Just a Dab Will Do: Cannabis Concentrates

Now that cannabis use has spread far and wide across Michigan, it’s time to take things to the next level. We’re talking about concentrates.

Before the industry became so professionalized, “dabs” were the main word for concentrates, a clue that you just need a little bit to get the job done. They also gained a reputation for being off-limits to all but the smoking professionals, which has certainly shifted as the average person’s knowledge and tolerance goes up. 

So, let’s take a look at what cannabis concentrates are, how to tell them apart, and how to smoke them.

What Are They?

As the name implies, concentrates are cannabis extracts with extremely high amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes, often reaching THC levels of 60-90%. 

There are two umbrellas of extraction to know about, and while we won’t get into the debate of which is technically “better,” it’s good to know the basics of how they work. 

There’s solvent-based extraction, which uses solvents such as ethanol, CO2 and butane to strip the plant material of trichomes, and then the solvents are burned off with heat. To avoid the small chance any trace of solvents remains, some consumers prefer to go with solventless extraction, which uses various methods like heat and pressure to squeeze out what’s known as rosin, or ice water and mesh to filter out trichomes (known as ice water hash, just FYI).

That said, most companies don’t bother to put their extraction method on the box, so if you really care, you’ll need to keep an eye out for products that proudly declare “solventless.” 

Live or Cured

One thing you will likely see marked on packaging is whether the concentrate is “live” or “cured.” This is actually pretty simple: The cannabis flower you smoke is typically cured, meaning dried out, so it’s not too damp to smoke. However, some terpenes are lost in the process, which makes concentrates made from this flower slightly less flavorful and cheaper.

Live concentrates, however, are made with cannabis that’s been frozen as soon as it’s harvested. Whether it’s in your dabs or your vape pen, “live” means that you’ll get a lot more of that natural cannabis flavor and aroma, not to mention more terpenes.

How Do I Dab?

If you’ve ever seen a “dab rig,” they tend to look like a mad scientist’s bong, which can be a little intimidating, but they’re easy to get the hang of. The dab equivalent of a bowl is the “nail,” which doesn’t really look like the kind of nail you build furniture with, but instead is simply the place you put your concentrate. In fact, it could be made of glass or quartz, not just metal.

You heat up the nail with a butane torch (a regular lighter will not do) until it’s extremely hot, then put just a dab of your concentrate in there, and it quickly vaporizes, allowing you to smoke it through the mouthpiece. Chances are, you’re going to get a big, thick cloud of vapor, and a nice, long high to go with it.

There are simpler ways to smoke, too. You can get a dab pen, specifically made for concentrates. These arguably give a bit less control and produce less flavor, but they’re portable and super easy to use. Or you can use a nectar collector, like I do. It’s basically a straw with a metal tip, and you simply heat the tip with a butane torch and touch it lightly to the concentrate. Easy!

What Kind to Get?

There are all kinds of different cannabis concentrates out there, and many of them are simply a matter of personal preference on texture. But with trial and error, you might find that a certain style of concentrate works best for your rig.

Badder/Batter/Budder: You won’t believe it’s not butter! This concentrate is a bit creamy and works great for adding to the middle of joints and blunts.

Crumble: Exactly as you’d expect, this is less sticky/gooey and more crumbly, almost like sand at the beach.

Shatter: A smooth but brittle product that snaps easily and looks like shards of caramel or dried honey. 

Wax: The most basic, gooey, sticky texture.

Rosin: Tasty, terpy, gooey, and always made from a solvent-less extract. 

Sauce: Tends to be lower in THC, but very high in terpenes. Great for flavor! 

Where to Find Them?

Just go to any one of your favorite local cannabis producers or dispensaries and they’re sure to have plenty of concentrates for you to choose from, and can even help guide you far beyond what we’ve done here. Smoke up, but don’t forget: Just a dab will do!