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Cannabis extracts in detail

Cannabis concentrates – and cannabis extracts – come in a range of product types, forms, and consistencies. The source material from which the final extract is derived as well as how the concentrate was extracted determines the purity and chemical composition. This post is a summary of part three of the four part series from Leafly. The summary of part one and two can be found here. We love using Leafly for strain related info and more!

The different types of concentrates that are popularly vaporized or dabbed by consumers looking for a potent and refined cannabis product will be discussed. We’ll also explain how they’re made through a variety of extraction processes.

How cannabis extracts are made

Solventless and Solvent-based extraction are the two main methods for cannabis extraction.


Commonly used by commercial extractors looking to create large volumes of extract. They use chemical solvents like ethanol, butane, propane, carbon dioxide, and others to strip essential oils (i.e., cannabinoids and terpenes) from plant material. Purging is the process of removing solvents from an extract. Using a still is a good way to remove solvents from your products.

Food grade ethanol is a solvent that is safe for consumption and can be used to make a tincture and negate the process of purging altogether. Variations in solvent-based extracts can be attributed to the solvent used as well as the purging methods used in the extraction.

Cannabis extracts with food grade ethanol

Hydrocarbon Extracts (or BHO)

Hydrocarbon extracts are often simply referred to as BHO, short for butane hash oil. These concentrates are created using pressurized chemical solvents like butane and propane to strip the essential oils of cannabis from plant matter within a closed-loop system. Hydrocarbon extracts are usually vaporized through a process known as dabbing.

CO2 Oil

CO2 extracts use carbon dioxide under extreme temperature and pressure to strip essential cannabis oils from plant material. A common solvent used for pharmaceutical extraction and other processes like decaffeinating coffee is carbon dioxide. CO2 extracts are commonly packaged as vape cartridges or as applicators used to refill cartridges. A process known as distillation is often used to further refine CO2 extracts.


A raw or crude extract may still contain many terpenes, fats, and lipids. However, it can be further refined to contain only essential compounds like THC and CBD in a process called distillation. Good, clean distillate usually tests up to 90% or higher in total cannabinoids.


Solventless extraction uses mechanical techniques that utilize pressure, temperature, and filtration to concentrate the essential compounds from the plant material. The tools used to create solventless extracts, like hash and rosin, are relatively accessible and safe to use at home.

Dry Sift

A collection of refined resin glands that have been mechanically separated from the cannabis flower using a series of fine mesh screens is known as dry sift or dry sieve. It’s essentially a refined form of kief.

Ice Water Hash (Bubble Hash)

Created by agitating cannabis buds in ice water, then filtered through fine screen bags. The highest quality ice hash is often called full melt or ice wax. Full melt ice hash can be dabbed. Lower quality grades are commonly pressed into rosin, smoked like a traditional hash, or reserved for infusions.


Extracted using pressure and gentle heat to squeeze the resinous sap from cannabis flowers, Rosin is a dabbable solventless concentrate. Rosin is an accessible form of extraction that can be done at home.