Concentrates have become one of the most prevalent parts of the modern cannabis market. In fact, sales of cannabis concentrates have been eating into marijuana flower sales for quite some time now. The rise of marijuana concentrates has created an influx of new and exciting products, with new products and innovative ideas hitting dispensary shelves on a regular basis. Out from under the oppressive thumb of prohibition, cannabis producers have been able to incorporate more scientific methodologies into the art of concentrate making, resulting in a rapidly growing and ever-evolving concentrate market. What is popular one year is likely to be topped the next. With this constant wave of new products, it can be difficult to keep up on the latest offerings and trends. Hold on to your carb caps, because PotGuide is here with an update.
Rosin is a concentrate made through the careful employment of heat and pressure. Rosin can be extracted from cannabis flower, however, many commercial extractors use refined processes that rely on bubble hash as the initial starting material. By pressing only the harvested trichomes of cannabis, concentrate extractors can create pure, solventless preparations that are some of the purest on the market – especially when extractors use “full-melt” bubble hash as the starting material. When all said and done, rosin can take a variety of end forms, from wax-like to crystalline, depending on the finishing techniques applied.
How It’s Made: Heat and pressure are applied to source material (from stems and leaves to buds, kief, and bubble hash). The temperature is just enough to melt the trichomes but leaves the plant matter intact. All forms of rosin are “solventless” as no chemicals are used in the creation process, only heat and pressure. The volatile nature of THC requires that rosin makers apply the heat carefully, adding a bespoke element to finer rosin grades.
Why People Like It: With no use of chemicals and minimal plant matter, rosin is some of the “cleanest” concentrate available. In the hands of an experienced rosin maker, the flavor, terpene profile and potency can rival some of the most technologically produced concentrates. Some of the oldest style of concentrate on the planet, and people are still looking for ways to perfect this delicate product.
Full Spectrum Extract/Sauce (Terpenes and Crystals)
Commonly known as “sauce,” this popular concentrate is a blend of high-terpene concentrate and THCA-rich crystalline. Providing rich, full-bodied flavor and a high that closely resembles that of the original starting plant, sauce is one of the most sought after hydrocarbon cannabis extracts on the market.
How It’s Made: Technically, sauce is two separate products made from the same source material (this isn’t always the case) and put together – THCA crystals in a terpene-rich concentrate. As THCA crystals are harvested, the other constituent parts are separated out in stages. When the terpenes are separated out, they are kept and preserved. The terpenes collected in this stage differ from those preserved in live resin by having a wider representation, while live resin has higher amounts of certain key terpenes, but less variety.
Why People Like It: High THC and terpene content together offers one of the most potent, tasty combinations around. Sauce has very similar appeal to live resin, with slightly different taste and effect due to the different finishing techniques used throughout the production process.
Live resin is a hydrocarbon-extracted (usually butane or propane) concentrate made from plant material that was preserved (typically frozen) before and during the extraction process. Being processed in this fresh state is what gives it the “live” terminology as it is thought that this product allows consumers to experience the full flavor and effect of the living plant. The fresh frozen flower is not cut, dried and harvested as usual cannabis flower is before being processed. Live resin is typically very pungent due to the preservation of terpenes from the plant and is one of the most widely available products on dispensary shelves.
How It’s Made: Plants are frozen live; they are not dried, cured or even cut. This can involve a number of different methodologies from very simple to very technical. Typically, live resin extracts are made using the whole plant.
Why People Like It: Common cannabis preparation knowledge would imply that drying and curing cannabis before extraction would be optimal for good end product. While this is true for cannabis intended for smoking, and some types of concentrate preparation, some things are lost to these post-harvest steps, specifically terpenes. The live resin process allows for the preservation of some terpenes are that are largely lost to other methods while maintaining high THC levels. These terpene profiles are rarely found in other methods in such high amounts, resulting in unique tastes, smells, and highs not found in other concentrates.
A nearly pure form of the cannabinoid THCA, THCA Crystals, or crystalline, is often touted as the “purest THC possible.” While the white or pale yellow appearance can throw off those that are unfamiliar with the preparation, the stunning “diamond” formation THCA takes can often be artistically beautiful in appearance. Consuming THCA provides consumers a slightly different experience, as pure THCA crystalline has minimal terpene content (which is why it is often combined with high-terpene extract to make sauce). Don’t be fooled though, the lack of flavor from terpenes does not mean that THCA is not potent. Always be sure to start slow when consuming THCA as it can be exceptionally strong for some.
How It’s Made: THCA crystals are harvested similar to other crystallizations; a super-saturated solution is made from THC using various preparation methods (typically solvent-based extraction, but there are popular solventless methodologies as well). The collected THC is induced to form crystals through pressure and separating out all the other parts of the solution (like terpenes). As THC is a relatively unstable molecule, given to change with very little exposure to heat and light, the stages of THC-crystallization must be carefully managed at each step.
Why People Like It: Near-pure THCA provides a very different high than full spectrum offerings with a variety of cannabinoids. Many describe it as a cleaner, more focused high, with an energetic burst on the onset and light end. Fans of THCA crystals report that while the highs are intense, they tend to last shorter than other smoking methods, between an hour and hour and a half, with less body effects and more mental stimulation.
Coming in as high as 99% THC content, cannabis distillate is one of the strongest marijuana concentrates on the market. Because distillation techniques allow for extreme refinement and the removal of impurities, distillates have extremely high-THC content and are extremely versatile in application. Because the distillation process uses high heat, distillate contains little to no terpenes (although many distillates have re-added terpenes for flavor) or cannabinoids other than THC. However, the high heat used during processing also means that products are decarboxylated and are easily infused into edibles. Edibles made with cannabis distillate have become extremely popular recently due to their heavy effect and lack of “hashy” cannabis taste. Some users enjoy flavored distillates, which incorporate other plant and food terpenes from non-cannabis sources.
How It’s Made: Distillate starts out much like other common solvent-extracted concentrates like wax or shatter. Bud is cured and dried, and then cannabinoids and terpenes are stripped using a chemical solvent. This solvent is then purged by a careful combination of heat and pressure, resulting in a base raw concentrate. This concentrate is then purified via distillation to further purge any remaining unwanted compounds, leaving a high-potency, pure end product.
Why People Like It: Distillate was once the king of the concentrates when it emerged on the scene but has since been usurped by more technical and terpene-forward offerings that provide deeper, more full-bodied highs. Since then, the price of distillate has fallen consistently, where it sits today as an offering with incredible smoothness and potency for a reasonable cost. Distillate remains one of the most versatile concentrate options on the market; easily used to make edibles, dress up a blunt or joint, or load into a vape pen. This flexibility of consumption is unmatched by other popular offerings.
Which Cannabis Concentrate is Best?
When it comes to determining which concentrate is best, it’s important to remember that cannabis affects everyone differently and that the best concentrate for you might not be the best for someone else. Each of the preparations mentioned above offers its own unique experience and properties, making it necessary to explore all the options on the market before making the decision on what is most effective. Though extractors and dab enthusiasts are sure to debate the topic of which is “best” until something new emerges on the scene, at this level of refinement, choosing between concentrate preparations comes mostly down to personal preference, price point and availability. That debate is unlikely to come to a conclusion any time soon, but by the time it does, we’re likely to be getting high on the next greatest innovation in the concentrate sector.
What do you think is the best cannabis concentrate on the market right now? Share your favorite brands and products in the comments below!