How to Make Closed Column BHO and Live Resin

how-to-make-Bho-and-live-resinThere’s no denying the facts anymore: dabbing has become the premiere method cannabis consumption among weed connoisseurs. The golden, terpene rich concentrates available on the market today are a vast improvement from the dark, harsh oils that were once mass produced only years ago thanks largely to improvements in commercially available extractions systems.

These “closed loop” systems have not only improved overall quality of products on the market but they also offer much greater safety profile in comparison to the old popular “open blasting” techniques responsible for creating lower quality concentrate (not to mention ‘explosive’ headlines for the newspapers). A simple google search will show that these “closed loop” systems cost thousands of dollars and require special tanks and vacuum pumps but in fact, one can use the same principles to produce very high quality shatter / live resin for a fraction of the price. In this article, we will outline a simple, closed-system method of extracting cannabis to produce the highest quality extracts for under $400.

Disclaimer: The following information is for educational purposes only! Solvent-based cannabis extractions are illegal under federal and local drug lab laws and can be extremely dangerous. Such extractions should only be performed by trained professionals in licensed facilities in compliance with local laws and regulations.

A “closed loop” extraction system is one in which butane is constantly run over resin-rich plant material where it solvates THC, enters a collection chamber, evaporates, and then is re-condensed to be re-run over cannabis again (thus reducing the amount of solvent needed). As a cheaper alternative, we will be electing to use a “pressurized closed soak” method where butane and cannabis will be combined in a closed, pressurized column and allowed to soak for 45 minutes to ensure extraction efficiency. With this method, butane cannot be recycled (it must be evaporated off into the atmosphere, a costly prospect for mass production) but the quality of product is top tier and one can produce some incredible live resins when the extraction is done correctly and with care. It is an excellent alternative for people who wish to make smaller, less frequent batches of concentrates. For this method, you will need the following:

  • 1x Triclamp sanitary stainless steel spool (1.5” diameter, length depending on how much material you wish to run, we suggest anywhere from 6”-36”)
  • 1x Triclamp VITON screen gasket 20 mesh (1.5” diameter)
  • 1x Triclamp VITON gasket (1.5” diameter)
  • 2x Triclamp top cap w/ lance valve (matching diameter)closed-column-pressure-extractor-90-gram-107_1
  • 2x Single pin triclamp (bestvacs includes one with legs welded on)

(bestvaluevacs.com sells all of the above as a kit starting at $170)

  • 1x FJC vacuum pump, 1.5cfm and ($80 at Harbor Freight)
  • 1x vacuum chamber and appropriate vacuum hosing (you can try to make your own but good ones can be purchased for $100 online)
  • 1x case of butane (Whip-it! Sells the most pure canisters and they contain 400ml whereas most other brands come in 300ml canisters)
  • 1x pyrex dish
  • 1x Parchment paper
  • 1x Dank marijuanas, preferably freshly cut and frozen buds for live resin.
  • (optional) a pot of hot water a.k.a. a hot water bath.
  • (optional) dry ice and a cooler / container that will fit your spool with the end caps on.

The dry ice is particularly important if you wish to make live resin. If using cured buds, the cooling process is less essential but will still help create a lighter, more desirable extract.

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frozen buds are easier to break down into small particles without grinding, dry ice gets the job done in minutes

Step 1: Prepare Buds Collect your plant material use your hands to break down larger nugs into a more manageable size as we will be packing the plant material into the stainless steel spool / column. You want to avoid grinding the buds because cutting the plant cell wall will allow chlorophyll to be more readily extracted by our butane resulting in a darker color and harsher taste (remember, all THC is on the OUTSIDE of the plant leaf in the trichomes!). Frozen buds are particularly brittle and easy to “nug bust” by hand in a plastic bag so even if you aren’t making live resin with fresh frozen buds, we recommend you freeze your plant material anyway (remember to remove as much air as possible from the bag to reduce the formation of ice crystals)

Step 2: Pack the Column Now that your buds are broken down into ~5mm particles, you’ll want to gently pack your stainless steel column with the mesh screen clamped to the bottom to prevent buds from falling all the way through. The key is to not pack the tube too tightly or else butane will form channels in the column and some buds won’t come in contact with the solvent. Use a rod of some kind to tamp down the plant material in the tube every few grams or so to ensure even packing. Once the column is packed completely, secure the final gasket and top cap with your second clamp and close both valves on either end of your extractor. If you are making live resin or have dry ice and a cooler available, you should allow your tube to cool under the dry ice for at least 20 minutes to ensure buds (and residual water) inside are completely frozen. WARNING: the metal will be cold enough to burn your skin, use insulated gloves (or oven mits) to protect your hands!

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Butane can be injected directly into the top valve

Step 3: Vacuum and Extraction Time to use that vacuum pump! Attach the vacuum to the bottom of the extractor (the side with the mesh screen) using your vacuum hose, open the bottom valve and pull vacuum on your extractor column. It shouldn’t take more than a second and you will be able to hear the vacuum make a softer gurgle once its reached maximum vacuum. Cycle the valve (open and close it) twice to make sure you’ve pulled as much vacuum as you can, then close the valve and turn off the vacuum pump (the FJC model allows you to release pressure via a screwable cap where the hose attaches, this will make it easier to remove the hose from your extractor once its under vac). Now it’s time to make the magic happen! Selecting the appropriate adapter from the butane canister cap you can directly inject butane into the top of the extractor by opening the valve. The negative pressure will suck butane into the column so be sure your canister is releasing butane just before you open the top valve on your extractor (or else you’ll suck in air which takes up butane space!). Listen closely to the butane canister— once the column is fully pressurized with butane you will hear the butane stop flowing from the canister. You may need to use more than one canister depending on how big your column is. After the column has been fully pressurized with butane, we suggest you place the entire primed extractor back into your dry ice cooler (if you have one/ are making live resin). The cold temperature reduces the solubility of water and other undesirables in butane which always leads to lighter colored, more desirable extracts.

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Mother liquor ready for vac chamber

Step 4:  Separate Mother Liquor After about 45 minutes, your extraction will have reached optimal completeness. Remove your extractor from the cold and with your pyrex dish placed carefully underneath your bottom valve, slowly and gently turn the valve so butane begins to drip into the dish. If you release the valve too quickly, butane will spew out and create a giant, flammable, sticky mess. Controlled flow is key! Cycle the valve (open and close it) when the butane stream starts to sputter to allow gasses from the top of the column to push liquid down through the bottom. When there’s little butane left, place the column outside and release both valves to allow residual butane gas to escape. You now have a pyrex dish filled with our butane mother liquor and it should have a vibrant yellow color to it. You can attempt to try another run with the spent material but its rarely worth the solvent required as the first extraction tends to capture 80-90% of the desired cannabinoids.

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Purged live resin– incredible flavor and potency, no fancy system required

Step 5: Purge the Solvent The final step is the removal of excess butane which can be detected by taste at even a few hundred ppm. Leaving your pyrex dish of mother liquor in a well ventilated area will allow much of the butane to evaporate off but to speed things up we recommend placing your pyrex dish in a another bowl of shallow warm water (remember, butane is highly flammable so be sure the dish is nowhere near any open flames— warm the water up elsewhere!) Once the liquid has reduced substantially (but not completely), its recommended to pour off the thickening resin into a dish lined with parchment paper so your final product is easier to remove. All that’s left is to throw this dish into your vacuum chamber and pull the chamber down to about -28 mmHG (or as far as you can take it). Most people like to leave it under vacuum for as long as 24 hours but you can achieve a faster purge by cycling the pressure of the chamber every hour or so (placing your chamber in a warm water bath will also speed things up). You should be left with a beautiful, golden terpy sap! The final test is the taste test (don’t worry, butane is essentially non-toxic) and you will be able to tell if your extraction needs some extra purging or if you did things just right!

It can seem a bit overwhelming at first but the process is rather straightforward. In short, the best extractions are done as cold as possible with the strongest, freshest material one can find. Cured buds will produce less tasty, colorful extracts but this “closed column” method both reduces the amount of butane necessary and provides an significantly safer method to open blasting (albeit slightly more complicated and expensive). Of course unless you have access to cheap, high quality bud… it’s almost always more economical (and safer) to purchase from the experts! Remember, you can go to jail for making this stuff (but not necessarily possessing it). Consider your risks carefully and stay lifted!

Supercritical CO2 Extraction

supecritical C02 ExtractionThere’s no denying that the most potent and flavorful concentrates are made via butane extraction— butane is a nearly perfect solvent given its affinity for cannabinoids, ease of removal and non-toxicity. Unfortunately, as the media and opponents of legal cannabis are quick to point out, the flammability of butane poses a serious safety hazard; especially with so many untrained clandestine chemists making dangerous attempts in their garages, bathrooms and kitchens (such environments are dangerous even with proper equipment and experienced personnel). With many medical states like Colorado and Washington cracking down on BHO producers, forward looking extractors have become more interested in supercritical CO2 as a much safer, cheaper, less explosive alternative to butane.

Supercritical CO2

CO2 is cheap, non-toxic, odorless/tasteless, and readily available with excellent purity for use across a broad range of industries. Because of its relative safety and widespread use, it’s particularly easy for just about anyone to purchase large volumes of pure, compressed liquid CO2 without any anyone else batting an eye (just ask anyone who home-brews beer or soda). The catch? One cannot simply blow CO2 over marijuana leaves and extract the THC; the CO2 must be in a supercritical state.

Supercriticalphasediagram
We all know about the solid, liquid and gas states of matter— “supercritical” is a special state that exhibits the traits of both a liquid and a gas. At pressures above 1100 PSI and temperatures higher than 88ºF, CO2 enters the supercritical state and its solubility (ability to extract different compounds) becomes a function of temperature and pressure. This is what makes supercritical CO2 extraction so desirable in the commercial natural extraction industry: its selectability can be fine tuned in real time to pick up lighter molecules (terpenes) or heavier molecules (cannabinoids) while minimizing the pickup of heavier plant fats and waxes.

Why You Haven’t Been Impressed

CO2 extracts certainly aren’t anything new but the costs to obtain the technology and expertise required to run a proper extraction are hundreds if not thousands of times greater than the costs involved in making BHO (an automated system can cost anywhere between $50K-$100K). While temperature and pressure have relatively little effect on the solubility of butane in a closed-loop BHO extraction, a few degrees can mean drastic changes in the final product of the CO2 extraction (often resulting in that dark, bitter CO2 oil most people are familiar with). In many cases, uneducated extract makers subject their raw CO2 concentrate to additional seperation methods like ethanol “winterization” or thin film distillation completely destroying any terpenes that may have been present (or not, many CO2 extractors use trim with low terpene content in an effort to generate higher margins and pay off their heavy initial investment). This is why they add artificial flavors to products like “the clear”— there’s very little good, natural taste left after all the processing and its entirely possible there’s not even an effort to separate different strains before extraction.

That being said, it won’t be long before you are impressed with CO2 extracts. The technology has evolved quite a bit even in the last two years with now multiple companies offering comprehensive extraction systems and some of the more scientific, state-licensed extraction labs in Colorado and Washington creating some truly impressive raw products with purity and terpene profiles that rival live resin.

The Future of Concentrates

humminbirdco2As marijuana legalization continues to sweep across the US, the safe production of concentrates will become a bigger and bigger issue with states looking to one another about how to handle it. There is absolutely no doubt that state governments will favor CO2 extraction over butane— it wouldn’t be surprising to see BHO gradually phased out as governments put a regulatory squeeze on butane extraction and CO2 technology becomes better and more affordable. So next time you come across some good looking CO2 concentrate, keep an open mind! You might be surprised.

Advanced Dabbing: The E-Nail

Enail-banner-ver2Friends, we are living in a golden age of dabbing. The cannabis concentrate industry has become quite sophisticated over the last few years and just as we have advanced with regards to the quality of concentrates, so too have we advanced with regards to dabbing technology

The days of hot knife hits are long gone but the need for a butane-powered soldering torch has always been an off-putting aspect of owning a dab rig. Aside from looking like straight up hard drugs, torches make it easy to set your surroundings on fire and the combustion of torch fuel (butane or propane) releases carbon monoxide which can become dangerous in poorly-ventilated areas.

Enter The E-Nail


adjustable-black-e-nail-7The latest and greatest dabbing technology comes in the form of the “e-nail” short for “electric nail.” The e-nail utilizes an electrical circuit to get the nail hot via induction heating rather than the direct heat of a torch. Operation is simple: a heating coil sits on a specialized titanium nail and its temperature is set via a variable controller. Though heating might take a little longer than with a torch (it usually takes about a minute to reach a steady temperature), its not so bad as to cancel out the convenience of not using the torch. In fact, most e-nails use so little power that they could be left on (in a safe place) for substantial periods of time without any real damage to your piece or power bill.

Temperature Control

adjustable-black-e-nail-0When using a torch, not heating up the nail enough can lead to a “cold hit” during which some portion of concentrate doesn’t vaporize and simply collects in the bottom of the nail, waiting to be burned off during the next heating. This is no longer a problem with the e-nail; in fact, the flexibility of temperature control allows e-nail users to benefit from the use of a “carb-cap” to slowly and carefully vaporize concentrate at low temperatures, allowing for a greater terpene profile to be expressed (albeit increasing ‘holdup’ or accumulation of reclaim within a given piece). Even at normal operating temperatures, the nail never needs to get as hot as it does with a torch, reducing the amount of concentrate that gets carbonized (burned onto the nail) and reducing the overall stress applied to your rig.

Now of course, the e-nail has it’s own concerns; its easy to forget it’s hot which can lead to burn fingers if you’re not careful… and it can certainly burn a hole in the floor if dropped without noticing! But these things shouldn’t be too big of an issue for concentrate smokers used to dealing with the hassle of a torch– if you’re a daily dabber, you’re really doing yourself a disservice not owning an e-nail! The simplicity of the design means there are many manufacturers (not just name-brands) who make great, effective products. So if you’re in the market for some new dabbing gear, this should be at the top of your list! Just be warned– once you start using an e-nail you won’t want to use anything else!

Absolute Shatter: Make Your Own!

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Alright dabbers, let’s face it: most of us just can’t puff on live resin all the time. For those of you who live in states where medical marijuana is outlawed, it can be particularly difficult to find clean concentrates of reasonably high quality. Even in California, it’s not uncommon for people to settle for darker, harsher, less expensive concentrates processed under less-than-optimal conditions when options are slim or money is tight.

Luckily, there are several processing methods one can use to clean these concentrates— one method, commonly referred to now as “winterization,” is particularly safe and can be used to further purify even high-quality concentrates.

Winterization

Butane-extracted hash oil tends to be a mix of cannabinoids, terpenes, lipids and other plant waxes that get pulled out by the solvent during extraction.

In order to separate the active cannabinoids and terpenes from inactive plant waxes via winterization, the concentrate must be redissolved in a new solvent (ethanol aka grain alcohol) that is liquid at room temperature so its solvability can be more easily manipulated by temperature.

Once the concentrate is dissolved, the mixture can be cooled such that the inactive waxes and lipids precipitate out of the solution (form solids) which can then be filtered, leaving you with a pure cannabinoid/terpenoid mixture.

The resulting resin is known as absolute shatter because it contains no inactive impurities.

Make Absolute Shatter

In order to convert your concentrate (any kind of hash!) into absolute shatter, you’ll need the following:

Grain Alcohol (Everclear)

(optional) 5A molecular sieves if you only obtain 151 proof Everclear

Metal funnel

Round coffee filters

Freezer

hotplate or a hot water bath (pot of water)

Glass containers

(optional) A/C vac and a vacuum chamber, preferably with a cold trap

Step 1: Preparation

AbsoluteShatter - 1First about the alcohol: if you live in a state where you can obtain 190 proof grain alcohol then all you have to do is buy a bottle and you’re ready to go!

Those of us who can only obtain 151 proof are wise to purchase a few lbs of molecular sieves from a legitimate lab supply store online in order to dry out 151 proof alcohol.

Molecular sieves are zeolite pebbles with pores just big enough to trap water molecules. Slowly pour the alcohol into a mason jar (preferably cooling in ice, the reaction gets HOT!) and let it sit overnight to allow particles to settle at the bottom and the water to be trapped by the sieves… you can leave the alcohol in that container until you’ve used it all (at which point you should burn off the remaining alcohol outside and then bake the sieves in the oven at max heat for a few hours to dry them out…. 

Be careful not to put alcohol
soaked sieves in the oven, the fumes can ignite and pop the oven door open… dry them or soak them in water first)

Step 2: Dissolution and Separation

Once your alcohol is ready, it’s time to get to it. Combine the alcohol and concentrate in a glass container and heat it up with your hotplate or water bath such that all solid particles have dissolved, it takes a few minutes.AbsoluteShatter - 11

I’ve found about 30ml of alcohol per gram concentrate is sufficient, it’s preferable to use as little alcohol as possible since you’ll be evaporating it off later.

After your concentrate has fully dissolved in the hot alcohol, cover the container and carefully place it in the freezer overnight along with the funnel and another container— we need these to be cold.

When you come back in the morning, you will see some solids floating in solution. Those are the inactive waxes! Time to filter these out.

Fold the coffee filter in half then in half again so it’s a quarter circle.

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With the pointy side facing down, pull out a single of the filter so it forms a cone-shaped pocket like those cheap cups you see in office water coolersAbsoluteShatter - 17

Stick this in the frozen funnel and let it sit in the freezer for a few minutes to make sure it’s cold.

Now you’ll want to position the funnel-with-filter so its resting over your empty frozen container and  slowly pour your alcohol-concentrate mixture through the filter.AbsoluteShatter - 22

You’ll want to use a mason jar or some other container that makes it easy to rest the funnel and let the solution filter with the freezer door closed.

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If the solution warms up, the waxes will dissolve back into solution… the colder the better!

Step 3: Evaporation

You will be left with wax residue in the filter (throw this away) and a container full of frozen mother liquor full of your purified concentrate. All you have to do is pour this liquid into a dish and evaporate off the alcohol and you’ll be home free! There are two ways to do this:

Method 1: (no vac) if you pour the liquor off into a thin layer, the alcohol will evaporate off with just a little air circulation (you can put it somewhere warm to speed things up).

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Method 2: you can use a vacuum chamber to “cold boil” off the alcohol but if your pump uses vacuum oil, a cold trap is advised to capture alcohol fumes which quickly ruin clean pump oil.

Check the consistency, it should form a fairly stable shatter once fully purged (and even if not fully purged, you’re just vaporizing small amounts of ethanol which reacts with water) and even darker absolute shatter tends to be exceptionally smooth and enjoyable since no long plant molecules are being burned.

As always, use an abundance of caution (with regards to safety and publicity)! Alcohol is still flammable! But don’t be afraid to try this process on a small scale if you have a hard time finding good quality concentrate.

Stay safe, stay educated, happy dabbing!

Rosin: The Death of BHO?

rosin the death of bho

Up until very recently the term “Rosin” has almost exclusively referred to the bi-product obtained from pine tree sap— after the sap is distilled to cook off and collect more volatile components (mainly terpenes, this is how the solvent Turpentine is created!), you’re left with a tacky resinous cake used in everything from violin bows to pharmaceuticals. These days, however, the term “rosin” has been popping up more and more with regards to Cannabis.

Cannabis Rosin

Though the idea cannabis rosin has been around since the early 2000s, it really exploded in popularity at the end of 2014 when it started gaining traction in the forums as a solventless alternative to BHO.

In March of 2015, YouTuber and cannabis enthusiast John Berfelo posted videos entitled The Death of BHO which really set the internet ablaze— he showed how anyone could make beautiful golden dabs with a little bud, some parchment paper, and a hair straightener.

rosin tech video

Since then, rosin has become the hottest topic in the cannabis world complete with a new set of products dubbed “rosin tech”… but is rosin really the death of BHO?

Of course not.

It’s true, the process of making rosin is much safer and more legal than running a butane extraction, but it also has its own drawbacks. To create rosin, trichomes (either on the bud or separated via dry sift) are heated and pressed in parchment paper with a hair straightener so that volatile oils inside the trichome heads can break free of the cuticle and re-condense along the edges of the paper. The process of heating the volatile oils causes the lighter terpenes to be lost almost completely, so while THC content remains relatively the same (in fact, the heat helps decarboxylate THC-A into THC), rosin dabs have significantly less flavor than BHO, particularly compared to live resin where terpenes are specifically preserved.

rosin t shirt pressRosin also becomes difficult for anyone trying to scale up beyond what a single hobbyist can do with a hair straightener. Since industrial rosin processing involves large-scale distillation which creates many grades (fractions) of product and is technically beyond the ability of most people making cannabis rosin,  many in the cannabis industry have turned to things like small-mesh filtered “tea bags” and t-shirt presses to create rosin at scale but it seems like a work in progress. With purging technology as good as it is and the popularity of sub-zero, closed loop butane extraction, I think it’s safe to say that BHO is going to remain king of concentrates for quite some time.

Make Your Own

That being said, rosin is a simple safe way for just about anyone to quickly convert their bud into a dab— the worst you can do is burn yourself on a hair straightener. If you’re feeling bold and have some bud to spare, familiarize yourself with the process by watching a few of the countless youtube videos on the subject and give it a shot! If it’s your first time, here’s a few tips we have for you to avoid disappointment:

  1. Use PARCHMENT paper, not wax paper— parchment paper uses a thin film of silicone that won’t melt.
  2. Start with the lowest temperature and slowly work your way up until you find the right setting on your hair straightener. Even those with digital temperature readings aren’t made to be exact and each one will behave slightly differently. Set the temp too high and you’ll vaporize the rosin away! There’s a fine line between perfect heat and too much.
  3. Don’t let the bud move around while you press! It can wipe up the resin collected along the edges. Press, move the bud to a new spot, repeat.

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Good luck and happy dabbing! We’ll be here when you guys get curious about absolute shatter.

What Is Live Resin?

live resinThe quest to create the finest marijuana extract is and endless one, but in the last few years we’ve achieved a new pinnacle of excellence in the form of what we call “live resin.” Live resin has steadily been gaining traction amongst dispensaries and extract enthusiasts (as well as quite a bit of attention from the various cannabis competitions this year), but what sets live resin apart from other high-grade extracts?

What Is Live Resin?

Put simply, live resin contains far morelive resin terpenes than your usual “cured nug-run” concentrate— as much as 5 times more by weight. If you’ll recall from our previous article on terpenes, these compounds are responsible for the incredible flavors and aromas found in marijuana and exhibit beneficial medicinal properties; live resin offers a massive terpene profile previously unavailable through traditional extraction methods and patients are taking notice of the vibrant flavors and terpene-mediated effects.

Processing and Extraction


The key to achieving such a high terpene profile is a special processing and handling of raw plant material before and during the extraction process. Since terpenes are volatile compounds (meaning they evaporate at room temperature), the total terpene concentration in a given marijuana plant steadily decreases once the plant has been cut; research shows that a plant can lose as much as 60% of its total terpene content during the drying and curing process.


extraction dewaxing columnlive resin, entire fresh plants (not just the nice buds) are frozen immediately after being cut which both partially dries the plant and dramatically slows the loss of terpenes over time. Since frozen trichomes are very brittle, plant material must be handled carefully to prevent trichome heads from being lost. The fresh-frozen plant material has a much higher water content than traditionally dried buds and must therefore be extracted at very cold temperatures (sometimes sub-zero temperatures with the help of what’s called a “dewaxing column”) to reduce the number of impurities and lipids that make their way into the collection chamber (remember chemistry fans, butane is slightly water soluble at room conditions… by bringing the temperature down water solubility becomes essentially 0 and waxes precipitate out of solution).

Worth It

The result is a much lighter yield than you might expect from extracting an equivalent amount of dried buds but the end product tends to be both lighter in color, less stable (more gooey) and absolutely more flavorful. To be clear, live resin isn’t any more potent than regular nug-run shatter. In fact, most live resins should theoretically be slightly less THC-rich than regular shatter— but with the high THC concentrations both products offer, it would take the most discerning of tolerances to be able to tell the difference. No, the notable difference between regular shatter and live resin is the incredible, floral, aromatic flavor.

Next time you’re in a dispensary shopping for concentrate and wondering whether its worth a little extra to pick up some live resin, remember it takes extra effort to produce a lower yield than traditional shatter… maybe give it a try and see what the future of cannabis is all about! We don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Marijuana Concentrates Buyer’s Guide

marijuana concentrates

image courtesy of High Times

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.

Color, Clarity, Consistency

A shattercareful 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

nugsFinally, 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, thotrim runugh 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)!

Growing Marijuana: The Fringe Benefits of Saving Trim

Why-Farmers-Who-Grow-Marijuana-Save-Trim-Now

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when a weed farmer would grow marijuana simply for the bud, trashing the brittle, dry leaf trim like common waste. These were the days before the popularity of shatter, marijuana edibles, and concentrates. The popularity of dabbing and marijuana oils has shed new light on the way a savvy farmer chooses to grow marijuana in that less goes to waste. That’s because the once overlooked trim is now bringing in upwards of $400.00 a pound.

The Massive Appeal of THC Concentrates

Companies working in edibles and weed concentrates like shatters and hash oils are now asking farmers who grow marijuana Shatter-Marijuana-Concentrateto sell them their trim. It only takes ten pounds of trim to make a pound of concentrated marijuana oil or hash oil. Concentrates are forged using an extraction system that brings with it risks due to the gases used in the process. Producers are left with a thin sheet of amber-colored concentrate ranging in consistency from gooey to brittle. The goo can be sold as concentrated hash oil or wax while the brittle sheets are appropriately dubbed “shatter”.  These concentrates boast between 80% – 90% THC content versus the 15% – 25% consumers get from flower.

Trim: A New Fringe Benefit to Grow Marijuana

Marijuana-Trim-Another-Benefit-to-Grow-Marijuana

When farmers grow marijuana, the focus remains firmly on the flower. Flower can still bring in more cash to the grower than bags of trim. But until recently, it was common for a farmer to dispose of the trim completely. Finally, farmers who grow marijuana are realizing the value of a commodity once regarded as garbage.

Concentrates are the fastest growing facet of Colorado’s marijuana industry. The average weed shop credits anywhere between 30% – 50% of sales on concentrates of some form. Adding onto that a sale price of between $40.00 and $50.00 per gram and it’s obvious why those who grow marijuana are changing the way they handle their harvests to save the trim.

A Rabid Demand for Trim

But concentrate production companies are hitting a glass ceiling when it comes to their need for trim. The suppliers that grow marijuana for these companies can’t always provide them the amount of trim that they need. Many concentrate companies now grow marijuana themselves in addition to buying from farmers to guarantee production expectations are met.

Making-Hash-Oil-from-Marijuana-Trim

In addition to maintaining supply, concentrate companies that grow marijuana on their own have the added bonus of quality control. High demand doesn’t mean that companies will always buy whatever trim is available. Customers are more drawn to buy concentrates in a lighter shade of amber with a clear appearance as opposed to cloudy. Such an appearance comes when the trim is newly harvested and at its freshest. This market nuance means those who grow marijuana can’t collect the trim and store it over long periods of time before turning it over to the concentrate companies.

The lean market for trim still leaves plenty of room for rejection. Concentrate companies turn away trim bags peppered with fan leaves and stems. In addition, with autumn on the horizon, farms that grow marijuana are preparing for a big harvest that is likely to flood companies with quality trim options, driving those top dollar trim bag prices down. Yet farmers are now aware that when they grow marijuana, tossing trim in the trash is throwing away good money. Everyone wins with less waste.

Choosing The Right Dab Tool

wax dabberYou’ve picked out some glass, you’ve decided on a style of nail, you’ve got a torch and some high-quality concentrate… but how are you going to get that concentrate on to the rig? Though its often overlooked, choosing the right dab tool can mean the difference between a pleasant and unpleasant dabbing experience. A good dab tool should be thermally insulated, make it easy to handle your preference of concentrate, and should carry little residue upon delivering the concentrate to the rig. Let’s take a look at the most popular styles of dab tools below:

Pointed / Skinny Tipspointy dabbers

These incorporate the stainless steel dental picks everyone is familiar with as well as small flexible spatulas (like Skillet Tools Flexy) and glass (borosilicate) dabbers pulled to a point. These tools are excellent for traditional “shatter” type concentrates because of their ability to cut individual hits away from a larger piece of shatter and the very small amount of residue that gets left behind on the tool itself (thanks to its low surface area). The small spatula is particularly useful because it can also be used for more “sugary” concentrates as well so long as the concentrate is not too dry… then it’s like trying to eat soup with a fork. It’s also not a great choice for very hard, stable shatter which can create hash shrapnel upon piercing with such a fine tip.

Good for: Shatter, Sap, Sugar, Oil

Bad for: Crumble / honeycomb, harder shatter

Spatulas / Scoopsscoop dabbers

These are the second most common type of concentrate tools on the market and are particularly useful for harder, dryer concentrates that don’t stick as well to the dabber tool. If you tend to prefer crumbles, the scoop is an essential part of the arsenal… especially if you’ve opted for a “banger” or “side-car” style nail— just scoop and go. The spatula is most useful for waxy concentrates which can be pressed into a hit though these tend to create the most “holdup” residue with their large surface area and require regular cleaning to avoid getting that stale “recycled” flavor. They also make a spatula with a sharpened edge that is the perfect tool for breaking apart small hits from stubborn harder shatter.

Good for: Crumbles, wax, harder shatter, sugar

Bad for: Sappy shatter, less viscous concentrates

Carb Caps

Sometimes (for whatever reason) you just don’ttitanium carb cap heat your rig up enough and end up creating a pool of concentrate that vaporizes weakly and slowly… too slow to take-in in one hit. In the old days, this “cold hit” would be weak, hurried, unpleasant, and you would have to watch your expensive concentrate literally go up in smoke. The carb cap fixed this problem by covering the nail (or whatever) and allowing vapor to collect so it can be consumed in a second or third hit. These are a must-have for everyone with a nail. Some of them even come attached to the nail itself.

Wether you’re considering a new rig or just looking for a way to make life easier, we hope you’ll use these considerations when buying your next dab tool! Since most dabbers work as 2-in-1 tools (using both ends), you should try to choose something that best fits your preference of concentrate. Remember, the dab tool is an essential part of your rig!

Happy dabbing!

How Clean Is Your Cannabis Extract?

how clean is your cannabis extractThough we don’t often think about it, consuming marijuana means you’re ingesting more than just THC. The process of growing and curing weed often subjects the plant to numerous chemicals and pathogens, and without any oversight or regulation, consumers are forced to rely on growers to be responsible in their use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Unfortunately, most marijuana growers lack a proper understanding of agriculture science.

One example is the widespread use of the fungicide “Eagle 20 EW” which has been detected in commercial grows in Colorado. Though its commonly used on hops and grape crops, the compound has been banned for use on tobacco because the residue left behind becomes toxic when burned.

A recent independent study in the state found that nearly every sample of medicinal marijuana obtained contained trace amounts of harmful, potentially carcinogenic pesticides. Even though these chemicals were only present in very low concentrations, regular long-term exposure could pose a health concern, especially to patients with already compromised immune systems.

Concentrating Cannabis

marijuana sprayed with pesticidesThe improper use of pesticides becomes an even bigger problem when we begin to look at cannabis extracts. By concentrating the marijuana plant, one can also unintentionally concentrate any residual pesticides left behind in the plant. As any toxicologist will be happy to tell you, “the danger is in the dose,” the more concentrated a toxin is, the greater a threat it poses to peoples’ health.

Additionally, though butane itself is considered generally non-toxic at mild concentrations, 99.99% pure butane is nearly impossible to obtain without ordering from a specialized, regulated scientific supply company leaving most “extract artists” to rely on disposable butane canisters that use any number of toxic adulterants as a carrier gas (some of these canisters may advertise themselves as “pure” but even the most expensive lab-grade reagents can only assure a >95% purity as the gas can decompose into primary products).

Outsourcing CBD

One last concern specifically addresses CBDchina agricultural runoff concentrates which are often manufactured from industrial hemp. As these concentrates have risen in popularity, China has begun exporting extracts made from Chinese hemp which could pose a health risk. The New York Times and BBC recently published several articles covering how heavy metal runoff from mining operations has made its way into the food supply, skyrocketing cancer rates by as much as 500% (maybe more, its hard to determine exactly how bad things have gotten with a lack of reliable self-reporting from China). It’s been well established that plants like hemp readily absorb these heavy metals and that Chinese environmental authorities cannot be trusted for proper analysis or certification of such materials. Consumers must be cautious and make sure to only purchase extracts produced in countries with  strong regulations like the U.S. and Canada.

So how clean is your cannabis concentrate? It’s impossible to know without thorough independent chemical analysis. The extract industry has exploded largely unchecked and only now have we begun to realize that these concentrates pose a new set of concerns previously unknown with consuming the marijuana plant alone. As places like Canada and Colorado begin to adopt policies that regulate the marijuana industry, there’s no doubt we’ll gain a better understanding of exactly how these substances actually affect our health.