In a world literally dripping in gooey, waxy concentrates, plenty of options await cannabis consumers who want to reach beyond flowers or maybe a little kief to supplement their cannabinoid deficiency. BHO, CO2 oil, and live resin are among the potent connoisseur delights awaiting patients and recreational consumers in legal states where they are commonly sold by dispensaries and retail stores.
The problem with popular concentrates like BHO (probably the most common example of the art today) is that they’re typically made using potentially harmful solvents — in this case, butane. Many patient advocates and medical professionals question the health risks of such extraction techniques, especially if consumed in large quantities by those with severe ailments or chronic pain.
The BHO Problem
Commercial processing operations employing state-of-the-art closed-loop extraction machines are considered by many experts to remove enough of any residual solvent to be safe, even for patients who consume significant doses on a daily basis. The problem is when inexperienced, unlicensed rookies attempt to make BHO and accidentally burn down the house.
The BHO dilemma doesn’t necessarily regard butane, but rather black markets in both legal and prohibitionist states that promote amateur processors seeking quick profit (not uncommon in a lagging economy with ongoing unemployment). These underground extraction operations sometimes are severely lacking in safety protocols or concern for the lives of humans in the vicinity — or are simply ignorant of the true dangers of working with a highly volatile substance like butane.
Everyone loves a good concentrate, but butane’s risk of explosion when used as an extraction solvent by sloppy amateurs and the potential health threat posed by its inhalation over time, even in small amounts, equals two convincing reasons to seek a different approach to the creation of homebrew concentrates. Users should generally feel comfortable purchasing concentrates made with solvents that are produced by reputable brands employing regulated and inspected equipment and trained technicians. Companies like Neos, DRx, Bloom Farms, and Colorado Cannabis Co. all utilize independent third-party testing labs to confirm that levels of nasty things like solvents and pesticides are within acceptable limits.
Press Me Some Rosin
Fortunately, an alternative home extraction method has emerged that can safely and conveniently be performed in one’s kitchen: Rosin. Also known as “rosin tech,” this process can involve as little as a $30 hair straightener, some parchment paper, and a few grams of cannabis flowers. More importantly, it poses absolutely no threat of explosion because it employs zero volatile solvents like butane or alcohol. Those concerned about the health risks of residual solvents are also comforted by the knowledge that rosin never had solvents to begin with; the issue is a moot point.
Those who may have heard stories regarding how someone used a hair straightener and regular bag bud to create some high-THC, very potent concentrate may have perceived them to be urban legends. There’s no free lunch, after all. On the surface, rosin extracted cheaply and easily from conventional cannabis flowers sounds almost too good to be true.
But rosin is real. A quick search of YouTube will reveal dozens of how-to videos for this bleeding edge cannabis concoction. It is commonly dabbed, often using a dab rig, but can also be smoked or vaporized via other means. Like other concentrates, rosin can be used to garnish traditional ground buds in bowls and joints or can be vaporized using a desktop model or vape pen. Some fans of rosin have declared it to be the death of BHO, especially in terms of home production.
Temps and Yield
What type of yield can one expect from the extraction of rosin? After all, if it takes an ounce of cannabis to produce a quarter gram of concentrate containing under 50 percent THC, such an operation obviously wouldn’t be worth pursuing. One fan of the process claims he was able to extract just shy of half a gram of rosin from two grams of flowers (equalling about a 24 percent yield). This case involved a hair straightener set to 300 degrees that was applied to cannabis under intense manual pressure in two 10-second cycles.
Rosin is new and relatively little is know regarding best practices for its production. One instructional video on YouTube features a hair straightener set to 400 degrees that was applied once, for only a couple of seconds, to each one or two gram sample of cannabis buds. It should be noted that inexpensive hair straighteners, even those with temperature indicators, are notoriously inaccurate. For those who take rosin extraction seriously, the only way to get an accurate temperature is to use a temp gun.
Rosin extraction produces highly variable results. The exact equipment, temperatures employed, and the duration of applied pressure all significantly influence the quality and potency of rosin created at home. Of course, the quality of the herb from which this delectable substance is being extracted is also very important. Some who have experimented with rosin extraction claim that some strains are much more appropriate for this technique than others. As with any concentrate extraction method, use of poor quality cannabis will produce significantly less impressive extractions than top-shelf, potent herb.
For patients and consumers seeking an alternative to flowers who also want to avoid the health risks of BHO (especially stuff found on the black market), rosin is a practical and promising way to quickly produce high-potency, solvent-free hash oil in only a few minutes. For those determined to create their own cannabis concentrate, rosin offers a safe alternative to dangerous solvents like butane.
Unfortunately, rosin is also very unpredictable and requires some experimentation. Aspiring extraction artists must try different temperature settings and pressure durations to find the optimal process for their particular cannabis. The physical differences between indicas and sativas alone will require changes to one’s extraction methodology to get everything right.