What’s a cannabis concentrate?
Cannabis concentrates are highly condensed components of the cannabis plant. A quality concentrate contains only desired components like THC, CBD, and terpenes, while lesser quality concentrates also contain undesired components like fats, waxes, foreign contaminants, and excess residual solvents. The myriad of textures, colors, aromas, and quality identifiers became overwhelming and confusing for me so I set out to break down the basics of this mysterious concentrate magic mumbo-jumbo for us amateurs.
I will discuss the basics about concentrates and reference articles that articulate those points far better than I can, so please follow the links and check out the articles for a comprehensive understanding of this post.
What’s the best form/texture for a concentrate?
If you’re not clear on the various forms concentrates take, their textures, and the processes used to make them, ‘What Are Cannabis Concentrates A Guide to Extraction Techniques’, is a helpful guide (except for off the mark comments on alcohol extraction).
*photo from above referenced article ‘What Are Cannabis Concentrates A Guide to Extraction Techniques’
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the different concentrates, but in reality they’re all quite similar. Ryan, from Steep Hill Labs, makes a couple great points in this Leafly article ‘What Does Good BHO Look Like Dabbing and Hash Oil Myths Part One’. First, the physical form a concentrate takes is no indicator of quality, but simply a preference in process or handling. Ryan says, “The biggest misconception that most people have is there’s some chain of hierarchy in how your oil, concentrate, wax and shatter ends up looking. The difference could be as simple as a few molecules of H2O, that’s it.” Somewhere along the way people totally bought into the “If it ain’t shatter, it don’t matter” mantra, but as we now know the only part of that saying that’s correct is the latter half, “It don’t matter”. Sap, pull and snap, shatter, wax, budder, crystals, or whatever, bring it on.
What’s the best color?
Concentrates vary in color from blazing yellow to absolute black. The darkest of concentrates are made for ingesting orally, making suppositories, or used topically. Anything that’s green or black is not suitable as quality smoking material. For smoking, desired colors range from yellow to dark brown and clarity from clear to barely opaque. I have seen many self proclaimed extract professionals dismiss concentrates from afar simple by observing the color. This is not only silly, but just not possible. Ryan also makes a good point in the Leafly article concerning how a concentrate’s clarity can be misleading. Quite often a clear color can indicate a lack of proper purging, while proper purging can and does darken a concentrate making it more opaque than clear. This is especially the case with alcohol extraction. He points out, “[Steep Hill Labs] has done over 10,000 tests, and when we test these concentrates, it’s more likely that clear shatter is going to have higher parts-per-million residual solvents. That doesn’t mean there’s not clear shatter that doesn’t come out with zero PPMs, it just means that more times than not, (clearer) shatter will have higher parts per million.”
Another article by Green Soma, “How to Shop for Marijuana Oil” (scroll down past mid page) goes on to explain, “There are many dark brown oils, which are properly extracted, aromatic, with wonderful affects. Conversely, there are plenty of lighter gold oils which are actually improperly extracted with bad solvent, and which do not produce the best psychotropic or other affects. Don’t take color as the best indicator.”
So what does color tell us? The truth is, very little on its own. Color is affected by many factors from growing, through harvest, all the way to a concentrates final purge. A big influence is how long after harvest the cannabis was extracted. Fresh trichomes, like in live resin and fresh frozen, will inevitably extract with a much lighter color. However, if the cannabis used in a live resin was not grown well and the trichomes didn’t mature well it will still be very light in color and pretty in appearance, while a darker concentrate produced from material grown and cured by a master will be darker and vastly superior quality. Furthermore, if the lighter live resin wasn’t purged well it would be even lighter, and if the darker extract was perfectly purged it would be even darker. Just like everything, color is not a reliable indicator of what’s on the inside.
So how do I discern ‘Quality’ for my personal use?
Hands down, the best way to control quality is to grow yourself, harvest yourself, and extract yourself, then, you can be absolutely certain of what‘s in your final concentrate. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have that kind of time or talent, so we have to exercise caution in our purchasing decisions. When purchasing concentrates you can’t be positive of the original material’s origin, but you should always ask the question and demand a solid answer. If the answers aren’t forthcoming nor satisfactory, don’t buy.
If you’re comfortable with the origin of the cannabis used in the concentrate’s production then an initial visual inspection should confirm three things. First, there is no foreign object contamination incorporated due to an unclean working area. Second, the color of the concentrate is reasonably consistent throughout the sample. Swirling of considerably inconsistent color is sometimes referred to as “poop-soup”, indicating poor butane purging. Third, for smoking material, there shouldn’t be any green or black coloration.
*photo and caption from below referenced article ‘How To Tell If Marijuana Dabs Are Good Or Bad’
Lastly, rely on your nose, it’s the best quality analysis tool we amatures have access to. A full, clean aroma is going to be your best indication of quality processing performed well from beginning to end. To illustrate how your eyes can be deceived while the nose is most reliable I love this account of identifying the best concentrate in the above photo in The Weed Blog’s ‘How To Tell If Marijuana Dabs Are Good Or Bad’. The darkest concentrate was by far the best quality of the four samples. Further proof that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to discerning concentrate quality for yourself!
The undeniable ultimate measure of quality is proximity. If you’re the only one with smoke at the party, your shizzle is top quality!