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. Up until the revival of rosin, solventless 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. In contrast to solvent based extractions, 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. 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.
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 quality of the trichomes and the effectiveness of the isolation. Before making a purchase, ask your budtender or caregiver if the hash melts, who processed the hash, 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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
Certain strains are known for producing superior hash from both a yield and melt perspective. For example, Gorilla Glue #4, Cookies, and TGA strains tend to produce 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)
Contains just 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, smoked, twaxed, 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.
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 bowls, twaxing 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, I 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, I 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 I 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.
- 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