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The Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis Concentrates

beginners-guide-to-cannabis-concentrates
lindsay-maharry

About the Author: Lindsay MaHarry is a journalist and content creator based in California, focusing on the destigmatization of cannabis, psychedelics, and other medicinal plants and fungi. Lindsay’s work has been featured in High Times, Weedmaps, Thrillist, Uproxx, Vice, Merry Jane, Gawker, and Spin Magazine. Follow her @_oystergirl_ on Instagram. For more content, subscribe to Hot Tokes with Oystergirl on Substack.

Concentrates are often overlooked by new users afraid of getting too stoned, but vaporizing high quality hash is one of the safest, cleanest ways to enjoy the benefits of cannabis. 

Vaporizing solventless concentrates and solvent extracts is easier on your lungs than combusting flower. While edibles are also low impact, their effects are difficult to predict. Dabs, on the other hand, are consistent, easy to dose. They also come in a wide array of strains, and thus medicinal benefits.

Despite the stigmas still attached to consuming concentrates, we’ve come a long way from the industrial torches and black oils of dabbing’s early days. E-rigs like the Puffco Peak and portable vaporizers have revolutionized what it means to consume concentrates, opening the door for casual and medical users to partake in this effective way to medicate.

beginners-guide-to-cannabis-concentrates

Concentrates are often overlooked by new users afraid of getting too stoned, but vaporizing high quality hash is one of the safest, cleanest ways to enjoy the benefits of cannabis. 

Vaporizing solventless concentrates and solvent extracts is easier on your lungs than combusting flower. While edibles are also low impact, their effects are difficult to predict. Dabs, on the other hand, are consistent, easy to dose. They also come in a wide array of strains, and thus medicinal benefits.

Despite the stigmas still attached to consuming concentrates, we’ve come a long way from the industrial torches and black oils of dabbing’s early days. E-rigs like the Puffco Peak and portable vaporizers have revolutionized what it means to consume concentrates, opening the door for casual and medical users to partake in this effective way to medicate.

However, the genre is confusing. Due to its scientific nature, understanding extraction is inherently complicated. Then there’s all the different forms concentrates and extracts can take, and the opaque and often misleading way they tend to be marketed. 

Hash comes in many forms, and there are many ways to consume it. Before shopping, consumers need to understand what exactly they are shopping for. 

Sespe Creek and I have teamed up to bring you the Beginner’s Guide to Concentrates, where you’ll find all the information you need to get started dabbing from methods of extraction and different types of hash to a rundown of consumption methods. 

However, the genre is confusing. Due to its scientific nature, understanding extraction is inherently complicated. Then there’s all the different forms concentrates and extracts can take, and the opaque and often misleading way they tend to be marketed. 

Hash comes in many forms, and there are many ways to consume it. Before shopping, consumers need to understand what exactly they are shopping for. 

Sespe Creek and I have teamed up to bring you the Beginner’s Guide to Concentrates, where you’ll find all the information you need to get started dabbing from methods of extraction and different types of hash to a rundown of consumption methods. 

Methods of Extraction

First of all, I want you to visualize a nug. It’s beautiful, green and sparkly. When you break it up, there’s a sticky residue left behind on your fingers. That sticky stuff is the beginnings of hash. 

The sticky stuff that sits on the plant matter gets us high, not the plant matter itself. This resinous coating of trichome heads contains the terpenes and cannabinoids that dictate our experience. 

Extraction–whether it be solventless or using a solvent– is simply the act of isolating this sticky stuff by separating the psychoactive trichome heads from the non-psychoactive plant matter. 

The type of concentrate produced, and whether it would be considered a concentrate or an extract, is determined by which method of extraction was used in production. 

Solvent vs Solventless

Extraction methods are broken into two groups: solvent and solventless.

There are also two types of material that can be extracted: dry material (dry flower) and fresh/frozen material (whole plant material that has been frozen immediately after being cut down. Also known as “live”). 

SOLVENT

  • Solvent extractions employ a solvent, like hydrocarbon or butane, to separate the active ingredients from plant matter with scientific equipment, and are called “extracts.” 
  • This process produces substances that contain little to no plant matter, like live resins, waxes and shatters etc.

SOLVENTLESS

  • Solventless extractions only use water, agitation, heat or pressure to separate the active ingredients from plant matter, and are called “concentrates.” 
  • These produce less refined concentrates like live rosin, kief and bubble hash, which may still contain some plant matter.

While solventless concentrates are often marketed as being higher quality than solvent extracts, it really depends on quality of the starting material and the skill level of the extractor. Both can produce high or low quality results. 

Methods of Consumption

Here are some pros and cons of popular methods of concentrate/extract consumption.

Cartridges and Oil Vapes

While vape cartridges and disposable vapes that come pre-loaded with cannabis oil are wildly popular, there are a number of reasons why they are our least favorite way to consume extracts.

PROS: 

  1. Convenient. Ready to go whenever, wherever.  
  2. Discreet. Smell doesn’t linger. 
  3. Simple for new users. 

CONS: 

  1. Bad for the environment. Vape carts and disposables create a TON of lithium ion waste that legally must be properly disposed of, however it’s impossible to enforce these laws meaning most of these devices are ending up in the landfill, or worse. Disposable vapes are the worst offenders on the market when it comes to being environmentally destructive and unsustainable. 
  2. Not always pure. For these vaporizing mechanisms to work, the pure extract or concentrate has to be cut with some kind of thinning agent. While this can be done safely, this oil can also be a vehicle for brands to sneak in low quality or dangerous ingredients like Vitamin E acetate that can make the vapor toxic. 
  3. Hard to determine quality. Because the oil is highly processed and trapped in a cart or vape, it’s impossible to experience the sensory attributes of the oil before consuming it. Often terpenes are added to create the illusion of good oil, when you’re really vaping shitty distillate made from trim and biomass. 

Portable Vaporizers

Portable vaporizers are (usually) pen-shaped devices where you add your concentrate of choice to a ceramic chamber and then vaporize by holding a button. These devices should last for a couple years, or more realistically, until you lose them. 

PROS: 

  1. User-friendly. These vapes are simple to load and operate making them great for new users. 
  2. Rechargeable. They’re not as bad for the environment as disposables because they’re not designed to be single use, nor do they rely on cartridges which also create a lot of trash. 

CONS: 

  1. Not potent. These devices often fail to hit hard like a conventional dab or e-rig due to the small size of the battery. The bigger the battery, the better the hit! 
  2. Break easily. These delicate little devices are prone to shorting out and breaking. Thankfully, most of the brands have good customer service and will replace parts or the whole device if still under warranty. 

E-Rigs

E-rigs like the Puffco Peak are some of my favorite ways to consume concentrates. They create a nice middle ground between the convenience and simplicity of electronic devices and the hard-hitting nature of a traditional dab rig set up. 

PROS: 

  1. User friendly and easy to operate. 
  2. Hard-hitting. The high-end devices in this genre can hit almost as hard as a normal dab. 
  3. Aesthetically pleasing. Devices like the Peak are beautifully designed and look great on your coffee table. 

CONS: 

  1. Expensive. These devices are great, but pricey. Expect to pay between $250 and $400 for a quality e-rig. Anything below that is low quality. 
  2. Tons of low-quality options. There are a lot of bad apples in this product genre, and it can be difficult for consumers to navigate the difference. When in doubt, spend more not less. 

Traditional Dab Rig Setups

The traditional torch and rig set up is the best choice for those looking to really blast off. Due to its potentially dangerous complexity, this method of consumption is best suited for the seasoned stoner. 

What you’ll need: 

  • Dab rig
  • Banger
  • Torch
  • Butane
  • Dab thermometer or e-nail 

PROS: 

  1. Hits extremely hard. This is a great method of intake for high pain and PTSD patients, or anyone looking to really take their high to the next level. 
  2. Customizable. Since you have to purchase everything separately, there’s a lot of room to customize your setup exactly how you want it to be. This is really only a pro for people who know what they want and need, though. 

CONS: 

  1. High startup cost. You’ll have to buy everything above at once to get started, which can be pricey. 
  2. Skill level. This is NOT FOR BEGINNERS. You need to learn how to dab first. Either consult a trusted stoner or learn from YouTube.
  3. Potentially dangerous. Everything about this consumption method is high key, from the red-hot banger to the blasting butane flame of the torch. PROCEED WITH CAUTION
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