Choosing Cannabis Products

In Session: Deep Dive into Extracts

This popular and potent cannabis category is diverse, fast-growing… and often misunderstood. Get the lowdown on the differences between the wide range of extracts, and why you might prefer one over another.

In Session: Deep Dive into Extracts

What’s the difference between resin and rosin? Or shatter and badder? All cannabis extracts start the same way —by isolating the cannabinoids and terpenes — but the range of production methods is wide, resulting in a variety of unique extract products to suit different consumer preferences. All those different production methods leave room for experimentation and innovation, too, meaning this category is constantly growing and diversifying.

Extract by extract, we’ve got the details on what they are, how each one can be consumed and why you might choose one over another. Plus we spoke with Licensed Producers about what’s new, upcoming and innovative across the categories. Let’s dig in.

 

Kief and Sift

Kief and Sift

The basics

Also known as sift, kief is a powdery material made up of the crystal-like trichomes — tiny hair-like glands found on the cannabis plant’s leaves, stems and calyxes that produce and hold resin that contains cannabinoids — that are removed from the flower.

Kief is separated from dried cannabis plants using a mechanical process (such as brushing the flower over a screen or using a tumbling machine outfitted with trichome-sized screens), so no solvents are required. It contains an abundance of cannabinoids and terpenes. While it can be consumed on its own, kief is sometimes sprinkled on top of dried flower to increase its potency. Ready-to-go products that combine the two (no rolling or sprinkling needed) are one of the newest additions to this product category.

Kolab’s 232 Series Live Terpene Sticks are pre-rolls filled with kief that’s been combined with terp sauce (a liquid extract that’s especially rich in terpenes). “Our use of high-potency, terpene-rich, single-strain flower has resulted in products that are incredibly flavourful and pack a punch in terms of THC content. They are the truest expression of these select strains,” says Bob Chapman, chief science officer at Auxly, which produces Kolab. “The result is a fine, high-potency, kief-like material that bursts with the natural flavours of cannabis flower.”

Enjoyed by

Those who prefer an extract with a high concentration of cannabinoids and/or who want to augment a joint or vape load

Methods of consumption

Smoking, vaporizing

Shop Kief and Sift

 

Hash

Hash

The basics

The cannabis plant’s sticky trichomes are collected using the aforementioned mechanical processes, or via an ice water agitation process, and then most commonly pressed into a brick or ball called hash.

Ranging in hue from golden yellow to bright green and reddish brown to black, depending on how much plant material it contains, hash (also called hashish) is made without the use of solvents. The trichomes are collected from the dried flower through various processes (you can read all about them here) typically involving sifting or ice water. The resulting material is subjected to heat and pressure to rupture the trichomes, changing their consistency. The finished product is then pressed into a brick, shaped into a ball or sold in powdered form — this is hash.

You may have heard of “full melt” or “six-star” hash. These two terms describe the same thing — high-grade hash that, when heated, melts completely without leaving char residue behind.

Enjoyed by

Consumers who enjoy traditional consumption methods; those looking for a high concentration of cannabinoids

Methods of consumption

Smoking, vaporizing; full melt or six-star hash can be dabbed

Shop Hash

 

Shatter and Wax

Shatter and Wax

The basics

Named for its hard, glass-like consistency, making shatter involves using butane. Wax is shatter that’s been whipped.

The process for making shatter, a solid, translucent extract that ranges in colour from light gold to dark amber, involves using butane as a solvent to strip the cannabinoids from the plant. The use of butane means shatter is considered a butane hash oil, or BHO, extract. Dried flower is saturated with butane and the resulting mixture is exposed to low heat so that the butane evaporates, leaving behind a material filled with the desired cannabinoids and terpenes. That material is then left to solidify and dry.

“We feel strongly about using strain-specific whole buds in our products, not a mixed bag of trim containing random strains,” says Travis McIntyre, CEO of Stigma Grow, whose Dab Bods Shatter is specifically made from Euphoria Cookie, a hybrid strain, locally sourced in Ontario. “Capturing all of the pure essentials of the plant, we maintain some of the gorgeous terpene profiles this amazing strain has to offer.”

Wax is produced in much the same way, but instead of drying, the extract is whipped to incorporate air, giving it a creamier texture (the whipping may also evaporate any leftover traces of butane). Depending on the final texture, the resulting product may be called wax, budder or badder (sometimes called batter). Budder may have a more frosting-like texture, while badder’s consistency may be looser and more sauce-like. Wax typically has a thick, honey-like feel.

So why would you choose wax over badder? Or shatter over budder? For the most part, it comes down to personal preference of texture. Some consumers who want to dab these products may find that the pliable texture of wax and budder makes them easier to handle than shatter, which can be brittle. Some people believe that shatter is more potent than wax, but these products commonly have comparable THC levels.

Enjoyed by

Consumers looking for a potent product with concentrated cannabinoids

Methods of consumption

Smoking, vaporizing, dabbing

Shop Shatter and Wax

 

Resin

Resin

The basics

This golden-coloured liquid extract (which varies in consistency between a wax and a syrup) is made by processing freshly harvested or cured cannabis with a solvent.

There’s resin and there’s live resin. Resin is produced using cured cannabis. The “live” in live resin refers to the fact that freshly harvested cannabis is flash-frozen to lock in its terpenes and flavonoids — skipping the drying and curing processes that can sometimes alter the flavourful trichomes. (It’s important to note that other extracts, including rosin, can also be described as “live”.) The flower is then washed with a solvent like butane or propane (kept cold to maintain the flower’s terpene profile), often using hydrocarbon extraction equipment. The resulting extract is then exposed to heat to purge any trace of solvent.

This extract category is open for experimentation. Kolab, for instance, is launching the first strain-specific, live resin soft chew in Canada: the Kolab Project 132 Series Live Resin Black Cherry Punch. “When we tested these soft chews in the lab, we tried a formulation without adding colour or flavours to the emulsifying agent, as we typically do with soft chews,” says Chapman. “[It] surprised us and had the best flavour profile of all the other formulations we experimented with. So we’ve launched it as is — an authentic live resin soft chew that conveys the true-to-strain flavour and aroma of the Black Cherry Punch strain.”

Then there are “diamonds,” “sauce” and “caviar” — all by-products of live resin that consumers may choose for their unique textures, aromas and flavours. Diamonds are created when live resin is left to rest for several weeks, during which time the cannabinoids begin to separate from the terpenes. Cannabinoid crystals form at the bottom; these are diamonds. A syrupy liquid forms at the top; this is sauce, or terp sauce. Together — the diamonds in the sauce — are caviar. Like the Dab Bods Blueberry Mountain Rush Live Resin Caviar, a novel live resin product launching in early 2022.

“Once out of the extractor, the raw material is carefully handled for several weeks — sometimes months — to produce both diamonds and a terpene-rich sauce,” says McIntyre. “Our team has carefully crafted this product to maintain full terpene levels while balancing the diamonds-to-sauce ratio.”

Enjoyed by

Consumers looking for an extract with a high concentration of terpenes

Methods of consumption

Dabbing, vaporizing

Shop Resin

 

Rosin

Rosin

The basics

A cannabinoid- and terpene-rich oil, rosin is produced without solvents by pressing dried cannabis flower.

Rosin or live rosin, is a relatively new entry to the legal cannabis concentrates world. Much like hash or kief, it contains nothing but terpene- and cannabinoid-rich oil. Rosin can be made using dried flower, hash or kief as a starting material. That material is simply placed between two heated plates and pressed, producing a resinous sap. As a result of this simple production process, the taste and aroma of the final product will be a reflection of the input material.

“Live rosin is made without using any solvents, which can alter the input flowers’ taste and terpene content,” says Zach Blaber, production director at Mera, which produces Avana Live Rosin. “We extract live rosin using mechanical processes, like washing frozen fresh flower in ice water to remove the trichomes and squishing out oil from the trichomes on a high-pressure heated rosin press through mesh filter bags.”

Enjoyed by

Consumers who prefer a full spectrum concentrate that’s made without the use of solvents

Methods of consumption

 Smoking, dabbing, vaporizing

Shop Rosin

 

Distillates and Isolates

Distillates and Isolates

The basics

Distillates are an extremely concentrated form of cannabis oil that can contain a range of cannabinoids, while isolates consist of only CBD or THC.

As the name suggests, distillate is produced by distilling the cannabis plant down to its basic components: solvents or CO2 are used to extract the oily cannabinoids and terpenes. Isolates take this process one step further, singling out just the THC or CBD. Distillates are perhaps some of the most versatile cannabis extracts — as an oil, they can be added to a dab rig, consumed via vaporizer, or ingested orally (sublingually using a dropper-like dispenser or added to food or beverages). Isolates, which are typically in oil or powder form, may be taken sublingually or mixed into food.

While most ingestible extracts — a category we’ll dig into next — are made with distillate or isolate, they also include other ingredients and are formulated specifically for oral consumption, which is why they’re considered a distinct product (you’ll find some products in both the Oils and Isolates and Distillates sub-categories on OCS.ca).

Mera’s Ellevia RSO is a potent distillate product. It’s made using an ethanol extraction process and like all distillates, has been decarboxylated, meaning the THC has been activated so that it’s ready be ingested. “Ellevia RSO is full spectrum, containing cannabinoids and terpenes true to the flower it is extracted from,” says Blaber. “We fill our RSO into clear Klik applicators [with precise dose control], so it can be easily viewed and dispensed.”

Enjoyed by

Consumers who are looking for a versatile and refined cannabis extract

Methods of consumption

Dabbing, vaporizing, ingesting

Shop Isolates and Distillates

 

Ingestible Extracts

Ingestible Extracts

The basics

These consumable cannabis concentrates are made using a distillate or isolate, then combined with other ingredients, depending on the format.

Ingestible extracts are concentrates that are meant to be mixed into foods or drinks, swallowed or dissolved in the mouth. While they’re often sold in oil or capsule form, there’s a current trend toward dissolvable tablets, like SYNC Tabs.


Curious about ingestible oils?

Here’s a step-by-step look at how these versatile extracts are produced.


“The THC extract used to manufacture our tabs has already been decarboxylated — that is, converted to the activated form that is produced by smoking or vaping cannabis,” says Gillian Vandermeirsch, director of new product development at Emerald Health Therapeutics, which makes SYNC. “SYNC Tabs are designed to provide consumers with a quick, easy-to-use product that offers a controlled dosage each and every time.”

Edison Jolts Freshly Minted Sativa Lozenges are another recent entry into the category. “The most advanced part of the product is the patent-pending formulation itself,” says Borna Zlamalik, vice-president of innovation at Edison. “After many months of R&D, we landed on a unique combination of ingredients that, among other advantages, offer a lozenge-like taste and texture that is new to the ingestible extracts class. We’ve received feedback that the taste of an Edison Jolt is similar to that of a peppermint cough drop, which was exactly the consumer experience we were targeting.”

Enjoyed by

Consumers looking for a consistent,
convenient alternative to smoking cannabis

Methods of consumption

Ingestion (held under the tongue or in the cheek, swallowed or sprayed orally)

Shop Bottled Oils   Shop Oral Sprays   Shop Capsules


There’s much to explore in the world of extracts. Remember to always start low and go slow — especially with potent products like these.

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