What is a marijuana extraction or concentrate?
Although there is some controversy regarding the use of the term “extraction” when applying this concept to solventless concentrates – since some people claim that it should be called “separation” when no solvents are used – broadly speaking a cannabis concentrate is a product derived from removing resin glands – trichomes – from the green matter. These kind of cannabis-based substances have been manufactured and used for the past centuries, achieving stronger effects than the dried buds and also being very much easier to carry and trade than weed.
Nowadays, we can find several types of cannabis concentrates; some of them are made without solvents, while others are made by using chemical products – either polar or non-polar solvents – to extract the trichomes from the green matter. In this first post, we want to introduce you some of the different ways in which solventless separations are made, how are they called and which are their main features.
Solventless cannabis extractions
As mentioned before, cannabis concentrates can be made by either using solvents or not. Actually, some marijuana extractions made using solvents are presented as solventless concentrates when they should be called solvent-free concentrates. There are several types of non-solvent extractions, in which trichomes are not extracted but mechanically removed from the buds/leafs, and then collected in different ways. We’ll make now a short brief description of the most popular solventless techniques, starting from the most ancient ones.
Charas (hand-rolled hash) is, probably, the first and most ancient technique of concentrating cannabis trichomes. The exact origins of this technique are uncertain, and the exact time and place where it was first developed remain unknown. Countries like India, Nepal or ancient Persia could be the birthplace of this technique, but there are not enough scientific evidences to prove it.
To make top grade charas, the hash producer cleans his hands with pure water and lets them dry in air. Once his hands are dried, he gently rubs fresh buds with his hands, forming a thin layer of trichomes on his palms. The more one rubs, the more contaminants – pistils, dust, insects, plant debris – will be present in the resin. He will carefully remove these contaminants from time to time, and will rub new fresh buds often, leaving the rubbed ones for a second quality. After a few hours of work, a generous brown layer of trichomes has been formed on his hands, so he removes it and lets it dry and cure.
Dry sift (sieved hash) is another ancient method of making top grade resin concentrates. As happens with the charas, the origins of this technique are unclear. What it is sure is that it originated either in Central Asia (Afghanistan) or Middle East (Lebanon) around 1.000 years ago. Nowadays, Morocco is the world’s main producer and exporter of sieved hash, with a quality far away from the ancient productions.
The producer uses dry plants (sometimes dried under the sun) and different screens to separate the different trichomes by size. The more sieves he uses, the more different qualities he’ll get. Sieved hash is often produced by beating the plants onto a silk screen which filters particles by size. In this way, he removes resin glands from the plant material and separates them by size (if he uses different sieves). When performed gently, with quality green matter and by resieving the resin, one can achieve almost 100% pure heads.
There are several automatic machines to make dry sift on the market, and for the past years we have seen kind of an evolution of this method, that uses dry ice – which is the solid form of CO2 – mixed with the buds/trim to facilitate the process of removing the heads when dry sieving.
Water hash (bubble hash, IWE…) is made by using the same principle than dry sift hash, but using water and ice to remove the resin glands. Bubble hash seems to give better yields than dry sift, although many connoisseurs claim that the organoleptic properties of sieved hash are better than those of ice water extractions/separations.
To make bubble hash we only have to mix frozen weed, ice cubes and ice cold water and stir the mix. After a few minutes, we pour the water through a number of bags with meshes on their bottoms that will make the same task than the sieves that we have seen in dry sift extractions, separating particles by size and collecting the different qualities of hash.
Lately, this type of hash is being made from fresh, frozen plant material, achieving a first-grade product usually called fresh frozen, ice wax, live resin, etc.
Rosin hash is one of the newest resin separation techniques. Actually, there are two different techniques with the same name, so we’ll see them both separately. For the first one we just need a hair straightener, slick sheet or parchment paper and some buds. Wrap a cannabis bud with parchment paper and place it in the hair straightener. After pressing it for a few seconds, we have small drops of resin all around the crushed bud. We only have to collect this resin and we have a 100% solventless extraction of the highest purity. You can check our post on how to make Rosin Hash for a step-by-step explanation of the method.
The second method is also easy, and gives a refined product much more potent than the “raw” hash. Pre-heat a pyrex or metal bowl (no more than 100ºC, 212ºF) and press a piece of hash across the surface until a thin layer of trichomes is formed. Collect the resin with a razor blade and you are done, you have a much more potent and pure product than before. You could even try to re-rosinate your rosin hash for a more potent product.
In following articles we’ll discuss extractions made with solvents, which usually require a more professional equipment and, naturally, a number of safety rules.
We wish you happy concentrates!