How Are Dabs Made?
How are dabs made?
There are 2 general categories of concentrates—those that were produced with a solvent (which either removes the trichomes by dissolving them or through extreme pressure) and those are were producing using solvent-less methods (which generally removes trichomes through a mechanical process).
This week we will be discussing the main types of solvent concentrates, BHO, CO2, and distillate. Next week we’ll discuss the types of solvent-less options, dry sift, bubble hash, and rosin.
Solvent-based concentrates, often known as oil, will always melt. They were produced with a solvent process which removes the plant matter by dissolving the trichome heads together. Post-processing also removes the waxes and lipids of the trichome head.
While the term BHO used to be correct when many extractors simply used canned lighter fluid (compressed butane)—with the popularity of closed-loop systems, many extractors now use a mixture of light hydrocarbons (pentane, butane, propane, etc.) to achieve their specific extraction goals (safety profile, terpene preservation, purging time, etc.).
Hydrocarbon extraction has accurate terpene preservation from the original plant matter, so with high quality starting material it can be a revolutionary way to sample the aromatic compounds that are unique to individual cannabis strains.
Cannabis oil can also be processed with CO2 gas, but many connoisseurs do not like the taste of CO2-produced oil. During processing, the terpenes are separated from the cannabinoids and must be recombined. This process has not yet been perfected and as a result, many CO2 extractions have a similar homogenized taste.
CO2 is favored by many high-volume companies for vape pen or edible production because it can be used to make large batches of oil at once. It is becoming outdated however as customers realize a preference for distilled extracts for their vape pens and edibles. Distilled oil, or distillate (aka “Clear”) is BHO or CO2 oil put through an additional refining process to remove additional impurities, activate the oil (turn it from THC-A to THC), and add terpenes if desired. (notice how the oil on the right is much lighter in color than that on the left?)
Cannabis oil can also be made with ethyl alcohol, but this type of oil is not generally used for dabbing. Often known as FECO or “Rick Simpson Oil” this oil is activated and ready for oral ingestion. Like BHO, it has excellent replication of what is present in the original plant material, but alcohol breaks the cell walls of the plant so the extract is much darker. To purge the alcohol, heat is also used, raising the temperature to 190 degrees—which changes the terpene content and also activates the oil (changing THC-A to THC).
So we find that each type of oil tends to have specific uses for which it is best suited. BHO is a good all-around concentrate for dabs. CO2 is a low-cost wholesale option. Distillate is the future for manufactured products.
Remember to check back next week for our discussion of solvent-less options, the least processed methods and an increasing popular option!