ICE COLD ATTENTION TO DETAIL
BY COSMOS BURNIGHAM
BUBBLE HASH IS old school. Making it is easy, fun and has always been a great way to make something out of nothing (i.e. trim and those popcorn nuggets that no one wants to trim). It wasn’t until this past year that I realized I have been making bubble hash wrong for the last eighteen years. Well, not wrong exactly, but not necessarily implementing the technique or attention to detail essential to producing the high quality, full melt bubble hash I smoked in Canada last year.
It was this time last year in fact, I drove to Vancouver, British Columbia for a cannabis event. In the back corner of the event hall, full of elaborate, professionally decorated booths–at an unassuming, unmarked, 8-foot table sat Marcus Richardson (@bcbubbleman) with a suitcase, dab rig and torch. I pulled up the folding chair next to him and was immediately offered a dab of almost exclusively glandular trichome heads dipped in terpenes.
“What are we smoking?” I asked.
“Bubble hash dipped in Chem Dawg terpenes” Marc replied. The ice water extract from the Bubbleman himself, TERP dipped and blonder than I had ever seen, melted on the banger like a dream.
“Bubble hash dabs? I’ve been making bubble hash for 18 years, why isn’t my bubble dabable?”
This is where Marcus grabbed the wheel and took me to school for 30 minutes or so, sharing the trichome gemstones which I am about to share with you, so that you too can enjoy the beautiful and dynamic headspace of full melt bubble hash. It should be noted that this conference took place at the Hyatt in downtown Vancouver, a non-smoking hotel/conference room, which we shamelessly blazed down for two consecutive days without incident. Furthermore, I haven’t been higher in over 25 years of smoking, so I am excited to share what I learned so you can see for yourself what a huge difference a little attention to detail brings to the equation.
HOW DOES IT WORK
For those of you not familiar with the process of making bubble hash, you simply mix plant matter, ice, and water in your bubble bags. Plant matter floats in water whereas dense trichomes sink to the bottom of the solution. The ice acts to freeze and agitate the trichomes, thus removing them from the plant and allowing gravity and the water to separate and isolate them from the floating plant matter. The subsequent, trichome-rich water is then filtered through a series of increasingly finer mesh bags to further isolate bulbous heads and capitae stalks accordingly. Easy, right? So what have I been doing wrong all these years?
GARBAGE IN GARBAGE OUT
Sure, ice water extraction is a great method to recover trichomes from your trim and leaf matter. However, you
will never achieve full melt bubble hash from this starting material. Full melt bubble hash can only be achieved by starting with fresh, preferably frozen buds. Live plant matter is simply less likely to break down into fine particulate that might find its way through your screens. That said, you should be sure to break up your fresh buds to expose as much of the trichomes as possible before mixing with ice and water. This was my first and biggest problem as a young processor trying to make the most of trim and popcorn. This material was simply not rich enough in trichromes and was typically older, drier, broken-down material allowing contaminants to find their way into the finished product. Starting with the finest, freshest product will ensure your likelihood for success. But even if you have fresh material, it is still critical to pay close attention to detail, starting with your ice.
ICE ICE BABY
There are many schools of thought pertaining to ice in this process – type of ice, shape, texture, consistency. Fact is, cloudy, rough, bigger chunks of ice tend to separate more triches from their host while also producing a cleaner finished product. The more jagged the ice the more effective it can be as an agitator, so start with ice that is shaped accordingly. Have you ever noticed cloudy ice? It is a result when the water freezes fast. The molecular structure of these ice crystals is more jagged and better suited to agitating and scraping trichomes from the plant matter. Finally, use a lot of ice since it is your work horse, both freezing and separating your desired fruits from plant matter and contaminants. And be sure to minimize exposure time to water as increased water time leads to decreased terpene profile. Layer the ice and fresh buds in the bags, buckets or bowls, whatever brand or composition you prefer. Make sure your solution has well-constructed screens that are accurately labeled to catch your full melt at 90, 73, and possibly 45 microns depending on varietal. Now that you have your buds on ice in the water it’s time to agitate the trichomes from them.
SETTLE DOWN EASY
This is another critical step in the process that I’ve overlooked historically. Because I was starting with garbage material to begin with I never would have achieved full melt status, but had I started with fresh frozen buds I still would not have gotten there. I’ve always mixed my solution with a rigid plastic paint stirring attachment on my drill, beating the hell out of it in fact, and thereby forcing extreme amounts of contaminants through the screens, never achieving full melt status. So now that I had the proper fresh buds as a starting material, I was instructed by Marcus to simply agitate my next batch by hand with a soft rubber mixing spoon, stirring just hard enough to remove the trichomes without damaging plant matter and contaminating the batch. And what do you know? The resulting blonde puddles looked very promising–but wait, it’s not over yet.
Use a spray bottle and a spoon to remove your blonde puddles and clump the wet piles on your drying screens. Immediately after you’ve recovered your trichomes and rinsed your bags clean for next time and before your fresh piles have dried, freeze the subsequent piles for a couple of hours. Afterward, retrieve the frozen chunks and microplane them onto wax paper to minimize proving grounds for mold as your hash dries and also to ensure maximum surface area for fullest melt potential.
After ample drying time, it’s finally time to dab your finished full melt, but not before you acquire those cannabis derived terpenes to dip into for the ultimate meal for your endocannabinoid system (ECS).