Solvent vs. Solventless: How Are Cannabis Concentrates Made?


Posted by Kymberly on 10/16/2023 in Cannabis Concentrates

how cannabis concentrates are made

Cannabis, throughout history, has mainly consisted of dried plant material that was smoked, the occasional edible, and cannabis tinctures for the most part. Today, however, in legal cannabis markets, there are a plethora of cannabis-infused and cannabis-derived products available for purchase. With inhalation being a tried-and-true method of consumption and the popularity of vaping on the rise, one of the most popular products is what is known as cannabis concentrates. Cannabis concentrates are sometimes known as cannabis extracts or simply as dabs or wax.

What Are Cannabis Concentrates?

Whatever you choose to call it, concentrates are an excellent name for cannabis extracts as they contain concentrated levels of cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabis extracts offer a potent way to consume cannabis for both recreational consumers as well as medical cannabis patients. These products are highly sought after by cannabis patients due to their high potency. This is because this high concentration of cannabinoids, such as THC or CBD, is often required for patients to find relief from medical ailments such as chronic pain, depression, epilepsy, and more.

It is important to remember that not all concentrates are created equal. The extraction technique utilized has a very deep impact on the quality, flavor, consistency, and many other aspects of the final product. Cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds can be extracted from the cannabis plant using various extraction techniques. Of the many different extraction techniques, there are two basic categories of cannabis extraction methods, and those are solvent and solventless. Let’s explore.

Solvent Extraction Methods

Solvent extraction methods use a liquid or gas known as a solvent to dissolve the resin glands (trichomes) from the cannabis plant material. The solvent is then evaporated or purged, leaving behind a concentrated cannabis extract. The most commonly utilized solvents include butane, propane, ethanol, and CO2. Some of the most common solvent-based products are shatter, wax, budder, crumble, live resin, and distillate.

The primary difference between these products is their consistency, THC content, and terpene concentrations. Of the solvent-based cannabis concentrates on the market, some of the most sought-after are live resin and distillate. Live resin is a favorite because it retains the natural terpene and cannabinoid profiles of the plant at the time of harvest. Distillate, however, is desired primarily for its high THC concentration as it is one of the highest testing forms of cannabis concentrates made utilizing solvent extraction methods.

Cannabis extracts made utilizing solvent extraction methods have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.


  •         Solvents are a very effective way of extracting phytocompounds from cannabis plants and have been used in various industries to extract the essential oils of many other plants throughout history. Because they are so effective, in comparison to solventless extract methods, those that implore solvents tend to have a higher yield.
  •         Like having a higher yield, because of the effectiveness of solvents, concentrates made utilizing solvent extract methods also tend to have a higher cannabinoid content, aka a higher THC content, in comparison to solventless extracted cannabis concentrates.
  •         When it comes to solvent-extracted cannabis concentrates, there is no shortage of choices when it comes to consistency. Whether you like it saucy, snappy, sugary, waxy, or crumbly, there is a solvent-extracted concentrate for you!


  •         While solvents may be very effective at what they do, it is this very effectiveness that can also make them very harmful and toxic to the environment. Solvents also present the risk of explosions as they can release what are known as VOCs, which are short for volatile organic compounds. These VOCs can not only erupt into flames, but they can also pollute the land, air, and water.
  •         When solvents are not properly purged from the extracted cannabis compounds and residuals remain, it can present risks for the end consumer as well as degrade the quality of the concentrate tremendously.
  •         Seeing how solvents present several risks, the process of extracting cannabis concentrates using solvents is both expensive and complex. This requires special training, licenses, and specialized equipment.

Solventless Extraction Methods

Solventless extraction methods, as you might have guessed, do not use a solvent to extract the trichomes from the cannabis plant material. Instead, they use more natural methods, such as agitation, pressure, ice, or heat, to separate the trichomes from the plant matter. Solventless extraction has been utilized by individuals in cultures around the globe for centuries to produce things such as hash, kief, bubble hash, and more. Other forms of solventless concentrates include rosin, live rosin, and dry shift hash, to name a few. If you have ever heard of cold-pressed extraction, ice-water extraction, or heat-pressed extraction, you have heard about solvent-less extraction.

Like concentrates made utilizing solvent-based extraction techniques, cannabis extracts made utilizing solventless extraction methods also have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.


  •         Solventless cannabis concentrates are high-quality extracts as they do not require any chemicals or impurities in order to be extracted. They are thought to be the cleaner and safer cannabis concentrate option. 
  •         While solvents may be efficient at extracting plant compounds, they also destroy the natural terpene profile of cannabis, and concentrates made utilizing them are typically only potent in one cannabinoid. With solventless extraction, the end product retains the spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes as it was in the cured cannabis, helping to preserve the natural flavor and aroma.
  •         Solventless extraction is cleaner, and safer, and produces a purer product than solvent extraction techniques. Because no solvents are used, there are little to no risks involved in the extraction process. There is also no risk of potentially dangerous residual solvents being left behind in the final product.
  •         Solventless extraction can and has been done at home by cannabis consumers and patients for many years in cultures globally. This is because it is easy, requires minimal equipment as well as minimal training, and presents little to no risk.


  •         While heat, water, and pressure can all do a phenomenal job at extracting compounds from cannabis, they tend to extract less than solvents due to their abrasive nature. Because of this, solventless extracts tend to be a bit less potent and produce a smaller yield in comparison to solvent-extracted concentrates. What you lose in potency, however, is often made up of a range of other cannabinoids and in the terpene content, all of which can also be beneficial in the overall effects produced.
  •         The consumption methods of solventless extracts can be limited by their texture and stability. Solventless extracts can be harder to handle or store than solvent-based extracts due to their tendency to melt or crumble. Solventless extracts can also be more difficult to vaporize or dab than solvent-based extracts due to their lower melting point or higher combustion point.


Cannabis concentrates are a diverse category of products that offer different experiences and benefits for consumers. Whether you prefer solvent or solventless extraction methods depends on your personal preference and needs. However, it is important to be aware of how cannabis concentrates are made and what differences they have in terms of quality, safety, and effects.

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