A Guide to the Different Types of Concentrates
What’s better than weed? It’s a rhetorical question, but what if we could take everything we love about weed, strip it from the plant, and concentrate it in amazing forms that are much more potent and flavorful than the plant? Would that be better than weed? Well, that’s exactly what cannabis concentrates are, and that’s why they are one of the hottest products on every dispensary shelf (or refrigerator). But there are so many different types of concentrates — it can be hard to get your head around.
First, there’s the difference between concentrate and extract. Then, there’s the difference between nug run and trim run. There are also solventless concentrates and concentrates made with solvents. Beyond that, there are so many forms and consistencies of concentrates that even experienced users may not understand them all. That’s where we come in with this handy dandy concentrate guide.
What are Concentrates?
Let’s get a handle on the big picture before we get granular. Concentrate starts with that glistening frost that coats the cannabis flower. These sticky, resinous glands are called trichomes. Yes, they’re beautiful. But this beauty is way more than skin deep.
Trichomes contain all the cannabinoids and terpenes in the cannabis plant. These cannabinoids and terpenes are what’s responsible for the effects, aromas, and flavors of cannabis. Concentrate is made by separating or stripping these trichomes from the plant material, resulting in THC content as much as four times higher than premium flower.
What’s the Difference Between Concentrate and Extract?
It’s very common to hear these words used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference. Concentrate refers to every product made by stripping trichomes from the cannabis plant. Extract refers to a specific kind of concentrate that uses a solvent to strip the trichomes.
Therefore: all extracts are concentrates, but not all concentrates are extracts.
To clarify the distinction, ice water hash is made with an ice water method and agitation to separate the trichomes from the plant matter. No solvent is used, so it is a concentrate but not an extract.
Contrast this with Butane Hash Oil (“BHO”) which uses the chemical solvent butane to separate the trichomes from the plant material. BHO is an extract.
Beyond this, different types of concentrates and extracts fall under the concentrate umbrella, including wax concentrates (also known as “dabs”), shatter, oil concentrates, sugar wax, rosin, budder, live resin, terp sauce and more. But before we get to those, let's cover another quick concept…
Nug Run vs. Trim Run
A “nug run” is a concentrate made with premium nugs — the colas and buds of the cannabis plant (AKA “buds” AKA “nugs”). Generally, these have better flavor than trim runs since they are made from higher-quality plant material (not to mention it’s fun to make concentrates with beautiful buds). They have the highest concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes and are the most expensive concentrate.
Trim run refers to concentrate made with the “sugar leaf” leftover when trimmed from the cannabis flower. It’s called “sugar leaf” because the leaves that grow from cannabis flowers have more trichomes than the typical leaf. Trim runs tend to be less expensive since they’re made from lower-grade plant material, but their flavor can also be more muted or harsh than nug runs.
Key Difference Between Nug Run and Trim Run
While it’s logical to think that it shouldn’t matter what part of the plant the trichomes come from, it does matter. Ask the concentrate connoisseur, and they will tell you there’s a big difference between nug run and trim run.
Nug run tastes better and is more potent. However, trim run also suffers due to higher levels of chlorophyll present in leaf material. This may result in an unpleasant grassy flavor. That said, there’s an upside to trim run. While it may be less flavorful and less potent, it’s also less expensive and delivers everything a concentrate should.
The bottom line is that not everyone has a champagne budget, and it would be a shame to waste all that sugar trim.
Methods Used to Make Concentrates
There are two primary methods for stripping trichomes from cannabis. They are solvent-based extraction and solventless extraction. Within these two methods, there are many different extraction methods.
What is Solvent-Based Extraction?
A solvent-based extraction method uses volatile chemicals such as ethanol, butane, propane, or hexane to strip the trichomes from the plant matter. The solvent is then evaporated in a vacuum oven that applies heat and reduces pressure.
Solvent-based extractions also make it possible to isolate and purify individual cannabinoids like THC or CBD.
What is Solventless or Mechanical Extraction?
A solventless or mechanical extraction technique uses ice water and agitation or heat and pressure to remove the trichomes from the plant material.
While it is impossible to isolate cannabinoids with solventless extraction, some concentrate connoisseurs prefer solventless extraction due to the risk of residual contaminants left behind when solvents are used. This reasoning is questionable, considering all concentrate sold in a licensed dispensary is tested for residual contaminants. Nevertheless, it may be a matter of preference.
Popular Solvent-Based Cannabis Concentrates
If you’ve got all that down, you are already well on your way to getting your black belt in concentrate. So, wax on, wax off, grasshopper!
So now that you’ve got the fundamentals let's get granular. Time to sift through all the different kinds of concentrate to find the one that’s right for you!
You usually find this in a vape pen. Cannabis oil is typically solvent based and can come in full spectrum, distillate, or isolate formulas.
To break it down:
- Full spectrum means the oil has the cannabis plant’s full cannabinoid profile.
- Broad spectrum usually refers to CBD oil in which the THC has been removed, but the remaining cannabinoids are present.
- Isolate is an oil containing only one cannabinoid, such as THC or CBD.
This is an important distinction since that may come in handy as you browse for the perfect concentrate.
Budder is what it sounds like: a cannabis concentrate that looks and feels a lot like butter. Soft and spreadable, cannabis budder is easy to work with.
Different solvents are used to make budder, from butane to Co2, and can vary from greenish brown to totally golden. The budder production process is labor intensive. It must be whipped over low heat to produce the light, airy wax desired in the finished product.
Cannabis Badder is like budder, but it’s whipped to a different consistency, like cake batter or a thick frosting. Badder is extremely sticky and a bit harder to work with.
Then, what is batter?
Trick question. It’s the same thing as badder. Carry on!
Wax is a term that covers a lot of ground. Think of it as a class of concentrate that includes different consistencies such as budder, crumble, and honeycomb.
Most wax is made with the butane extraction process and has the advantage of being one of the more versatile concentrates. Beyond dabbing, honeycomb and crumble can be used to top off a bowl or added to a blunt to boost potency and flavor.
There can be a few types of waxes, such as ice wax, sugar wax, and bubble hash — more on that later.
You may be catching on already, but they call this concentrate sugar because it has a consistency like wet, sticky sugar that hasn’t dissolved. However, it’s not as thick as budder and is more grainy than creamy.
Shatter is a brittle slab of cannabis resin, like a piece of stained glass, that can range from translucent to gold to dark amber. When purged, the shatter’s glassy surface is often broken by holes giving it a sort of Swiss cheese look.
You guessed it. Crumble is, well, crumbly. This extract is loose and dry and breaks up nicely. Typically, crumble is yellow, although there is some darker crumble out there.
Surprisingly, crumble is made the same way as shatter, but it stays in the vacuum oven longer. Crumble is also very dry, so it is unlikely to get moldy.
If you guessed it's a form of concentrate resembling a honeycomb, you're picking up what we’re putting down. Honeycomb is close to crumble. Some say it’s the same, but honeycomb has a porous cavity-filled appearance.
No, we’re not talking about that box of yummy candy you picked up on a boardwalk last summer. We’re talking cannabis taffy. Flat and glossy, taffy is similar to shatter, but it has a different consistency that’s like, you guessed it, a piece of saltwater taffy!
While this makes it easy to handle at room temp, be careful when it gets hot. Taffy can become a sticky mess. So play it safe and store it cold.
Some diamonds form under pressure. But these diamonds form in sauce when it settles under pressure and temperature. This environment causes THCA “diamonds” to form in the terpene-rich sauce.
Diamonds are not full spectrum. They’re comprised of a single cannabinoid. They have minimal flavor due to the lack of terpene content. For this reason, people often mix them with sauce to create diamonds in sauce.
Since we’re talking diamonds, we have to talk sauce. These two are the peas & carrots of the concentrate world. They just work well together. Sauce is a concentrate with high terpenes levels, making it super flavorful.
Live resin is a favorite concentrate because the process used to make it maintains the cannabinoid and terpene profile of the original plant. With live resin (https://panaceawellness.com/dispensary/middleborough-ma/recreational/product/live-resin-lilac-diesel-5g), plants are “fresh frozen” at harvest and kept below freezing until the final product is made. This ensures there is no degradation of cannabinoids or terpenes. As a result, live resin is thick, saucy, and oh-so-very flavorful!
Rick Simpson Oil
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) is a whole plant extract made with a complex process that soaks the whole cannabis plant in a solvent such as 99% isopropyl alcohol and then cooks off the solvent. This leaves a dark, gooey substance like tar that can be used as an edible, topical, or concentrate. It was created by the cannabis advocate Rick Simpson who credits it with curing his cancer.
Popular Solventless Cannabis Concentrates
Another word for solventless concentrates is hash. They are all a form of hash, which has been around as long as cannabis. But here are some modern techniques for making hash that changed the game and turned old-school hash into new-school concentrates, the highest-quality product in the game.
So sit back and relax while we hash this out (Sorry. We love dad jokes about weed).
What is Dry-Sift Hash or Kief?
Weed is covered in trichomes. Trichomes are what contain the cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis.
Dry-sift hash is a method of sifting dried cannabis over a very fine screen so that the trichomes break off and fall through the screen, but the plant material cannot.
The trichomes that fall through the screen are called kief. They are a golden, granular powder that can be added to a joint, bowl, blunt, or pressed into hash.
What is Bubble Hash or Ice Water Hash?
Bubble hash (https://panaceawellness.com/dispensary/middleborough-ma/recreational/product/wonka-bars-bubble-hash-1g) is made by chilling cannabis flowers in ice water and agitating them. This causes the frozen trichomes to break off. The water is then filtered through multiple mesh bags with progressively tighter screens. This process leaves all the plant matter behind and produces several grades of hash. The quality of the hash increases as the screens get tighter. The highest quality ice water hash is called “full melt” because it melts to nothing when it’s smoked or vaporized.
Temple Ball Hash
It’s time to go old school. Temple ball hash is a traditional method of making cannabis hash from the Himalayan foothills of Bhutan, Nepal, and Northern India that goes back over 1,000 years.
The original temple ball hash was made by rubbing the flowers between warm human hands to extract the resin and heat it so it could be rolled in a ball. Today, temple balls are usually made from bubble hash.
Rosin is made by pressing cannabis flowers or bubble hash between a set of hot metal plates under extreme pressure. This process creates a viscous golden blonde oil that cures into tacky resin. In addition to dabbing, rosin is also used in high-potency vape cartridges. This is considered one of the highest-quality concentrates.
Live rosin (https://panaceawellness.com/dispensary/middleborough-ma/recreational/product/live-rosin-crescendo-1g) is the Holy Grail of concentrate. It is created using fresh frozen cannabis for ice-water extraction. This preserves all the terpenes in the trichomes. Then these trichomes are pressed and become the live rosin so coveted by the true concentrate connoisseur for its exquisite aroma and flavor.
While you may hear of other types of cannabis concentrates, the ones listed above are some of the best-known and most popular.
How to Use Concentrates
This topic is deep, and we’re already risking information overload. So, let’s just cover the basic methods. If you want to learn more about how these methods work and are different, check out our follow-up to this article, Dabbing 101: Beginners Guide.
Concentrate can be used in many ways. Some of the more popular methods include:
Adding hash to a bowl or joint
Just sprinkle and blaze for added flavor and potency. No tools. No hassle.
Vaping concentrate with a dab rig
A dab rig is just like a bong. With this method, you heat the “banger” (bowl) with a torch and use a dab tool to place concentrate in the banger where it vaporizes.
Vaping with a vape pen
This method comes ready to go. Just turn it on and take a pull.
Vaping with a dab pen
This is like a vape pen, except you load it yourself.
Vaping with a device like a Puffco
The Puffco is an electric dab rig that runs on your smartphone. No torch is needed, and you have precise temperature control.
You really can’t go wrong with any of these. It’s all a matter of preference.
Pros and Cons of Using Concentrate
Just like everything else in life, concentrate has its pros and cons.
Pros of Using Concentrate
- Enhanced flavor profiles.
- Healthier for your lungs.
- Pure cannabinoid profiles.
- Good for high-tolerance users or medical patients that need high-dose treatment.
Cons of Using Concentrate
- Exposure to residual chemicals (maybe).
- Too potent for users with low THC tolerance.
- Accidental dab rig burns.
- They can be very expensive.
Again, this all comes down to personal preference. One of the most amazing things about recreational cannabis dispensaries is the range of choices. And there are no cons to having many choices when it comes to cannabis.
Shop Potent Concentrates with Panacea
So, what do you think? Are concentrates better than weed? At Panacea, we see it as less a question of better and more about choice.
Panacea carefully curates our menu to provide the best cannabis products available anywhere, and our concentrate menu is no different. So shop Panacea today for the best cannabis concentrates, or order online for discreet, convenient delivery!