Flowers usually contain 10-25% THC content whereas concentrates can be anywhere from 50-90% THC. Photo by devansiennaescrow.
Hash, oils, and tinctures are easily found in cannabis stores and offer a concentrated dose compared to smoking flower. Cannabis extracts that go beyond the basic cannabutter may seem complex, but the below techniques are simple enough to do at home and will yield a potent product. Someone looking to make their own concentrates can find the tools needed for extraction around their home or at a nearby store.
What Are Cannabis Concentrates?
Many operators make concentrates from the trichomes in cannabis. Royal Queen Seeds describes trichomes as the sticky hairs on the cannabis plant that protect it from things like light, fungus, insects, and herbivores. But they are also what contains the cannabinoids and terpenes that give cannabis its medicinal and recreational effects.
Cannabis flowers contain a majority of the plant’s trichomes, according to Leafly. But concentrates can also be made from trim.
Extracting trichomes makes a product with all the same benefits of smoking flower, but with less of the unnecessary plant material. In today’s market there are so many different forms of concentrates, each with their own extraction process that delivers its own unique product.
Overall, Cannacon says that concentrates are more potent than flowers, and depending on the concentrate, they might make it easier to control one’s intake.
Solvent vs. Solventless Extraction
Extraction processes mainly differ depending on whether or not one uses a solvent. Cannabis testing lab, Infinite Chemicals, says that solvents like ethanol, carbon dioxide, butane, and propane can be used to distill cannabinoids and terpenes from flower. When done correctly, the product is free of residual solvent, additive, and low-grade chemicals.
On the other hand, Weedmaps explains, solventless extractions remove trichomes from plant material without using any chemicals. Instead, the trichomes are separated by a mesh screen or are “pressed” out of the flower using heat and pressure. Solventless extractions are generally safer and easier since they do not require any volatile chemicals.
This article covers two methods of solventless extraction that are easy to perform at home as well as one method of alcohol-based extractions. The average person can perform an alcohol extraction at home, but it is important to be cautious since alcohol can be extremely flammable.
Dry Sift Hash
Dry sifted hash is not only the simplest extraction method, but according to The Press Club, it is also the most potent and pure method of solventless extraction. Many grinders come with a built-in mesh screen that already separates some of the trichomes from the plant material (aka kief).
All that one needs for dry sifting is a micron screen. Micron screens vary by the size of the pore in the screen. For example, a 200-micron screen will let through bigger particles than a 60-micron screen. Screen printing mesh from a local art supply store is perfect for sieving cannabis.
Alternatively, one can easily purchase a kief box online. This is a great option for dry sifting at home. Cannigma reviewed the best kief boxes in 2021 and are all relatively affordable options.
It is a good idea to freeze cannabis before performing extractions. Freezing cannabis makes the trichomes more brittle and allows them to easily fall off the buds.
To dry sift cannabis, simply rub the cannabis (preferably frozen) over a mesh screen. If using a kief box, feel free to close the lid and shake the cannabis for 10-15 minutes. The more time one spends moving the cannabis over the screen, the more trichomes they will collect.
Use a card or scraper to transfer the trichomes to parchment paper. Fold the parchment paper and roll a mason jar filled with warm water over it back and forth for up to 10 minutes until the hash has come together. Then, store the hash in the freezer.
Rosin refers to cannabis extracted from heating and pressing cannabis. Rosin Tech says that rosin varies in its consistency, so it is best categorized by the starting material: flower rosin, hash rosin, and live rosin.
Flower and hash rosin are exactly as the name suggests. Live rosin is made from fresh flowers that were frozen immediately as opposed to dried and cured. Additionally, Rosin Tech says that live rosin preserves more oils (like terpenes) than any other method.
All that one needs to press rosin at home is a hair straightener, parchment paper, and cannabis. Start by heating up a hair straightener (if the temperature can be controlled, set it to the lowest setting). Fold the cannabis inside the parchment paper and press it down for 5-10 seconds. There should be a slight sizzling noise.
Once done, rosin should be scattered around the cannabis. The cannabis can be pressed again until there is no more rosin produced. High Times suggests storing concentrates on the parchment paper in a cool dark place like the fridge.
Differences in temperature, pressure, and duration will yield different results. According to MyPress, pressing at lower temperatures results in more flavor and is generally considered higher quality. But higher temperatures can yield more end product.
This technique uses a solvent to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis and yields concentrated cannabis oil once the solvent evaporates. All that one needs is cannabis, alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl, 95% alcohol or more), a mason jar, coffee filters, and a pyrex glass baking dish.
Grobo explains a process called winterization (aka freezing) is what makes the difference between honey oil and cherry oil. Honey oil is much cleaner in comparison to cherry oil since winterization helps remove plant waxes, fats, and chlorophyll.
To start, place the cannabis and the alcohol in the freezer overnight. Next, add the cannabis into the mason jar and add just enough alcohol to cover the cannabis. Mix or shake the jar for 15-30 seconds. California Weed Blog demonstrates that mixing for a longer time results in a less stable and darker end product.
Strain the alcohol and cannabis through a coffee filter and into the pyrex glass dish. Allow all the alcohol to evaporate, which takes about 24-48 hours. One can use a fan and space heater to help speed up this process.
Once the alcohol evaporates, use a scraper to gather the honey oil and keep it stored in a small container.
Rick Simpson Oil
Rick Simpson is a medical cannabis advocate who used this oil to treat three spots of skin cancer. There are no scientific studies that show evidence of Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) being a viable cancer treatment, but Simpson and many others have credited their treatment to RSO.
Calypso says that one can take RSO topically or orally, and that typically indica or high THC strains provide the best effects. Consumers can create their own capsules for the oil or put it into a syringe.
Making RSO is very similar to making honey oil and uses the same materials. However, consumers often ingest RSO orally so it is important one decarboxylates the cannabis.
Start by freezing cannabis and alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl, 95% alcohol or more). Combine them for 2-5 minutes. Then strain the mixture through a cheesecloth and into a pyrex dish. Place the mixture in the freezer for at least 45 minutes, according to BAO after work.
The next step uses heat to evaporate alcohol out of the mixture. Alcohol is highly flammable and should not be near an open flame. Use a crockpot, rice cooker, or an electric burner to heat the mixture.
First, make a water bath by pouring water into a pot and setting the heat to low. Stir occasionally until the alcohol has completely evaporated. It should stop bubbling and begin smoking. One can always check if alcohol is present by dipping a paperclip into the mixture and using a lighter to expose it to fire. If it lights on fire then there is still alcohol.
Using Extracts At Home
No matter which type of concentrate one decides to create, it’s important to note that concentrates are much more powerful than flower. So be cautious not to over-consume. Start small and work up from there to avoid an unpleasant experience.
The methods above are introductory ways to perform extractions using easy-to-use methods and materials. There are plenty of rosin presses available for someone looking to get more into making their own extracts. But those can be a pricey investment.
Consumers can also use bubble hash kits to collect hash from cannabis; these are typically more affordable than at-home rosin presses.
No matter what the methods, making one’s own concentrates can be a fun and fruitful process to try at home.