Dear Stoner: I keep seeing all these different "concentrates" in dispensaries, but I've yet to try any. I know this sounds dumb, but what is hash, exactly?
Dear Ivana: What is hash? Awesomeness concentrated. Next time you get a good look at a bud, check out the white-to-amber crystals coating the flower itself. Those are called trichomes, and they contain most of the THC and other cannabinoids that get you buzzed. Separating those glands (aka kief) from the plant material and condensing them is how you make hash — which is much more potent by weight than cannabis flowers.
There are a few good ways to make hash. Probably the oldest method is to rub the buds in your hands to collect the kief and oils until they are thick enough to scrape off, collect and press into dark balls. Finger hash like this goes back thousands of years to India but is still really common around the world, especially in the Caribbean. Dry-sieve hash is another ancient method: Dried plants are banged over screens, dropping kief to a collection tray below; it's then pressed either by hand or with a mechanical press.
The two most common types of hash you'll see around Colorado today are made with more modern techniques. Icewater hash (or bubble hash) involves stirring cannabis into a bucket of extremely cold water to freeze and break off the trichome glands from the plant material. The weed/water mix is then poured through a series of three to five increasingly fine nylon mesh screens. The first bag collects all of the waste plant material, while the others collect the wet, mud-like trichomes. Once dried, this hash can get up into the 70 to 80 percent-THC range.
The other most common hash these days is extracted from the plant using chemicals. While they won't dissolve in water, THC glands are soluble in chemicals like butane and rubbing alcohol. For butane extractions, herb is crammed into a long metal or glass cylinder that's open on both ends, and liquid butane is sprayed down the tube and through a filter at the bottom opening. THC is dissolved into the butane, which is collected, then carefully heated and left in a vacuum chamber to evaporate the solvent. What is left is mega-potent THC wax (also called BHO or budder) that occasionally clocks in at 90 percent THC or higher.