What Are Cannabis Concentrates?

Curious about cannabis concentrates? Read this. We’re breaking down popular concentrates like kief, rosin, shatter, vapes, and how you can explore them responsibly.

Discover the World of Cannabis Concentrates

When you walk into Dimes you’ll see a thoughtful assortment of cannabis flower, beverages, and edibles on display. If you’re like most newer cannabis users, this is where you’ll start. But if you’ve been using for a while, you may be interested in new consumption methods like concentrates.

Concentrates can be intimidating at first, but a lot of that has to do with lack of knowledge and know-how. In this article, we’re breaking down the basics of cannabis concentrates to help you decide if or how you want to explore this growing trend.

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What Are Cannabis Concentrates?

A cannabis concentrate is a highly potent concentration of the compounds in cannabis that cause its effects. You may have heard them referred to as oils, concentrates, and extracts. These are all nearly synonymous terms, with their main difference being how they’re processed.

Think of the vanilla extract you bake with. Vanilla beans are placed in alcohol. The alcohol extracts the vanilla from the bean. Even after removing the bean, the alcohol holds the vanilla flavour. This is an extract.

Think of truffle oil. Truffles don’t produce a significant amount of oil themselves. They’re added to carrier oils, which then absorb the rich flavours. This is an oil.

Think of maple syrup. Every spring, maple syrup farmers collect sap and then use heat to reduce it until it’s thick, rich, and golden. This is a concentrate.

Extract, oil, or concentrate – they’re all highly potent reductions of the original compounds. In cannabis, the compounds that give cannabis its effects are found in the plant’s sticky trichomes.

Cannabis Plant

What’s In Cannabis Concentrates?

Cannabis concentrates contain oils from cannabis trichomes. Cannabis trichomes hold the sticky resin found on the buds. This resin has the highest concentration of the compounds that give cannabis its effects: cannabinoids and terpenes.

There are over 140 different cannabinoids. The most notorious are THC and CBD. THC is what gives you the famous head high. CBD doesn’t cause any type of cerebral high, but it does offer a ton of other health and wellness benefits.  When both are present in a cannabis strain, CBD can lessen THC’s effects, leading to a milder high. You can learn more about cannabinoids here and here.

If you ever wondered why concentrates aren’t as popular as flower, here’s some insight for you: while flower tends to have 10-25% THC, a concentrate typically contains 50-80% THC. Some can even push past 90%. The more THC there is, the harder it is to control dosing. That’s why concentrates aren’t recommended for beginners. 

Think of terpenes as essential oils. They aren’t unique to cannabis. There are over 20,000 terpenes in existence.  They’re what make pine smell pine-y and citrus smell citrus-y. They’re used medicinally and therapeutically. Individual terpenes are being researched and used for serious medical treatments, from cancer treatments to digestive disorders. You probably have some popular terps in your bathroom – lavender bath salts (linalool), chamomile-scented candles (bisabolol), grapefruit body scrubs (limonene).

The cannabis plant has more than 100 terpenes, with each strain having their own unique combination that gives its distinctive flavour and therapeutic profile. You can learn more about terpenes here and here.

Because cannabis concentrates have a higher concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes, they can pack a serious punch.

 

What’s the difference between THC and THCa?

In this article, we reference both THC and THCa. Are they the same thing? No. Are they related? Yes.

THC is the cannabinoid that causes the head high. Many people are surprised to learn that the raw cannabis plant doesn’t have THC in it. It has THCa. When THCa encounters heat or light (a process known as decarboxylation), it converts to THC. Your endocannabinoid system responds to THC differently than THCa. It’s THC, not THCa, that causes the cerebral effects.

This means that contrary to what you might see in classic stoner movies, eating or smelling raw weed won’t get you high. When you smoke or vape cannabis, the heat from the flame/spark converts THCa into THC.

Some concentrates contain THCa. When you consume it, the heat converts it to THC. Other concentrates contain THC that was already converted in the production process. Edibles are an example of that.

 

Are Cannabis Concentrates Legal in Canada?

Yes! Cannabis concentrates are legal when bought through a licensed cannabis dispensary like Dimes or a licensed medical marijuana supplier. At Dimes, we hand select the concentrates we carry. Just as concentrates have higher amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes, they can also have higher amounts of other things you don’t want, like pesticides for example. We source our concentrates from producers with high standards we know and trust.

If you’re thinking about exploring cannabis concentrates, we recommend coming in and speaking to one of our Budtenders. If you’re a senior considering cannabis concentrates – or if you’re planning to use concentrates for medicinal purposes, we also recommend speaking to your doctor or licensed medical marijuana professional. If you’re on certain pharmaceuticals or have health conditions with known risks, you may be advised to avoid them.

Cannabis concentrates

What Types of Concentrates Are There? 

Most cannabis concentrates are made in one of two ways: solvent-based extraction or solventless extraction. In solvent-based extraction, chemical solvents like butane hash oil (BHO), carbon dioxide (C02), or alcohol are used to separate the sticky resin from the bud. Remember, the sticky resin is what contains the THCa, CBD, and terpenes.  In solventless extractions, water, pressure, friction, or temperature are used to extract the resin.

Some people prefer solvent-based concentrates because they’re believed to preserve the cannabinoids and terpenes better, resulting in a “purer” experience. Others prefer solventless extraction because they’re concerned residual solvent may be present in the finished product. However, there hasn’t been any proof to this claim – and there are many other pharmaceuticals approved by the FDA that use the same solvents.

Both methods can result in high quality and highly effective concentrates. We’ll cover some of them below.

 

Solvent-Based Concentrates

Solvent-based concentrates aren’t something you can make yourself. They’re made in labs in “closed loop” systems. Because they’re made using chemicals, the environment needs to be highly controlled to avoid explosions. In other words, do not try this at home. 

After the solvent has stripped the cannabis flower of its terpenes and cannabinoids, the resulting liquid is called “slurry”. Before consumption, the slurry must be stripped of the solvent in a process called “purging”. Different solvent and purging methods result in different finished products: oils, waxes, and diamonds, for example.

Here’s an overview of different solvent-based concentrates:

Solvent-based Cannabis Concentrates

Type

Description

C02 Oil

Made using C02 extraction, this amber liquid is known for its purity and potency. It’s commonly used in prefilled vape pens and edibles.

Rick Simpson Oil

This highly potent decarboxylated concentrate is consumed orally. It’s a rich, gooey product that contains up to 90% THC.  It gets its name from Rick Simpson who used it to treat his cancer.  Newer cleaner extraction methods have made it less popular.

Diamonds

THCa crystalline, also called “diamonds”, are named for their appearance. The extraction isolates THCa. Diamonds have little to no terpene content.

Full Spectrum Extracts, aka “Sauce”

These highly potent and pure concentrates contain a mix of diamonds and terpene extracts. The resulting high is like that of the original cannabis plant, but arguably more intense.

High Terpene Full Spectrum Extracts (HTFSE)

These pure, powerful, and stable hydrocarbon extracts are ultra-refined to contain high amounts of terpenes. They contain up to 15% terpene and 50% cannabinoids by weight.

High Cannabinoid Full Spectrum Extracts (HCFSE)

Like HTFSE, these extracts are ultra-refined and pure. They contain fewer terpenes by weight but are often blended with HTFSE to enhance flavour.

Distillate

A newer development, distillate is made with high tech equipment that heats and vaporizes THC and CBD in the flower. The THC and CBD is totally isolated from plant matter, resulting in a pure and potent product. Terpenes are sometimes added back in.

Vape Cartridges

Vape cartridges are often filled with C02 oil, distillate, or full spectrum extracts (sauce). Distillate/sauce blends give you the cannabinoid purity of distillate and the flavourful terpenes from sauce.

Wax

Popular for dabbing, wax is made by vigorously “whipping” the slurry by hand to remove the solvents. It’s generally drier and crumblier than budder.

Crumble

Crumble is close to wax but is made when wax isn’t whipped and is dried more. The concentrate gets a sandy consistency, hence the name crumble.

Budder

Another popular dabbing option is budder. Budder is like wax but retains more moisture.  It’s not whipped as much as wax, so it doesn’t get as stiff. It’s slightly oilier.

Shatter

Shatter is made in a closed-loop system. The slurry is collected and put on parchment paper and purged via vacuum system. The result is a crisp amber-like product.

Taffy

Taffy is like shatter, but more taffy or budder-like in texture. Unlike shatter, you can’t snap taffy. This textural difference occurs during the purging process.

Pie Crust/ Honeycomb

Made with the same process as shatter, pie crust aka honeycomb is pressed after purging. This gives it more crumble.

Caviar

Caviar is like flower with extra power. Dried flower is soaked in hash oil, then coated in kief until dried. It’s extremely potent. You can smoke it.

Jelly Hash

Jelly Hash is a potent blend of hash oil and kief. It’s jelly-like in texture.  It’s uncommon, and more popular among serious medicinal users.

 

Solventless Concentrates

Solventless Cannabis Concentrates

Type

Description

Kief or Dry Sift

Kief is popular for a reason – anyone with a four-chamber grinder can make it. The resin from the dried bud falls through the mesh and collects in the bottom chamber. You can add it to a joint or top a bowl with it.

Live Resin

Live resin starts with fresh frozen plant material vs. dried bud. This preserves the terpenes and results in amazing flavour profiles.

Bubble Hash

Centuries old, hash is usually made with ice water. After stirring buds together with ice and water, the resulting liquid is strained through a series of screens to eliminate as much of the plant matter as possible.

Temple Balls

Temple Balls are made by gently heating and pressing bubble hash. This process bursts the trichome heads, releasing the terpenes and activating the cannabinoids. It can be rolled into a ball.

Rosin

Rosin refers to an extraction process that uses a combination of heat and pressure to instantly squeeze resin from the starting material.  The starting material could be flower, hash, or kief. 

Sap

When rosin gets put in a jar and left in the oven to decarboxylate, it becomes 

sap, a sticky concentrate.

How Do You Use Cannabis Concentrates?

There are a lot of different ways to consume concentrates. Some are more suited to beginners, and others – dabbing specifically – are only recommended to more frequent cannabis users with higher tolerance. More on that below.

Smoking Concentrates

Dabbing

Dabbing is one of the more popular ways of consuming cannabis concentrates.  Dabbing requires an “oil rig” or “dab rig”. These rigs are essentially water pipes designed specifically for concentrates.

Using a dab rig starts with pre-heating a titanium or quartz “nail”. Once it’s the right temperature, you place a small amount of concentrate on the nail. When you inhale through the pipe, the concentrate vaporizes and enters the lungs where it immediately accesses your endocannabinoid system. The effects are felt almost instantly.

Dabbing is only advised for more experienced cannabis users. The user needs to consider the potency of the concentrate, as well as the temperature. A higher temperature with a highly potent concentrate could take you on a serious trip you’re not ready for. 

Concentrates such as wax, budder, shatter, and hash are popular dabbing concentrates.

Bowl-Topping

Bowl-topping is a more approachable method of consuming cannabis concentrates. This is when kief, rosin, or bubble hash is added on top of the flower before it’s smoked.  The extra dose of cannabinoids and terpenes intensifies the effects.   You could use other types of concentrates, but they don’t vaporize as effectively. 

Twaxing

Twaxing is when a wax concentrate is hand-molded into a thin “string”, then twisted around the outside of a joint. The cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis wax intensify the effects.

Cannabis concentrates - vape

Vaping Concentrates

Vaping is another popular way of consuming concentrates. Cartridges containing blends of CO2 oil, sauces, or distillates are placed in a vape pen. A vape pen works like an e-cigarette. As you inhale, the electric spark heats the concentrate to a precise temperature.

 

Ingesting Concentrates

Cannabis edibles, cannabis beverages, oral sprays, and capsules are also made using concentrates.

In cannabis cookies, brownies, or chocolates, oils are butters infused with cannabis are baked into the recipe. With cannabis beverages and gummies, oils or nano-emulsions are often added to the recipes.

Cannabis capsules or pills are another option. They contain cannabis extracts with varying levels of terpenes, CBD, and THC. They can be used recreationally, medically, or therapeutically to enhance sleep, for example.

Concentrates consumed orally generally take longer to set in. Where vaping and smoking are felt almost instantly, oral consumption can take between 30 minutes to 2 hours to be felt. A benefit of cannabis edibles, beverages, and capsules is the ability to control dosing.

 

Topical Concentrates

Cannabis topicals are any cream, lotion, salve or body spray infused with cannabinoids and cannabis terpenes that can be applied directly to the skin.  Even though topicals often include THC, they won’t get you high.  This is because the cannabinoids don’t pass through the bloodstream to reach your brain.

Topical concentrates are generally used to reduce inflammation and ease pain, but you may also find them in some cosmetics and skincare.

Cannabis concentrates - topical

Are Cannabis Concentrates for You?

Before you decide whether concentrates are for you, consider your motivations.  If you’re newer to cannabis and simply curious, it may be worth getting a bit more familiar with your preferences and tolerances first.  If you’ve been consuming cannabis for years and have honed your likes, dislikes, and tolerances, you’re probably ready for beginner concentrates.

Not all concentrates are treated equal – some are more suited to beginners, and others we’d only recommend to more seasoned concentrate users.

Take a look at our selection, then come speak with our Budtenders for tailored recommendations based on your preferences and experience level.

See Our Selection of Concentrates at Dimes Thornbury >

See Our Selection of Concentrates at Dimes Toronto >

 

Cannabis Concentrates for Beginners

If you’re totally new to concentrates, we recommend starting with vaping, edibles, or beverages. Each of these methods allow you to control the dose.

Strain Genie has a neat calculator to help you find a recommended dose based on your gender, weight, and experience level. You can access it here.

 

Cannabis Concentrates for Advanced Cannabis Users

Dabbable concentrates aren’t recommended for beginners. There’s a reason for this. Concentrates like hash, budder, and wax can make serious waves. A concentrate with 50-80% THC will have a much more intense effect than a joint with 10-20% THC.  

If you’ve already explored vape pens, edibles, and beverages and are comfortable with higher THC levels (20%+), you may be ready to dabble with dabbing.  It’s always better to try dabbing with another experienced user who’s familiar with the process. If you don’t know anyone who’s dabbed before, come speak to a Budtender at Dimes.  We can help walk you through the process.

If you’re not quite ready for dabbing, bowl topping or twaxing could be a good intro. Adding a little kief from the bottom of your 4-chamber grinder to your joint is a simple way to start. Again, be wary of high THC percentages and quantities. You do not need a lot of concentrate to experience its effects. 

 

Words of Weed Wisdom

We love weed. When used responsibly, it can be great for recreation, quieting the mind, or helping treat medical conditions. The last thing we want to happen is for someone to overdo it and have a poor experience.

The weed wisdom we pass on to any user who wants to try something new is to go low and slow. If you’re totally new to cannabis, consider starting with low-dose gummies or beverages. Be sure to give them ample time to set in before dosing again.  If you’re familiar with cannabis but new to concentrates, consider starting with vaping so you can control the dose.

If you have a high cannabis tolerance but are new to dabbing, stick with the low and slow mantra. Infrequent smokers or first-time dabbers can have bad trips with reactions like rapid heartbeat, paranoia, or even hallucinations. 

 

Summary

Cannabis concentrates are becoming more popular.  Before diving into this new experience, familiarize yourself with the basics. Get to know your tolerance, preferences, and concentrate options. Go low and slow.

If you’re totally new to cannabis, consider low-dose gummies or beverages.  Keep track of your experiences with different brands, cannabis strains and percentages.

If you’re interested in cannabis for medicinal or therapeutic uses, consider topicals or capsules. While we’re happy to help you learn more about cannabis, we’re not medical professionals and recommend speaking to your doctor if you plan to use cannabis medicinally. This is especially recommended for seniors.

If you’re a little more experienced and regular with cannabis and are looking for an alternative to joints or edibles, consider vaping. Vaping also allows you to control the dose. You can find dosing recommendations here.

If you have a high cannabis tolerance and consume it regularly, dabbing may be an option you want to consider. Dabbable concentrates are higher potency, more efficient, and provide fast relief. Some would say they also have better flavour.  The same recommendation applies for first-time dabbers – start low and slow.

Cannabis concentrates can be an exciting addition to your weed repertoire. Be smart with it and enjoy the trip.

  

Have More Questions About Concentrates?

Have questions about concentrates? Choosing edibles, beverages, or topicals? Curious about dosing? 

Our team of Budtenders is here to help. Come by for a visit, PM us on Instagram, or call us at 416-516-7250.

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