Many extracts are currently made with Butane, a long-chain hydrocarbon that bonds with cannabinoids. After hot water is used to evaporate the Butane, the sticky green remains are often washed with 90% grain alcohol, which is then evaporated with heat to produce something known as “shatter.”
“Budder” is made through a single solvent de-waxing process usually using a hydrocarbon solvent (Butane, Hexane or Naptha) evaporated with heat, vacuum and a whipping process to release long-chain hydrocarbons. When whipped, the extract becomes lighter in color and forms a hard, oxidized skin. These often contain less cannabinoids then non-whipped waxes. Good material takes time for the wax to out-gas. Also the better extracts are made from the better material: crap in crap out, gold in gold out.
When extracts are made, it’s important to use the cleanest gas available. N-Butane is an additive-free gas available in large tanks, such as those used for grills, and is available from welding supply shops. Buyers should always request a M.S.D.S. (materials safety data sheet) when purchasing.
Another additive commonly used is Propane, which adds extra weight and is polar. Butane, on the other hand, is non-polar, which means one atom is donating and one receiving. The polar Propane will always be bound to the extract until released by heat. N-Butane is available in reagent, laboratory and industrial grades.
After purging with vacuum and heat, and final alcohol wash, almost all traces are removed.
While there are many processes and various technologies developing, it must be noted pressurized, explosive gases are extremely dangerous! My column will not attempt to condone, suggest, recommend or instruct in any of these processes, only to report on the techniques and their results as they develop.
These microscopic shots simply represent some of the products currently available and magnification reveals trace impurities, minute strands of fiber contained in gas and other filter material or contaminates from the gas. In addition the shape of the gas bubbles and density of the bubbles represent gas still contained.
Recently in the Free City of Amsterdam some Dabsters and Dabsperts broke out some special samples for me to photograph. These shots were created using a 45x microscope and a DSLR camera. Samples were from a variety of producers and various single-solvent processes using different varieties of cannabis, some of the latest solvent extraction processes, including a very gassy sample from a local source.