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A Brief Look at the Variations of Marijuana Concentrates—Shatter, Wax, Live Resin, and All Other Dab-able Products

Blog By Nick Bollard ~ February 9, 2016

The use of marijuana concentrates is becoming much more popular among cannabis consumers. Just like there are connoisseurs of the cannabis flower, there are connoisseurs of concentrated cannabis, in all of its forms. There are many forms of hash nowadays, and they aren’t smoked with a safety pin and a cocktail glass like back in the Rock ‘n’ Roll days. Today, concentrate users consume their products with a rig, which is essentially just a bong for hash. The different forms have general names based off of their consistency or method of extraction. What sets these forms apart from one another is the extraction method used to create that specific product. In short, a dab is an instant hit of hash. More specifically, it is a hit of hash inhaled through a rig. The heat source is applied to the nail and then the hash is applied to the nail once it is hot, with a dab tool, more commonly called a dabber.

Most dabbers are made of ornamental glass, titanium, or quartz. Nails are made of the same materials. It is important to match the material of your nail and your dab tool, to avoid one material breaking another and in consideration of different temperature thresholds. Some nails are electric and can be set on a specific temperature. Low temperatures vaporize the concentrate, heating the cannabinoid and terpenes to favorable levels for aroma and flavor. People with old fashioned, non-electric nails usually heat them up with a kitchen torch and then wait for a moment to cool the nail, before dabbing. Some connoisseurs like the ritual of preparing their nail with a torch while others feel wary about using torches when first introduced to the practice. But why is it called dab? How did this word become the common term amongst marijuana concentrate users? A look at the definition will provide a little insight.

As a verb, the word “dab” can mean to pat or tap gently. This use of the word is exactly what the act of dabbing looks like—one quickly and softly touches the dab tool on to the nail. As soon as they do this, the hash melts and is inhaled. The use of “dab” as a noun is also intended in the new application:  “A flattish mass of some soft or moist substance dabbed or dropped on anything” (Oxford English Dictionary, n.3a). To summarize, those of us that are part of the cannabis culture, we use the word as the term for the act of consuming hash (with a rig, nail, and dabber) but also for the individual hit itself. Marijuana concentrates are so potent that only a small amount, the size of half a grain of rice or cupcake sprinkle, is used for one inhale. It is merely just a dab. So, a dab is both the tiny speck of hash, but also the process of smoking or vaporizing in this way, carefully touching the dab tool with the dab of hash on it to the hot nail for a strong, flavorful hit—that is dabbing.

Various Forms

Although pressed hash has been made by humans for thousands of years, new variations of hash are invented by extract artists, thought of in the cannabis industry as a skilled trades person or artisan. An extract artist is often an experienced hash producer, sometimes with decades of practice, and many times is a grower as well. Extract artists have developed several new forms of concentrates over the last few years by modeling the extraction of cannabis oils, waxes, and fats after the perfume industry, which also uses botanical extractions to make their product. This kind of extraction process is done with equipment that blasts or pushes a solvent, such as carbon dioxide, butane, propane, or ethanol, through the buds and trim. Newer processes use a combination of butane and propane. CO2 hash oil does not have any harmful residual solvents and is considered amongst the cleanest forms of concentrated marijuana. There are other methods that produce forms without any residual solvents as well, like bubble hash. One of the newest forms, rosin, does not use a solvent in the extraction process at all.

Bubble hash

Made with ice and water. The raw materials, buds and trim, are put into an ice bath. As the trichomes are cooled from the ice, they become brittle and easily break off of the flowers and leaves, with a little agitation, and then the trichomes are collected with sieves. The sizes of the sieves are measured in microns—one thousandth of a millimeter—the optimal size for full melt hash ranging from 70 to 90 microns.

Wax

Refers to the softer, opaque oils that lose their transparency through agitation and heat and create a soft, waxy texture.

Butter

Often spelled budder, is similar to wax and is made by whipping the hash to create a more pliable texture.

Hash Oil

CO2 and Butane oil is usually the consistency of honey and is produced with machines that blast CO2 or butane through buds and trim. CO2 oil is, traditionally, the preferred and cleaner extraction; however, CO2 oil is not always thick enough to dab. Ask your bud tender about batches of CO2 that are dab-able.

Shatter

A refined version of butane hash oil. The oils, waxes, and fats are extracted through a pressure vacuum to create a semi-transparent solid that shatters like glass.

Live Resin

Entire cannabis plants are harvested and cryogenically frozen then a solvent is pushed through the plant material at sub zero to prevent breakdown of terpenes and cannbinoids, producing hash like butter or wax. Live resin is known as the form with the most terpenes present.

Rosin

Sap or shatter consistency, made by using pressure and heat with cured buds or bubble hash to extract the cannabinoids and essential oils. Rosin became popular as an extract that is safe to make at home with a hair straightener and wax paper, but is now produced on a commercial level with T-shirt presses.

Distillate

CO2 oil refined via distillation process with only cannabinoids extracted, no oils or waxes, the consistency of honey.

 

Schools of Thought

In the same way that some caffeine users drink coffee to enjoy the flavor and ritual, some take a shot of espresso on the go, and others seek out the strongest energy drink, so do concentrate users approach hash products. A similar analogy could be made with beer, wine, and hard liquor. The point though, is to bring attention to the different sub groups within marijuana concentrate consumers.

Medical Patients

Medical patients use concentrates because it is the fastest, most efficient way of getting healing cannabinoids into their system. Consumers that use cannabis as a medicine, to treat a health problem, usually want and need the most cannabinoids possible. Patients often look for Indica or Sativa specific concentrates as well as products with high CBD percentages.

Concentrate Connoisseurs

Concentrate Connoisseurs are refined vapists. They enjoy the flavor and ritual of dabbing concentrates. Connoisseurs are interested in the terpene & cannabinoid profile, the color quality of the product, and always know that the parts per million of the residual solvent in their hash is negligible and not harmful. These are top-shelf pot nerds.

Recreational Concentrate Users

Recreational concentrate users are generally looking for the next step beyond flower and want a little more THC in their diet.

Safety Tips & General Rules

  • For beginners, start with one small dab and wait an hour or ninety minutes, to see how it affects you, before taking more dabs — low amounts and a slow pace are the rule.
  • Break in brand new nails before inhaling a dab off of one:
    • Get the nail red hot and let it cool down for 30 seconds, then put a regular sized dab onto the nail and swirl the hash with your dabber. This process will fill any pores in the surface of your nail and burn off any unwanted residue, properly breaking it in.
  • Understand that using concentrates will increase your tolerance.
  • Inhale slowly, like you’re drinking from a straw. This will make it easier on your throat and help you cough less.
  • Hold your concentrate up to a light source to make sure that there aren’t any splotches or dark spots. These spots are residual solvents and signify that the product is not high quality.
  • Never take a dab when the nail is red hot!
  • In general, cannabinoids and terpenes vaporize at temperatures in between 250°F and 450°F. Many concentrate users dab at higher temperatures than that, which means the concentrate is burning, but it is a common practice for those who want a quick, instant hit. The most flavorful hit is a low temperature dab.
    • Low, 400°F – 500°F (45 seconds after nail is red hot)
    • Medium, 500°F – 650°F (30 seconds after nail is red hot)
    • High, 650°F – 850°F (15 seconds after nail is red hot)

 

An unexpected yet great aspect about marijuana concentrates is that, in order to fully comprehend what is happening with dabs—everything from the biology of the plant, the extraction, and finally the consumption—one must have a fairly strong understanding of science. And to understand something about this beautiful world, even a little bit, is a gift. Perhaps Einstein said it best, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”

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