Solventless Concentrate Options
As the legal cannabis industry continues to grow, patients, consumers and policy makers are becoming more and more interested in solventless concentrates. The most common methods of concentrate production use chemical solvents like butane, propane, hexane, naptha, CO2 or alcohol to extract cannabis resin from the plant. While these methods produce flavorful and potent concentrates, when done incorrectly, they can be dangerous for those making or consuming them. Many of these solvents are known to be toxic for human consumption or inhalation and while there are FDA-approved methods on how to use some of these solvents in food processing, they have not been thoroughly investigated for inhaled products. As policy makers tighten the reins on volatile extraction methods, and consumers become more educated about health risks, solventless methods are beginning to gain popularity. For those consumers looking to avoid any question of residual toxins, there are a variety of concentrates that have never been touched by chemical solvents.
You can always look to traditional methods of concentrate making, like dry sieve or hash, to find natural alternatives. Dry sift, or kief, is one of the most basic solventless options, and is made by filtering kief (the pollen of the cannabis plant) from cannabis trim or flowers using a screen. The result is a light and powdery concentrate which tends to be more energetic than the flower it was made from.
Hash, another ancient method, is made by compressing kief. Some hash makers also use water in the process. The color and consistency of hash can vary from a thick, hard-packed clay-like material that is usually darker in color, to a dark crumbly substance that looks and smells like pebbled dirt, or a fragrant, sticky caramel-colored putty. It is all in the talent of the Hashishin and the quality of the cannabis it was made from. Well-made hash is flavorful, fragrant and melts easily. Many prefer the grounded and somewhat sedative effects of hash. As master Hashishin Frenchy Cannoli says, “Poets have praised the pleasure and the mystical experience that is smoking hashish for the past thousand years.”
For consumers who like the large variety of consistencies offered by butane extraction, rosin is a solventless alternative that is quickly growing in popularity. Like BHO, rosin can come out with consistencies from shatter, wax, pull and snap taffy, oily sap and crumble. It is made by pressing cannabis flowers, kief or hash with heat and pressure. This completely solvent-free process literally squeezes the cannabis oil out of the plant. While rosin is a relatively new method, its potential for quality and variety may make it the best method to replace solvent-based extractions.
Rosin can made in a number of ways. You can even make it at home using a hair-straightener. Still, hair-straightener rosin tends to be darker in color and less flavorful than other varieties. Because you can’t apply much pressure with a hair straightener, you need to turn the heat up high. This can burn off the most flavorful part of the oil; the terpenes. If a previous experience with rosin left a bad taste in your mouth, it was probably burnt in this way. Still, while there is some bad rosin on the market, when it’s done right it can be the best tasting concentrate around. The best rosin is made from cannabis flower with specially designed presses. These allow for high-pressure, low-temperature pressing that results in a flavorful and terpene-rich oil mirroring the flavor, color and effect profile of the flower it was pressed from.
For those interested in making rosin at home, put away the hair-straightener and consider getting a small countertop rosin press. Rosinbomb has a great plug-in press that is both elegantly designed and easy to use. With 3000–5500 pounds of pressure (depending on the unit) and 3×5 adjustable heated plates, you can produce a much higher quality rosin than anything made with a hair-straightener.
Those looking for rosin in the dispensary should look for brands that use high-pressure, low-temperature industrial presses. Fleurish Farms, for example, uses a press with 100,000 pounds of pressure and 12×12 evenly heated plates to press their flower into Pure Flower Oil™ rosin. While rosin can be pricey in small batches, pressing at this scale makes getting top quality rosin consistent and affordable. The increased pressure and even, low temperature gives their rosin artists the control to produce some of the most flavorful concentrates around, boasting the highest levels of natural terpene retention in last year’s Emerald Cup rosin category.
With so much solventless variety, it is easy for consumers to avoid solvent concentrates entirely, if desired. Whether you prefer kief, hash or rosin, with a talented concentrate artist and quality cannabis, each of these methods can produce incredible solventless concentrates.
Also published on Medium.