If you’re ready to unlock the mysterious world of cannabis concentrates, stick with our expert guide.
If you’re stepping into the world of “dabbing” cannabis concentrates for the first time, it’s natural to wonder which ones to buy and what makes them all different. More specifically, you’re probably wondering what defines good quality dabs and how to know which concentrates are worth your hard-earned money.
We’re here to help you navigate those waters.
There’s an impressive spectrum of different types of concentrates available to purchase and dab. The quality is often decided by some combination of purity, potency, flavor, and the overall experience — in time, you’ll be able to recognize these qualities to determine precisely what you’re looking for.
But first, let’s talk about what cannabis concentrates are in the first place.
What are cannabis concentrates?
When you look closely at a cannabis plant, you’ll see a ton of small, shiny crystals. These are called trichomes, and they house all of the cannabis compounds that provide the range of feelings we experience after consuming cannabis. Cannabis compounds include but are not limited to cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN, etc.), terpenes, and flavonoids. To develop readily consumable cannabis concentrates, trichomes are extracted from the plant and processed into various types of oils and hash.
(When you think of the word “hash,” you may picture a bricked-up brown solid that can be chunked off into smaller pieces; however, over time, hash has become a more general term for the various oils that we like to dab.)
Dabbing is the act of using either a dab rig and torch or an electronic dab rig to vaporize cannabis concentrates. It is viewed as one of the best ways to consume cannabis since it (1) doesn’t involve the combustion of plant matter and (2) contains high concentrations of the cannabis compounds that allow consumers to experience all of the nuances of different cannabis strains more directly.
Popular types of dabs include wax, shatter, budder, live resin, and live rosin. The difference in quality between each often boils down to the extraction methods used to create them, as well as how those methods affect the end user’s experience.
The best qualities to look for in dabs
When you’re shopping for hash to dab, pricing should not be the most important determining factor behind your purchase, as this will often lead you to some pretty low-quality products (barring the discovery of a diamond in the rough)
Instead, focus on the extraction method, the quality of oil that comes from it, and the product’s flavor, potency, and overall high. High-quality hash oil is worth the price of admission.
Solvent-based concentrates vs. solventless concentrates
Cannabis plants go through an extraction process that removes the trichomes from the plant, then processes them into oils. Solvent-based concentrates are concentrates that use a solvent, such as butane, carbon dioxide, or propane, to carry out the trichome separation. These solvents are then removed throughout the extraction process, ultimately resulting in a safe dabbable product. Solvent-based concentrates include live resin, shatter, wax, and badder.
Solventless concentrates are concentrates that do not use chemicals to create hash oil. Instead, water, heat, and pressure are used to separate the trichome heads that are eventually turned into dabs. The belief is that, without essentially having to add and subtract chemicals from the trichomes to make hash, solventless concentrates produce the closest cannabinoid and terpene profiles to the original flower. It allows the end consumer to trust that whatever strain they’ve enjoyed as flower, they will enjoy just as much as dabs. Solventless concentrates include live rosin, bubble hash, and ice water hash.
The discussion around purity in cannabis concentrates is ongoing, and there’s no universal consensus in the solvent-based vs solventless debate. That means that the decision as to which is best is ultimately up to you; however, it is worth knowing that most cannabis concentrate connoisseurs and dab enthusiasts lean towards solventless products exclusively.
That said, extracts made through solvent-based methods can still be of a high quality and utterly delicious as long as you have the assurance that the product is contaminant-free and promotes a clean, flavorful, dabbing experience.
Potency, Flavor, Effects
Beyond the solvent-based vs solventless conversation debate, the qualities that you really want to pay attention to regarding dabs are the potency, flavor, and effects.
Understanding potency is simple. It refers to how high you get.
This is all dictated by the ratio of THC in a product compared to other cannabinoids. THC, a psychoactive molecule, is the one that gets you high. Potency is not the dictator of quality in a product, however; there are 99% THC distillate products out there that will get you blazed to the moon and back, but have absolutely no flavor and potential weird experiences on the backend. So, if you’re buying hash, do not ever let THC percentage be your end-all-be-all free of any context — especially if you’re in emerging cannabis markets that will gladly profit off of outdated sales tactics and a lack of consumer education.
Instead, focus on products that have a great ratio of both cannabinoids and flavorful terpenes. The synergy between the two is the true driver of how the product will ultimately make you feel.
Terpenes are the oils that give plants their smell and taste. When you smoke OG Kush and taste gassy and citrus flavors, that’s due to the combination of terpenes in the flower. The same goes for hash, so when you’re ready to buy a product for dabs, it is imperative that you cop something with a high concentration of terpenes.
We’re using the word “effects” to refer to how you define your dab experience in terms of feeling. Does the product deliver a specific type of high? Does it stimulate a distinct sort of mood? Does the experience make you feel a long-lasting sense of comfort and certainty that what you bought was the exact therapeutic substance you need? These experiences can’t be truly quantified, but are informed by combination of compounds like THC and terpenes; this is why it’s important to buy products that contain a healthy balance of both.
Cannabis is a full-profile plant with a full-profile experience. That’s what ought to be shaping your goals above all else when purchasing dabs.