Botanical Extraction

The Interplay Between Water and Cannabis When Making Hash

Cannabis extracts provide users the opportunity to enjoy high concentrations of cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD). Extracts have applications in the medical cannabis world as well. The extraction and purification methods used to create cannabis concentrates (extracts) determine the purity of final products.

In this article’s case, purity refers to the concentration of trichome heads through water sieving, which provides the benefits of hydration and aids in removing biomass particles, as opposed to dry sieving. Just as in any production process, the choice of the medium is vital. Not all water sources are equivalent, and so, to maximize purity, efforts should be made to start with purified water.

Some people may recommend freezing the material when it’s fresh, but Master Hashishin Frenchy Cannoli advises differently. “When water freezes, there is any approximate 9% expansion of the water mass, small ice crystals are formed in the plant tissues and damage the cell walls, which will release a lot of chlorophyll upon defrosting,” he wrote in a 2016 article for Green Leaf Magazine.

Although it may not be beneficial to freeze the plant material in preparation for hash making, water sieving utilizes ice to agitate the mixture, thereby facilitating the separation of trichome heads from the plant material. In the Green Leaf Magazine article, Frenchy eloquently referred to the first step involving water as making an “ice sandwich” but putting ice in his washing machine, then flowers or time, and on top of that, more ice.

As the ice slowly warms in the cool water, liquifying, more ice should be added to replenish agitative forces. Perhaps prior to adding the supplemental ice, stir the more malleable solution gently to avoid fracturing fragile trichomes. Let the mixture rest for a few moments before rekindling the agitation to allow cannabinoids to fall to descend through the water to the bottom of the container.

Once sieved, the wet concentrate that’s collected should be dried to remove residual water. In this case, the amount of water in one’s environment can promote or hinder the ability to air-dry the kief. A humid room already has lots of moisture in the air, and there’s an equilibrium to consider between air and product. Therefore, a cool, comfortable indoor room should be designed. Use a hygrometer to establish your room’s humidity. Suggested humidity levels for our maximum comfort in the home range between 30 and 50%, and we often have our thermostats dialed to upper 60s, low 70s temperatures. But this room should be about your trichomes and their contents. Frenchy suggests a relative humidity of 35% and a temperature of 55°F.

This cannabis extraction method works because trichomes (which carry cannabinoids and terpenes) are denser than water. Hence, when trichomes are separated by agitation, they fall to the bottom enabling their careful collection. If done patiently and meticulously, this method will leave you with high quality kief (or hash if you add few extra pressing steps).

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About the author

Lydia Kariuki & Jason S. Lupoi, Ph.D.