Six Ways To Make Cannabis Extracts & Concentrates

by Staff

Cannabis extraction methods have exploded in popularity and diversity as legalization spreads. Concentrating the active compounds in cannabis like THC, CBD, and terpenes through extraction allows for incredibly potent products with wide-ranging effects and applications. 

Notably, extracts magnify and isolate the most desirable components of the cannabis plant. This lets you customize your cannabis experience with products like shatter, wax, hash, kief, oils, tinctures, and more. 

Here are six ways to extract cannabis at home to produce high-quality concentrates.

1. Ice Water Extraction 

Ice water extraction uses cold temperatures to make the resin glands brittle and detach from the cannabis plant material. This allows the trichome heads to be filtered and separated into a high-quality weed concentrate.

The cannabis buds are agitated in cold water and mesh filter bags of varying micron sizes. This allows the trichome heads to be removed. The bags are drained over a collection container to gather the separated trichome heads. Further processing, like air drying and pressing, filters out additional trichome resin.

By avoiding any solvents, ice water extraction preserves the terpenes and aromas of the cannabis plant. This results in a flavorful, aromatic THC concentrate. While simple equipment is needed, the process requires precision and can be time-consuming to get ideal separation.

2. Rosin Pressing

Rosin pressing uses heat and pressure to extract resinous sap from cannabis. It is done with a hydraulic press using heated plates at high temperatures. The cannabis buds are pressed between parchment paper for a short time.

Also, rosin can be extracted from refined cannabis products like kief using mesh bags. Lower heat and gradual pressure are used to avoid issues. The rosin cools into an oil ready for consumption.

A key benefit of rosin pressing is that it retains terpenes because it uses no solvents. However, yields are typically lower than some other methods. Proper curing can help increase yields.

So, compared to many solvent-based extractions, rosin pressing offers a more straightforward and safer method of concentrating cannabis by utilizing heat and pressure alone. It allows for small-batch extraction with relatively accessible equipment.

3. CO2 Extraction  

Notably, CO2 extraction uses carbon dioxide under controlled temperature and pressure to extract compounds from cannabis selectively. It requires a closed-loop extraction machine, which is costly. 

The cannabis material is placed in the extractor chamber, and liquid CO2 is pumped in under high pressure. The CO2 acts as an adjustable solvent that can target specific compounds by modifying the temperature and pressure settings.

After extraction, the CO2 evaporates, leaving behind a concentrated cannabis oil rich in tetrahydrocannabinol. Additional steps can further refine and isolate the oil. 

4. Ethanol Extraction  

Additionally, ethanol extraction utilizes highly concentrated alcohol to extract the oils from cannabis. It makes potent tinctures or Rick Simpson Oil (RSO).

The process starts by decarboxylating dried cannabis flower through heating to activate it. The activated cannabis is then combined with food-grade ethanol at a 1:1 ratio in Mason jars and shaken or agitated for 2-6 weeks to extract the compounds fully.

A circulating water bath can be used for 1-2 hours instead of weeks of shaking to speed up extraction. The liquid is filtered through a cheesecloth to remove plant material. The resulting golden ethanol tincture is kept in an airtight, light-protected container.

Ethanol captures some impurities like chlorophyll along with the cannabinoids. Additional winterization or charcoal filtering helps refine the oil into a full-spectrum product. The ethanol extracts can be taken sublingually, added to foods and drinks, or used topically.

While flammable precautions are required, ethanol extraction is an accessible method using simple kitchen supplies. It isolates a wide array of therapeutic cannabis components.

5. Dry Sift Extraction for Kief

Dry sift extraction utilizes stacks of mesh screens to separate trichome heads from cannabis flowers mechanically. The dried buds are broken up, placed in the stacked screens, and then agitated to filter out the trichomes.

Finer mesh screens isolate higher quality trichome resin that can be pressed into hash. Coarser screens produce higher yields of less pure kief to infuse into cannabis products.

The stacks are gently agitated over a collecting surface to filter the trichomes through the screens. Care is taken when handling the screens to avoid losing trichomes. The filtered trichome resin left in each screen is then gathered.

As a simple, fast, and low-cost extraction method, dry sifting preserves the terpenes and aromas of cannabis flower. However, yields tend to be lower than some other extraction techniques. Using adequately dried and cured starting material is essential.

6. Hydrocarbon Extraction

Furthermore, hydrocarbon extraction utilizes butane, propane, or hexane to dissolve trichomes from cannabis plant material, producing concentrates like shatter, budder, crumble, and waxes.

The process involves passing gaseous butane through dried cannabis flowers in a glass column and catching the dripping solvent oil solution in a collection dish.

The butane is carefully purged by heating the oil in a vacuum oven at low temperatures as the butane evaporates away. The oil changes in texture and clarity as all solvent is removed.

Strict safety precautions are essential as hydrocarbons are highly flammable. The extraction must be done outdoors, away from any ignition sources. While very efficient, hydrocarbons can be risky at home without commercial-grade equipment.

Final Thoughts

With an array of extraction options now available, cannabis users can select the method best aligned with their health, experience, and desired outcome. From user-friendly kits to advanced professional labs, there’s an extraction process to meet any need and preference when making cannabis concentrates at home.

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The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.

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