Cannabis Extracts and Concentrates

Today, marijuana extracts are becoming a highly appreciated and demanded product by many growers and users. They can reach very high concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes, being a true delicatessen that any smoker would like to taste. In this category we’ll tell you the classic and the more advanced extraction techniques so you can know everything about this beloved concentrates.

Bubble hash: Fresh-frozen vs dry flowers

Comparing two techniques of hashmaking

In this article, we will be examining and comparing the two most popular approaches to making ice water hash, bubble hash or Ice-O-Lator from cannabis buds: In the first two extractions, we will be using fresh-frozen material to make the hash, while the second two extractions will be carried out using dried, cured flowers.

Dried and cured cannabis flowers

Dried and cured cannabis flowers

Fresh-frozen cannabis buds

Fresh-frozen cannabis buds

The goal of this experiment is to examine the differences in both yield and quality between these two approaches and determine the pros and cons, as each one has it’s advocates and detractors. Many hash-makers claim that processing fresh-frozen plant material offers greater yields and higher terpene content, while others maintain that using dried material results in a more stable and longer-lasting product, less prone to degradation over time. The fresh-frozen approach can also be useful if you don’t have sufficient time or space to hang and dry your plants, but dried flowers will occupy less volume in the freezer than fresh-frozen material, being less bulky and heavy. Continue reading

Origins and evolution of Moroccan hashish

Origins of Moroccan hashish

Despite Moroccan hash is often considered an ancient, traditional product by many Europeans, the truth is that hashish culture in Morocco is relatively young, especially when compared to traditional producing countries of this cannabis concentrate. Indeed, while hashish production in areas like Middle East and Central Asia dates back centuries, this technique had not been used in Northern Africa until the second half of the 20th century, when Western travellers from the “Hippy Hashish Trail” brought the dry sieving technique to Morocco from Lebanon and Afghanistan.

These travellers – most of them coming from the USA – visited countries where cannabis, hashish, opium and other drugs were traditionally produced, enjoying the freedom that one could find back then in some places of the world. Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India – and Kashmir – or Nepal were compulsory stops in this amazing and exotic route. That’s where some of this travellers were taught about ancient techniques to produce dry sift, which were then improved to achieve industrial production levels. Soon after, some of these travellers visited Morocco and taught the locals about how to make hashish from cannabis plants and how to prepare it for export.

Different types of Moroccan hashish

Different types of Moroccan hashish

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Vacuum ovens to purge BHO

The world of cannabis extractions and concentrates – either made with or without solvents – is riding high at this moment among users around the world. One of these concentrates, the well known BHO (Butane Honey Oil), has become especially popular among dabbing lovers because of two main reasons: in one hand, the extract quality – when is done properly – is excellent, with high cannabinoids content and no plant debris. On the other hand, this extraction technique provides outstanding yeilds as well, obtaining product with very high percentage of the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, etc… contained in cannabis trichomes.

BHO extractions and vacuum purging

However, this resin extraction method using butane presents two major disadvantages: the first one has to do, logically, with safety. Using butane gas can be very dangerous because of its highly flammable saturated hydrocarbon which causes a lot of incidents due to incorrect handling. The second major disadvantage is the solvent purge, that is, to remove the substance we have used to obtain the extract (in this case, butane) from the extract itself, which is common in all solvent extractions.

Extraction masters soon realized that the best way to get excellent results is by using closed loop extraction systems to extract the resin and vacuum pumps and ovens to remove the solvent from it. But what exactly are these devices and how do they help us to purge the BHO?

55L Vacuum oven

55L Vacuum oven

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Brief history of hashish

Early records of hashish use

Khorasan Incense Burner 12th century

Khorasan Incense Burner, 12th century

First of all, and before deepening into the subject, we should keep in mind that the first evidences of the use of hashish are not related to combustion, that is to say, it was not smoked. Also, it’s possible that hashish was firstly used as one of the diverse resins used to produce incense. However, we should take into account that during the expansion of hashish it was basically ingested and never smoked. As we will see hereinafter, the practice of smoking hash is believed to start much later.

Despite the fact that we can’t find any mention of hashish in the Koran (7th century), it would be legitimate to think that the discovery of hashish took place between the writing of the Koran (caliphate of Utman ibn Affan, year 632) and the 10th century, when we find the first reports on the use and properties of cannabis resin, hashish. We have texts from the 11th century in which Muslim clerics and legislators openly debated about its use. It was at this time when its ingestion was generalized drastically in Arabia, Persia and the Middle East (Arabians often blamed Persians – especially sufis – and Mongols for introducing hashish in their land). Among many other written records, hashish is also mentioned in “Thousand and One Nights” or “Arabian nights” (11th&12th centuries), where King Omar used it to cause sleepiness to Princess Abrizah.

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan

This gives us the proof that hashish was already known, at least in Persia and Arabia, at the end of the 10th and 11th century (Rosenthal, 1971). Actually, Ibn Wahshiyya (an iraqi alchemist) already mentioned hashish on his “Book of Poisons” around the 10th century. As we mentioned, during the 11th century onwards Arabians often blamed the Mongols (or Persians fleeing from Mongol invasions) and Sufis for having introduced this substance in Arabia. Still, it isn’t clear whether they were those who introduced it or simply those who popularized its use among the Arabian population. What is clear is that Mongol invasions coincide in time with the spread of hashish use, also with the reopening of trade routes between East and Europe in the 11th century.
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Cannabis extractions with alcohol

During the last years, both extracts made with solvents and solventless concentrates have increased their popularity in an exponential way. This is due, in great measure, to the legalization process that is recently taking place in the USA, also to the creation of Cannabis Social Clubs in Spain.

In this post we present you two extraction methods for those who want to use alcohol as solvent (which will be later purged). We’ll see how to use ethanol (which we be the solvent used to illustrate this article) and isopropyl alcohol. Although both techniques have a very similar procedure, there are some differences worth taking into account which will be mentioned at the appropriate moment.

It should also be said that isopropyl alcohol contains more toxic substances than pure ethanol (which actually shouldn’t contain any). Thus, we recommend to use isopropyl exclusively to clean your utensils and glass pipes and not for performing extractions.

QWET extraction with ethanol

QWET extraction with ethanol

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How to make Rosin from Hash

Rosin tech has recently risen to become a hugely popular extraction choice for those who prefer to dab solventless cannabis concentrates.

The reasons why it is enjoying such popularity are clear: it’s safe, having none of the risk of explosion associated with processes using butane or alcohol to extract; it’s very fast, no other extraction method can produce a dab from a bud in just minutes; and it’s cheap too, there’s no expensive equipment required. Anyone with some herb can make their own cannabis extractions at home with minimal investment – all that’s needed is an electric hair straightener available on every high street, and some baking paper, on sale in every supermarket across the country.

If there’s a drawback to making rosin from buds/flowers, it’s that you need to press a relatively large amount of herb to produce a worthwhile amount of extract. Yields with flowers vary from below 10% to higher than 30% in extreme cases and depend greatly on several factors, mainly: the genetics – the strain being pressed; the grow – the overall quality and resin content of the buds; the extraction equipment – the amount of heat and pressure employed; and the condition of the herb – age and relative humidity of the material.

Many first-timers are put off making rosin by the poor yields resulting from pressing lower-quality flowers, it can be disappointing to see perfectly smokeable buds ‘ruined’ with almost nothing to show for it. For this reason, some have turned to a more satisfying method of producing dab-able full-melt concentrates and are pressing rosin from hash instead of from herb.

Rosin made from hashish

Rosin made from hashish

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Types of cannabis oils

Nowadays we can find on the market several cannabis based products under different names, and this variety of choices can lead to confusion. This confusion is mainly focused on the different forms of oil that we are going to present in this post.

Marijuana oil BHO (Butane Honey Oil)

BHO is a concentrate of the aromatic and active principles of the cannabis plant made by using liquid butane as solvent. Of course, butane is later removed – purged – by using different techniques. This form of extraction is very famous in the U.S. and Canada and is also becoming increasingly demanded in Europe, as evidenced by the success of Dab-a-Doo and other cannabis events which gather cannabis extract lovers.

Different textures and colors of BHO

Different textures and colors of BHO

Most BHO samples have a very high level of cannabinoids, easily reaching THC concentrations between 70 and 90%. In most countries, users must make the BHO extraction with cannabis plants grown at home to get this concentrate.

Butane Honey Oil is normally used by dabbing, although many people also use discreet portable vaporizers which look very similar to electronic cigarettes. Continue reading

Live Resin, Holy Water, Terp Sarp

Today, the expression Live Resin is increasingly employed and is oftenly used during the discussions between cannabinoid extraction lovers. It can also be found in the way of #hashtags, in comments of BHO pictures on Instagram and other social networks…but what exactly does it mean?

 Resin extraction of Sour Diesel, Live resin

Extraction of Sour Diesel, Live resin

The expression Live Resin is used to speak about concentrated resin made using a solvent – generally butane – and fresh plant material. It consists in freezing the buds/trim right after harvest, without any drying or curing process. Normally, the whole plant is used, which is cut into small nugs and placed inside the extraction tubes, which are then put in the freezer for 12-24 hours. Using cryogenic freezers or CO2 ice is recommended, since best results come with plant material freezed at temperatures between -30 to -65°C (-22 to -85ºF) .
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Hashishene, the new terpene of cannabis

Hashish and terpenes

As we already know, terpenes are responsible for the taste and scent of many of the vegetables that produce them. They are a broad class of organic hydrocarbons derived from isoprene (CH2=C(CH3)CH=CH2) which compose the bulk of resins and essential oils of plants, thus providing unique flavours to each individual as a result of terpene combination. They are also called terpenoids when they have undergone an oxidating or molecular re-combination process. As we also know, most cannabis terpenes have properties of great medicinal value.

As the flowering stage progresses, more and more terpenes are secreted inside the trichome heads, so that the terpene profile of the plant changes as it ripens. The same thing happens when drying and curing buds, the process of oxidation and partial decarboxylation to which buds are exposed makes their terpene range to change over time. Some terpenes will degrade faster than others, so the terpene range of the weed – we must remember that we know of more than 100 terpenes in cannabis – will vary unless it is vacuum-sealed and properly stored. This fact explains why the smell and taste of one sample can evolve throughout the drying and curing process.

Hashish samples

Different hashish samples

Probably, any concentrate lover has realized that, many times, the extraction process changes the terpene profile of the weed, so the resulting extract lacks some of the organoleptic features of the buds from which it comes. In this way, cannabis extracts have a common taste and smell – with subtle variations – regardless of the strain used to make them. This happens especially when using dried/cured plant material, since as we have already seen in our posts about Fresh Frozen and Fresh Chilled, these type of concentrates have a smell and taste much closer to those of the fresh plant material. Somehow, isolating and concentrating the resing glands leads us to limit the terpene range, so we can’t properly appreciate the “personality” of each sample. But, why does it happen? Continue reading

Fresh chilled cannabis to make water hash

Fresh Chilled Separation, a variation on the Fresh Frozen technique

In recent years, the Fresh Frozen technique has become more and more popular among hashish makers. It is a variation on the traditional way of extracting cannabis resin with water and ice in which fresh frozen plant material is used. In our article about the Fresh Frozen technique we already introduced some of the advantages of using fresh buds or trim when making water hash, such as maintaining a terpene profile much closer to the live plant or the fact that fresh plant material doesn’t contaminate the extraction as dried buds/trim do.

In this way, we get an extremely pure concentrate, both for the lack of adulterants (we’ll never add any substance to improve the texture or effect of the resin) and contaminants, since the plant material is not shredded into small particles that contaminate the extract. As we already mentioned, the flavour of Fresh Frozen hashish is much closer to that of the plant than traditional hashish, since almost no degradation of Beta-Myrcene is produced. Thus, our resins have a much wider organoleptic profile.

Fresh frozen extraction, 73 microns

Fresh frozen hashish, 73 microns

As we also discussed in our post on how to make water hash, freezing the plant material highly facilitates the extraction process, since trichome heads are removed much easily when they’re frozen than when being, for example, at room temperature. This technique works well either for dry or fresh plant material, although it does have some cons when using fresh buds/trim and trying to make several runs. Let’s see now what happens when we freeze fresh buds.

The ice nucleation process in frozen cannabis tissues

Frost precedes the ice nucleation process

Frost precedes the ice nucleation process (Picture: Jun)

As we have seen, freezing the plant material enables a faster and more efficient separation than not freezing it at all, although it does have a main disadvantage especially if we plan to make several runs with the same material. When someone uses fresh frozen buds/trim and performs successive runs, it is not strange observing how the resin collected from the second and following runs is much darker than the resin from the first one, decreasing the quality of the resin extract. But, why does it happen and how to avoid it?

When we freeze fresh plant material (this also happens in Nature with frosts) very small ice crystals are formed in the plant tissues – phenomenon known as ice nucleation process – and damage both their intracellular (protoplasm) and extracellular structures. This affects the plant tissues to a greater or lesser extent, depending on several factors: the natural resistance of the plant to frost, freezing and defrosting speeds or the minimum temperature reached. In this way, the damages do not depend as much on the minimum temperature as they do on whether if ice crystals are formed or not. Unfortunately, most cannabis strains do not tolerate frost and are specially sensitive to this phenomenon.

The surface of the plant tissue gets frosted from temperatures between -3ºC / -5ºC. Since the fresh plant material is composed of approximately 80% water, ice crystals are soon formed inside the plant tissues, in the intracellular spaces, the xylem vessels and the stomal cavities. This phenomenon causes protoplasm – the inner part of the cell including the cytoplasm and the nucleus – dehydration, being severely damaged; the cell collapses as the ice crystals expand. The cell walls are also damaged and pierced by these crystals, releasing the chlorophyll stored in the thylakoids, inside the chloroplast. But, how does this affect our fresh frozen material?

Chloroplast

Chloroplast, x12000 (Picture: Bela Hausmann)

During the first run, the plant material is still completely frozen, so the ice crystals formed in the tissues of the plant epidermis actually block those piercings and no chlorophyll is released into the water. However, as this plant matter starts defrosting the crystals blocking the pierced walls disappear, so the chlorophyll stored in the chloroplasts is released into the water and mixed with our resin glands, which is “dyed” dark green. For this reason, this phenomenon is normally observed only when we perform a long first run or during the following runs; in other words, this happens as the plant matter is defrosted during the ice water extraction process.

 

Plant cell structure

Plant cell structure (Picture: ASPS)

How can we avoid this? Basically, we have two solutions to the problem of ice nucleation process in ice water extractions: the first one is flash freezing the plant material so very few crystals – and smaller – are formed. The second oprtion is not freezing the plant material before the extraction, but cooling it down enough to make the trichome separation easier, and more specifically the heads of the capitate-stalked trichomes. Let’s see how this techniques works.

Making hashish without freezing the cannabis buds/trim

Although it may seem that this goes against one of the basic principles of hash making (freezing the plant material), experience shows us that reaching below zero temperatures is not necessary at all to separate the trichome heads from the stalks.

Fresh Chilled hashish

Fresh chilled hashish, plant material at 4ºC

As we know, when we are looking for top grade hashish we want to isolate the heads of the glandular trichomes (also known as capitate-stalked trichomes). This heads are attached to the stalk (that can be between 150 and 500 microns tall) in the abcission zone by the basal cells, and only few of these cells need to be broken to detach the head from the stalk. Int his way, we isolate the secretory heads which store the terpenes and cannabinoids, leaving the stalk attached to the plant matter and thus getting a more pure resin.

In our test for this article, the fresh buds where frozen at -24ºC in one case (Fresh frozen) and chilled at 4ºC in the other (Fresh chilled). The experience makes it clear that a temperature of 4ºC is more than enough to obtain similar yields than with frozen plant material, but of better quality.

Fresh frozen vs fresh chilled

Second runs, fresh frozen (left) and fresh chilled (right)

Still, this technique does have a small problem. Since the plant material is not frozen but kept in the fridge, making the extraction within 3-4 days from harvest is advised, otherwise it could get spoiled.

Have a nice smoke!