Concentrates 101: the art of the dab
by Derrick Bergman – Chairman of the Dutch Alliance for the lifting of the cannabis ban (VOC)
Most consumers enjoy cannabis in the form of buds or traditional hash. But modern concentrates like wax, shatter and honeycomb are becoming more popular, especially in the United States and Spain. How are these concentrates produced and what do you need to know before your first dab?
Concentrates are cannabis products made by extracting the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant using a variety of mechanical extraction processes. For thousands of years hash was produced by simply sieving dried plants to separate the trichomes and pressing the powder or kief into slabs, balls or other shapes. This method takes a lot of time and effort and the end product is quite impure.
A number of pioneers, including Mila Jansen aka ‘The Hash Queen of Amsterdam’, started improving the sieving method in the early nineties of the last century. Mila first developed the Pollinator, basically a washing machine adapted to filtrate plant material using water and filter bags. The real breakthrough was the Ice-o-Lator, that enabled small growers to produce extremely pure kief. The hash made from this kief is known as Ice-o-Lator or Bubble Hash; if you light it, it will bubble.
After the turn of the century people started experimenting with extraction using butane gas. By running this gas through the plant material the active ingredients are dissolved. The solvent is then evaporated, leaving a very potent, oily resin, called BHO (Butane Hash Oil). This can be refined further into a number of different products. A proper purge can take days and requires professional equipment like a vacuum oven.
As Ed Rosenthal warns in his book ‘Beyond Buds’: “Butane is one of the most dangerous substances you can work with for making hash because it is very explosive. Extract it in a well-ventilated area, such as a specially designed extraction room, or outside in an open area.” In short: no job for amateurs.
Although it is possible to add concentrates to a joint traditional pipe – usually on top of some herbal cannabis- most people use a ‘dab rig’. This is a water-pipe containing a small round tray made of titanium or glass. This tray is heated with a blow torch before a small portion of concentrate, a dab, is placed on it. The concentrate vaporizes instantly and you inhale the vapors, cooled by the water in the pipe. Some vaporizers include a dab tray for the use of concentrates. First time users, “dab virgins”, are advised to sit down while taking their first dab. Modern concentrates contain a very high percentage of THC and other cannabinoids. If you have no experience with herbal cannabis or traditional hash, it’s better to start there.
Also referred to as Glass because it’s consistency is similar to that of hard candy or glass. The best Shatter is clear and has a beautiful amber color. It’s the hardest to make of all concentrates. As Ed Rosenthal notes: “BHO (butane hash oil) is categorized by consistency, with shatter being the most prized. Next comes honeycomb, budder, wax and oil.”
Easy to produce, handle and vaporize, Wax is very popular and has a consistency similar to moulding clay. Sometimes referred to as Earwax, for obvious reasons.
Very dry and crumbly, often the result of Shatter production that hasn’t gone quite right.
Very similar to Crumble, but during the purging process, air bubbles form inside the wax because of low purging heat. The wax doesn’t melt and the air holes don’t collapse, giving this concentrate it’s typical honeycomb appearance.
This type of concentrate is produced by whipping the wax after the solvent has been purged off. The result is a very sticky substance with a texture and consistency similar to peanut butter. Sometimes called Taffy. Ed Rosenthal notes that “shatter turns to budder when heated too long, and even the finest shatter turns to budder eventually during storage”.
This is the odd one out, as it is not produced with butane gas but with isopropyl alcohol. The acronym stands for Quick Wash Isopropyl Alcohol Hash Oil. It’s made by soaking ground buds and trim in isopropyl alcohol for a short time. The plant material is than separated using a filter and the alcohol is left to evaporate off. QWISO is very dark and oily.
Certainly in the United States dabbing is taking over the industry, with some estimating that no less than sixty percent of all plant material is being used to make concentrates. If you want to give it a try without investing in a dab rig, the following vaporizers are suitable for vaporizers: Pax 3, Dr. Dabber, Firefly 2, Boundless CF 710.Happy dabbing!