There's a lot of cannabis concentrates on the market these days, and there's no question it can be confusing, especially if you haven't tried some of these products before. All of them are stronger in potency than traditional cannabis flower, but there's still a lot of differences between the different extracts out there.
Concentrates can be made using a few different methods. Two of the most common are butane hash oil (BHO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) extractions. Both BHO and CO2 extraction methods can be used to make weed concentrate in a number of different shapes and consistencies. So you can find wax, shatter, and cannabis oil made using both methods.
So which is better, BHO or CO2? In a nutshell, BHO products are likely to be cheaper, because extracts made using butane require less labor. CO2 extraction is usually done at a lower heat, and is more likely to have more CBD and terpenes from the original plant material. This can mean a better high, which might justify the higher cost.
Some cannabis users are also concerned about residual solvents left in concentrate. Both BHO and CO2 products are purged of chemical compounds once the process is done. But some in the industry argue that CO2 is a safer solvent, with a long history of use in food products. Let's investigate a bit further, and see if we can help you choose between BHO and CO2.
What is Butane Hash Oil? (BHO)
BHO concentrates can take a number of shapes and forms, like shatter and wax, but in general, they are some of the strongest cannabis options on the market. THC levels in the final product can be as high as 70-90%.
Like most other concentrates, butane hash oil is created by putting cannabis or hash through an extraction process involving solvents. The temperature settings will vary depending on the type of BHO product being created, but the principle is always the same.
Butane is used as a solvent to remove the cannabinoids from the trichomes of the marijuana plant. This leaves a highly concentrated product with all the THC and none of the plant material. And as mentioned, after the BHO extraction, the extract is purged of chemicals so it's safe for use.
Quick note: you always want to be buying concentrates from reputable, licensed manufacturers in a legal, regulated market. Otherwise, there is a danger the proper safety standards weren't followed, and there can be more potential health risks.
Closed loop BHO extraction process
In the early days of concentrates, butane extraction was done with an "open loop" or open blasting system. People would put weed and butane in a metal glass tube, and in this system, butane is released into the air. This is super dangerous, because butane is very flammable, and a spark can start a deadly fire or explosion.
Nowadays, most BHO extraction is done using a closed loop system that doesn't expose butane to the air in the environment at any point. This makes it much safer to produce. However, the dangers of butane extraction still mean it's really not something you should ever do at home.
BHO vs CO2 Extraction Systems
CO2 extraction is similar to BHO extraction, but using a different solvent: carbon dioxide instead of butane. CO2 is a gas, but in a process called supercritical co2 extraction, it is exposed to high pressure that transforms it into a supercritical fluid.
Supercritical CO2 passes through the cannabis and strips out all the good stuff: cannabinoids and terpenes. Because the temperature of this process is lower, more cannabinoids and terpenes are retained in the resulting product.
Some argue that the best cannabis experience is when you get the entourage effect: the cannabinoids and terpene profile of the original weed. If you look at BHO vs CO2, BHO will have more of a THC-dominant cannabinoid profile and low terpenes, giving you less of an entourage effect. CO2 will be fuller-spectrum, with more CBD and other cannabinoids.
Solvent-based weed concentrate products
All concentrates go through post processing to remove chemical compounds left over from the extractions. Most people are totally fine with the more popular method of BHO, while some others prefer CO2 because it doesn't seem as dangerous a solvent.
Some folks in the cannabis industry even prefer concentrates that are produced without any solvents at all. In this case, neither BHO nor CO2 oil will do the trick. These consumers are probably sticking to solventless concentrates like hash, kief, and rosin.
Vaporizing Cannabis Concentrates
The most popular way to enjoy marijuana concentrate is vaping it, and BHO and CO2 extracts are no exception. Not all vaporizers can handle concentrates though, and it can damage vapes that weren't made for it.
You can use a dab rig or a concentrate vaporizer. But those tend to be pretty specialized equipment for hardcore concentrate users. Many people enjoy both dry herb and concentrates, and would prefer having a device that does both as opposed to owning multiple devices.
Some dry herb vaporizers have accessories that let you safely convert a dry herb vape into a concentrate device. You can buy an insert or liquid pad that you put into the vape chamber. This will catch liquid spills as the concentrate melts during vaping.
Best vape for dry herb and wax
These inserts and liquid pads have some drawbacks though. They need to be cleaned in between every use, and they're hot to the touch. Also, it's not easy to switch from dry herb to concentrate if you're out of the house, which makes the devices far less portable.
Furna has a solution to this problem. You can get ovens for both dry herb and concentrate, and swap one for the other whenever you want. This also makes it simple to pre-pack multiple ovens so that you don't have to worry at all about cleaning and reloading while you're out. Check out Furna and see how the system works in more detail.