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When California legalized recreational cannabis, enthusiasts in the state suddenly found themselves able to access a wide variety of cannabis products. Introducing cannabis concentrates, which generally sell well and are a favorite of many customers.

Customers who choose cannabis concentrates over the more traditional flower products do so for many reasons. Cannabis concentrates:
Produce the same effects with less product

  • Have low or no odor
  • Do not necessarily require smoking
  • Can be ingested more quickly
  • Can be ingested more discreetly
  • Have been filtered and refined
  • Can be precisely dosed

Many products fall under the “cannabis concentrates” umbrella term. Some cannabis concentrates are taken by mouth or sublingually, such as tinctures, ingestible oils, capsules, and food and drink products made with tinctures or oils. Other concentrates are smoked, such as shatter, wax, and hash. Vape oils are another popular form of cannabis concentrate, and they are inhaled using a vaporizer or vape pen.

Consumers often want to know how their cannabis concentrates were extracted from the cannabis flower, and most producers readily supply this information.

Hydrocarbon Extraction

In this extraction process, a hydrocarbon solvent such as butane, propane, or a blend of the two is applied to the cannabis flower. A hydrocarbon extraction can be done without high heat, which allows many terpenes to be extracted from the plant.

Hydrocarbon extraction is safe when conducted by professionals, but has gained a bad reputation due to people attempting to try it at home. Although butane and propane are easy to obtain, they are also highly flammable. People should not attempt hydrocarbon extraction at home because of the risk of explosion or fire.

Ethanol Extraction

Ethanol is one of the simplest and lowest-cost forms of extraction. In ethanol extraction, grain alcohol is used as a solvent. When applied to the cannabis flower, ethanol extracts cannabinoids and terpenes. Then, the ethanol must be evaporated from the product. Sometimes additionally filtering is required.

A variety of ethanol extraction methods exist, and different methods require different temperature levels. Some ethanol extractions result in a “full-spectrum” cannabis product that contains all of the terpenes and other compounds found in the raw plant. Some ethanol extraction processes also extract chlorophyll, which can lead to a darker, grassy-smelling product.

CO2 Extraction

raw cannabis

There are two common carbon dioxide, or CO2, extraction methods: subcritical and supercritical. Both methods involve applying pressurized CO2 to the cannabis flower as a solvent. With the supercritical method, CO2 is brought to a higher temperature, which forces the chemical into a state between a liquid and a gas. With the subcritical method, the temperature is not as high and the CO2 is in a liquid state.

CO2 extraction is considered more sustainable than other methods because the CO2 can be recaptured and recycled. CO2 extraction systems are more expensive, however, so they’re generally only used by larger producers.

Solventless Extraction

Solventless extraction is one of the oldest extraction methods in existence and has been used to produce hashish for years. This method involves using physical force and temperature rather than a solvent to extract cannabis concentrates. As a result, it is a time-consuming and labor-intensive method.

In recent years, technology advancements have made solventless extraction more feasible on a large scale. Solventless extraction is known for being a “clean” method since it doesn’t involve any chemical agents and the method produces a full-spectrum product.


Cannabis consumers enjoy cannabis concentrates. As curious, knowledgeable consumers, they often want to know more about the extraction processes used to create products they might buy. The more knowledge dispensaries can share about extraction methods, the better for customers, producers, and store owners.