The Essential Guide to Cannabis ConcentratesWe cover everything you need to get started with concentrates - including our list of the best cannabis concentrate brands.
In recent years, cannabis concentrates have skyrocketed in popularity. Delivering an unsurpassed level of purity and potency in an efficient and discreet package, this comes as no surprise to cannabis concentrate connoisseurs. But their numerous, creatively-named formulations, unusual new gear, and reputation for being out-of-this-world strong can make marijuana concentrates seem intimidating at first glance.
In this article, we de-mystify cannabis concentrates – describing each type and what to expect from it, as well as popular consumption methods, pros and cons, and our recommendations for today’s best cannabis concentrate brands.
What are Cannabis Concentrates?
Cannabis concentrates are, as the name implies, highly concentrated cannabis extracts that produce incredibly efficient and potent effects. Concentrates are made by separating resin from the cannabis plant, using either a solvent, heat, cold, or pressure. The consistency and potency of cannabis concentrates vary depending on the processing method used, but all of them offer a high concentration of cannabinoids in a very small, quick-onset dose.
Types of Cannabis Concentrate
The sheer number of cannabis concentrate options available may seem overwhelming at first, but each type has a unique set of characteristics and offers a different user experience. Here’s a look at what each type of cannabis concentrate has to offer.
Cannabis wax is a dense, waxy, sticky substance, created by using a butane solvent to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from the marijuana plant at a high temperature. Wax concentrate somewhat resembles cake frosting and can range from light yellow to dark brown. Since the terpenes are well-preserved, cannabis wax concentrates tend to retain a good amount of flavor and aromatics, and they are one of the least pricey concentrate options.
Budder and Badder
Budder and badder are very similar to cannabis wax concentrate. The primary difference is that budder and batter are whipped longer than wax, giving them a somewhat softer consistency. As one might infer from the names, budder’s consistency is similar to butter, and badder’s is similar to cake batter.
Crumble/Honeycomb and Sugar
Crumble (also known as “honeycomb”) and sugar are similar to budder, but more brittle, due to being extracted at a lower temperature. Both of these concentrates resemble clumps of sand or sugar – with crumble being a bit drier than cannabis “sugar.” Both varieties tend to be incredibly flavorful.
Shatter is one of the most popular weed concentrates, largely because it’s one of the purest and most potent types on the market – typically upwards of 80% THC. Shatter tends to be slightly sticky and resembles a translucent, amber-colored sheet of broken glass.
Resembling clear or yellow-tinged quartz crystals, crystalline is the purest cannabinoid isolate possible. Since THC doesn’t take a crystalline form, most products advertised as “THC Crystals” are actually THCA isolates – which convert to THC when heated. Crystalline CBD concentrates (often called CBD isolates) are also widely available. These concentrates can be quite potent. However, they lack the full-spectrum “entourage effect” benefits of terpenes and other plant material, and they are virtually flavorless.
Diamonds and Sauce
Sometimes called “terp sauce.” this concentrate is a sticky, syrupy blend of terpenes and THCA cannabinoid crystals. “Diamonds” refers to THCA crystals that remain suspended in the sauce. Sauce is translucent, flavorful, and can range from clear to brown in color.
Somewhere between sauce and wax, live resin is a shiny, sticky, aromatic, and quite potent concentrate solvent extracted from cannabis that was frozen immediately after harvest – preserving the “live” plant compounds and thus delivering the full-spectrum entourage effect and strong, smooth flavor.
As with live resin, cannabis rosin is extracted from plants that are immediately frozen upon harvest. The difference is that rosin is extracted using only heat and pressure – no solvents. While this form of extraction does not allow for the targeted isolation of specific compounds, it does offer a completely pure plant extract and retains all of the whole-plant benefits. Thus, cannabis rosin tends to be one of the most expensive concentrate options.
Hash and Bubble Hash
Hash or “hashish” is another solventless and flavorful cannabis extract, created by placing cannabis buds under pressure to extract their resin and trichomes. Ice hash or “bubble hash” is similarly made with extracted trichomes and weed resin, but instead, ice water is used as the separating agent. Hash resembles a sticky powder, which is then pressed into discs or bricks to be sold. Bubble hash’s consistency more closely resembles brown sugar.
How to Use Cannabis Concentrates
- Dab Rig – “Dabbing” is the best-known way of consuming cannabis concentrates. This requires the use of a glass or silicon dab rig, a tabletop device similar to a bong. A butane torch is used to heat a small glass or metal piece (known as a “nail” or a “banger”). Next, the concentrate is added, creating inhalable vapor once the cannabis comes in contact with the hot nail. Popular variations to full-sized dab rigs include mini dab rigs and electric dab rigs, which rely on electricity to heat the nail instead of a handheld torch.
- Dab Pens – For a dabbing experience on the go, or for extra discretion, dab pens are essentially a cross between a dab rig and a vape pen. However, unlike vape pens, dab pens involve placing the concentrate directly on a heated coil inside the pen, instead of inserting a pre-filled cartridge. Both disposable dab pens and multi-use pens are available.
- Vaping – Some portable electronic vape pens are compatible with specific types of cannabis concentrates (a popular example is live resin carts), making them easy to enjoy on the go and with discretion.
- As an Enhancement – Cannabis concentrates are sometimes added to edibles or sprinkled or spread atop pre-rolls or loose flower to boost their potency.
Benefits of Cannabis Concentrates
Here are some of the biggest benefits weed concentrates have over other cannabis formulations:
- Purity – Cannabis concentrates are known for delivering a “clean” high, as they are composed of no ingredients other than pure plant compounds.
- Fast Onset – The effects of inhaled concentrates can be felt near-instantly, unlike edibles, which can take hours to kick in.
- Flavor – While some concentrates (such as isolates) are virtually flavorless, others, like live rosin or shatter, impart a particularly pure, plant-like flavor that many connoisseurs greatly enjoy.
- Potency – For high efficiency in a small dose, nothing quite compares to cannabis concentrates. Using a tiny amount of product, you can achieve a strong high and/or superb pain relief in a single dose.
- Light Aroma – Unlike smoking flower, dabbing cannabis concentrates won’t fill the room with a lingering, unmistakable odor – which can help you stay discreet if you live with roommates and prevent exposing pets or children to secondhand smoke.
- Discreet and Clean – Cannabis concentrates generally do not require an elaborate stash box, as they are typically packaged in flat plastic bags or small containers that seal in any odor. While dabbing generally does require some equipment setup, there is very little cleanup involved afterward – unlike the aftermath of grinding and rolling your own joints.
Drawbacks of Cannabis Concentrates
For most, the benefits of marijuana concentrate far outweigh the drawbacks, but cannabis extracts aren’t for everyone. Be sure to consider the following before getting started with cannabis concentrates.
- Potency – The potency level of THC concentrates may be unmanageably high for some users. People with a low THC tolerance, those who frequently experience adverse side effects (such as paranoia), and those who must remain relatively “sober” for employment, driving, or parenting purposes may be better off using a less-potent form of weed.
- Expense – Cannabis concentrates tend to be significantly more expensive than other formulations. In addition to the concentrates themselves, the equipment required to properly enjoy them can also involve a high startup cost.
- Learning Curve – The necessity of learning how to use unfamiliar equipment and gauge the dose size of such a potent substance puts some people off of marijuana concentrates. The learning process truly can take some time and may require assistance from a budtender, friend, caregiver, or internet resources to get it right.
- Physical Risk – Smoking any substance, including cannabis concentrates, carries the risk of permanent lung damage. Aside from that, many concentrate consumption methods carry a risk of burning oneself or even causing an explosion. The butane used to heat dab nails can also be a lung irritant.
How to Shop for Cannabis Concentrates
If you’re ready to give cannabis concentrates a try, here’s what to look for when you get to the dispensary.
Narrowing down which type of concentrate you’d like to use is a great starting point. Are you looking for the highest potency possible? Do you prefer a sumptuous whole-plant flavor or none at all? What kind of gear do you have (or wish to purchase)? These questions will guide you toward the right cannabis concentrate for you.
The way a concentrate is extracted from the cannabis plant affects everything from its texture and purity level to the sensory user experience. Some concentrates are made with the use of solvents (including isolates, waxes, and live resin), while others are extracted via solventless methods (including rosin and hash). There are pros and cons to each method. Solvents are necessary to craft pure cannabinoid isolate concentrates and control the cannabinoid and terpene profile of the concentrate. Plus, solvent-extracted concentrates tend to be less expensive. However, solventless concentrates are worth it for those seeking the purest product possible.
Of course, the most important thing to consider is the cannabinoid and terpene profile of your concentrate. Are you looking for that 90% THC super-high or for a more balanced CBD:THC ratio for pain relief? Terpene profiles can make a difference as well, altering the taste, scent, and to some degree the overall effects of the concentrate. Some brands offer a range of concentrate options made from different strains, which can also deliver significantly different effects.
Since concentrates are generally more expensive than flower, edibles, and other common cannabis mediums, budget-conscious buyers can greatly benefit from researching which concentrate brands are worth the price, or taking advantage of special promotional deals if your local dispensary offers them.
Look for concentrates made from organically-grown cannabis wherever possible. The cannabis plant is a bio-accumulator, meaning that it soaks up and holds onto chemicals it’s exposed to in its growing environment. Buying organic-equivalent cannabis gives the best shot at a product grown without pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or other toxic chemicals.
If you’re still not sure where to begin with cannabis concentrates, seek out a second opinion from someone already familiar with them. In-store budtenders can be an invaluable resource, helping you narrow down your choices and understand how to use them. Also, spend some time perusing online reviews to get a feel for which brands consistently get the highest praise from users. To kickstart your concentrate shopping, we’ve included a list of our personal favorite cannabis concentrate brands from all over the US.
Our Favorite Cannabis Concentrates
Ambrosia is the trademarked house brand concentrate line from Apothecary Farms, an extract-focused Colorado and Oklahoma dispensary chain. Their signature crystal-rich Ambrosia live resin delivers remarkable flavor, smooth effects, and all the full-spectrum benefits of Apothecary Extracts’ high-grade marijuana crop, as does the hand-whipped Ambrosia live resin batter. Additionally, Ambrosia is available in a crystalline HCFSE (High Cannabinoid Full Spectrum Extract), a solventless live hash oil, and several live resin vape varieties. These beautiful and potent extracts are produced entirely in-house and are available at Apothecary Farms’ dispensary locations.
Founded by childhood best friends-turned-expert cultivar partners, Cannabiotix (CBX) is a boutique cannabis company with a true passion for nurturing, producing, and enjoying incredible cannabis. Between its meticulously orchestrated, environmentally-conscious cultivation practices, award-winning in-house genetics, perfected over decades, and hand-selected flower, CBX’s decadent cannabis concentrates stand out as some of the West Coast’s best. These include hydrocarbon-extracted live resin concentrates in badder, sauce, and sugar formulations – as well as single-source, strain-specific live resin sauce vape cartridges. CBX also produces solventless live rosin in several varieties; cold cured; fresh pressed; and dry sift. Based in California and Nevada, Cannabiotix concentrates (plus top-shelf flower and pre-rolls) can be found at dispensaries throughout California.
California-based Dime Industries offers cannabis consumers an exceptional sensory experience through its impressive selection of award-winning concentrates and proprietary flavor profiles. Made with top-shelf indoor-grown flower and presented in stylish packaging, each of these concentrates delivers delightfully pure and potent effects. Dime Industries’ badder is hand-whipped to perfection and glistens with terpenes, while their solventless live rosin is immediately fresh-frozen upon harvest, then heat-pressed to perfection. For those who prefer THCa concentrates, Dime Industries offers 100% pure THCa diamonds, micro THCa sugar infused with pure terpenes, and a high-terpene sauce filled with THCa crystals. In addition, Dime Industries also crafts excellent vapables – including live resin distillate and rosin cartridges, as well as their own state-of-the-art hardware. Dime Industries is headquartered in Orange County, and its products can be found in select dispensaries in California, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Canada.
Founded with the intention of making high-grade cannabis extracts accessible to a wide audience, and at an impressively affordable price point, Globs has perfected the art of crafting a cannabis experience for every occasion. Globs’s menu offers an excellent balance of classic and modern strains to fit every mood, including diamonds in several sweet and fruity indica and hybrid strains such as Lemon Cherry Gelato and Banana Zkittles. Globs’ sauce selection includes sweet, fruity, and earthy options from Authentic OG to Zundown, and among their shatter choices are classic strains like GDP and Cereal Milk alongside the skunky, earthy notes of Crypto Cake and Super Silver Haze. Globs also crafts an excellent line of cold cure rosins. Globs founder and seasoned industry expert Dylan Brewington personally formulates and vets every product to ensure top quality is achieved every step of the way. Globs concentrates can be found in select dispensaries throughout California.
Hash Holes, the innovative creation of expert cultivator and industry favorite Fidel Hydro, deliver an enhanced cannabis experience like no other. Hash Holes are “doughnut joints” featuring a hole in the center filled with premium extract. Crafted using Fidel’s own premium flower and terpene-rich, hand-washed, cold-cured, six-star ice water hash, Hash Holes come in two sizes (2.5 grams of flower with 1 gram of hash rosin, and Mini Hash Holes, containing 1.5 grams of flower and .5 grams of hash rosin) and an impressive variety of strains, including the award-winning KMZ (Kush Mints x Zkittlez), Runtz, Jealousy, and many other uniquely potent strains. In addition to Hash Holes pre-rolls, Fidel also crafts cold-cured hash rosins and hash rosin pens, top-shelf buds, seeds, and more. Fidel’s Hash Holes are available at dispensaries throughout California or via home delivery within the state.
This premium live resin offering from California Love offers an outstandingly smooth, pure, and potent cannabis experience. Consciously and ethically curated using 100% California-grown cannabis primarily from state-of-the-art greenhouse and hoop house cultivators in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Monterey Counties, part of what makes Surf Sauce stand out is its ultra-fresh extraction timeline – always within a week of harvest – letting its excellent sun-enhanced terpene profile shine brightly through. Founded and run by a father and son duo with a background in agriculture, and an entire team motivated by a true passion for cannabis, a shared brand vision, and a deep love for their California homeland, each California Love product honors a different aspect of the state’s natural beauty and culture – with Surf Sauce paying homage to the Pacific Ocean and California’s enduring surf culture. California Love has also recently launched a line of expertly calibrated and balanced proprietary diamond-infused pre-rolls. California Love can be found in dispensaries throughout California, at a surprisingly affordable price.
The award-winning infused Icewater Bubble Hash Pre-Rolls from Glorious Cannabis genuinely live up to this company’s glorious name. Made with top-shelf full flower from their own cultivar (always free of shake and trim), these pre-rolls are then infused with solventless premium bubble hash – extracted using only ice and water, and deliver a pure, potent, and flavorful experience every time. For those who prefer vaping, Glorious also offers their Icewater Bubble Hash Rosin in a cartridge formulation. Additionally, Glorious Moon Rocks showcase Glorious’s excellent flower selection – combined with cannabis oil distillate and sprinkled with kief for an exceptionally potent sensory experience. Glorious Cannabis puts quality first in everything they do – cutting buds, not corners, in their environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art cultivation facility. Glorious Cannabis’s Icewater Bubble Hash Pre-Rolls and rosin carts are available at dispensaries throughout Michigan, while Moon Rocks and the rosin carts can also be found in select Massachusetts dispensaries.
Happy Valley is a vertically integrated, socially conscious company on a dedicated mission to craft consistent, premium-quality cannabis that always delivers an excellent user experience. Happy Valley offers an excellent selection of concentrates extracted from its own award-winning, locally-grown, PGR-, GMO-, and pesticide-free cultivar, including a high-potency 85% THC boost distillate applicator to enhance your pre-rolls, edibles, and more, bubble hash, live hash rosin budder, badder, and sugar, and solventless THCA. Unlike most other THCA isolate extracts, Happy Valley’s THCA extract intentionally retains some terpene residue for an enhanced sensory experience. These concentrates (and their equally superb flower, edible, and pre-roll counterparts) can be found at Happy Valley’s own flagship dispensaries in Gloucester and Boston, Massachusetts, as well as other select cannabis retailers throughout the state.
Missouri-based Teal Labs’ extracts are truly among the best available in the state. Crafted with quality in mind through every step of the process and extracted from fresh-frozen locally-grown cannabis with outstanding terpene profiles, Teal’s live resin badder, live resin sugar, diamonds & sauce, and live resin vape carts and disposables stand out for their clean, potent effects and thoroughly enjoyable sensory experiences. Teal is in every sense a labor of love, the result of founder and Missouri native Adolphus Busch’s lifelong passion for cannabis and dedication to growing the US cannabis market. Busch got his start working for some of the best companies in Colorado’s then-nascent recreational market, gaining invaluable sales and product/brand development experience, including the launch of his own first product line, ABV Cannabis, under vertically integrated Pure Greens. Once Missouri’s legal cannabis market opened up, Busch jumped at the chance to bring his passion back to his hometown of St. Louis, and Teal Labs was born. Today, Teal concentrates can be found at dispensaries throughout Missouri, and the company plans on continued expansion into not only new product lines but also its own cultivar and retail locations.
One of California’s original, family-operated legal cannabis producers, Heavy Hitters’ dedication to quality is evident in each of their products. Extracted from the top 1% of their indoor-grown California crop, within 30 days of harvest, Heavy Hitters Ultra Extract live resin all-in-ones and vape cartridges deliver up to 95% THC, incredible flavor, and exceptional smoothness. Heavy Hitters’ other extract offerings include pure live rosin carts and their Diamond line of hand-rolled joints – infused with rough-cut 99% THCA diamonds. Heavy Hitters products can be found at dispensaries throughout California, Nevada, and New York.
NASHA’s sumptuous cold-water hash concentrates bring the best of authentic Indian hash culture to life through some of California’s finest Emerald Triangle flower. NASHA’s solventless, chemical-free hash is extracted using pure mountain water and ice, from a carefully curated selection of small-batch, craft cannabis grown on local Humboldt farms. NASHA’s highly potent, terpene-rich concentrate creations include several grades of pressed and unpressed hash, hash-infused pre-rolls, rosin, and cold cure live rosin, as well as rosin vape cartridges and all-in-ones – all lab tested to ensure potency and purity. NASHA hash concentrates can be found at dispensaries throughout California.
The Black Tip and Gold Tip live resin carts from Denver-based extraction experts, Natty Rems, deliver an out-of-this-world experience every time. Handcrafted with the freshest flash-frozen flower from its nationally-recognized, award-winning cultivar, these boutique-grade live resins offer a delicious terpene profile and delightfully potent effects. A true passion for cannabis and the people who use it, paired with an unwavering dedication to quality above all else, solidly places Natty Rems among Colorado’s top cannabis concentrate brands. Natty Rems live resin carts are surprisingly affordable and available at over 60 dispensaries throughout the Denver area.
Founded by craft cannabis connoisseurs, with fellow connoisseurs in mind, Ancient Roots operates from a simple “fire in, fire out” approach, creating high-grade medical flower, edibles, and handcrafted solventless concentrates. Handcrafted by talented artisans using only its own top-shelf cultivar, Ancient Roots’ solventless concentrates are crafted in its on-site extraction “studio” (instead of a lab filled with explosive chemicals and danger signs), keeping them as pure, clean, and close to the original plant as possible. Ancient Roots offers a truly impressive selection of craft cannabis concentrates to choose from, including cold cure live rosin badder, keif, bubble hash coins, and live rosin vape pods. Ancient Roots concentrates can be found at dispensaries throughout Ohio.
Best Hemp-Derived Cannabinoid Concentrates
North Carolina-based Astria Farm crafts hundreds of excellent hemp-based products, showcasing delta-8 THC, delta-9, and a variety of specialty cannabinoids. Using top-grade hemp extract and carbon-conscious processing methods, Astria Farm handcrafts every product in-house, and all are third-party tested by DEA-certified labs, to ensure both quality and proper potency. Their concentrate offerings include pure and potent 99% THC-A diamonds, as well as diamond sauces infused with hemp-derived terpenes from classic strains, including Key Lime, Chem Dawg, and Blue Dream. Astria Farm’s THC-A strains are also available as 2-gram disposable vapes. In addition, Astria Farm offers a terrific line of hemp-derived delta-9 live resin disposables in classic strains like Granddaddy Purple, Incredible Hulk, Thin Mints, and Gorilla Glue #4. As all of these hemp concentrates are completely Farm Bill compliant, Astria Farms concentrates may be ordered directly from its website and shipped to your home, or purchased in bulk at wholesale prices.