Sonoma County’s finest—Beezle Extracts

While in California, I had the chance to visit the award-winning cannabis concentrates laboratory, Beezle Extracts, which is situated up in the rolling hills of California’s premier wine region, Sonoma County. With highly favourable laws and climate, the area is an ideal site for the development of new ideas and technologies.

While in California, I had the chance to visit the award-winning cannabis concentrates laboratory, Beezle Extracts, which is situated up in the rolling hills of California’s premier wine region, Sonoma County. With highly favourable laws and climate, the area is an ideal site for the development of new ideas and technologies.

Swiss sophistication in Sonoma

Breaking up high-grade Blue Dream nugs to make shatter
Breaking up high-grade Blue Dream nugs to make shatter

Dorian, a 26-year-old Swiss-American who has lived in Sonoma County since his family relocated from Switzerland over twenty years ago, is the man behind Beezle Extracts. Hailing from a country renowned for its refined culture and production of high-quality goods—including cannabis—it is understandable that the bar is automatically set extremely high when it comes to the extracts produced by his company.

Dorian began growing cannabis at the age of sixteen, assisted by extremely understanding parents—his father actually gave him and some friends a tutorial on bubble hash a short while later, ensuring that their crew had a steady supply of superior product all through high school. Rudimentary attempts at making honey oil were even made, and the results left to dry in the sun in the hope of purging the impurities; however, many lessons were still to be learned.

It was at college in Santa Cruz that Dorian formulated his now firmly established views on the superiority of organically-grown produce. Starting out as a hydroponic grower, he switched to organic, soil-based techniques after gaining a degree in organic agriculture and finding out for himself that techniques he learned yielded superior flavours and all-round quality.

As well as having a very Swiss, perfectionist approach to quality, Beezle Extracts is situated right in the heart of Sonoma County, the USA’s answer to the sophisticated Mediterranean lifestyle of southern France, Spain or Italy. The region has a certain attitude to life in general, one which focuses on fresh air, sunshine, and wholesome, good-quality foods and drinks. This attitude permeates the agriculture and industry of the region: cannabis growers in the area are arguably more focused on sustainability than those found elsewhere in the country, and even extract artists are more careful to use organic material, and are heavily focused on flavour as well as potency.

Using high-quality material is essential

Thoroughly cleaning the apparatus is a key part of the process
Thoroughly cleaning the apparatus is a key part of the process

Most years, the company supplies its own material straight from an organic outdoor grow maintained somewhere nearby the premises. Thus, it is possible to have full, precise control over the material ultimately used to create the extracts that Beezle is now becoming known for. This year, various circumstances have meant that the crop could not go ahead as planned, so the material used to create the extracts is currently being sourced from external suppliers.

As sourcing externally does mean that less control is exercised over the process from start to finish, it is highly important that the material is from a trusted source that is of consistently high quality, with no evidence of mould, fungus, pesticide residue or other contaminants. The crop should also be grown organically—this is important both to ensure as low an environmental impact as possible and to maximise flavour and aroma.

To this end, Beezle maintains a small, select group of suppliers that are often known in their own right as award-winning growers and breeders. Often, such collaborative efforts will yield products that can then be entered in various cup competitions, such as the upcoming NorCal Secret Cup, which will feature an entry made in collaboration with Elemental Seeds, an award-winning company in its own right. The entry, which I had the privilege of helping to make, is a ‘nug run’ made from premium quality buds of Blue Dream—a hugely popular sativa—that would be top-shelf material in any Amsterdam coffeeshop, even before being turned into concentrates.

How are the extracts made?

Removing the waste material from the chamber
Removing the waste material from the chamber

Beezle Extracts is one of just three companies in California that currently utilise the specialised closed-loop system pioneered by Emotek Labs, based over in Denver, Colorado. The system, which retails at almost $27,000 and is considered to be among the most reliable, efficient and user-friendly systems out there, is capable of processing up to 1000g of material at one time. As it is a closed-loop system, the butane used is recycled several times before a canister is replaced—some people state that they cycle their butane thirty or more times before replacing a canister, with no loss of quality. Old canisters are sent to be cleaned, filtered, and resold.

Throughout the entire lifespan of a gas canister in the closed-loop system, as little as 3% of butane is lost; the small amounts that do escape usually do so during cleaning or while the apparatus is being dismantled. This fact alone means the system is far more environmentally-friendly than the open systems of the past, which are still used by many amateur extractors, and even by some professional extract artists.

In an average week, the lab is capable of producing between three and six pounds of shatter, the majority of which will be delivered to various dispensaries throughout California. Beezle Extracts regularly make deliveries to Imeds and the Arc Center, both in San José, Northstar and Collective Efforts in Sacramento, and HTG Group in Vallejo; various other dispensaries come to the Beezle labs to collect product as the need arises.

How does Beezle ensure superior quality?

The shatter during the purging process, as the butane evaporates
The shatter during the purging process, as the butane evaporates

The first step to maintaining consistently high quality is sourcing consistently good material. The material must be of superior quality, with excellent aroma and flavour, and must usually be organic—although some non-organic material of exceptional quality may occasionally pass inspection. Dorian prefers working with citrus flavours, and thus has a few favourite strains that he enjoys working with over all others. Specifically, the Super Lemon Haze, the Agent Orange and the Jillybean are particularly favoured.

As long as the starting material is good, there is no need to go the route followed by some less-scrupulous extract artists, who actually add terpenes to the final product in an attempt to recapture flavours lost through processing or simply not present in the first place.

What can go wrong?

Good quality shatter should be glassy and regular in appearance
Good quality shatter should be glassy and regular in appearance

Occasionally, human error or problems with equipment can lead to bad batches being produced. If any residual moisture is left in the pipes, or if the system doesn’t reach a low enough internal pressure (“vac down enough” as Dorian rather more succinctly puts it), or if leaks occur due to improperly set gaskets or ill-fitting pipes, various unwanted consequences can arise.

As well as this, the quality of the shatter can be affected in ways that are not noticeable until the final product is sampled if impurities remain in the source material (such as residual nutrients that have not been flushed out), or if the temperature of the oven is too high or too low.

Bad batches may end out looking cloudy (often due to high oven temperatures causing nucleation, or crystallisation from liquid to solid—this is also strain-specific, and the correct temperature is often only ascertained through trial and error), or may have an inferior consistency (such as being too sticky and not setting correctly), or, if moisture content in the final product is too high, the structure can change altogether, from shatter to budder to wax. However, occasional bad batches are par for the course in any lab, and mistakes provide insight into potential future improvements.

What next for Beezle Extracts?

A finished slab of premium-quality shatter
A finished slab of premium-quality shatter

Beezle Extracts have entered several cups and have been honoured in most of those entered. In 2012, the company took second place in the solventless category at the Emerald Cup, now held in Santa Rosa but then held at Area 101 just north of Laytonville in Mendocino County.

In 2013, Beezle took the Connoisseurs Choice, as well as 4th place overall, at the NorCal Secret Cup in Richmond, as well as 1st place in the solventless category at the first ever Dab-a-Doo Cup in Amsterdam; so far in 2014, he has also taken 1st place in the solventless category at the Dab-a-Doo held in Denver.

The next major cup is the 2014 Secret Cup in NorCal (May 30-31), and the entry is already lined up—the afore-mentioned collaboration with Elemental Seeds, which at the time of writing is thirty minutes into a twenty-four hour purge. Then comes the San Francisco High Times Cannabis Cup, which will feature entries in the solventless, solvent and edibles categories—for the first time, Beezle Extracts will enter their soon-to-be-famous medicated ice-cream.

Further inroads into the medibles scene will be seen at Chalice California, an event presented by the trailblazing glass company Hitman Glass, where Beezle will debut their new chocolate truffles, naturally made with real, imported Swiss chocolate. In the future, cannabis connoisseurs can be sure of more new and exciting edibles from the new offshoot, Beezle Creamery—and of course, more consistently fine cannabis concentrates.

  • 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.

Comments

3 thoughts on “Sonoma County’s finest—Beezle Extracts”

  1. In California, unlike Oregon, Texas and most other states, the use of butane for extraction is illegal. It was a knee-jerk law passed in response to morons blowing themselves up – which they still do – and it carries a hefty prison sentence if you’re caught.

    The law makes no sense other than to add another way for law enforcement to lock people up, since butane is non-toxic and the best choice for extraction for many herbals – whether it’s cannabis, rose petals, kava, oregano, etc., and has been used for years by companies – safely – all over the country. It’s like making gasoline illegal because some fool blew himself up smoking a cigarette while filling his tank.

    The law exists in California now though, and local law enforcement typically looks for evidence of butane extraction whenever they harass cannabis users and producers, since it does carry such a serious sentence and – for them – a nice collar for their stats with the force.

  2. Isn’t butane a solvent?
    This can’t be solvent less and the final product isn’t organic is it?

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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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