find. Not every dispensary takes care when acquiring such high-grade materials. Concentrates are also a relatively new product. Concerns of inhaling residual solvents may be unhealthy long-term and are being further studied.