Distillate: The cannabis concentrate of the future

distillation | dis·til·la·tion | noun

a: the purification or concentration of a substance, the obtaining of the essence or volatile properties contained in it, or the separation of one substance from another, by such a process.

You may only remember this word from high school chemistry class, but distillation is quickly changing the cannabis industry. Concentrate producers are using innovative distillation techniques to create potent, pure, and clean cannabis distillates that can be dabbed, vaped, eaten, dropped under your tongue… the list goes on.

Where Does A Cannabis Oil Distillate Come From?

Pure, potent cannabis oil distillate does not just appear in the wild. There is a specific scientific process that takes place before users are presented with what may very well be the future of cannabis concentrates. In order to extract THC, terpenes, and other cannabinoids from the cannabis plant a solvent-based (butane, propane, CO2) extraction must be performed first.

The solvent-based extraction removes valuable compounds from the plant itself, however many other compounds remain in the extract. In order to distill down to a more pure form, further refinement is done through the processes of winterization and decarboxylation. Finally, the oil is run through a distillation chamber multiple times to refine the desirable compound (THC or CBD) to its most pure form.

Consuming Cannabis Oil Distillate

As we mentioned above, cannabis distillates have a wide variety of applications that can appeal to just about any type of user. Pure cannabis distillates contain virtually no flavors or aromas, which makes them perfect for practical applications where the cannabis “flavor” is not needed or wanted (think edibles and drinks!). Additionally, these powerful distillates have great medicinal potential because of the small amounts needed to produce strong effects.

With a potential potency of nearly 99%, cannabis oil distillate should not be taken lightly. Check out this simple graph below to get an idea of how potent distillate is compared to flower.

distillate-potency

Final Word

While cannabis distillate may be somewhat new to the concentrate market, this well-developed, scientific extraction technique looks to be the next gold standard for cannabis extraction and refinement. While we still love our BHO, CO2, and PHO dabs… cannabis oil distillate is certainly worth trying if you’re looking for the most pure, clean, and potent concentrate.

Cannabis Ingestion Methods: Smoking

With the sea of cannabis consumption options the average weed consumer faces today, sometimes it can be hard to know where to start, or how. That’s why here at Substance, we’re offering a quick guide to all the basic info you’ll need to get started. In our last post, we covered vaping. Today, we’ll be covering an old but reliable method: smoking your weed.

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For the purpose of this article, smoking will refer specifically to smoking flower, or bud. This would be the ‘weed’, ‘marijuana’, or ‘ganja’ that probably springs to mind when you think of cannabis. We will cover smoking concentrates, often called dabbing, in a later post.

The Basics

Before we talk about the method itself, let’s discuss the effects. Smoking has a near immediate onset. You will begin feeling its effects almost instantaneously, and it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to set in at the most. However, smoking is not as long lasting or as intense as other intake methods. The effects should last between 1 to 2 hours, and should be milder than edibles or dabbing.

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There are of course many ways to smoke. For any method, it’s important to grind your weed ahead of time. This will allow your weed to be as potent as possible, and will help you easily load and prepare it.

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Rolling

Joints, jays, spliffs, and blunts might be the most commonly known smoking methods. These all refer to different forms of marijuana cigarettes, so to speak.

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Image Source: http://www.wikihow.com/Roll-a-Marijuana-Joint

A joint or a jay is rolled with the same paper as a hand-rolled cigarette. It usually contains a crutch, that is, a small piece of stiff paper used to hold the joint together. You can purchase crutches made for hand rolling cigarettes, or you can make them from whatever you have on hand, such as a strip of a business card or cardboard paper. A joint or a jay will only contain cannabis.

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Image Source: https://cannabistutorials.com/how-to-roll-a-blunt/

A blunt, like a joint, only contains cannabis. However, it is rolled using special tobacco paper. Blunts generally do not use a crutch.

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Image Source: https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/what-is-a-spliff-and-why-would-you-smoke-one

A spliff, on the other hand, mixes tobacco with the weed itself. A spliff is also rolled with the same paper as cigarettes, and looks identical to a joint, except for what’s inside. While some may prefer a nice jay for the purely cannabis-based high, others prefer to spliff their weed to add a tobacco buzz and help cut costs.

Bowls

For those more keen on smoking their weed in bowls, there’s pieces and bongs. A piece is a small glass handheld pipe used for smoking marijuana,

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while a bong is a sort of glass water pipe.

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Of all the above methods, a bong is probably the most potent. Of course, everyone’s system is different, so be sure to take your time and figure out what works for you.

Bud Basics

For those of you new to cannabis, what’s inside of any variety of ganja can be a bit overwhelming. To help you navigate the sometimes seemingly endless array of weed-related jargon, we’ve prepared an intro for you on the primary source of all your favorite cannabis products: bud, or flower.

What is it?

Bud is the literal flower of the cannabis plant, thus why you may hear it called both bud and flower. It contains weed’s active ingredients: cannabinoids and terpenes.

bud

Cannabinoids and the ECS

Cannabinoids are the chemicals secreted by the cannabis plant. Most people are familiar with the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, as it plays a primary role in cannabis’ psychoactive effects (it gets you stoned). However, there are actually at least 85 cannabinoids, each with a variety of psychoactive effects and/or therapeutic benefits. Cannabinoids interact with your body via the endocannabinoid system, or ECS.

THC
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC

The ECS is endogenous to the human body. Your body produces its own version of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids. These help your body maintain homeostasis. How cannabinoids interact with your ECS and the endocannabinoids it produces will help determine both what kind of high you will get and what other therapeutic benefits the plant might yield.

Terpenes

Terpenes are the essential oil of the cannabis plant. They’re what give each variety of bud its own distinctive smell. Terpenes affect the way in which cannabinoids interact with your ECS. They can alter your high, or provide additional therapeutic effects.

Inforgraphic courtesy of Leafly. Find the original image and full article at: https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/infographic-what-are-cannabis-terpenes-and-how-do-they-affect-you/

Species

Cannabis intended for human consumption comes in two different species: Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. The third species, Cannabis ruderalis, contains too little cannabinoids and terpenes to be of much interest for cannabis consumers. These species refer to the plant’s phenotype — its easily observable traits, such as its appearance, smell, etc. Generally, sativas are known for their cerebral effects, and indicas for their soothing body effects.

illustration of the three types of the cannabis or marijuana plant - indica, sativa, ruderalis

However, since indica and sativa refer to the plant’s external, easily observable traits (and not its cannabinoid and terpene composition or its genetic makeup), it’s hard to say the exact effect of a cannabis plant of either species. Further, most cannabis today is some combination of the two, often referred to as a ‘hybrid’.

Strains

The strain of any cannabis plant refers to its genealogy (its parents, grandparents, etc.) A plant’s strain will tell you if it is an indica, sativa, or a combination of both. They are also generally indicative of its cannabinoid and terpene content, although this varies considerably from grower to grower.

Bud from the 'Blue Magoo' strain of cannabis.
Bud from the ‘Blue Magoo’ strain of cannabis.

We hope you’ve found this intro helpful. Keep an eye out for further introductory posts on different cannabis products and ingestion methods, and don’t forget to stop by Substance soon to put your weed knowledge to work!

How to Decarboxylate Cannabis

Raw cannabis contains a lot of THCA which is not psychoactive. When you smoke weed, the THCA molecule loses its carboxylic group (COOH) in the form of water vapor and carbon dioxide and becomes THC. In short, THCA becomes THC and your cannabis becomes psychoactive. This process is called decarboxylation or decarbing.

When you smoke or vaporize marijuana, you decarboxylate the cannabis by heating it. If you ingest cannabis and want the full psychoactive effect, you need to first decarb your cannabis before you cook with it.

Temperature

The lower the temperature, the longer it’s going to take to decarb your cannabis. Keep in mind that a lower temperature will allow you to lose less terpenes.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are the pungent oils that color your cannabis with distinctive flavors such as berry, mint, citrus and pine. There are many medicinal benefits to terpenes; some will successfully relieve your stress while others will promote focus and awareness.

trichomes


Table – Decarboxylation Temperatures and Times
Temperature Heating Mode Plant Material Time Kief / Hash Time Cannabis Oil
310F Oven 10 – 18 minutes 5 – 10 minutes
250F Hot oil bath Until bubbles taper off
240F Oven 50 – 60 minutes 30 – 40 minutes
212F Boiling water bath 90 minutes 90 minutes

Decarboxylation Methods:

Tip: Grind your cannabis first! A course grind will allow your weed to evenly dry without losing potency from over grinding.

Flower

  1. Preheat your oven (see table above). Use an oven thermometer to check the temperature.
  2. Sprinkle your cannabis in a pie plate and then cover it well with silver foil by crimping the foil along the edge of the plate.
  3. Place in the oven (see table above) – less time for older drier material, more for fresher material.
  4. After required time, turn the oven off, and remove cannabis. Let it cool down slowly before you unseal the container to allow any cannabinoid/terpenes vapor to reabsorb into the cannabis.

Keif/Hash

  1. Preheat oven (see table)
  2. Sprinkle hash/keif on pie plate, cover with silver foil and crimp foil along edge of plate. Place sealed dish in oven for (see table).
  3. Remove plate and let it cool down slowly without removing cover to allow any vapors to reabsorb into cannabis.

Boiling Bag method:

  1. Place the cannabis flower/keif/hash into a boilable cooking pouch. Seal it.
  2. Place in boiling water for 90 minutes. Make sure water does not boil dry.
  3. Take bag out of water. Let it slowly cool before opening.

Cannabis Oil

  1. Place heat proof container of cannabis oil into a cooking oil bath (canola oil works well). Heat cooking oil to 121C/250F.
  2. Stir cannabis oil to break up bubbles.
  3. Remove cannabis oil from heat when bubble formation starts to slow down — or leave on heat until all bubbles stop for increased sedative effect.

 

There are many different ways to decarb your cannabis. Classic smoking is sometimes the way to go for many patients.
There are many different ways to decarb your cannabis. Classic smoking is sometimes the way to go for many patients.

What is Kief?

Ever wonder what to call all those tiny, sticky crystals that cover cannabis flower?

Well, we’ve got an answer for you: kief.

Simply said, kief (also known as dry sift or pollen) refers to the resin glands which contain the terpenes and cannabinoids that make cannabis so unique. While marijuana sans kief still contains cannabinoids, the resin glands that develop on flower buds pack the biggest punch.

Trichomes: It’s All About Protection

trichomes
The white hairs covering this cannabis flower are trichomes, or resin glands.

While kief specifically refers to the bulbous, crystal formation on the tip of a gland, the substance itself is just one part of what is called a trichome, or a “hair.”

Many different plants and algae have external trichomes for specific evolutionary purposes. For example, some carnivorous plants rely on sticky trichomes to trap their prey. Other plants, like cannabis, use them as a deterrent to herbivores.

Trichomes on the marijuana plant keep away hungry herbivores by producing an intense psychoactive experience, theoretically disorienting the animal and preventing it from eating the rest of the plant. The resin’s strong, distinct odor also attracts pollinating insects and predators, which might keep herbivore populations at bay.

Extracting Kief

Without a three-chamber herb grinder to sift and collect kief, the kief is wasted because it just sticks to the grinder itself.
Without a three-chamber herb grinder to sift and collect kief, the kief is wasted because it just sticks to the grinder itself.

If you like the experience of concentrates but don’t want to break the bank buying expensive wax or extraction equipment, sifting kief might be a great alternative. Due to the high concentration of terpenes and cannabinoids in resin glands, separating kief crystals from plant matter is a great way to consume cannabis while reducing the amount of charred material you take into your body.

Extracting kief is simple. Using a three-chamber herb grinder will help you finely grind your cannabis while letting kief crystals fall through a screen and collect into a small compartment. While two chamber grinders are nice, they often let potent kief go to waste since crystals fall off of the dried herb and just stick to the inside of the grinder.

For extracting larger quantities of kief, using simple silk screening materials will allow you to separate kief from plant matter with the ease of sifting flower.

Framed Speedball Screen Printing Screens
Framed Speedball Screen Printing Screens

Many people create makeshift sifters using layered screens similar to the ones pictured above. Because kief tends to measure between 75 and 125 microns, it can be difficult to separate all of the resin from the plant materials. To make sure you’re collecting the cleanest kief without unwanted plant matter, stack three to four layers of fine mesh screen one on top of another.

For the best results, home extractors use consecutive sizes of screen and stack them in order from largest to smallest. When buying screens, the number of wires or threads per inch, or the LPI (lines per inch) number is an important thing to remember. The larger the screen, the smaller the LPI number. When it comes to sifting kief, mesh between 80 and 270 LPI tends to work best.

When buying extracted kief at a dispensary or retail store, keep in mind that the purer the kief, the lighter the color will be. Kief that still looks fairly green means that there is still quite a bit of plant matter mixed in, whereas kief that has been well cleaned tends to be more of an off-white color.

What’s the Deal with Hash?

A compressed hash brick. This hash has a dark color because it has been heavily pressurized.
A compressed hash brick. This hash has a dark color because it has been heavily pressurized.

Extracting kief is one of the first steps of making hash. To simply summarize, hash is basically just kief that has been heated and pressurized to form a soft, green ball. Applying heat and pressure to kief changes its composition by rupturing the resin glands. Once the kief ruptured, the overall taste and effects of the product are slightly different. Pressurizing kief also darkens its color; the more pressure you apply, the darker the hash becomes.

Kief may not be the most exciting cannabis product out there, but it still remains one of the most popular and easiest to access. For more information on kief and kief extraction, check out Ed Rosenthal’sBeyond Buds. In the meantime, be sure to pick up a three-chamber herb grinder if you’d like to get the most bang for your buck.


 

For more posts like this, visit Leafly’s knowledge center right here. 

Storing Cannabis

Proper storage of cannabis is critical for keeping it as potent as possible

While storing cannabis is not difficult, there are four important factors that affect its freshness and potency:

•  Rule # 1: heat will dry it out and too much moisture can cause dangerous bacteria to grow,

•  Rule # 2: light is harmful to the trichomes (the sticky resin glands attached) ,

•  Rule # 3: air will dry it out and lessen its potency

•  Rule # 4: too much handling causes the trichomes to come off.

The best way to store your medical cannabis is in an airtight mason jar that has a good seal. One of the old time dark colored cheese jars with the wire swing top is ideal if you happen to have one. They are ideal for keeping out air, heat and light.

Store the jar in a cool dark place. You can store it in the fridge (not the freezer), but keep an eye out for mold. Fresh bud will actually “cure” better using this method, producing some sweet smellin’ buds!

When your medical cannabis was grown, our growers waited until the trichomes were just right before harvesting to create the best potency possible from those plants. You want to preserve those sticky resin glands and handle them gently as they fall off easily.

The two biggest myths about storing cannabis are that keeping it in clear plastic bags and freezing it helps preserve it, but these actions actually break most of the rules we mentioned earlier.

When you freeze cannabis buds, those potent little trichomes become like tiny icicles. This makes them stiff and brittle and actually makes them fall off and break off the buds. The more you handle the buds in and out of the freezer, the more you lose those active ingredients that help alleviate the symptoms you ‘re trying to address.

Also, all plastic bags have some static, and even this static attracts the resin glands that you are trying to protect and keep intact, which means you are reducing the potency slightly. If you must use plastic bags, use them seldom and for small quantities.

It’s also a good idea to keep the quantity of cannabis you wish to store separate from your daily supply

If you don’t have a jar, you can put it in brown bags (or any dark paper), and then place it in your plastic bags and remove any air that you can.

Refrigerate, or keep in a cool place (a basement works well) where there is no light and little activity – prevent any constant movement or handling. This will keep your medical cannabis both fresh and potent for a very long time.

Boveda packs such as this one can help you store your cannabis more efficiently.
Boveda packs such as this one can help you store your cannabis more efficiently.

We at Substance also carry lovely Boveda packs which regulate the amount of moisture present in your cannabis storage area. They’re very helpful in particularly arid or humid environments and are a viable option for anyone who wants to preserve more than a quarter ounce of cannabis flower.

These guidelines also apply to concentrates—just use a smaller jar!

To protect the potency and taste of your cannabis for long periods, smart storage is a must! Rough handling, heat, light and air exposure degrade trichomes!


For more useful information regarding cannabis, visit Harborside Health Center’s website.

Strain Review – Afghani Pakistani

Recently we at Substance started carrying a new flower, known as Afghani Pakistani, or Afpak for short. A couple of the staff members here have gotten a chance to try this lovely flower, and we would be delighted to share our experiences and opinions on it with you all.

First things first…some basic Afghani Pakistani knowledge for your brains.

The Afpak…

  • is a heavy indica
  • comes from Aghani Landrace and Pakistani Landrace strains
  • is commonly used to help with insomnia, issues with appetite, and pain relief

My first impressions of the strain were very positive. It looks gorgeous, with beautiful purple coloration, prominent orange hairs and a decent bud structure. The Afghani Pakistani’s trichomes are abundant, making it look rather frosty and visually appealing. The smell is just as good, with a sweet candy-like aroma. In fact, I would best describe its appeal as being like “purple candy”.

The bud was clearly cured very well. The flowers are not dry, nor are they full of moisture which would suggest it was harvested too early. Rather, the process appears to have gone very well and provides the flower with a lovely consistency. The texture is sticky and balanced just right.

afghani pakistani

Now, moving on to the effect…

I loaded my pipe with the Afghani Pakistani flower as my day was winding down to an end. I was tucking in for the night, ready to relax and listen to some music. I was hoping that the strain would be perfect for such a setting, given that it is a heavy indica – and it was. The taste of the smoke was just as sweet, if not more so, than the flower itself. The resulting effect was a pleasant heady buzz that made me feel very relaxed and helped to ease my muscle tension.

My coworker made an excellent observation about the strain. He stated that while the Afghani Pakistani is a heavy indica, it nevertheless produced a very functional high that didn’t have the “couch-lock” effect that many indica strains tend to induce. I experienced a similar effect – body and muscle relaxation, pain relief, while still being able to stay up and do creative things like drawing or making music.

All in all, the Afghani Pakistani gets a rating of 9/10 from me. It’s a well formed flower with excellent appeal and a very pleasant effect. I would definitely recommend picking it up while we have it in the store, because it’s going fast.

 

Sativa

Sativa strains of cannabis, similar to their Indica cousins, have a wide variety of health benefits. Some of the more notable benefits include

  • Relief from depression
  • Mind stimulation
  • Increasing focus, and
  • Treating PTSD

Examples: Cinex, Haze Wreck, Jack Herer


Sativa plants are found throughout the world. Potent varieties such as Colombian, Panamanian, Mexican, Nigerian, Congolese, Indian and Thai are found in equatorial and sub/equatorial zones. These plants require a long time to mature because they originated in areas that have a long season. They are usually very potent, containing large quantities of THC. The highs they produce are described in such terms as psychedelic, dreamy, spacey, and creative. The buds usually smell sweet or tangy and the smoke is smooth, sometimes deceptively so.

Sativa plants grow in a conical, Christmas-tree form. The leaves have long, narrow serrated blades, wide spacing between branches, and vigorous growth. They often grow very tall outdoors and are difficult to control indoors.

Sativas have long, medium-thick buds when grown in full equatorial sun; under artificial light with inadequate intensity, or even under the temperate sun, the buds run, or are thinner, longer and don’t fill out completely. In areas with short growing seasons, the buds often don’t mature before frost.


Sativa at a Glance

Height: 5′ to 25′ (1.5 to 7.5 m)

Shape: Tall, Christmas-tree shape

Branching: Moderate branching, wide at its base, single stem at top

Nodes: Long stem length between leaves

Leaves: Long leaves, thin long blades

Color: Pale to medium green

Flowers: Long sausage-shaped flowers

Odor: Sweet to spicy

High: Psychedelic

Flowering: 8 to 15 weeks

Indica

Indica strains of cannabis have a multitude of health benefits, which include but are not limited to:

  • Relief from body pain
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Reduction of seizures
  • Migraine relief, and
  • Appetite stimulation

Examples: Afghan Kush, Blue Cheese, Blackberry Kush


Indica plants developed in central Asia between the 25th and 35th latitudes, where the weather is changeable. Drought one year may be followed by cloudy, rainy or sunny weather. For the population to continue, the plant group needed different individuals that survive and even thrive under those specific conditions. Thus, in any season, no matter what the weather, some plants will do better than others.

Indicas, including Kush varieties, have broad general characteristics: they mature early, have compact short branches and wide, short leaves which are dark green, sometimes tinged purple. Their buds are usually tight, heavy, wide, and thick, rather than long. They smell “stinky,” “skunky,” or “pungent,” and their smoke is thick – a small toke can induce coughing.

Indica plants were developed for resin content, which was removed from the flowers to make hashish. It is only after these varieties were introduced to the West that their buds were consumed. The best indicas have a relaxing “social high,” which allow you to sense and feel the environment, without analyzing the experience.


Indica at a Glance

Height: 2′ to 6′ (0.6 to 1.8m)

Shape: Conical to bushy

Branching: Lots of side branching, usually wider than its height

Nodes: Short stem length between leaves

Leaves: Wide short leaves, short wide blades

Color: Dark green to purple

Flowers: Wide, dense, bulky

Odor: Pungent, sticky, or fruity

High: Inertia, desensitizing

Flowering: 6 to 9 weeks