THE SOLVENTLESS DILEMMA

Updated: Jul 24

Finding good hash in California's legal cannabis industry was difficult enough, but now solventless companies selling something on an entirely different level, are reaping the rewards of high-grade hopes. For consumers unable or unwilling to fork over $75 to $100 on a gram of live-rosin from a brand whose quality and consistency has already earned immense reputations, new solventless options have begun to appear. While these products are labeled solventless, they’re sold for nearly half the price of leading brands. What isn't always reflected is the drastically different processes used to arrive at what may appear similar final products. What's forgotten in the shuffle to find live-rosin, is the flower-rosins of old. Remembering that solventless hash can take on many forms and consistencies, the styles of solventless extraction vary as well. Understanding the basics of cannabis extraction without the use of chemical solvents, will inform consumers and eliminate the disappointment of misleading products in a rather opaque retail industry.


While the industry defining standard of live hash-rosins and six-star hash is irrefutable, there are simpler and cheaper methods of producing solventless hash. By adapting Old-World methods, bubble-bags became the best technique using only water and mesh screens to filter cannabis extracts from water. This technique starts with dried and cured cannabis (often trim), just like butane extractions of wax, shatter, and crumble originally did. The dry cannabis is mixed into a bucket filled with water. Lining the sides and bottom of the bucket are around seven bubble bags in descending

Traditional Old-World Bubble Hash. 4 star.

micron sized order. Having agitated the cannabis by stirring the water, the valuable trichomes containing THC break free from the plant. The bulk of cannabis is removed from the water as the first bubble bag is pulled. Each consecutive bubble-bag has a slightly finer micron size, working to filter out plant material, fats, lipids, waxes, etc. until only cannabis trichomes remain. After pulling several bags that are usually trash, hash is scraped from the desired micron size bubble bag screen and left to dry. By combining two or three different micron size extractions, usually the 90u and 120u sized bags, a larger profile of terpenes are present, but the overall quality can decline. Some hash is sold as full spectrum and others are labeled 90u or 120u if sold separately. Starting with dried cannabis left bubble hash with a low ceiling for improvement and quality remained stagnant for decades, until advances in cannabis science evolved with medical legalization.


Bubble-Hash

Solventless hash extracted with only water and mesh filters is an old-world method still in use around the world today. This style of bubble hash can produce halfway decent extracts, but it cannot be dabbed on a quartz banger. Instead of melting on a quartz nail like butane extracts, lower grade bubble-hash products must be added to a bowl or sprinkled in a joint. Trying to dab bubble-hash rated four-star and below (on a scale of one to six stars) simply will not work unless dabbed on a red hot nail. This type of solventless bubble-hash is sold very cheap, but don’t be confused, you are not receiving anything close to the six-star hash you may have heard about or seen. Bubble hash produces a dark brown to tan product, still containing plenty of excess debris. This was the type of hash smoked between red hot kitchen knives long before a melting and dabbable extract was ever conceived. Thank science it was.


Flower-Rosins

Jump back seven or eight years to around 2014 when a kid with his mom’s hair straightening iron invented a new solventless extraction method. By pressing a cannabis flower between the heated plates of a hair straightening iron, the pressure forces rosin to seep from the cannabis flower. Discovering the ease of this new technique, numerous companies capitalized on the concept by designing and manufacturing cannabis specific, hydraulic rosin-press machines. Made in all sizes, personal rosin presses allow this extraction technique to become an at home hobby. Between sheets of parchment paper, commercial rosin presses heat and squeeze rosin from the cannabis flower allowing the extractor to gather rosin from the surrounding wax paper. At this point the flower is basically trash, but a full profile of terpenes and cannabinoids are contained as a “dabbable” rosin. Unlike old-world

Fully dabbable Flower Rosin pressed directly from buds.

bubble hash, flower-rosin melts on a quartz banger, allowing for lower temp- dabs that have become standard practice. This is the process used to make many half-priced, solventless products that are easily confused with high-grade hash-rosin at the dispensary. A clear distinction in terminologies will eventually stabilize, reflecting the drastically different quality and high, but for now companies who make flower-rosin are riding the coat tails of the solventless revolution. Be aware of products with only solventless labels, usually failing to distinguish which solventless method was used. Flower-rosin should be labeled clearly and although some companies do, the distinction between flower rosin and hash-rosin is often confused by bud-tenders, store menus, and misleading or unclear packaging. Bud-tenders often fail to mark these distinctions as the newly emerging industry of solventless extracts begins to mature.



With such an immense amount of packaging and regulations, it’s ironic how rare it is for a consumer to see or smell a product before its purchased. Spending 50-60 dollars on what appears a great deal from a new company can be a major disappointment. Not that there is anything wrong with flower rosin or bubble hash as they’re apart of the evolution, but the confusion they cause can quickly lead to frustrated consumers. I've often found myself wishing I'd spent ten or twenty dollars more for a hash rosin brand I trust. Understanding exactly what you are purchasing will eliminate these disappointments and help classify flower-rosin as a distinctly affordable option that won’t break the bank. Since there are plenty of cannabis dispensaries where you never see the full packaging, or the product prior to purchase, solventless products are easily confused. Obviously, not all rosins are equal in quality, but the extraction processes differ as well. With flower-rosin once again appearing on shelves, learning the logistics helps consumers decipher price versus quality with clarity.


Ice-Water Hash


The grading scale of one star to six stars does not apply to rosin, but only to ice-water hash. With the invent of fresh frozen harvests, the same process used for bubble hash, done perfectly in a refrigerated environment, can produce six-star ice water hash. Judged partially by looks, the ability to melt when dabbed is the ultimate deciding factor for the quality of the hashish. This is where the term “full-melt” originates, referring to the hash's melt-ability. In Cali’s cannabis industry, any hash that can be dabbed as usual is of or near six-star quality. Starting with frozen cannabis, the bubble bags are used the same way, and sublimation technology helps to dry the extracted hash. It is then sieved into a fine powder. Done to perfection, nothing but the heads of trichomes will remain, stacked one upon another in a perfect jar of hash heads. Unlike solvent extractions that dissolve the trichome heads, solventless ice water extracts preserve the full trichomes as nature intended. Dabbing six-star ice water hash is the closest method of experiencing a plant’s natural terpene and cannabinoid profile available today. And finally, this ice-water hash is the necessary starting material from which additional extraction processes and techniques are applied to create varying styles of solventless hash.


"Full-melt" 6 Star Ice Water Hash. Can be dabbed alone or put through a rosin press to further purify.


Live Hash Rosin


Leading companies making fresh frozen ice-water hash can elect to purify the product further by bringing out the rosin press. Instead of pressing dried cannabis the way flower-rosins do, hash-rosin producers smash five to six-star ice-water hash into a live hash-rosin product that dominates connoisseur demand. It’s a world apart from flower-rosin that is fairly shelf stable, while hash-rosin and six-star ice-hash must remain frozen or refrigerated to prevent a change in consistency and to preserve the volatile terpenes heavily depleted in dried cannabis and solvent extractions. Live hash-rosins and ice-water hash do not distort the integrity of the trichomes natural terpene and cannabinoid profiles Mother Nature intended. This fuller profile leads to positive effects in everything from taste and smell, to appearance, but especially an improved high. The entourage effect is dependent upon different compositions of terpenes and cannabinoids, a profile that solvent

Hash-Rosin pressed from 6 star ice-water hash.

extracts can only try to recreate by reintroducing extracted terpenes into the final THC-a extract. With ice-hash, there isn't a need for reintroduction as the trichome heads remain largely in tact, undamaged, and containing the full profile of each strain, or phenotype. Even pressing five and six star ice water hash into rosin can damage terpenes slightly as the heat melts trichome heads into a luxurious and translucent hash rosin, some terpenes do escape. Pressing ice-water hash works to clean five-star hash into a fully dabbable product. Some brands press their six-star hash, although unnecessary for dabbing, to remove any last impurities creating a

premium hash-rosin product. Regardless of ice-water hash ratings, its fair to say hash-rosin is a monumentally superior product to flower rosin, having nearly completed the extraction process before turning to the rosin press.


With the industry disturbing trend of solventless hash and hash-rosin products, only a couple elite producers have been able to maintain the standard they set. These elite solventless companies are undoubtedly worth the price, once an understanding of the care and craft quality necessary to achieve these results is better understood. While flower rosin is a solid and affordable product, to the concerned buyer, it lacks much of what less expensive butane extracts provide. With advancements in technology and skill, hydrocarbon extracts are better than ever making them an easy and cheaper option to higher priced flower-rosins. This makes it difficult to convince anyone that solventless flower-rosin is worth the increased price, over hydrocarbon solvent extractions. Head to head at equal prices, flower rosin is normally superior to B.H.O, but the prices don't match. Hash-rosin on the other hand is worth every cent, and is distinguished entirely from all butane extracts.


Rosin Badders and Sauces


After extracting ice water hash from fresh frozen cannabis, it is put through the rosin press before additional steps can be added. Some brands are choosing to whip their rosins into a hash rosin badder that's slightly easier to work with than fresh-press hash rosin. Others are utilizing a cold-cure technique to create numerous consistencies for solventless products including live hash-rosin sauces, that allow terpenes and THC-a crystals to naturally separate. This is the area where information and explanations are the hardest to come by. Solventless ice-hash and hash-rosins are no longer a secret, but the varying dynamics used from there is still largely unknown. The idea behind solventless sauces and diamonds is to create a shelf stable product, unlike its predecessors of 6star and hash rosins that require constant refrigeration.



Live Hash Rosin Badder. Made with ice, water, and pressure.

With hash rosin companies producing in extremely limited batches, only a handful of retail stores across California are able to carry their products. This is not for a lack of demand, but precisely the opposite. Companies are unable to produce and manufacture enough quality hash and rosin to keep up with endless demand. This is where flower-rosins try to fill a void to the unsuspecting buyer, but words out, and brands are all scurrying to catch up. With even more demand, prices will eventually go down as more and more companies elect to go solventless. As consumers become educated of the intricacies of production and the demand for solventless peaks, many manufacturers will be forced to ditch the chemistry sets used in Butane hash oil extractions, in favor of hand-made, small batch, fresh frozen hash products. Instead far too often the best products sit unsold, with bud-tenders unwilling and uninformed to the latest industry products and trends. Now, as an industry designed around solvent extracts pivots to keep up, a lot of messy and borderline “rosins” are showing up in moderately priced jars. Just remember, you get exactly what you pay for and I only want to pay for hash rosin like this...



Solventless Hash Rosin turning opaque at room temp. The ideal consistency to dab.


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