With marijuana concentrates more popular than ever before, it’s easy for the average consumer to get lost in trying to navigate the many options available on the market. While price is generally a reliable indicator of quality relative to similar products, its hardly an empirical method for determining how good a concentrate will be before you have a chance to try it. In this article, we’ll discuss what experienced connoisseurs look for in their concentrates so you can be better prepared the next time you head to the dispensary to pick up some dabs.
Use Your Senses
You have five senses at your disposal— sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. You should use as many of these tools as you possibly can when shopping for concentrates! Of course, the easiest way to accomplish this is to test a sample but since that’s rarely an option for the average consumer, it often falls on sight and smell to do the bulk of the investigation. No worries! These two very powerful tools… if you know how to use them.
A careful visual inspection of a concentrate can determine a lot right off the bat. Better concentrates will have a lighter color to them and will take on a color similar to blondehash. Darkness or a green tinge is usually a sign of impurities pulled from the plant as a result of poor-quality butane / technique (though darker-colored purple strains seem to come out a little darker). Good shatter is filtered and should be mostly translucent— there should be no discernible particles trapped anywhere.
Consistency should be as advertised, So, if you’re paying for shatter, you shouldn’t be getting sugar. More liquid, sappy shatter will either be poorly purged or have a high terpene content whereas more solid, stable shatter will always have substantially fewer terpenes leading to a less pleasant flavor.
Sugaring can be caused by prolonged improper storage, a rushed purge, or from substantially high volatile terpene content so additional inspection is usually required. Its generally harder to determine how good sugar will be before sampling which is why it tends to be cheaper.
If you can, be careful to observe if the concentrate sticks to whatever its on or if it breaks apart easily— drier, more crumbly concentrates are usually over-purged and lack the flavor profile of “wetter” looking concentrates.
Follow Your Nose
According to Dr Alan Hirsch of the Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, 90% of what is perceived as taste is actually smell. That means that a solid whiff of your concentrate in question should be a good indicator of how said concentrate will taste. That’s two senses in one… you should always smell your concentrates before you buy! A stronger smelling concentrate is bound to have more flavor and be more enjoyable than a mild-smelling concentrate.
And while there is really no way to determine if one flavor profile is “better” than another (to each her own), there are some smells that you want to avoid; you should be skeptical if you detect any unpleasant or chemical smells, especially if the concentrate has a more liquid consistency or a strange color. Be wary of liquid-like “solvent-less” concentrates available in different fruity flavors, these are often achieved with flavor additives (same with pre-filled cartridges that use e-juice). If you can’t smell anything, you can expect the concentrate to not taste so great.
Nug Run vs. Trim Run vs. Popcorn Nug Run
Finally, we have to address the different qualities of plant matter that go into making concentrates. Obviously nug runs are going to offer the most potent, flavorful concentrates because those buds have higher concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes. This is what you want if you’re looking to get the full concentrate experience.
Popcorn nug runs and trim runs, though still potent, contain considerably
fewer terpenes than nug runs and more impurities— these always tend to be darker and more “stable” with much less impressive flavor (even though some will pass the “smell test”). Is there good, tasty PNR or TR shatter? Sure! You’re just going to be disappointed many, many times looking for it. If you’re going to spend the money, its almost always worth it to spring for the nug run.
It’s a lot to remember… but after enjoying higher-quality concentrates for a while, these considerations become second-nature. Perhaps the best way to get started is to treat yourself to the nicest concentrate you can get your hands on and enjoy it… really enjoy it. Make yourself familiar with what a really good concentrate is like and work your way backward… that way you’ll be ready to pounce next time you see a deal at the dispensary (and avoid the disappointing traps)!