Cannabis comes in many forms, from oils and extracts to concentrates and distillate. Both medical users and connoisseurs can consume their THC or CBD in a wide range of products like baked goods, candies, gummies, vape cartridges, shatter, and wax, among others.
The THC and CBD that goes into these products get separated from the marijuana or hemp plant in several different ways. However, the primary methods are through extraction to create concentrates and distillation to create distillate.
The Key Differences Between Concentrates and Distillate
The most significant differences between concentrates and distillate are the remaining compounds after they are processed. Extraction (the process for creating concentrates) uses a solvent to separate CBD, THC and other cannabinoids from the cannabis plant matter resulting in an oil-like extract. Distillation is a process performed post-extraction whereby you heat the oil extract into vapor, collect the CBD and THC compounds at their boiling points, then re-condense the CBD and THC back into liquid form to get a more concentrated substance.
To help you better understand the differences between concentrates and distillates, let’s back up a bit and explore what concentrates and distillate are and how they are made.
What is a Concentrate?
Cannabis concentrates are made by “concentrating” the essential compounds from the marijuana or hemp plant material into a robust end product that can be smoked, vaporized, or used to make edibles. Today, a large number of different cannabis concentrates are available to the public and they can vary in texture and color. Depending on the extraction technique used to create them, the quantity and quality of cannabinoids and terpenes can vary as well.
The most popular way of making concentrates is through the use of solvents. The trichomes on the cannabis plant containing the desired cannabinoids and terpenes are dissolved in solvent liquids (propane, butane, CO2, or ethanol) in an extraction system and then separated from the source plant matter.
Below is a video clip of the extract being collected from the extraction system:
The solvent used in extraction is then purged out of the extract either with a vacuum oven or a desiccator with a vacuum pump. Most of the solvents used are highly flammable, so strict safety measures must be followed to avoid mishaps. Trust us; this is not a do-it-yourself process. The risks of fire and toxicity in at-home operations is simply too high.
What is a Distillate?
Distillation is a post extraction process that isolates specific compounds from a source material, for example; THC and CBD. An apparatus is used to boil the extracted oil at varying temperatures in order to vaporize certain compounds at their boiling points. Once vaporized, a condensing coil will re-condense those targeted compounds back into liquid form, thereby separating them from the rest of the original extract. The most popular apparatuses for performing cannabis distillation are short path or wiped film distillation units.
Below is a video of a wiped film distillation unit in action:
Distillates are typically viscous liquids that contain cannabinoids in their active form and percentages of up to 95%, with a barely measurable terpene content. Its color varies from almost transparent to amber, passing through a beautiful range of golden tones. There are several ways to consume distillates, for example; oils, tinctures, edibles, vaporizers, pills, topicals and more.
Distillate can be used as the base for edibles and vape cartridges because of the lack of flavor, taste, and odor. Distillate can also vary in potency and can be used on its own or infused into food.
To add a bit more complexity to figuring out the differences between concentrates and distillate, take the fact that you distill cannabinoids from concentrates. The distillation process can be used on a concentrate with an 80% THC potency and refine it to 90+% THC.
We’ve Come A Long Way
Until the last two decades, cannabis extracts existed solely in alcohol tinctures or hand-rubbed hashish. Even during that time, the makers of cannabis extracts were clandestine cannabis dealers and experimental chemists. Since the legalization of cannabis, the popularity of cannabis extracts worldwide has exploded, and technological innovation is sure to be seen in cannabis extraction techniques.
Equipment for Creating Concentrates & Distillates
Precision® manufacturers and sells some of the best cannabis and hemp extraction equipment for creating concentrates and distillate. More award winning concentrates are won using Precision® equipment than any other brand.