Cannabis Extraction Methods for Dabbing Concentrates

cannabis extraction methods

Is Dabbing The Next Big Thing?

When concentrates first came on the scene, many people found them to be off-putting. Dab rigs have to be lit with blow torches, which reminds people of harder drugs. Now, people can also discreetly dab with e-pens and portable vapes.

The potency of concentrates has also been a concern for others. While waxes and oils do have higher percentages of cannabinoids and terpenes, this also means that less plant matter is smoked. Since concentrates are so strong, you do not need to smoke as much, which is easier on your lungs.

The most important aspect of dabbing concentrates is understanding the extraction process. Butane hash oil is quite popular, which uses butane to extract the cannabinoids from the plant. While this method is supposed to safely remove all of the butane, some extract makers may cut corners to save money. Fortunately, there are many different cannabis oil extraction processes available today that are guaranteed to be safe.

If you’re confused about concntrates, this article should clear things up! If you want to see the entire array of cannabis concentrates in visual form, check out WoahStork’s Visual Guide To Cannabis.

visual guide to cannabis

We summarize many different extraction methods and describe various pros and cons. Read below to see which cannabis extraction method is best for you!

Butane Hash Oil (BHO)

BHO, shatter, wax, honey oil, budder, or whatever you want to call it has certainly gotten popular in recent years. With THC concentrations around 80-90%, rather than flower’s typical 20%, it is no wonder why concentrates contribute to 40% of California dispensary sales.

With such a high demand for BHO extracts and little to no regulation, it is no surprise that some of the extracts that make it to the market were not extracted perfectly. So how does the BHO extraction process work?

For a simplistic description, the process starts by taking a bunch of weed and putting it in a tube or container. Butane is then poured through this tube slowly, acting as a solvent to absorb the cannabinoids as the alcohol passes through the flower.

After the cannabinoid-rich butane is filtered through the tube, the final step is to evaporate all of the butane from this extract, leaving behind the beloved and waxy BHO. This process is also known as purging.

butane hash oil

But how dangerous are these extracts? The first thing to consider is the extraction process itself. While there is no scientific study to prove this, almost everyone agrees that BHO which is not properly purged is unhealthy, due to trace amounts of butane left over. The excess in butane also negatively affects the taste of the concentrates.

Fortunately, labs can test the purity of BHO concentrates. Some reputable extract manufacturers will get their oils and waxes tested to prove that their methods have zero butane left behind. This is the only way to be 100% sure that your BHO is safe. Many extracts do not get tested, but expect the industry to get more regulated in the future years to come.

Some will claim that the ultra-high concentration of THC in BHO and other concentrates is dangerous. Ultimately, cannabis is neither good or bad. It depends on the desires and intentions of the users. Certainly concentrates introduce new risks, but with these risks also comes potential medical benefits. Many users looking for serious pain relief will prefer the strength provided by dabbing. Nobody is saying that extracts are the right choice for everyone, but some may prefer their effects.

While properly purged BHO is safe to consume, the risks associated with extracting BHO are much higher. Johnny Green explains that it is important for amateurs to not try making BHO at home, as the extraction process is complicated and dangerous. He even shows a video of what can go wrong.

While BHO is popular for its potency, many are concerned that residual butane is left behind in many concentrates.

Even the professionals have been known to mess up the process, as a butane explosion in Santa Fe burned two workers recently.

Fortunately, there are safer extraction methods that do not involve butane. Other alcohols such as ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and propane could be used, but these most likely have the same associated risks.

Many different BHO methods may get varying levels of terpenes. Live resin freezes the whole plant before extraction, which keeps the terpenes intact.

Typical BHO processes use conventional flower which has been dried and cured. As the plant is cured, more of the monoterpenes are evaporated, while more sesquiterpenes are developed. Overall, more terpenes are lost during the curing process. Freezing the plant gives live resin a fresh flower taste and smell.

CO2 Oil and Cannabis Extraction

CO2 can be used to extract the cannabinoids from marijuana instead of butane. This method is much safer, as CO2 extraction has already been used in the food, dry cleaning, and herbal supplement industries. CO2 is also used to carbonate sodas and soft drinks, proving that the method is safe and widely accepted.

CO2 extracts are also solvent based, as the CO2 is used to absorb the cannabinoids from the plant. The process works by putting CO2 with marijuana in a highly pressurized container. At high pressures, the CO2 becomes a liquid, which easily flows through the flower, similar to how butane would.

Since CO2 is non-explosive and is actually used in fire extinguishers, CO2 extraction methods are safer for the workers as well. Butane is a better solvent than CO2, which means that CO2 extraction takes longer and requires higher pressures.

While this would make it seem like CO2 extraction is more expensive, a scientific article written in 1982 argues that CO2 extraction is a safe and cheap alternative to hexane or other alcohols. Talk about a scientific paper that was ahead of its time!

Advocates of CO2 extraction say that butane can also pull out unwanted chlorophyll from the cannabis plant. CO2 extraction allows for better control over the extraction process, and makes it easier to leave chlorophyll out of the extraction, leaving a more pure product.

CO2 extraction is also argued to be good at making a whole plant extraction, leaving behind a more desirable aroma. A study found that CO2 extraction is better than hydrodistillation for extracting coriander oil, leading to an improved aroma.

With another study showing that 80% of concentrates in California are contaminated, CO2 proves to be a safe option that also provides a high quality product with a full aroma. Remember, even if trace amounts of CO2 are left behind in the extraction process, it will not cause any harm.

Depending on the extraction process, the concentrates may have varying levels of terpenes, which contribute to the aroma and alter the high in subtle ways that are still not fully understood. Since these terpenes are also desirable, many extract makers are starting to create terpene-infused CO2 oil, which adds the terpenes back into the concentrate after the cannabinoids have been isolated.

Ice Water Extraction

Water extraction, or ice water extraction, is another way to isolate the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant into a concentrated extract. Common names for these extracts are full melt, ice wax, dry ice hash, and bubble hash.

To perform ice water extraction, mesh bags are used with varying hole thickness. Ice water is used to freeze the trichomes that contain all of the cannabinoids, which allows for the trichomes to be more easily separated from the plant matter.

The term full melt refers to the fact that the hash left over is so pure, that it would melt upon heating. It is also called bubble hash, as the mesh bags with tiny holes create little bubbles as the extract is being filtered out.

Cold water extraction is not a new process, as this article written in 2011 explains how to make cold water hash. As concentrates become more popular, this technique will surely enter the mainstream more and more.

Ice water hash is made from a solventless method that freezes the terpenes for full flavor.

The High Times Medical Cannabis Concentrates Cup specifically had a category for best non-solvent water hash. You can check out to see who won by clicking here.

Dry ice hash is also noted to be a great extraction that is quick, safe, and allows for no moisture to be added. This allows for the concentrate to be ready immediately after extraction, which is why the process is so quick.

Typical water extraction methods do use moisture, which significantly slows down the process. While you do need to allow for the hash to get properly dried and cured, this method allows for excellent results.

Typical ice water hash has about 50-70% THC. While this may not be quite as high as BHO, users can be ensured that these concentrates are safe to smoke.


Rosin, or rosin tech, is a solvent-free method for making cannabis extracts. The process applies a heat press to flower, kief, or hash to melt the trichomes.

Rosin also leaves the terpenes within the concentrate, making it a concentrate with full flavor. This technique is also safe and easy. All of these benefits make rosin one of the best forms of concentrates around.

Believe it or not, you can use a hair straightener to easily extract the cannabinoids from flower. Since the hair straightener acts as a heat press, the extract left behind is a type of rosin.

Rosin press
rosin being extracted from a rosin press using only pressure and heat

Simply grab some wax paper, and sandwich it around some bud. Then, heat up your hair iron and put the wax paper between two heating elements. Press down hard for about 15 seconds, and you should notice that resin gets extracted from the plant and sticks to the wax paper.

When I first tried this, I was actually surprised as to how easy this process was. The resin sticks to the wax paper nicely and is easy to scrape off after you are done with the hair iron.

While this process is fun to try at home, the extraction method may not the most efficient. It is difficult to know exactly how much resin is left behind on the bud, so feel free to smoke the leftover weed or save it to make edibles. At the end of the day, I prefer to smoke flower normally, as the hair straightener seems to be a bit of a waste.

Maybe rosin is not as wasteful as I first thought, as a redditor was able to get .47 grams of concentrate from 2 grams of flower. Considering that most flower is around 20% THC, a concentrate with 25% yield is about as good as you could get. Most of the weight is in undesirable plant matter.

If you suspect that your concentrates are not the purest, then this technique is a simple and efficient way to turn your concentrates into a full melt. While this method is the easiest, quickest, and cheapest method to make extracts, it will inevitably burn of many of the terpenes.

Rick Simpson Oil

Rick Simpson Oil, RSO, or Phoenix Tears is another solvent-based extraction process that is relatively easy to make. This process uses isopropyl alcohol.

Rick Simpson is famous for creating this oil to cure his own cancer. This oil is typically used topically or orally. Rick claims to have helped thousands of people get the medicine they need.

As a result, RSO has not been commercialized. Rick Simpson simply provides information for people to make the extracts at home. This oil is typically used for purely medicinal purposes.

Rick Simpson Oil has helped many with various medical aliments such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and many others.

Rick Simpson’s movement has done a lot for the community, as he has made many people aware of the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Rather than focusing on making money from his concoction, he empowers the public with knowledge and information to make the oil at home.

His process allows for people to simply use a rice cooker to boil off the solvent. Interestingly enough, Rick also says the same can be done with tobacco to remove many of the negatives of cigarettes, leaving behind what he calls happy tobacco.

While I personally have never made RSO, Rick claims that after a couple of tries, it is no more difficult than making a cup of coffee.

Cannabis Oil

Anyone who has made pot brownies most likely used butter or some sort of oil. Olive oil extracts are a popular DIY method for extracting cannabinoids from the plant.

See a simple recipe for Cannabis Infused Oil

Pure olive oil extracts are available as oral tinctures for sale as a commercial product as well. CannaKids offers tinctures specifically designed for medicinal purposes, some of which use extra virgin olive oil. You can check out their menu by viewing their WoahStork page.

The beauty of cannabis-infused olive oil is that it can be used to cook in a wide variety of recipes. Cooking with oil is also easier to deal with than butter, as butter burns quite easily.

Are Concentrates the Future?

Dabbing is becoming more and more popular in the stoner community. For the first time this year, High Times featured a Medical Cannabis Concentrates Cup, which gave awards to concentrate makers from “best CBD concentrate” to “best solventless extract”.

To see the winners of all of the different categories, check out our article on the Concentrates Cup winners to see which cannabis extractions are gaining traction.