5 Things to Look for When Shopping for Extracts

By Dr. Stefanie Gangano

Badder, budder, crumble, shatter, sauce, diamonds. What does it all mean, and how do you know what to select? Choosing a cannabis concentrate can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little research and planning, you can find the perfect concentrate for your needs. Here are five things to consider when choosing an extract:

1) What type of extract?

Concentrates come in a variety of forms. Each form has its own properties and effects, so it’s important to choose one that’s right for you. Of course, you can try a few different types before finding the ones you like best.

The general term “concentrate” refers to a cannabis product in which the cannabinoids (like THC, CBD, CBG, etc.) and other plant components (like terpenes and flavonoids) are extracted from the trichomes on the cannabis plant and are concentrated into a thick, sticky product. Various techniques are used to perform this extraction process, and several different types of products are produced, such as shatter, budder, crumble, and oil. Sometimes further refinement of that product, usually oil, is used to create distillate. 

Cannabis plants may have ~18%-35% cannabinoid potency, but concentrates will have ~60%-95% potency, depending on the form. So, it is important to read the labels on the products you purchase so you can know and control your dosage. When trying a new cannabis concentrate, it is always best to start with a small amount and increase as needed or desired.

Badders, budders, and crumble are concentrates that still contain a good deal of terpenes as well as high cannabinoid concentration. They are made in similar ways but vary in the levels of moisture, applied heat, and agitation (stirring and whipping) used during the manufacturing process. Shatter is made in a similar fashion, minus the agitation. Instead, it purges undisturbed and unagitated, thereby allowing it to form into a clear, glass-like product.

Oils, on the other hand, can generally be divided into full-extract concentrate oil and distillate. The full-extract concentrate oil contains a full spectrum of extracted cannabinoids and terpenes and other plant components that proportionally represent what was naturally present in the cannabis plant from which it was extracted. With distillate, on the other hand, that extracted oil is post-processed and refined to contain a majority of only one cannabinoid and very little terpenes, if any. Oftentimes, terpene solutions are then added-back to the distillate to create profiles similar to specific cultivars.

2) What consumption method?

There are different methods used to consume concentrates, and you may find that you prefer one method of consumption over another. Factors to consider here include portability, ease of use, familiarity with equipment, temperature control, and cost. 

Most people are familiar with portable vape cartridges and pens. The “pen” is a battery that will heat the oil in the cartridge. Some batteries have the ability to control the heating temperature of the cartridge, so the user has more control over the taste and effects of the consumed product. The cartridge contains the extracted oil and terpenes and is attached to the battery before use. This type of vaping is convenient and portable. It’s also versatile since you can switch out vape oil cartridges on the battery and experience many different types of cultivar profiles.

There are also table-top vaporizers. These devices are stationary and not hand-held. They do not require a charged battery but are instead plugged into a power outlet. Table-top vaporizers have great temperature versatility and produce much more vapor than portable or hand-held models. They can also provide a gentler inhalation process because they often have a means to cool the vapor down before it reaches the user.

Traditionally, concentrates are consumed using dab rigs. Typical dab rigs resemble water bongs and are glass water pipes with a nail, which is a glass bowl attachment for heating the concentrate. A torch is used to heat the nail. Then a small amount of concentrate is scooped up from its container using a dabbing tool and placed in the nail where it vaporizes. Using a dab rig requires a more skilled technique from the consumer in terms of heating the nail, knowing when to deposit the concentrate, and controlling how much concentrate to scoop up on your dabbing tool. Some vendors are now making dab pens for convenience that function more like oil vape hardware.

3) What purpose: medicinal use or adult use?

Concentrates can be used both medicinally and for adult-use enjoyment. The purpose of the concentrate may play a factor in which kind of concentrate you purchase. Before you make a purchase, be sure to read the reviews of the concentrate. This will help you get an idea of what other people think of the product and how it made them feel.

For medicinal use, you’ll want to evaluate how the concentrate affects your various symptoms. It’s possible that the type of concentrate or the method you use to consume that concentrate makes a difference in the alleviation of your symptoms. So try out a few different variations and see what works for you. Also, once you find a concentrate that works for you, you may want to know that you can reliably get that concentrate time after time. Some manufacturers like to continually produce new concentrate varieties to tantalize their customers. Some manufacturers produce time-tested concentrates that you will always be able to find for purchase in the retail stores.

On the adult-use side, the sky is the limit. Cannabis extracts can have a variety of flavors, including citrus, fruit, and earth. They can range from sweet to spicy to sour to gassy. So, choose one that has the flavors and qualities that you enjoy. 

4) What effect?

Cannabis concentrates can have a variety of effects, including euphoria, relaxation, focus, and pain relief. It is important to choose a concentrate that produces the desired effect. What is it in cannabis that produces all these different effects? Terpenes, terpenes, terpenes! There are hundreds of terpenes in the cannabis plant, and each cultivar has its own unique combination of terpenes and effects.

Looking for help fighting insomnia, chronic pain, and muscle spasms? Find a concentrate with Δ9-THC and myrcene, linalool, and β-caryophyllene. Need a pick me up to keep you going and help you focus? Try a concentrate with Δ9-THC and pinene, linalool, and eucalyptol. Suffering from headaches and migraines? Check out a concentrate with CBD or CBD / Δ9-THC mixture and myrcene, pinene, and β-caryophyllene. Prefer a sweet candy taste? Find a concentrate with Δ9-THC and β-caryophyllene, humulene, and linalool. Stoked for that classic gassy, diesel taste? Look for a concentrate with β-caryophyllene, myrcene, and limonene. Feeling nauseous? Try a concentrate with β-caryophyllene, limonene, and menthone.

The combinations are endless, and the produced effects vary widely. It can take some time to find the right cannabis concentrate for you. Be patient and experiment until you find the perfect product.

5) What cost?

Make sure that you are buying concentrate from a dispensary or retail store that is licensed and regulated. This will help ensure that you’re getting a safe and quality product. Concentrates can be more expensive than cannabis flower, and the hardware to consume concentrate also involves an investment. So, it’s important to find concentrate and gear that fits your budget.

The cost of concentrates can vary widely. This is due to factors such as cost of raw materials, cost of processing equipment and solvents, technical expertise needed, and whether the concentrate is a small-batch craft product or can be produced at large scale. Some of the average costs for different kinds of concentrate are: Cannabis oil/distillate vape cartridges vary from $25 to $65 per gram. Badder, sauce, diamonds, crumble, and shatter are priced at approximately $15-$20 per gram. Live resin concentrate may run $20-$30 per gram. Live rosin concentrate can cost between $45 -$65 per gram. 

Likewise, different gear to consume concentrates have widely different costs. Vape cartridge pen batteries can cost as little as $15-$30. Table-top vaporizers will set you back a couple hundred dollars. Dab rigs run the gamut from $70 to $500 and up.

Now that you’ve done your research and have some tips under your belt, when you go to the dispensary to choose your concentrates, be sure to ask questions of the budtender. The dispensary staff should be able to answer any questions you have about the concentrates they sell. This will help you make an informed decision and feel confident about the products you purchase.

Dr. Stefanie Gangano is Co-Chair of the Extraction & Manufacturing department of Oaksterdam University. Learn more about our program here.

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