Ask Mama: What’s the Deal With Solventless Carts?

Published on February 14, 2023

man smoking vape made with solventless extraction

When Mama rubs her crystal ball (no it is NOT just a coconut head from the Venice Beach boardwalk), she can see into the future. And Mama knows 2023 is the year of solventless vape carts. It’s also the year of the rabbit and the year of the grunge fashion comeback, but Mama’s here to talk about weed. And also to make sure you’re eating right, you look thin. 

Before weed hits your beautiful brain, cannabis goes on a big adventure from plant to vape. To get there, the parts that make you feel good and lend the bud its primo flavor are separated from the other, less necessary, bits of the plant.  Just like when you left mama and went to college, but before you dropped out. That whole journey is called extraction, and it can happen in a whole lotta different ways. A super clean extraction process is what makes solventless carts a little different, and it’s also what makes the trend worth a good look. Trust Mama on this — it’s a better trend than eating dry cinnamon on TikTok or whatever.

What TF Are Solventless Carts? 

Get ready for a little The More You Know sesh. 🌈

Before it hits dispensary shelves or online stores, a lot of weed concentrates — the potent, THC-heavy extracted weed that goes into carts, oils, tinctures, edibles, and so on — are separated from the plant by chemical solvents. These solvents are chemicals that dissolve or dilute the unwanted parts of the plant, like leaves, seeds, and stems. Alcohol and ethanol make the list of common solvents, but our very own United States FDA recognizes about 60 different varieties of ‘em, ranging from R134a tetraflouroethane (Mama didn’t just make that up) to propane and butane. Welcome to the BBQ, cowboy.

You probably figured this out by now because you’re smart and Mama’s proud of you. Solventless extraction is a method of extracting all those THC and CBD-rich oils that make your weed so heady and tasty, without using petrochemical (i.e. literal gas) solvents. 

How It’s Made

So now you know what solventless means (you’re welcome), but where does solventless extract come from? Hint: it is not the weed stork, and it doesn’t come from a weed man loving a weed woman

Usually, instead of using gassy petrochemicals⛽ to break down the unneeded parts of the cannabis plant, solventless extraction uses heat, pressure, cold, or even just plain ol’ water to extract cannabinoids from everyone’s favorite plant. A quick refresher in case you need it, cannabinoids are the naturally occurring active chemical compounds in cannabis, including psychoactive THC and flavor-packin’ terps.

For a solventless extraction, farm-fresh or flash-frozen cannabis is typically dunked in an ice water bath (ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE 2014 THROWBACK), then a fine mesh is used to sift out the flower’s trichomes, like a cartoon miner siftin’ for gold. And they are gold; trichomes are the sticky part of the plant where valuable stuff like terps, THC, and CBD live. Finally, heat melts and pressure squeezes a THC-heavy goop from the plant, which we call rosin.

That extract is what goes into your vape cart to get you feeling high, creative, energetic, relaxed and all those good weedy things we love to feel. Alongside a heating element to help deliver the smoke, vape carts might contain highly refined cannabinoid oil and just about nothing else, or they might contain oils, thinning agents, and additives to help the delivery process along. That part really depends on the brand (you know Mama’s live resin carts are packin’ up to 85.27% THC).

Resin or Rosin?

OK, Mama admits this part is a little confusing at first, but it’s pretty basic once you lay it out. Here’s the deal with the resin vs. rosin thing, cuz you’re gonna see those words all over the place as soon as you start paying attention to cannabis extraction, solventless or otherwise: 

  • Live resin is the sticky, yellow-brown, amber-like cannabis concentrate that’s extracted from flash-frozen weed. Most of the time, butane is the solvent used to strip away the unneeded parts of the plant and get down to that resin. 
  • Live rosin is also an amber-colored sticky extract, but it usually comes from plants that are fresh from the farm or plants that have, like, just been flash-frozen. The big difference here is that live rosin is produced by way of solventless extraction, using that heat and pressure to separate it from the plant rather than chemical solvents.  

Solventless vs. “Solvent Free”

Speaking of shit that’s confusing, Mama would like a word with the marketing people who started slapping “Solvent Free” on weed products when we were already knee-deep in the whole solventless thing. But like resin vs. rosin, it ain’t too bad when you break it down.

If you’ve been paying attention, you already know exactly what solventless extract is. Solvent-free extract — bear with Mama on this — is extract that is actually made using chemical solvents, like any of those Mama listed waaaaay up there. The thing is, though, that solvent-free extracts are purified to remove any traces of those chemical extracts (often by evaporating them) before your weed products hit the shelves. But this process can burn off sweet, sensitive terpenes, and it ain’t usually perfect, so some residual solvent might be left behind even if it’s under the detection level. Sneaky.   

They Go Low, Tough Mama Goes Hi-Phi

Some of Mama’s own vape carts feature solventless extract, specifically solventless extract made by way of a super sciency process called Hi-Phi extraction, cooked up by a shitload of Mama’s scientists over many years, TBH. 

This petrochem-free process combines the magic of CO2, high pressure, and slow, low heat to extract all that good good from cannabis plants in the form of Solventless Cured Resin. The low heat helps keep all those flavorful, aromatic terps totally intact, whereas other processes burn the terps right off. 

It takes more time and calls for more precision, but the result is an oil that retains the same delicate, natural balance of THC, terps, and all the other compounds that give flower its distinct character. That nature-made balance is a beautiful thing, and we call it The Golden Ratio.  

Why You Should Care

Tough Mama herself stands behind solventless extract, which is why you’ll find it in her adorable Mini Mofoz and party-startin’ Yolo Shotz. Mama’s not gonna tell you that solventless extraction is the be-all end-all of weedoom — it ain’t. We’re living in a zaza renaissance, with new ways to extract, smoke, and get high popping up every day. It’s all good, baby.

That being said, if you’re a hardcore cannabis fan — and Mama knows all of her babies are — solventless extraction is worth a try. While weed products made with solvents will still get you high, and they might even still offer a flavorful smoke, solventless extraction like Hi-Phi is extra special for its ability to keep the natural ratio of terpenes present in the plant just the way Mother Nature made it. 

Solvents can sometimes hit like a blunt sledgehammer to knock the extract out of the plant, So, sometimes weed-makers add artificial flavors, carriers, and who-knows-what sorta additives to the final product in an attempt to reclaim or replicate some of the terps and other cannabinoids that were lost in the process. And that can affect the smoke, sometimes leading to a harsh or artificial-tasting experience. When you keep that fragile ratio intact, you retain the full flavor, potency, and overall character of the weed, which can make for a richer, tastier, smoother smoke with a high that hits to its full potential. 

That means the flavor and aroma are just as they should be, and the nature of the high — whether it’s euphoric, body-slamming, or art-inspiring — remains just as it should be, because all those cannabinoids are working together just as they would in nature.

And if it’s good enough for Mother Nature, it’s good enough for Tough Mama, too. Mamas respect Mamas.

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