A Beginner’s Guide to Concentrates
High-potency concentrates pull all the best parts from the plant, magnifying both its strength and its flavor beyond what traditional flower offers. Higher potency means you can use less product and get the effects you want faster with fewer hits. In fact, one study showed that more available cannabinoids are absorbed when vaporized via concentrate use vs smoking flower. Since it is a form of vaping, using concentrates can also be a safer option for your health, too, if you currently smoke flower.
Let’s take a deep dive into concentrates 101: including how concentrates are made, what forms they take, and how to use them.
What are Concentrates?
Concentrates are the extracted oil of flower, as well as other trichome-containing parts of the plant such as its leaves. They are typically made by passing a solvent through flower in a pressurized machine, but can also be made without solvents using water, ice, heat, and pressure. Extraction produces a thick, golden oil that’s full of the plant’s active chemical compounds, including cannabinoids and terpenes. The resulting extract is processed into one of several types of concentrates: including wax/badder, crumble, sap, budder, sugar, shatter, etc.
The exact chemical makeup of each particular concentrate varies due to every plant’s genotype and phenotype, the extraction method used, and additional processing or filtration that the oil might undergo post-extraction.
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Types of Concentrates
Although there are many different types of concentrates, they are similar in a practical sense. They share the same high potency range, usually between 60-90 percent cannabinoid concentration, and they are all generally consumed by flash vaporization using either an electric concentrate device or a vaporizer. The biggest variations in concentrates are in appearance and consistency.
These differences are created post-extraction when oil is processed. When left undisturbed after extraction, high-quality oil will harden into an extract like shatter. If it is rich in terpenes, it may form into a sap. If the molecules in the oil are disrupted after extraction, usually by whipping, stirring, or shaking the oil, they take on forms that are more opaque or cloudy.
Below are some of the more popular types of concentrates available in dispensaries:
One of the first forms of concentrate to appear in dispensaries, wax is a semisoft, sometimes sticky extract that has maintained its popularity thanks to its versatility of use.
Crumble is similar to wax, but drier. Crumble gets its name because it easily falls apart when handled. Crumble-style concentrates are sometimes called honeycomb.
Shatter is a hard, translucent concentrate, with characteristics similar to glass. In cooler temperatures, it shatters under pressure, which is where it gets its name.
Over time or when exposed to warm temperatures or high humidity, shatter loses its stability and begins to crystalize, turning into a concentrate called sugar.
This terpene-rich extract doesn’t harden like shatter but does retain oil’s translucent appearance. Its high terpene content makes sap a highly fragrant and flavorful extract type.
A solventless concentrate, rosin is created by using heat and pressure to squeeze the oil from cured or freshly frozen flower. Rosin can also be created by pressing ice hash or sifted kief. Though rosin is growing in popularity, it is important to note that it generally has a lower cannabinoid percentage and contains more leftover plant material like lipids and chlorophyll than solvent-based extracts. That being said, rosin connoisseurs are plentiful due to the extract’s effects being closest to the “full spectrum” flower consumption experience.
Choosing a Concentrate
Similar to shopping for flower, a well-trained eye and nose can help you determine a quality concentrate versus one you should avoid.
When shopping for a concentrate, pay careful attention to its color. It should be golden, amber, or off-white in color. As a general rule, the lighter its color, the more pure the concentrate. If a concentrate is too brown or green, it may contain residual contaminants or plant matter that can affect its flavor and even negatively impact your health.
A new technology, however, has made it challenging to identify a quality concentrate simply by color. Color Remediation Column or CRC extraction is a secondary process that uses a variety of filtration mediums to lighten extracts. This controversial technique was originally used to artificially lighten low-quality concentrates so that they would be more appealing to consumers. The CRC process can change an extract’s color from dark brown or green to golden or even white, making it harder to use color as an identifier for quality.
A well-made concentrate will retain the plant’s terpenes intact until you vaporize them when you take your hit. A high-quality concentrate will have a strong smell from the strain’s particular makeup of terpenes.
If a strain lacks this terpy smell, it means that the terpenes themselves were destroyed in either extraction or processing. Concentrates may also have a weak scent if it is made from poor source material, such as low-quality shake and trim. This doesn’t make the concentrate unsafe, but it will make your vapor less flavorful.
However, if a concentrate has a suspicious chemical smell, it could be caused by poorly processed and purged oil. If a residual solvent is present, it can be harmful to vape. As mentioned above, the CRC process is used to filter concentrates and lighten their color. It can also strip them of their terpenes, weakening its scent.
Some concentrate brands will add terpenes back into their extracts to replace the terpenes lost in extraction and processing. If a concentrate seems to have too sweet or fruity a scent, it may signal that terpenes were added after CRC or other processing.
As we saw above, concentrates come in a wide variety of types. This makes it hard to judge the quality of a concentrate just by its consistency. However, an extremely dark concentrate, or one that has an off-putting or chemical smell, should be avoided.
How to Use Concentrates
Concentrates need to be vaporized in order to release their cannabinoids and terpenes. The temperature at which you vape your concentrates greatly affects your experience. If your temperature is too low, it won’t vaporize correctly and will simply melt on your heat source. If the temperature is too high, you burn off the terpenes and lose much of the flavor. That’s why it is important to properly dial in your temperature when using concentrates. Let’s explore the pros and cons of the three most common methods for vaping concentrates.
A common setup for traditional consumption, often called a bubbler or recycler, are glass pieces similar to a bong. When consuming, a heat source is applied to a fixture called a nail, made of either quartz, titanium, ceramic, or glass. The heat comes via a hand-held blowtorch, similar to those used in cooking. The typical heat range achieved in this method is 500°– 800℉.
The concentrate is then placed onto the hot nail with a concentrate loading tool made of metal or glass. The heat from the nail turns the concentrate into vapor, which is then inhaled. As the vapor passes through the water, it is cooled to make it easier on the lungs.
This method comes with some drawbacks, though, especially for beginners. First is all of the tools you need to get started. There is also a steep learning curve to consuming in this manner. Getting the right temperature, preparing the correct amount of product, using the torch, and being able to handle the high cannabinoid levels are all challenging for first-timers.
Portable Electric Concentrate Devices
Portable electronic concentrate devices combine the convenience of vape pens with the water-cooling element of full-sized traditional glass piece. Electronic concentrate devices are more portable than a full-sized traditional piece and are intuitive to use, even for beginners.
Relying on battery power, electric concentrate devices remove the need for an open flame from a torch. Instead, you can easily dial in specific temperatures for your session digitally, giving you much more control over your experience.
AUXO offers a pair of innovative portable electric concentrate devices designed to take your experience to the next level: the Cenote and the Cira.
The Cenote is AUXO’s top-of-the-line concentrate vaporizer, featuring cutting-edge technology for an unrivaled electric concentrate consumption device. Its streamlined, lightweight design is easy to grasp during use and packs away quickly for more portability than a full-sized traditional piece.
The Cenote uses a unique disposable ceramic nail that evenly heats concentrates to your perfect temperature. When residue starts to build up on your nail, it’s simple to swap it out for a new one. This helps preserve every strain’s unique flavor profile and makes every hit as smooth and enjoyable as the first.
Knowing how important temperature is for an enjoyable experience, you can choose from one of three preset temperature settings or connect to the AUXO App for the ultimate in precision temperature adjustment. Choose freely between flavorful low-temp hits to strong high-temp ones. Switching temperatures on the Cenote is a breeze.
To make the most of your session, Cenote also has immersive, 360° lighting effects to illuminate the unit’s base, its crystal-clear borosilicate glass chamber, and the tasty vapor within. You can even select from a variety of dazzling color combinations on the app for exclusive color schemes.
The Cira provides superior vaping when compared to smaller coil-based vape pens. This starts with the Cira’s extensive heat range. Allowing temperatures ranging from 450-1000℉, the Cira is perfect whether you prefer flavorful low-temp hits or big, potent vapor clouds from higher temps. The ability to dial in your temperature at intervals of 10℉ means the versatile Cira can be set for all types of concentrates and user preferences. The Cira includes both titanium and quartz nails to channel this precise heat to your concentrate.
The Cira’s nail warms up in just 20 seconds for quick sessions right when you want them. Each session lasts 50 seconds. Need more time? Extend your sesh by 15 seconds for as many times as you want with the press of a button! The Cira’s lightweight and carefully designed comfort grip means you won’t get tired holding, using, or passing the Cira to your friends for sesh after sesh.
Power is provided by dual 2000mAh batteries for over 30 sessions per charge, depending on temperature and time extensions. The patent-pending AUXO Heating Wire Technology featured in the Cira provides even heating for full vaporization and even fuller clouds, so you can get the most out of your concentrates.
Learn more and shop for the Cira.
Ready to elevate your experience? Check out our blog for more how-to’s, and details about our vapes and portable electric concentrate devices.