The Solventless Hash Rating System: How to Determine Quality

Solventless hash, like dry sift and ice water extraction, represents the highest quality and least adulterated form of cannabis concentrate. Composed of pure trichome heads (where all the phytocannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other good stuff is at), solventless hash provides an exceedingly pure cannabis experience.

Up until the revival of rosinsolventless extracts were perhaps better classified as resins. With the exception of rosin tech, the goal of solventless extracts like dry sift and ice water hash (or bubble hash) is pure glandular trichome head isolation, as the heads contain the sought after cannabinoids and terpenes.

That said, solventless extractions are not usually 100% free of contaminate (plant matter), with the exception of rosin. This means that ‘full melt’ dry sift and ice water hash is extremely difficult to achieve without very high quality starting material and an experienced hash maker.

This is because there are plenty of technicalities that can affect the finished product.  For instance, plants that received foliar sprays during flower will produce subpar hash as the trichomes are coated in additional layers of waxy membranes, making them difficult to isolate.

Please keep in mind that, in order to get the most potent hit from these concentrates, we recommend using a dab rig.!

Evaluating Quality

While there is no substitute for a melt test, a methodical inspection of the solventless hash during the pressing process will give you an idea as to the quality of the trichomes and the effectiveness of the isolation. Before making a purchase, ask your budtender or caregiverif the hash itself melts, who processed it, how the starting material was grown, and which microns are available.

All of this information will help you narrow down on the highest quality solventless hash. Keep in mind, the information you receive from a budtender or caregiver is simply the rating the hash maker gave the extract — there is no substitute for independent laboratory testing to determine composition.

If you see a gram of half melt that catches your eye, don’t be afraid to take it home for a melt test of your own, or purchase it for the sole purpose of rosining it to improve the melt. Here are some important characteristics to consider:

Appearance

Quality hash should have a golden color and a beach sand consistency if stored properly in a cool environment. When quality hash has been stored at room temperature or warmer, it can ‘grease up’ taking on the appearance of a darker, semi-transparent oil.

Quality hash lacks evidence of green (chlorophyll), dark brown, or black spots, indicating contamination (from plant material or otherwise). Seek out ice water hash and dry sift with visible trichome heads that glisten like crystals or diamonds in their jar.

Smell

Quality solventless hash should have a strong scent that is consistent with the starting material (i.e. hash made from a strain like Golden Goat should smell like Golden Goat flower). Identifiable, pungent smells are indicative of high terpene content and produce strong flavors when smoked or vaporized.

Micron/LPI

Both ice water hash and dry sift will be labeled with a micron or LPI (lines per inch) designation, respectively. The number indicates the size of the holes in the screen, which correlates to the size of the trichome heads in the hash.

Unfortunately, there is no across-the-board ‘best’ micron/LPI when it comes to solventless hash; the level of melt within each micron/LPI is almost always strain dependent (i.e. different strains and growing conditions produce different size trichome heads). However, as a general rule of thumb, the highest likelihood of full melt solventless hash can be found in the 70μ-120μ micron range (120-200 LPI).

Strain

Certain strains are known for producing a superior hash from both a yield and melt perspective. For example, Gorilla Glue #4, Cookies, and TGA strains tend to produce a very greasy and melty solventless hash, whereas citrus dominant strains typically produce drier resin. Additionally, organically grown cannabis free of foliar sprays during flower will typically produce superior solventless hash than their synthetic counterparts.

Grades of Dry Sift

The quality of your dry sift may not fall exactly into one of the following categories as these represent the middle and the two extremes. Therefore, many hash makers and dispensaries have begun to rate hash with the star system; 1 star being no melt (kief) and 6-star being full melt/oil.

If you are unsure where your dry sift lies on the melt spectrum, it’s easy to perform a quick test at home by dabbing a small sample off of your nail and watching the melt. If it chars, it is likely 1 or 2 star dry sift; if it melts like water leaving minimal residue on the nail, it is likely 5 or 6-star hash. Usually, the preferred consumption method will depend on the grade of the dry sift.

Full Melt Dry Sift (5-6 stars)

This grade of hash contains just pure trichome heads and is considered to be ultimate connoisseur-grade hash; it should be dabbed off of a quartz nail. The starting beach sand consistency can be pressed into a dab-ready sheet for ease of portion control and handling.

Although this level of hash can be enjoyed in any fashion (i.e. vaporized, smokedtwaxed, made into edibles, etc.), it is typically dabbed because it’s the best way to maximize flavor and effect. Full melt dry sift is one of the most expensive concentrates — assuming you can find it at all.

Half Melt Dry Sift (3-4 stars)

Half melt is more contaminated and will not vaporize well off of a nail in dab form, although some people still elect to do so. Depending on the level of melt, I recommend loading half melt dry sift in bowlstwaxing the inside of a joint/blunt, or rosining it (in essence turning it into oil i.e. full melt).

Expert hash makers can clean lower grades of dry sift in an effort to further isolate the trichome heads (think of full melt dry sift as a further refined, more pure form of half melt). Half melt dry sift typically sells at a lower price point than full melt.

Kief (1-2 stars)

It’s what’s likely in the bottom of your grinder right now. Kief contains a mixture of trichome heads, stalks, and plant material (contaminate). It is considered to be the lowest grade of dry sift and will char (the opposite of melt) immediately upon being dabbed.

Thus, kief is best enjoyed via twaxing, on bowls, in joints/blunts, in edibles, or converted to rosin. Kief is the least expensive grade of dry sift and is often times very affordable.

Grades of Ice Water Hash

Like dry sift, ice water hash is also commonly rated using the star system; 1 star being no melt (cooking grade) and 6 star being full melt/oil. Once again, the preferred consumption method will depend on the quality or melt level of the hash.

Full Melt Ice Water Hash (5-6 stars)

Full melt contains just trichome heads, is very high-grade hash and should also be dabbed off of a quartz nail. You’ll find it’s about the same to handle and press into sheets as dry sift.

Because of the purity and quality, we also recommend reserving your bubble hash for home use with an electric nail. Full melt ice water hash is of very high quality and commands equally high prices.

Half Melt Ice Water Hash (3-4 stars)

Half melt is more contaminated and will not vaporize as well off of a nail in dab form. While some people will dab certain grades of half melt ice water hash, we prefer to load it in bowls, twax the inside of a joint/blunt, or rosin it (in essence turning it into oil i.e. full melt). Half melt ice water hash typically sells at a lower price point than full melt.

Cooking Grade Hash (1-2 stars)

Cooking grade hash contains the most contaminate (plant matter). It is called cooking grade because it is commonly used to make edibles. It will not melt, so we wouldn’t recommend dabbing or vaporizing cooking grade hash.

In addition to its use in edibles, cooking grade hash can be enjoyed on bowls, inside joints/blunts, or converted to rosin. For reference, cooking grade ice water hash is usually comprised of the extremely low and high microns (i.e. 25μ and 160μ respectively). Cooking grade is the least expensive grade of ice water hash and is often times very affordable.

Pro Tip: Because all grades of ice water hash utilize water in the extraction process, it must evaporate prior to consuming. Make sure that your ice water hash has been properly dried to avoid the respiratory irritation caused by inhaling residual moisture.

Bonus:  CBD Hash Using Organic Hemp Flower

Even in states without a legal cannabis program, you can still make your own solvent-based or solventless concentrates using organic hemp flower instead of traditional cannabis buds.  The resulting concentrate will be high in CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids, but without the psychoactive high associated with THC.

We like the sustainably cultivated, non-GMO, federally legal hemp flower from Canna Comforts.  Each of their diverse varietals looks, smells, tastes, and smokes just like the top-shelf cannabis strain that inspired it.  We like to use Lifter (read our review OR just buy it) for maximum CBD content, but you could also convert some Elektra Kief into half- or full-melt hash using the rosin method, as you would with a high-THC kief.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Solventless extracts are the highest quality cannabis concentrates
    Starting material is critical to concentrate quality
    Engage with your provider and ask questions about the concentrates


How to Evaluate Weed Quality

Whether you live in a legal state or not (and perhaps especially if not), chances are you have encountered subpar cannabis flowers before. The era of weak, brown “brick weed” is long over, but that doesn’t mean that all flower is created equally.

The good news is that you can avoid being stuck with subpar weed if you know what to look for. In our experience, there is no substitute for a smoke test in a perfectly rolled joint or blunt, but a methodical visual inspection of the buds will give you a good idea as to the type of strain and the conditions in which it was grown. Once you know what to look for, you’ll always have the best in your 420 travel kit.

Smell

Well-grown, quality cannabis buds should have a pungent, identifiable smell — that skunky aroma that ranges from slightly sweet to earthy to diesel-like — indicating high terpene content. Alternatively, inferior buds often lack any smell or smell similarly to hay or alfalfa, a sure sign of poorly grown and/or cured cannabis.

For reference, rich scents like coffee and chocolate are typically indicative of an indica strain, while bright, acidic citrus notes are generally characteristic of a sativa. Hybrid strains will likely contain components of both profiles.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid buds that smell like hay or have no discernible smell at all. If it doesn’t have that characteristic dankness, you probably don’t want it.

Pungency is directly linked to potency and terpene content.

Color

Quality cannabis buds should be generally green in color, not brown!  The exact shade can range from lighter, frosty greens to darker, forest greens, with undertones that range from purple to rosy to golden.

The important question to ask is: does the bud look like it came from a healthy plant? It is not uncommon for quality buds to have hints of purple, pink, blue, etc. However, if the majority of the bud is rusty red, brown, tan, or yellow in color, it came from an unhealthy plant.

Buds that looked bleached white (not frosty with crystals) are the unfortunate victims of light burn, an unfavorable growing condition in which the plant is subjected to extremely high-intensity light. Avoid these buds, as they won’t give you a quality smoking or vaping experience.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid buds that are brown, tan, yellow, red, or white in color.

Quality cannabis is primarily green in color, with a wide range of accent colors and undertones.

Bud Structure

As a general rule of thumb, indica buds should be tight and dense, while sativa buds are often more light and fluffy. However, when grown carelessly, indica buds can take on sativa-like appearance, with open, incomplete buds and visible stems. Hybrid strains often share structural traits of both indicas and sativas.

For reference, sativa buds are typically covered in more pistils (little orange/red hairs) than indica buds. The pistils should be dispersed throughout the bud, not clustered in some areas and absent from others.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid buds with loose, open structures and visible stems

Indicas are generally tight and dense, while sativas are fluffier with more pistils

Trim

Following the harvest, cannabis buds must be trimmed in order to eliminate the leaves surrounding the bud. Quality cannabis buds should be tightly hand-trimmed as opposed to machine-trimmed.

Trimming machines tend to mangle buds and disrupt the fragile trichomes they harbor. Avoid buds that have been machine trimmed or untrimmed buds with excessive leaves; typical indications of rushed cultivation practices.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid buds that haven’t been trimmed well, or are visibly mangled by a trim machine

Quality cannabis is trimmed by hand to preserve trichomes and buds

Trichomes

The goal of properly grown cannabis is to produce buds densely packed with ripe trichomes, the visible crystals on the surface of the buds. This is because trichomes are where the cannabinoids and terpenes are stored.

Trichome density is relatively easy to distinguish with the naked eye; i.e. how ‘frosty’ is the bud? Quality buds will be covered in trichomes that sparkle like crystals, whereas poor quality buds will lack trichome coverage.

Trichome ripeness, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to assess without the aid of a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe. The question at hand; was the plant grown to maturity, or was it harvested prematurely (or even late)?

Usually, the problem is prematurely harvested buds as opposed to those which are over-ripened (especially with sativa strains, as they have longer flowering periods). Premature harvesting is especially common in illegal states where the underground cultivators seek to complete more flower cycles in a year to maximize yield (at the expense of quality).

The color of the glandular trichome head is the easiest way to determine trichome ripeness. Ideally, the trichome heads should be milky white, possibly with a hint of amber. If the trichome heads are clear, the plant was harvested prematurely, and if all the heads are amber, the plant was harvested after peak ripeness.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid buds that don’t look ‘frosty,’ as they were not grown to peak ripeness

Quality cannabis is dense with cannabinoid-rich, milky-white trichome heads

Hermaphroditic Traits

Quality buds are only produced by female cannabis plants – males produce pollen sacks, which you don’t want to smoke! Strong female genetics remain female even through the potential stresses encountered while growing.

The key here is strong female genetics; some more finicky strains will produce female plants with hermaphroditic traits. This means that, with enough stress or time, the plant has a tendency to produce either male flower sites or “bananas” (also called nanners).

These are generally not desirable characteristics and buds showing these traits should be avoided. This is a plant’s final attempt to self-pollinate and reproduce after being stressed to a point where it views death as imminent. All that stress means that the plant hasn’t had the energy to devote to becoming potent — it’s been in survival mode. Thus, the earlier in its lifecycle the plant shows hermaphroditic traits, the higher likelihood the bud is seeded.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid cannabis with seeds, male flower sites, or “bananas.”

Quality cannabis is only produced by the female plant – male characteristics indicate the plant was cultivated under stress and the quality of the buds will be substantially lower.

Mold and Pests

It should go without saying that quality cannabis buds are free of mold and pests, but these issues can sometimes surface in cannabis purchased from a source outside the regulated legal market.

Mold manifests itself as white, powdery mildew (distinct from the crystalline trichomes) or a grey, fuzzy mold, depending on the particular fungal pest. Insects like mites, gnats, thrips, and aphids can leave fecal matter, eggs and even dead friends behind on your buds — ew. If any of these critters, or traces of them, are in your herb, don’t smoke it!

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid cannabis with any evidence of mold and pests

Did You Know?

Aside from the obvious (not wanting to smoke bad weed), those same buds pictured above comprise the starting material used to make all other forms of cannabis. Whether you prefer vaporizing concentrates or consuming edibles, every form of cannabis consumptionstems from the flower the plant produces.

Healthy plants have the best chance of producing a robust cannabinoid profile, and while most people are looking for maximum THC content, one of the most beneficial cannabinoids is called cannabidiol, or CBD.

Though it doesn’t get you high (unlike THC, it is non-psychoactive), athletes and travelers find CBD incredibly helpful for pain relief. Others find help with anxiety and stress, and it is used to treat drug-resistant epilepsy and other inflammatory disorders.

Commonly sold in concentrated forms such as tinctures or softgels, CBD can also be found in high concentrations in organic hemp flower (Lifter strain from Canna Comforts shown below), the source material from which those concentrates are extracted.

Recently, TSA released guidelines on how to take your vape pen on a plane, the rules for flying with weed so that people can make appropriate plans for safely taking their medication on the go.