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Cannabis Concentrates and the Solvent Processes Used to Make Them

Cannabis concentrates, also known as extracts, have a lot going for them. From tinctures and oils to dabs and hash, these products zero in on specific cannabis compounds for purity and efficacy. You may be fine with flower, but there’s an entire world out there! Here’s what to know about cannabis concentrates and the solvent processes used to make them.


Cannabis concentrates are those products – oils and extracts – that are derived from flower and then processed into something potent. This kind of concentrate has a few benefits over the original flower:

  •       Alternate consumption methods: If you’re avoiding the health risks inherent to smoking anything, concentrates make it possible to ingest or vaporize instead.
  •       Superior efficiency: Because they’re concentrated, a little goes a long way.
  •       Precise dosing: With options like tinctures, capsules and vape pens, taking exactly the right amount – no more, no less – is so much easier.


Some of the most common cannabis concentrates include oils, tinctures, capsules, hash, and shatter/wax. Consistencies and textures of the final product vary widely and can be attributed to a few factors, including plant genetics, terpene content, purging techniques, and post-extraction manipulating.

Concentrates extracted via solvents:

  •       Shatter: This brittle concentrate has a glass-like appearance that ranges from a golden shade to a deep amber.
  •       Crumble: A dried oil, this concentrate is similar to honeycomb in consistency.
  •       Batter With its malleable texture, this concentrate looks and feels a lot like cake frosting. Variations in extractions and starting materials can result in textures that range from soft but solid (like butter) to a bumpier consistency.
  •       Live resin: This popular concentrate is characterized by its sticky, syrupy texture, which comes courtesy of its high terpene content. It’s an intensely flavored concentrate derived from freshly cut, flash-frozen buds.
  •       Sugar: This concentrate is identified by its wet, grainy quality, just like rich brown sugar.

Concentrates extracted without solvents:

  •       Ice water/bubble hash: This concentrate has a paste-like consistency that comes from using water, ice, and mesh screens to extract whole trichomes.
  •       Rosin/live rosin: Cannabis can be pressed into this sticky concentrate, kind of like squeezing oil from olives.
  •       Bubble hash: A form of kief, a powder-like substance, bubble hash comes in different colors and is similar in consistency to dry brown sugar.


Broadly speaking, there are two methods by which cannabis is turned into a concentrated form – those using solvents, and those that do not. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to look at the method involving solvents.


This process uses supercritical carbon dioxide and high levels of pressure and heat to strip the oils from the cannabis plant. CO2 is noncombustible and a naturally occurring substance, so it leaves no residue. It’s a common extraction method in other industries, used for things like herbal supplements, pharmaceuticals, and food.


Butane hash oil, or BHO, is the common term for hydrocarbon extracts, which are created using chemical solvents like butane and sometimes propane. These chemicals are pressurized in a closed-loop system to effectively remove cannabis oils from the plant material. The final consistency of BHO varies, which is how you end up with products like shatter and sap. This method of extraction can result in exceptionally high levels of THC – up to 90%. However, BHO that hasn’t been properly extracted and purged may have residuals like butane, pesticides, or other contaminates.


Choosing the right concentrate can feel a little overwhelming, just because there are so many options. If you let your desired effects and consumption preference guide you, things start to narrow down pretty quickly. Ask your budtender for a recommendation, and start experimenting. Odds are pretty good that you’ll find a concentrate you’ll add to your regular cannabis rotation.

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