Today’s legal cannabis industry enjoys a wide variety of product types that meet a broad range of consumer interests. And for the concentrate connoisseurs, the latest wave of solventless concentrates carries a lot of promise for the future of this high-priced market sector, as highlighted by the 132 percent increase in demand for each month from June 2021 to June 2022 according to BDSA.
With concentrate sales commanding almost half of California’s market alone, this time-tested, solvent-free method touts itself as the purest form of cannabis extraction yet, allowing vape cartridge and dab loyalists to enjoy weed in a way that is truest to its natural flower form, free of potentially toxic additives, and successfully preservative of the always-sought-after cannabinoid and terpene profiles.
What is a solventless extraction method?
Cannabis flower is where it all begins for high-end consumers: organic, from the earth, high-quality plant matter. However, not every consumer is keen on smoking flower, which is why the concentrate sector of the industry was first explored. For some consumers, there’s also a strong affinity for the same dry-sieving extraction techniques used for generations in the ancient cannabis-producing countries of Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Afghanistan, and Pakistan — a tradition reborn at the hands of passionate extraction artists like the late Frenchy Cannoli.
“Hashish is resin that has been sieved and pressed with the source of heat. That’s hashish. It’s sieved, not extracted. It is the full resin head intact that is pressed with the source of heat and becomes a mass of resin. That mass of resin is named hashish,” said Cannoli.
For many reasons, cannabis concentrates made without solvents have become an incredibly popular option for consumers — especially newer ones who are just beginning to explore the plant and how it might work for them. With the increased ability to control dosage, monitor intake, and consume discreetly, these types of products, including vape carts, oils, and tinctures, are perfect for someone who’s health-conscious and still trying to find their footing in cannabis.
While solvent-based extracts had become the norm for years — with many safeguards in legal markets to ensure clean products without residual solvents — some consumers will always question the potential dangers of using an often volatile chemical solvent to strip the desirable cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material. This type of solvent-based extraction equipment utilizes chemicals like alcohol, butane, propane, and supercritical CO2, which is arguably the least toxic with a lower carbon footprint and more consistent results.
On the other hand, the solventless extraction process completely avoids the use of potentially harmful additives. Instead, these extracts utilize things like ice, water, or heat and pressure to reap winning results, providing consumers with a much cleaner alternative for products like solventless vape cartridges, badder, wax, oil, and more. And yes, while water is technically known as the universal solvent, that distinction is not typically applied when referring to cannabis extracts.
The benefits of solventless extraction
Besides the obvious exclusion of potentially harmful toxins, there are plenty of benefits consumers can come away with when opting for solventless vapes or concentrates.
The main reasons consumers love solventless cartridges and other related products are the purity and the knowledge that each product was created using nothing but plant material and natural elements like temperature, pressure, and friction.
“Products today are all about cleanliness and what you put into your body. We believe cannabis should be no different,” said Nishant Reddy, CEO of A Golden State.
“You’re investing in your high, so why aren’t you also investing in the highest quality product? Why would you want chemical-cutting agents used to separate trichomes from plant matter? We want a full-spectrum product that is truly resemblant of our flower: bold flavor, rich aroma, terpene, and cannabinoid presence, and all-natural processes. That’s only achieved with solventless extraction.”
Fewer steps for extractors
According to Beaker & Wrench Founder and President Lilibel de la Puente, one of the main benefits from an extractor’s point of view is limiting steps to the process.
“Without solvent consumption, you’re saving time, energy, and the cost of the solvent itself. Flammability isn’t an issue anymore either, so the startup costs are also saved, which can be tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said de la Puente.
Time and energy saved for extractors and hype for consumers
As de la Puente mentioned, solventless extraction saves extractors a lot of time, energy, and money, which is ultimately beneficial for retailers trying to meet the increasing demand for this product type while maintaining a healthy profit margin.
At the moment, solventless products are most popular with serious consumers, serving as the luxury category of concentrates and attracting a level of hype comparable to major fashion drops.
“High-end consumers and hype-beasts seek out these items for their perceived superiority over other concentrates: i.e., the Louis Vuitton crowd of cannabis consumers,” said Sean Shepherd, director of purchasing at The Artist Tree.
Of all solventless concentrate products, Shepherd views rosin and rosin carts as the most sought-after today. “Rosin will always be a premium product. There are rosins that, after taxes, are three times the price of gold per gram. They are most definitely here to stay,” Shepherd said.
“As prices drop and people learn more and more about terpenes, they will only become more popular,” said Shepherd.
Types of solventless extracts
There are a few different types of popular solventless extracts and products to meet every consumer’s need as this part of the market continues to expand.
Ice water hash
With ice water hash, raw cannabis flower is soaked in ice water and then agitated. The cold temperature and agitation friction break the trichomes from the plant material in a gentle way, allowing them to be collected, dried out, and preserved while reducing damage to these delicate structures.
Dry sift hash
Dry hash is one of the more bare-bones, ancient approaches for solventless extraction, utilizing nothing more than a series of micron screens and a little elbow grease. Cannabis buds are tossed back and forth across the screen, breaking off the trichomes and allowing them to fall through into a form of kief that is scraped together and pressed into hash, just as cannabis producers have been doing for thousands of years.
Live rosin is considered the cream of the crop by many these days. This method utilizes heat and pressure to press out resins, resulting in one of the cleanest forms of concentrate in the industry.