Cannabis grew in popularity originally through smoking, and through the years various methods of smoking weed flower have made their appearance, it can be rolled into a joint or smoked in a pipe, a bong or a vape. Weed flower can also be baked into edibles. The variety of concentrates available today presents a whole different array of forms and methods for ingesting cannabis – concentrate may refer to rosin, BHO, shatter, crumble, tinctures, capsules, dabs, and the list goes on. Unlike weed flower, which is simply dried cannabis buds or leaves that are inhaled in through your preferred method, concentrates are made from cannabis that has undergone an extraction process, through which only the pure CBD and/or THC extract from the plant remains.
But what does this mean for you? What other differences are there between weed flower and concentrate, and how do you know which one would suit you and your needs the best? Read on to find out.
Concentrates – how they’re made
As already mentioned, there are two main ways to get the extract from the cannabis plant, and these are solvent-based and solvent free. Solvent-based methods use a chemical solvent, usually ethanol, butane (sometimes used together with propane) or carbon dioxide, to extract the essential oils from the plant (CBD, THC and Terpenes which are responsible for the flavor). This has to be done in pressurized airtight conditions, and a lapse in standards can easily lead to explosions, which is why explosions in shady weed labs are such a common trope in movies. The extract must be ‘purged’ after the procedure to ensure that no pesticides, nor the chemical used for extraction are left in the final product. When buying from a reputable company, the label of the product will often read “solvent-free” – this does not mean that no solvents were used in the making, but rather that all used solvents were removed from the product in the purging.
Solventless methods use filtration, pressure, and temperature to extract the concentrate from the plant. This process is more labor-intensive and manual, however, the tools needed for this are more accessible and safer to use at home. These make them more common for DIY makers and those looking for Artisan quality. Rosin is especially popular and easy to make at home using a rosin press. Rosin presses are now quite readily available and affordable thanks to stockists like Smoke Cartel. All you need is the press, your preferred product (cannabis flower or hemp flower work the best) and some parchment paper. After letting the Rosin Press heat up, wrap your cannabis inside the parchment paper, and place it inside the Press, pressing down firmly. It only takes a few seconds for the Rosin to start emerging. For more Rosin, you can use a higher temperature 220-250 °F (105-120 °C) but to retain more terpenes, and thus more flavor a lower temperature is better, between 150-220 °F (65-105 °C). Once cooled, the Rosin can be stored and used for dabbing or as an addition to other methods.
The flavor of flower and the strength of concentrates
Weed flower’s classic advantage over extracts is that it is regarded as more flavorful, as the extraction and purge process usually destroy the flavor creating terpenes. Vaporizers are especially apt at keeping the flavor, as the cannabis does not burn, but is only heated to the point that the compounds are extracted and inhaled. However, concentrate manufacturers are getting around this problem by adding the flavors back into the product after processing it.
The biggest difference between weed flower and concentrates is the potency. As the essential oils are separated from the plant material during extraction, the concentrate is exactly that – very concentrated. While most flower buds tend to have about 10-25% THC content, concentrates can have from 50% up to 90% THC. However, it is also easier to control your intake with them, as store bought concentrates can tell you their exact percentage. You should try to stick to less potent varieties as a beginner and when making it at home, until you are confident in your skills and know your limits. Both weed flower and concentrates have qualities that make them the best option for some, and there really is no clear answer which one it should be for you. Feel free to try them out and see for yourself.