It’s amazing how the production of hash has evolved over the millennia that humans have been producing it. From hand-rubbed hashish to fully commercialized carbon dioxide extraction, hash has been on a global journey of its very own. Although not much has changed about the way we use hash, a lot has changed about the way we make it!
Hashish (or hash) is comprised of extracted cannabis trichomes, which contain the psychoactive compound THC, as well as over a 100 other cannabinoids such as CBD, CBN and CBG. There are many different ways to make hash, and some of these techniques have been developed over hundreds of years by traditional cannabis-growing communities, such as those found in Morocco’s Rif Valley.
1. Dry-sieve hashish
Perhaps the most popular method to extract hash is the dry-sieve technique. Here, fully-grown, harvested and dried cannabis plants are shaken or rubbed over a fine-mesh screen to capture the powdery, crystalline resin as it falls from the plant. The size of the mesh dictates the quality of the resulting hash: a fine screen will produce high-quality hash, a screen with wider gaps will produce lower-grade hash with more plant material contained within the mix.
When using the dry-sieve method, the length and intensity of the ‘shake’ will also produce varying results. To produce the highest-quality dry-sieve hashish, such as the varieties known as Double Zero, King Hassan and Ketama Gold, good-quality plants are shaken over a fine screen for just one or two minutes. This captures only the ripest and most developed trichomes. Again, shaking for longer produces lower-grade hash with more plant matter.
2. Hand-rubbed hashish
After the dry-sieve method, hand-rubbing is the second most popular technique. This technique is widely practised in India, Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as in many lesser-known hash-producing countries such as Bhutan and Myanmar. Popularised because of exportation throughout the world, hand-rubbed hash is almost as common in global terms as dry-sieve.
With this method, the cannabis resin is typically collected from living plants still in the field. Hash-makers will quite literally spread their arms and run through fields of mature cannabis plants, catching the sticky resin on their skin so that it can be rolled into balls and left to “cure”. In the case of charas (Indian hand-rubbed hash), this “curing” stage may be several years in duration.
The quality of hand-rubbed hash can be affected by the quality of the plant itself, as well as by the care taken to avoid including plant material. The time taken to properly cure the hashish is also very important, not only for hand-rubbed hash but for that made using any method. However, in the case of hand-rubbed hash, the curing stage is particularly important as the fresh plants contain a vast quantity of moisture that must be removed.
3. “Pure” cannabis extracts
As modern techniques to extract the resin from cannabis have improved, the resulting products have become exceptional in quality and potency. Now, as the medicinal cannabis industry becomes fully established in the USA and elsewhere, the medicinal-grade hash produced by some of the licensed, regulated producers are arguably among the finest cannabis products found in the world today.
Usually, high-grade extracts are made using a solvent such as alcohol or butane gas, or simply with ice-cold water. The theory is that the crystals must be separated to create hash in any technique. However, a dry-sieve or hand-rub method will never achieve the level of purity that can be achieved by using a more precise form of mechanical or chemical extraction.
With water or solvent extraction, the crystals are isolated from the remaining plant matter and suspended in solution before being filtered through a fine mesh and dried. Then, they are cured for weeks to ensure that all traces of water or solvent have evaporated.
4. Water extraction or bubble hash
When using the water extraction method, sometimes known as bubble hash, a series of successively-smaller mesh-screen bags are placed, one inside the other, and put in a bucket or similar receptacle. Fresh or dried plant material is placed into a separate mesh bag with a larger screen size than any of the other bags (often 220 microns or above).
Then the cannabis-holding bag is put into a bucket or specially-adapted washing machine (Mila’s famous Pollinator®, Ice-o-lator® or Bubbleator®, for example), filled with freezing water. The water is then agitated, freezing and hardening the crystals and allowing them to snap off and be suspended in solution. The mixture is poured into the bag-lined bucket, and as is passes through successively-smaller screen sizes, the larger particles and residual plant material are trapped.
This method produces several different grades of hashish, of which the smallest screen size (25-45 microns) is often the finest quality. The larger screen sizes (90-220 microns) produce hashish of lower quality with more plant material.
5. Solvent extraction
This technique makes use of alcohol or butane gas to separate the crystals from the remaining plant material. A screen is still necessary, but usually a single screen size is used, producing hash of consistent quality rather than the several grades achieved with water extraction.
As THC and other cannabinoids are soluble in alcohol and other solvents, the resin dissolves in the solvent and can then be separated. With butane, a device such as the HoneyBee is useful for making smaller quantities; for larger quantities, customised equipment is advised.
The HoneyBee consists of a plastic cylinder with a small hole for insertion of a gas can nozzle in one end and a series of small holes in the other. When the pressurised gas is forced into the plastic cylinder, it expands and forces the dissolved resin out through the holes and into a waiting receptacle.
With alcohol, the quick-wash isopropyl method is fast becoming the most popular, and is commonly used by medicinal producers in the USA. Here, cannabis is mixed with pure isopropyl alcohol for a very short time: a maximum of thirty seconds is advised to ensure the results are of high quality. The mixture is then filtered through a screen, and left to dry.
As technology continues to advance, the cannabis industry has developed more sustainable and safer solvents to use in solvent extraction. One such example is the method of CO2 extraction. In this method, frozen carbon dioxide is pumped through raw plant material to extract cannabinoids and other compounds. This has become the preferred method of extraction for many producers, as the final product contains no residual solvent.
Rosin is a relatively new innovation in the world of hash. It is an extremely simple method where heat is used to melt the resin onto an absorbent material. As the resin hardens again, it draws out of the absorbent material and rests on top of it.
One DIY example of this is using a hair straightener and a piece of parchment paper. A piece of dried cannabis flower is sandwiched between a folded piece of parchment paper. A hair straightener is then pressed over the parchment and bud until the resin has melted into the parchment paper. The bud is then removed (don’t forget to turn off the hair straightener) and after a few minutes, something that resembles shatter or wax appears on the parchment paper. It can be scraped off.
This is a great example of a solventless cannabis extract. It’s safe, easy for people to make at home and extremely efficient and effective. Even commercial producers in the USA are now using this method to create commercial quantities of rosin.
What is the “best” type of hash?
Solvent hashish is arguably the purest and strongest form available today, and as methods have improved, the early problem of residual solvent traces has largely been eliminated. However, working with volatile, flammable compounds can be dangerous. Therefore, making one’s own solvent extracts should only be attempted by those with knowledge and experience of the risks involved.
Making water hash is also a challenging process, but carries practically none of the risks involved with solvent extraction. The results are comparable to solvent extracts at their purest, but lower grades may be disappointing. Many hash enthusiasts prefer water extracts to solvent extracts as they are seen as “cleaner” due to having had no contact with potentially harmful solvents.
However, for those wishing to achieve flavour over strength, the extracts are often passed over in favour of dry-sieve or hand-rubbed hash. While extracts are pure and strong, they often lack flavour as the terpenes contained within the plant material are washed away. As more plant matter is retained in dry-sieve and hand-rub hash, the flavour of the parent plant is often retained.
Still really curious about hash? Why not check out this video? It has some awesome parts about how hash is made in Morocco, how Howard Marks used to smuggle hash across borders plus more interesting things! Check it out!
- Disclaimer:Laws and regulations regarding cannabis use differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.