The basics on cannabis concentrates

What you need to know about shatter, wax, rigs, rosin and more

Cannabis concentrates come in different textures and potencies.

Cannabis concentrates come in different textures and potencies.

Photo by Ken Magri

Concentrates are really strong — like face-rubbing, shake-your-head strong.

Produced by N&R Publications, a division of News & Review

Recreational users who are new to dispensaries may be curious about the vast selection of cannabis concentrates and the apparatus that goes with them. For those who want to try it, here is a quick primer.

The first thing to know is that concentrates are really strong — like face-rubbing, shake-your-head strong. With potencies ranging from 60 percent to 98 percent, cannabis users typically switch to concentrates after building up a tolerance for flower. Concentrates also make a good choice for those who want to inhale less plant matter.

Terms like sauce, shatter, crystal, crumble and wax describe a concentrate's texture. A good sauce will handle like warm, caramelized sugar. Shatter, on the other hand, resembles broken glass, with sticky slivers flying everywhere. Crystals and crumbles almost pour out, while waxes require more troweling.

The terms nug-run, trim-run, and single-source describe the type of cannabis used. A nug-run comes from cannabis buds (or nugs), rather than a trim-run, which is made from clippings. Single-source means that strains weren't blended together.

Finally, the terms rosin and live-resin describe solvent-less extraction processes. Many concentrates use solvents, typically butane, which burns off at the end of the process. But it can leave a residue, which concerns some. Rosin eliminates that problem using a heat-press method without solvents. Live resin can be made as simply as placing freshly dried buds inside parchment paper, squishing them in a hot curling iron, and scraping off the resin that oozes out.

Prices for concentrates are based on strain, taste, potency and purity. A nice-tasting concentrate may not be the most potent, and the purist one may not be the most expensive. To decide which concentrate works best for your needs, lean on the knowledge of an experienced budtender.

Smoking devices called “dab rigs” work well, but aren't necessary. If the concentrate is sticky, it can be smeared into a glass pipe bowl. If it's crumbly, place it on top of a bud, or work some into a joint. When smoking concentrates for the first time, take one hit and wait. After 15 minutes, if you can remember how many hits you took, take another.