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How to Use Cannabis Concentrate

When it comes to cannabis concentrates, a little goes a long way. Just a “dab” of concentrate can have a powerful effect. And that’s just one of the reasons why consumers are clamoring to concentrates: These products are also celebrated for their potency and robust flavor. 

But as one of the newer products on the cannabis market, some consumers accustomed to consuming flower and edibles may not know how to work with concentrates. At Ethos, our associates field these questions every day, and in honor of 7/10 – also known as Oil Day or Dab Day – we’ve assembled their best tips here in one handy guide.

1. Start low, go slow

In all things cannabis, the mantra “start low, go slow” applies, and consumers new to concentrates are no different. Concentrates are aptly named; they contain elevated levels of the phytocannabinoids and terpenes responsible for the overall consumption experience. This means they are very potent, so it’s best to gradually increase consumption until the desired effects are achieved during a session.

“Go slow; you can always have more later,” said Matthew Childs, product associate at Ethos Dorchester.

Quannie Leverette, assistant general manager of Ethos Dorchester, said that a small amount of material is all you need to get started.

“You only need to dab a half size grain of rice to start,” Leverette said. “Dabbing tends to be high in potency and a small amount packs a powerful high.”

2. Try your favorite strain in concentrate form

Concentrates often reflect the source cultivar (strain) from which they are derived. Wax extracted from Purple Kush will have the same phytocannabinoid and terpene as the flower in higher percentages. 

According to Sasha Uzlyaner, Caregiver Lead at Ethos Locust St. in Philadelphia, this supports a unique and sometimes more impactful session without straying far from a consumer’s favorite cultivar.

“With concentrates, you can play with terpene profiles a lot more than you can with flower,” Uzlyaner said. “You can’t get that when it comes to flower in terms of effects. If you’re someone who wants more of that [relaxing] effect, you might opt for a concentrate with 5% myrcene content.” 

Most strains of flower do not contain more than 1% myrcene, making concentrates with 5% myrcene very potent comparatively.

“That’s… why concentrates are so medicinally viable,” Uzlyaner added.

3. Consider “live” products for a more flavorful experience 

“Live” products are a small but rapidly growing subsection of cannabis concentrates which uses solventless extraction methods to source cannabis extract from flash frozen cannabis flower. If you haven’t tried a live concentrate yet, like live sugar or live rosin, 7/10 may be a great time to try.

Maria Ortiz, General Manager of Ethos Pleasant Hills, recommends live concentrates to her customers because of this improved terpene profile.

“Especially dealing with [a product like live] rosin, you’re getting closer to the plant itself; it’s not going through a chemical extraction process,” Ortiz said. “It retains its fresh flavors… and you get a cleaner taste, in my experience.”

Some consumers may prefer the flavors and aromas of live resin, while others might find a product like THCA crystals – virtually pure, odorless, tasteless crystallized THCA – meets their goals and preferences more effectively. Ultimately, personal preference is key, Ortiz said.

Notably, other extracts require refinement or additional processing to remove lipids and other compounds; these processes subject the extract to additional heat and pressure, which degrades terpenes. Live resins circumvent this issue altogether and leave only the rich, natural compounds found in the source plant.

“If you are a taste enthusiast, look for live concentrates, [because] live Budders/Badders, Sugars, or Resin pack a punch to your taste buds and endocannabinoid system,” advised Paul Campbell, Product Associate at Ethos Fitchburg. 

4. Consider an easy to use dabbing device

A lot of people find conventional dab rigs, metal nails, and blowtorches intimidating. Luckily, that’s not the only way to dab. Dabbing is more accessible now, thanks to electronic dabbing devices like the Puffco Plus, according to Ashley Chase, General Manager of Ethos Catonsville.

“As someone who likes concentrates but doesn’t want to deal with the whole process of dabbing, I can’t recommend enough the Puffco Plus!” Chase said. “It’s a super easy-to-use concentrate vaporizer and it’s all in one. The consumer just needs to scoop the concentrate onto the built in dab nail and screw the mouth piece back on and voila – all set!”

These devices make it easy and discreet to dab, unlike a conventional dab rig. They are also portable and easy to clean. While many consumers enjoy the ritual of preparing and consuming with a dab rig, those who prefer simplicity may do well with an electronic dab pen.

5. Match the concentrate to your device

One of the most challenging parts of trying concentrates is deciding which type of concentrate is best for your goals. Consistency should be a major factor, said Amanda Mikos, shift lead at Ethos Pittsburgh West, as the texture of your chosen concentrate can get messy quickly.

“A device with a narrow chamber, like the Puffco Plus, is something I recommend with hard, solid concentrates like shatter, wax, or budder, which you could easily put in [the chamber],” Mikos said. “Anything with a coil, like our Yocan devices, I recommend staying away from a thinner concentrate, because it can drip off the coil.”

6. Use low heat to dab

When consuming concentrates, especially using a conventional glass dab rig and blowtorch, it can be easy to overheat the material. When a concentrate is overheated, it degrades phytocannabinoids and terpenes, diminishing both flavors and effects. This can be prevented by lowering the temperature when dabbing, which can be achieved in a few ways.

“Many folks crank up the heat as high as possible, not realizing they are in fact wasting many of the benefits that come along with concentrates,” said Joseph Badowski, manager of retail development for Ethos. “The low heat will … allow you to fully enjoy the true tastes of each terpene present in the cultivar being consumed. In short, sometimes lower heat can deliver a harder punch and an overall stronger set of effects.”

Ortiz suggested low-temp dabbing, an alternative technique for consuming concentrates in a traditional dab rig. 

“With the slow-heat method, you put the concentrate in the banger (also called a “nail”) first [before heating it with a blowtorch] and put on the cap so it’s ready to go,” Ortiz said. “Then, take the torch at the lowest setting and use it on the banger; you can literally watch the concentrate melt. You can stop, take an inhalation, and if you feel you need more you can just use the torch again.”

Ortiz emphasized that this method offers consumers more control over how much concentrate is consumed. Ulzyaner agreed, adding:

“Temperature is really, really important. With a cold start, you get the best flavor and you’re not burning off your cannabinoids and terpenes, which are what you’re paying for. So if you’re starting out and don’t know the timing on how long it takes for your banger to cool down after you heat it, a cold start is a great way to start out.”

7. Add concentrates to flower

Some consumers find the devices needed to dab excessive or costly. If you prefer a simpler approach but still want to try concentrates, certain products, like shatter, lend themselves to being added directly to flower. This is because of its solid consistency, whereas other concentrates may be more viscous and difficult to load into a device. When adding concentrates to flower, remember the first tip in this guide: These extracts are potent cannabis products and only a small amount is required for significant effects. 

“I tell people that there are tons of different ways to go about it. If they’re using flower and don’t want to invest in a rig or a pen, they can simply add it to their flower and make a kind of ‘sandwich,’” said Mikos.

Mikos noted that this is one of the easiest ways to try concentrates and see if they might be right for your consumption goals.

8. Maintain your devices

Whichever device type you choose, it is important to keep it clean. Maintaining your devices properly ensures they will last for a long time and that each session will maximize the flavor and effects of your concentrate.

“Always give your rig, pen, e-nail [or other device] a nice wipe down with a cotton swab and some [91%] isopropyl alcohol if you have it,” Badowski said. “At the very least, a wipe down would be of benefit. This prevents the yucky buildup of reclaim and will offer you a clean, good-tasting dab when you sit down for your next session.”

Navigate your concentrate options with Ethos

There are no shortage of options at the dispensary when it comes to concentrates. With many different textures, cultivar profiles, and devices to choose from – plus this valuable guidance from Ethos associates – dabbing is more accessible and easier than it’s ever been. Whether you’re a patient looking for higher-potency products or simply want to consume less without affecting your phytocannabinoid intake, cannabis concentrates can be just the ticket. Review your local Ethos dispensary menu to see what’s available near you.

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