Butane Hash Oil (BHO)
A cannabis extract that uses butane as the primary solvent during the extraction process. Butane Hash Oil is most commonly referred by its initials BHO, and encompasses myriad textures and consistencies. Butane Hash Oil extraction can render badder, crumble, sauce, or shatter, depending on starting material, apparatus used, and techniques applied.
What is BHO?
Butane hash oil (BHO) is an extract, which is a type of cannabis concentrate that’s produced using solvents. A label that reads “BHO” only tells part of a concentrate’s story. Consumers can’t judge a concentrate by appearance or aroma alone.
When it comes to any concentrate, remember that the starting material will dictate the quality of the finished product. Starting material refers to the cannabis used to create the concentrate. A combination of the flower used and purity of the final product is what separates high-quality concentrates from a product that users avoid.
BHO’s consistency is primarily dependent on the techniques applied during the extraction and the post-extraction purge stages, but there are some cannabis strains that tend to produce a particular texture. Though methods vary, the goal is largely the same: Deliver the desired characteristics of the cannabis plant sans the tar- and ash-producing matter. This is accomplished through a steady series of separation and purification.
Butane is a highly flammable substance and hash oil production is extremely dangerous if done by inexperienced technicians with improper equipment and ill-equipped facilities.
What is Butane?
Butane is a simple hydrocarbon, part of a family of organic molecules including ethane, methane, and propane. Butane is pumped from natural gas wells and then purified and compressed into a liquid for storage and use. Butane is easy to capture and relatively affordable to produce. Extractors typically only use highly refined, lab-grade butane that is 99.5 percent to 99.9 percent pure. Butane canisters found in stores should never be used as they contain toxic mercaptan, which is used to propel the solvent out of the bottle. Mercaptan is an additive to give a rancid odor to natural gas, which is naturally colorless and odorless and couldn’t otherwise be detected if it leaked.
Butane is used primarily for its efficiency and low boiling point. This allows extractors to remove the solvent from the extracts without altering any of the cannabinoids or terpenes that were removed from the plant material, and ensure that no residual butane is left in the finished product.
What is a Crude Extract?
Crude refers to unrefined cannabis extract, or the oil produced from the initial extraction, the first pass through. From there, the oil is either winterized for further refinement or decarboxylated and infused into products such as edibles, creams and tinctures.
The winterization, or “dewaxing,” process happens after the butane is purged from the oil, creating a purer concentrate. Technicians remove the undesirable waxes, fats, lipids, and chlorophyll in three main steps. First, the oil is mixed with ethanol and the mixture is frozen to allow the undesirable compounds to fall out of solution. The solution is then passed through a filter that retains the waste products. Finally, the wax-free oil is distilled to remove the ethanol.
Are BHO and Wax the Same Thing?
Wax is one of several concentrate consistencies that the BHO extraction method can render. The winterization process helps prolong the shelf life of shatter by ensuring that it will not auto-budder. Auto-buddering is when the color and consistency of shatter starts to turn darker and take on a crumbly or waxy consistency.
The history of BHO
The ’70s usher in a new era of hash making
Butane hash oil is hardly the first concentrate. Civilizations throughout the globe have been separating the resinous trichomes from the cannabis plant for thousands of years. By 900 AD, hashish had spread throughout Arabia.
Introducing the cannabis to a solvent was an innovation documented in 1971 D. Gold’s “Cannabis Alchemy: The Art of Modern Hashmaking,” the first to outline the procedure for this type of extraction to the general public. Gold’s book supplied a how-to for homemade solvent-based extracts, as well as their mass production. Gold was inspired to write “Cannabis Alchemy” after a lab explosion left him severely burned and hospitalized for several weeks.
What is Butane Honey Oil?
The text also unveils an untold history of extraction experiments through letters sent to the manufacturer of Gold’s extraction machine. From the earliest extraction origins, extractors were competitive about their hash making, regaling stories of their spoils from “Texas Super Hash” to experiments with psilocybin, or “magic mushrooms.” These concentrates, also known as butane honey oil, are worlds apart from what we see today. In some letters, extractors describe substances that look like black tar — now known as crude extracts — or extracts purged by laying slabs in the sun on top of roofs. Appearance aside, the largest difference is that none of these extractors used butane as their extraction solvent, which started to take root in the early 1990s.
The Vaults of Erowid, or www.erowid.org, was the ultimate online gateway to psychedelic knowledge in the ‘90s. The website contains in-depth knowledge on drugs from LSD to cannabis. On May 1, 1999, Indra Gurung (real name: John Henry Davis) added instructions on how to “turn trash leaf to honey oil in minutes” on the website. This was the first time butane was mentioned as a solvent for cannabis extraction, and Gurung even patented his Oil and Fat Extraction Apparatus. What Gurung didn’t foresee was the onslaught of accidents to follow the contribution of his dangerous procedure.
Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home. Aside from being illegal, it is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS and should only be performed by trained, experienced professionals in the proper setting with adequate safety precautions (e.g. ventilation and fire suppression controls, etc.) in place.
Open Blast Era
Much of the cannabis industry’s heritage has lent itself to danger, whetherit be raids or incarceration. But liquid solvent extracts were unique due to the substance itself causing harm to the extractors involved in its creation. After Gurung contributed “Hash Honey Oil” to The Vault of Erowid, a do-it-yourself BHO-making frenzy followed.
“Open blasting” refers to cannabis concentrates made without a closed-loop system, a process that protects extractors by keeping the solvents contained. As amateurs attempted to create BHO concentrates in their homes, they would expose butane fumes to the environment of their makeshift lab, often causing explosions leading to serious or fatal injuries.
In addition to being extremely dangerous, homemade apparatus are also much less efficient. Even though open-ended systems can be assembled with relative ease, in the long run they’re more expensive than a closed-loop system. It would take 80 standard-size canisters of butane to extract 5 pounds of plant material, as opposed to the 32 canisters it would take in a closed-loop system. Cost aside, open blasting is extremely dangerous and without the correct equipment, a recipe for an explosion.
Moreover, those that did survive creating their homemade BHO often rendered “poop soup,” a nickname for low-quality extracts, filled with toxic mercaptan and uneven consistency. When these extracts made it to market, consumers had no idea what they were getting. These oils were surrounded in mystery and had unknown contaminants, namely residual butane.
Safety and Regulation
The innovation of BHO continued to take root, and soon extractors began using the appropriate equipment to prevent butane fumes from interacting with the environment. Closed-loop extraction changed the game for butane hash oil. More cannabis companies outfitted their facilities with closed-loop machines, and today most legislators have made closed-loop production a requirement for licensed cannabis manufacturers.
Is BHO Safe?
These days, much of the cannabis industry is erring on the side of caution when it comes to residual butane in extracts. While butane is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the United States (U.S) Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most states have set their own residual solvent limits. Although states such as Washington have a limit of 500 parts per million, most extractors easily purge the solvents well below that limit. Municipalities set in place safety measures as well. In Colorado, BHO extraction can only be done inside of rooms that contain the proper ventilation and fire suppression controls to ensure the safety of their technicians.
Can I Eat BHO?
Though the chances of eating BHO with toxic amounts of residual butane are low, eating BHO won’t produce the desired effects because the active cannabinoids must decarboxylate.
Since coming out of the caves of the open blast era, extractors have installed closed-loop systems to ensure safety and efficiency when making butane hash oil. Still, butane is highly flammable, and extractors should take precautions to ensure no harm comes to them during the process.
DIY Butane Hash Oil – DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!
Please note that you shouldn’t attempt butane hash oil extraction at home unless you are a well-trained professional. The process is hazardous. Generally, those that make cannabis concentrates using a butane extraction method typically have a background in alchemy, chemistry, or science.
Butane is a flammable gas, which means that explosions and fires can potentially occur. Some people have died, while others suffered horrific burns from butane-related explosions.
During the extraction process, butane turns from a gas to a liquid. It then returns to a gaseous form once heat is applied. Naturally, a build-up of butane gas indoors with an open-source of heat can be a real recipe for disaster. Therefore, our simple message to you is, “don’t try this at home.”
Alternatives to Butane Extraction (Butane Hash Oil)
The good news is, if you desire a little DIY cannabis concentrate, you have other options. Thankfully, creating kief isn’t as risky as trying to extract BHO using a highly flammable gas.
There are also other viable ways to extract concentrates from cannabis, such as the gold-standard supercritical CO2 extraction method.
Different Forms of Butane Hash Oil (BHO)
BHO and cannabis concentrate come in many forms. Some of these include wax, shatter, sap, budder, crumble, Holy Water, comb whip, etc. The list goes on and on.
The most common distinguishing factor is consistency, and often the name of the form will reflect its physical state. These differences in texture are produced depending on humidity, heat, and whipping. We’ll show you what we mean:
Wax possesses a nice consistency for dabbing due to its reliable form. It won’t crumble when you pick up a portion but can also become liquid if held for too long. Wax is ideal for those who are quick to put their concentrate into a dab rig.
Shatter has a glassy, smooth texture and the hardest consistency of all cannabis concentrates. BHO shatter contains the highest THC percentages, with some having over 90%. However, generally speaking, most contain 80-90%. The only way to inhale this concentrate is with a specialized dab rig.
Like shatter, budder is another incredibly potent cannabis concentrate. Budder tends to be even purer and rarely possesses a THC content lower than 80%. Some products contain up to 99% THC. The term budder comes from this concentrate’s butter-like consistency.
Crumble is drier than budder, much like feta cheese, and tends to fall apart when scooped up. For this reason, it isn’t great for dabbing because lots of its tiny particles go to waste.
Slightly thicker than liquid, oils are the softest form of BHO, and for this reason, they generally aren’t dabbed. Instead, consumers usually opt for vaping a cartridge pre-packed with oil placed in a vape pen or similar device. Oils aren’t as potent as some other forms of marijuana concentrate.
Sap has a thicker texture than oil. Picture tree sap, and you’ll have a good idea of cannabis sap’s texture. Cannabis sap is often more potent than oil but poses a bit of a dabbing challenge. Be very careful when adding this substance to your dab rig, as it is easy to waste.
Holy Water BHO
Like other BHOs, Holy Water goes through extraction and purging phases. At present, we are unable to outline the precise manufacturing process as it remains an industry secret. What we know is that Holy Water BHO is not taken from fresh-frozen plant matter.
Whatever the method, it produces a distinctive liquid consistency that is runnier than sap but not quite the same as oil. Also, Holy Water BHO has an extremely high level of terpenes. Up to 20% of this form of BHO’s dry weight is comprised of terpenes.
How Butane Hash Oil is made
WARNING: THE MANUFACTURING OF BUTANE HASH OIL AND OTHER CANNABIS CONCENTRATES SHOULD ONLY BE PERFORMED BY EXPERIENCED, LICENSED PROFESSIONALS SINCE THESE PROCESSES CAN BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.
For safety and health reasons, producing extracts is best left to professionals, as the setup and materials are expensive and require precision and accuracy. More important than knowing how to make hash oil is knowing how commercial concentrates and extracts are made to find the right cannabis products for your needs.
All cannabis concentrates come from a series of separation and purification. The idea is to isolate the nonactive elements of the plant from the elements that produce flavors and effects. Basic BHO extraction operations run through various cycles of refluxing, purging, and collection.
Preparing the starting material
Theoretically, any part of the plant can be used for extraction as long as it has trichomes. Technicians who know how to make hash oil most commonly use trim or whole buds. BHO derived from whole flower result in extracts with richer flavor and higher potency, pulling cannabinoids and terpenes from the areas where they are most abundant.
The most important thing to keep in mind when sourcing the starting material is the percentage of water in the buds. Most of the flowers available at a dispensary average 6 percent water by dry weight. Plants for solvent extraction typically need to be less than 1 percent.
There are three main types of starting material: live resin, nug run, and trim run. Live resin indicates the flowers are newly harvested and flash frozen to trap any terpenes that would be lost during the drying stage. Nug run is flower that has been thoroughly dried and cured after harvest. Trim run consists of the leftover parts of the cannabis plant after the initial trimming. Trim run is considered the lowest quality starting material, with nug run and live resin being of higher quality.
Introducing the cannabis to solvent
When it comes to deriving the properties of cannabis with butane, extractors apply their own spin on the same fundamental hash-oil-making process.
How Long Do You Purge BHO?
Extractors pack the starting cannabis into the material column, a tank inside the closed-loop system that is dedicated to holding the nugs or trim throughout the process. The tank must be purged of any oxygen prior to passing the butante through to ensure that there is no explosion and unnecessary pressure.
The butane is chilled, then passed through the starting material, releasing the trichomes from the plant matter. To remove the butane from the solution, heat is applied to the combined mixture of cannabis and butane, causing the butane to turn into a vapor and rise into the solvent column.
As the vapor reaches the solvent column, it is cooled and condensed back into a liquid.
Some concentrates undergo additional processes, such as charcoal washing or additional wash cycles with other solvents, to render a purer product.
Residual Gas Removal and Different Textures
When ready, the extract is poured into a pan and placed into a vacuum oven to purge any residual butane. Those who know how to make hash oil will know that BHO extracts develop their texture during the purging process, which is shaped by time, temperature, pressure, and agitation.
Extractors must always pay careful attention to temperature. Too much heat can ruin an extraction. Heat evaporates volatile terpenes that give cannabis its aroma and flavor, and triggers decarboxylation, which rids the concentrate of its translucent appearance and turns it into a darker oil.
The first purge is conducted with a vacuum pump, and when completed, it will not look anything like the liquid consistency that was poured into the tray.
Decarboxylation bho for edibles
Before cooking, you’ll want to be sure that your concentrate is decarboxylated. This converts non-intoxicating THCA into the euphoric THC we all know and love.
Higher temperatures are more likely to eliminate valuable cannabinoids and other compounds, so decarbing low and slow is generally the best way to go.
Getting your concentrates out of their containers can be tricky. Ivan advises using a lighter to melt concentrates stuck to metallic tools or sticking concentrates in the freezer until they stiffen up and can be easily removed. “Be careful. If you leave it in the freezer too long it will become like glass and shatter into little shards all over the place,” warned Ivan.
LaShea advises decarbing each type of concentrate as follows:
- Desired amount of BHO
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Oven thermometer
- Preheat your oven to 200°F (93°C). Make sure you use your thermometer to test the oven temp before placing BHO in the oven.
- Line your baking sheet with your parchment paper.
- Put your wax, shatter, crumble, or budder on the center of your parchment lined baking sheet.
- Place in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes. You will want to watch your concentrate very closely and make sure it doesn’t overcook. Once it has melted down and starts to really bubble, you know it is ready.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
How to store Butane Hash Oil
When stored improperly, BHO can begin to break down and lose its initial consistency, flavor, or potency. To prevent this degradation, marijuana extracts should always be stored in an airtight and lightproof container in a cool environment. To ensure that the BHO preserves for as long as possible, protect it from high temperatures, moisture, oxygen, ultraviolet light, and direct sunlight.
Remember, heat is the enemy. It causes the cannabinoids and terpenes to activate, and that should only happen upon consumption — not while it’s resting in a container. Dispensaries, smoke shops, and many online stores offer concentrate storage accessories, such as silicone containers, to store BHO.
How to consume Butane Hash Oil
Like other cannabis products, there are a variety of ways to consume BHO. Referred to as dabbing, this method involves a small water pipe called a rig with a flat bowl, called a nail” that’s designed to tolerate high temperatures.
To take a dab, preheat the nail with a small gas-powered torch until it reaches the optimum temperature. Using the flat end of a dabber, drop a small piece of BHO onto the nail. When the shatter comes in contact with the hot nail, it will vaporize instantly. Place a cap over the nail to capture the vapor and inhale through an opening on the opposite end of the rig.
Similar to devices utilized to smoke nicotine-based products, handheld apparatus can be used to enjoy BHO. With these devices, a small amount of shatter is put into a heating chamber. The device is activated usually by pressing a button. The chamber is heated by a battery and the BHO is vaporized. At the same time, you inhale through the designated mouthpiece and breathe in the vapor.
Twaxing refers to when shatter is rolled into a string, then wrapped around a blunt or joint for extra potency. Crumble isn’t limited to just dabbing either. It can be used as a potent topping for a bowl of flower or even rolled into a joint or blunt.
Butane hash oil is an incredibly potent form of cannabis concentrate. BHO is extracted from the cannabis plant by using liquid butane as a solvent. BHO comes in different consistencies, such as shatter, sap, and budder, among others.
Please note that cannabis concentrates contain exceptionally high THC levels. Therefore, they are entirely unsuitable for cannabis newbies to consume. Even seasoned users need to exercise caution as some concentrates can contain over 90% THC.
Even seasoned users need to exercise caution as some concentrates can contain over 90% THC.
Finally, as mentioned above, please resist any temptation to try and produce your own DIY BHO. Remember, butane is a highly flammable gas. People have been killed or suffered horrific burns attempting to make BHO at home. Stay safe and enjoy BHO responsibly.