Hash It can be very difficult to assess hashish for quality and effect. Cannabis flowers possess obvious characteristics such as aroma and crystal coverage to indicate their quality and potency. Hashish does not provide such obvious clues, and may also contain contaminants if produced in poor conditions.
How to assess quality of hashish
In this article I am generally assuming “hashish” to mean traditional types of hash such as dry-sift or hand-rubbed, rather than the high-strength solvent extracts so popular today. However, I have also made some mention of ice-o-lator hash (now also known as “solventless” extract) as it is common in the Dutch coffeeshops, and also can be assessed in similar ways to traditional hash.
In the coffeeshops, it is not always possible to subject your potential hashish purchase to rigorous checks. Some of these checks include handling the hashish, and many coffeeshop “dealers” generally try to prevent their products being handled in case of dirty or perfumed hands compromising its quality. But if you can’t touch it yourself, you can at least ask the coffeeshop employee to demonstrate.
What to look for in good quality hash depends on the type, as hand-rubbed and dry-sift have different properties. But for any type of hash, first check the aroma. Good quality, fresh hashish should be at least mildly fragrant; warning signs could be a stale or even mouldy smell (if the product has not been dried fully—this applies more to hand-rubbed and ice-o-lator hash) or even a noticeable “plasticky” smell, which could indicate presence of contaminants.
Visual characteristics of good-quality types of hash
The appearance of hashish varies widely by type. Dry-sift is probably the most common type found in coffeeshops today; this type is produced by sieving the dry flowers so that the trichomes are separated out. The dry, trichome-packed powder that results is known as kif or kief; it is then compressed to form hash.
Good-quality, pressed dry-sift ranges in appearance from light blondish-brown, soft, crumbly (almost “sandy”) in texture (for lightly-pressed hash), to dark-brown, shiny and hard (for heavily-pressed types). If looking at a hard, heavily-pressed form of dry-sift, it should still appear a lighter blondish-brown hue when cut open, and should become soft when warmed. Some dry-sift hashish, particularly of Lebanese origin, may be more reddish than blonde in appearance.
Hand-rubbed hashish, most commonly from Afghanistan, Indian and Pakistan, is the second most common type found in Dutch coffeeshops. This form of hashish is produced by rubbing the living plants to remove the sticky resin, which is then rolled into balls or eggs and left to cure before being consumed or sold.
Hand-rubbed types of hash should be smooth, black or brownish-black, and often sticky to the touch. When opened up, the interior should be a delicate brown, perhaps with a slight green tinge (a very green interior indicates excessive residual plant material).
Again, good-quality hand-rubbed hash should be relatively hard when cold, and soft and pliable when warmed. Excessive stickiness, especially when cold, may indicate the presence of added oils to increase weight. Look out for presence of fluffy white mould, which can be present if not cured properly.
Ice-o-lator also varies widely in appearance, and may be sold unpressed or pressed in coffeeshops. Unpressed should be uniform in colour, and appear as crystally powder, perhaps with small lumps where the powder has naturally coagulated.
Pressed should range from light greyish-brown to dark brown; the texture is usually soft and slightly sticky, and very high-grade, “full-melt” types may remain sticky and amorphous at room temperature. Lower grades may be harder due to presence of plant material, but this does not necessarily imply unacceptable quality.
The “bubble test” for good-quality hashish
One excellent way of assessing hashish quality, whatever the type of hash, is the “bubble test”. This entails taking a piece of hash and applying a flame to it; if hashish is good-quality, the resin will begin to bubble noticeably. Very high-grade hash will often catch fire rapidly, and burn with a clean flame.
If the hash is black after this test, it may indicate that contaminants have been combusted along with the resin (use a clean flame from a lighter rather than a match, as the latter can leave black soot of its own on the hash).
If the hashish does not bubble, it may be very poor-quality and either contain contaminants or high levels of residual plant material. As the old adage states, “if it don’t bubble, it’s not worth the trouble”. On the other hand, if it bubbles excessively, it may be an indication of the presence of added oils—unscrupulous producers are wise to the bubble test, and intentionally add oils that will produce the same effect.
With experience, the combination of smell, appearance and “bubble factor” should indicate quality or lack of—added oils often give a greasy appearance and a plasticky smell.
What effect are you looking for?
The effect of hashish can vary widely, primarily according to the strain. However, effect of hash made from less mature plants may differ from that made from more mature plants even if the strain is the same.
“Young” hashish from early plants often contains a higher THC-to-CBD ratio, and produces a “higher”, more “racy” effect. Hashish that has been cured for a shorter time prior to sale may also provide a “higher” effect as less THC has degraded to CBN (Cannabinol).
With individual strains, sativas are generally “higher” in effect than indicas. However, many of the world’s major hash-producing countries have begun to experience dilution of the gene pool as foreign genetics are introduced, so it can be very difficult to predict the effect of hashish until it is sampled.
Ice-o-lator may vary in effect according to the micron size, particularly for hybrid varieties. The reason for this is that sativa and indica strains have trichomes of different sizes—sativa usually has small trichomes, indica usually has large—and hybrids contain a mixture of both sizes. Thus, the larger trichomes may be separated out from the smaller ones during the ice-o-lator production process.