What Are Concentrates and THC Oil and How Do you Smoke Them

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Cannabis concentrates and THC oil is products created with the use of solvents (such as Everclear alcohol) to separate or extract the cannabinoid compounds (CBD/THC etc) from the bud of the marijuana plant from other parts like the leaves, stems, etc. By separating these compounds from the bud or “nugget” of the marijuana plant they can then be dried and used to create a cannabis concentrate.

This concentrated compound can then be used in a large variety of different products. The appeal of reducing bud down to a concentrate is that it offers a faster, more potent high, and also lends itself to a wider range of consumption methods like adding to a joint for higher potency or even smoking it from a hookah with friends!

Cannabis nugs and marijuana concentrates (aka shatter) with smoke

Other ways to enjoy concentrate or oil are as simple as adding to a bowl, dabbing, or using a vaporizer. Vaping has quickly become a favorite as it offers the ability to be discreet while keeping transportation simple in pre-filled cartridges.

As there are many different textures your desired method to enjoy concentrate is a personal choice and often made during the discovery of trying the different options.  

What Do You Need to Make Cannabis Concentrates Using Alcohol Extraction?

Although the process may sound daunting it can be quite safe and simple if you follow some basic safety guidelines such as avoiding open flame sources and ensuring the ventilation in your work area is adequate. However, if after doing your research you still feel concerned about the safety of the process there is no doubt your local dispensary would surely appreciate your support by purchasing concentrate from them.

The list of items you need to produce cannabis concentrate is relatively short and should be easy to acquire:

  1. Cannabis Flower (nuggets) 
  2. 190-proof Everclear is what we recommend as it works as a great solvent to separate the THC/CBD from the marijuana (or any high proof Food grade alcohol) 
  3. Oven or heat-safe bowl – Pyrex bowls are our go-to for this
  4. Mesh or small metal strainer
  5. Heat source – NON OPEN FLAME – a heating pad or rice cooker are encouraged

Easy DIY Steps for Making Cannabis Concentrate with Everclear (High-Proof Alcohol)

  1. Break the buds into small pieces and avoid keeping stems or sticks (TIP do not use a grinder for this step as that will be too small) 
  2. Although not required it is recommended to have relatively dry bud when using the alcohol extraction process. You can remove some moisture by putting the nuggets in the oven at about 175-180 F for 20 minutes
  3. Once dry take the bud nuggets and put them into a glass jar. Then cover them with the Everclear 190-proof (95%) alcohol. You will want them completely covered
  4. Slowly stir the mix for roughly 10 minutes. Use some good elbow grease but you do not need to be aggressive
  5. Put the strainer over a clean glass dish and pour the Everclear/Cannabis mix through the strainer. The liquid should be clear and green (TIP do not dispose of the remaining nuggets as you can process them further in additional batches)
  6. Next heat will need to be introduced to the liquid to evaporate the alcohol and leave the cannabinoid concentrate. There are several ways to do this such as a boiling water bath or putting the mixture in a rice cooker on low heat. This part of the process will take several hours as you will want to leave the heat low enough that it does not break down the extract and deteriorate the molecules of the extract
  7. Once the evaporation process is complete you should be left with a sticky, gunky substance. It should be thick and almost entirely free of alcohol. (TIP to check for pureness you can do a “spark test” by putting a tiny amount on the tip of a needle or pin and if you light it and it doesn’t spark that indicates it is very pure)
  8. Now that the evaporation process is complete scrape the mixture from your bowl or dish you heated it in. We recommend putting the extract on wax paper (TIP freezing it first or even refrigerating it will make it easier to collect)

Now that your first, most pure batch is complete you can repeat this with the nuggets exactly as you just did.

Cannabis dried flower and medical marijuana pills with green leaves over wood background

Although each subsequent batch will yield a less potent product many find it worth repeating to get the most out of the bud being processed. 

How to Make QWISO Cannabis Concentrate (Quick Wash Isopropyl Alcohol Technique)

Another method that is faster and a little more crude for making cannabis concentrates using alcohol extraction is the QWISO or quick-wash isopropyl alcohol technique. This should be a little quicker, and if done correctly, should produce an amber concentrate (NOTE you’ll typically get a much smaller yield than the previous process but if done correctly should be roughly 80% or higher shatter).

For the QWISO cannabis extraction technique, you’ll need:

  1. Cannabis Flower (nuggets) 
  2. 190-proof Everclear is what we recommend as it works as a great solvent to separate the THC/CBD from the marijuana (or any high proof Food grade alcohol) 
  3. Several oven-safe bowls of different sizes – Pyrex bowls are our go-to for this
  4. Mesh or small metal strainer
  5. Coffee filters – ensure they are unbleached 
  6. Heat source – NON OPEN FLAME – a heating pad or rice cooker are encouraged

You will notice the steps are very similar to the previous extraction technique with Everclear, with several important differences:

  1. Avoid producing too fine a powder by breaking the bud nuggets apart by hand
  2. Once broken apart place the broken buds in an oven-safe dish (again we recommend Pyrex brand but any oven-safe dish will work) at about 180-degrees Fahrenheit for 20-35 minutes. This will work to evaporate most of the moisture out of the flower but will NOT decarboxylate the buds (which you want to avoid).
  3. Once you take the marijuana out of the oven, place the bud in a glass jar and seal it
  4. In a separate jar add the 90%+ isopropyl alcohol and seal the jar
  5. Place BOTH of the sealed jars in the freezer for roughly four hours
  6. Remove both jars from the freezer
  7. Next, pour the alcohol over the buds. Only pour enough alcohol over the buds to fully saturate them
  8. Stir the alcohol/cannabis mixture QUICKLY (rapidly) for no more than about two minutes. Stirring in a quick motion will extract the cannabinoid compounds (CBD/THC) from the bud. (The timing will vary depending on the amount of bud you’re using. Reduce to 20 seconds if you are using an eight or less of bud)
  9. After stirring, quickly pour the cannabis/alcohol mixture through your mesh wire strainer and into a clean jar. You should have a clean, light-colored liquid extract.
  10. Further filter this liquid by placing a coffee filter over another clean glass jar and then pour the extract slowly over the coffee filter 
  11. Next you will want to evaporate the alcohol by placing the jar with your cannabis/alcohol mixture into a warm water bath. If the water bath is too hot it will decarboxylate the THC and CBD. You can also let the mixture sit and evaporate on its own, but this will likely take 24+ hours.
  12. Once the alcohol is completely evaporated, scrape the concentrate onto a piece of clean wax paper. To test that all the alcohol has evaporated, scrape a small amount of concentrate onto the head of needle and hold it to a flame from a lighter.  If a spark is produced the concentrate has not dried enough and most likely there is alcohol solvent remaining. Allow it to sit and evaporate more.