It wasn’t long ago that dabbing conjured visions of intense consumption and high THC levels. Fast forward to e-rigs, portable vaporizers and strides in testing and quality of concentrates, all helping propel this once “sketchy” corner of the black market into a booming, legal industry. Though, despite this, consuming concentrates and extracts tends to make newcomers a little wary.

Like all forms of weed villainization, the negative connotations that surround dabbing are unfounded. Understanding extraction is inherently complicated due to its scientific nature, but the way extracted products are displayed is complicated too. New users are immediately bombarded by the market, forced into making choices between products and terms they know little about — think solvent versus solventless extraction, badders versus diamonds, rosins versus resins, and so on. Brands consistently tout staggeringly high THC percentages, while providing little to no useful information for beginners to cannabis attempting to navigate this vast and confusing sea. 

With our guide to getting into concentrates, you’ll find everything you need to know to get started. From methods of extraction and different types of extracts, to a rundown of the best dabbing devices and extracts on the market. We’ll help you learn how to choose the best concentrate or extract to suit you and the effects you’re wanting. 

What are concentrates and extracts?

The terms “concentrate” and “extract” refer to concentrated cannabis products like rosins, resins, sauces, shatters, and so on. These potent substances are produced by isolating the active ingredients in cannabis, like terpenes and cannabinoids, from plant matter by a method called “extraction.” 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. 

To explore the inner workings of cannabis concentrates and extracts, we spoke to concentrate/extract experts, Russ Daniels, master extractor and CEO of Cali Stripe Concentrates (formerly known as Candy Stripe Concentrates), and Michael Tanzer, co-founder of RedTape Ventures, a venture firm that invests and develops business in the cannabis industry, including Candy Stripe. 

“A good way to communicate what concentrates and extracts are is to think about them as the active ingredients in the plant,” Tanzer said. “Through extraction, we’re able to isolate and remove just the active ingredients, so you don’t have to consume all of the plant’s fiber and materials.” By isolating the active ingredients (cannabinoid and terpenes), these products offer the cleanest, and most time-efficient way to get lifted. 

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“I would define concentrates as solventless products like rosin and bubble hash, and extracts as anything produced with hydrocarbons like BHO or CO2 closed loop systems,” Daniels explained. 

It should be noted that extract and concentrate are considered interchangeable terms by certain regions and cultural circles. For the sake of this article, we will be adhering to the distinction supported by our experts. 

Types of extraction 

Extraction methods are first broken into two groups: solvent and solventless. It should be noted that there are two types of material that can be extracted with solvent or solventless extraction: dry material (flower that has been dried) and fresh/frozen material (whole plant that has been frozen immediately after being cut down). 

  • Solventless extractions (concentrates) only use water, agitation, or pressure to separate the active ingredients from plant matter, and are called “concentrates.” These produce unrefined concentrates like kief, rosin, dry sift, and bubble hash, which still contain a good deal of plant matter.
  • Solvent extractions (extracts) employ a solvent, like C02 or a hydrocarbon like butane, to separate the active ingredients from plant matter with advanced scientific equipment, and are called “extracts.” This process produces substances that are far more pure, like the waxes, shatters, badders, etc. we associate with the market with today. 

“The difference is that solventless extraction is considered more of a vegan or holistic approach,” said Daniels. “When we use hydrocarbon gases to extract, people who are less educated about cannabis and consider themselves on the healthier side of life don’t like that. They tend to choose rosin over a butane hash oil (BHO) because they feel the rosin doesn’t contain toxins.” 

Different Types of Extracts and Concentrates

Once either form of extraction has been employed to remove active oils from plant matter, the base product is processed again into different variations, like a shatter or a live resin, using various techniques. 

To understand this process further, we spoke to Will Jacod Pennstrom, a master extractor from Raw Garden’s extraction program, who now heads up the extraction lab for a new brand called Exir by Euphoric Life Inc. For the sake of making this mass of information more digestible, Pennstrom helped create an outline that illustrates the most popular forms of extracts and concentrates that are produced by different subsects of extraction.

Solventless Concentrates

Solvent Extracts 

Different types of extracts and concentrates can be produced using a number of post-extraction processes. When trying to determine the high of any given one, it comes down to the chemical makeup of the plant. 

Regardless of extract texture, extraction method, or form the flower has taken. It’s the terpene profile and cannabinoid ratios of the original flower that ultimately dictates how an extracted product will make you feel. Simply put, if the flower sucks, so will the extract.

Device Guide

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Now that you’re read up on all things concentrates, what are the go-to quality products that beginners, concentrate fanatics, and those in-between, reach for the most? Check below for our picks. 

Best E-rig: Puffco Peak

The Puffco Peak was the original game changer, simplifying the old school process of a nail and a torch into an electronic device sleek enough to be sold at an Apple Store. 

Best portable vaporizer: G Pen Roam 

Part e-rig, part vape pen, the G Pen Roam is the first portable electronic dab rig, complete with a bubbling water chamber.

Best Extract Pen: …

Personally, I don’t think any concentrate pens work that well if you’re looking to replicate the experience of a dab. The secret to hand-held concentrate vaporizers is the size of the battery. The bigger the battery, the better the hit. The battery of a vape pen is simply not strong enough to effectively vaporize thicker materials from my experience.

Best Dab Straw: Dip Devices, Nectar Collector

Electronic dab straws are cool, but tend to break easily. The best two I’ve tried are The Dipper by Dip Devices, and the Huni Badger by Nectar Collector. 

Best Hybrid Device: Dr Dabber, Flowerpot

If you’re not ready to invest in an extract-only device, meet yourself halfway with one that also vaporizes flower. Dr Dabber’s Switch and New Vape’s FlowerPot Vaporizer are both excellent.

Price: Switch $399.95, FlowerPot $370

Products to try for every vibe

First time dabber

First time dabbers should abide by two rules: start small and stay low.

The dab should be as small as you can make it, and the temperature should be low, around 450—500° as opposed to 650° or higher. The higher the temperature, the higher you’ll get. 

Check out Guild Extracts’ Delta 8-THC, a cannabinoid that promotes a sense of calm and is geared towards people who experience anxiety with cannabis use. Or, reach for something super chill, like Punch Extracts’ Fatso Live Rosin. 

Summer fun 

Both Kaizen Medicinals’ Chemdawg Caviar and Apex Extractions’ Tropicana Cookies are perfect companions to a fun summer day. Exciting and uplifting, they’ll leave you feeling clear, bright, and just a little bit silly. For a more relaxing summer experience, try Moxie’s Sour Sandia Live Resin Badder. 

Working from home 

To muster the unmatched focus it takes to work from home on a beautiful summer day, try the ultimate fire that is Maven’s new Guava Kush Sugar Diamonds. Lowell Farm’s fragrant and exquisite Pink Lemonade Live Rosin will help you get the job done, too. 

Relax and unwind 

After a long day, treat yourself to a fruity dab of Eel River Organics’ Dairy Queen Live Resin. For other anxiety melting experiences, try Cosmic Concentrates’ Purple Medusa, or AbsoluteXtracts’ ‘s Forbidden Fruit. 

Featured image by Dre Hudson/Weedmaps

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