Hand Washing vs Machine Washing Bubble Hash

Todde Philips   

🇺🇸 Retired veteran, father, rock-climbing expert & rosin connoisseur

Washing hash is the process of stirring and churning an ice water and cannabis mixture to release the plant’s trichome heads from the rest of the plant material. Turbulence and agitation in the water allow the plant’s trichomes (carriers of the therapeutic ingredients in cannabis) to separate in the icy slurry. Then, by filtering this mixture through a series of screens, or bubble bags, we can collect the trichomes which become our hash. 

Agitating the ice water and cannabis mixture for hash extraction can be done by hand or in a washing machine. By hand, mixing can be done with a spoon, paddle, or other stirring device. By machine, you can use a basic compact/portable washing machine, or a modified version that’s specifically designed with hash making in mind.  

Regardless of the approach you choose, the basic mechanics remain the same. We’re aiming for just the right amount of stirring and churning to break off the trichome heads without pulverizing or overly-beating the cannabis material. If you get too aggressive with the washing process, you’ll likely end up with higher levels of plant contamination in your hash.  

So what is the best way to wash hash? Should you be washing by hand or with a washing machine? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each approach.  

One thing to note up front: both methods will require multiple washes to effectively remove all trichomes from the plant. How many total washes depends on the cannabis cultivar you’re working with, the length of time for each wash, your ratio of ice/water/cannabis, and how much force is being used to agitate and mix the ice water and cannabis. There’s no perfect formula. Experiment, take good notes, and dial in your own special recipe for each cultivar you work with.  

Also, don’t forget to pre-soak the material. Rehydrating the cannabis before washing is important, until it feels supple in your hands before washing. Even fresh frozen may need a 10-minute soak while dried and cured bud takes 30-40mins.       


Hand Washing

There are several ways to hand wash hash. The most basic is with a long wooden cooking spoon, oversized spatula, or even a small paddle. Another way is to use kitchen hand mixers, just like the kind you’d use to mix cake batter. One popular alternative to the kitchen mixer is to purchase a long paint mixer and attach it to a drill. This is a nice hybrid between hand and machine mixing. 


With hand washing, the goal is to change directions to create a gentle vortex motion. We’re making changing currents in the ice water mixture. A slow figure-8 stirring pattern works well.

Pros:  

  • Gentler on the cannabis material  
  • Less clean up
  • Requires less investment in equipment 
  • Gives you more control over the speed of mixing and actual agitation of the material 

Cons:

  • Hard work!

Washing Machine

Washing machines are automated and convenient, saving you the manual labor of hand-stirring the ice water mixture. All you need to do is place multiple layers of ice and cannabis material inside the 220 micron work bag, and place this into the washing machine with more ice and water. Then run it on the “gentle” cycle and let the extraction begin.

Several washing machines on the market are designed and marketed as hash-specific, but you can also use regular compact, portable washing machines. Make sure the washer has speed control settings, as you’ll want to be on the slower and gentler setting. 

Regardless of the exact model you choose, one thing is certain: if it has the accordion-style drainage hose, you’re going to lose a lot of hash. The ribbed channels in these kinds of hoses capture and collect the trichomes from the water as it’s drained from the machine and into your bubble bags.

Carefully open up the machine and replace the accordion hose with a straight hose. You can also install a valve at the end of the hose to avoid accidental spillage. This is another easy and handy upgrade. 

Pros:

  • Easy
  • More efficient - you can potentially get the same yield from a single 10 minute machine wash compared to multiple hand-stirred washes 

Cons:

  • May require modification to install a straight hose - avoid the accordion hoses!
  • More involved clean up - need to wash out machine with cold water and wipe down to clean after every use
  • Sometimes can shred cannabis material leading to higher percentage of contaminants in the hash
  • Upfront expense and operating costs 


Conclusion:

Every cultivar is different, and the quality of the source material ultimately dictates the quality of your hash. Some will easily dump copious amounts of trichomes with minimal agitation. Others barely yield even after a more vigorous ice water agitation. 

But properly washing the material is where the magic happens. We want to separate the trichomes without beating them up and breaking the outer membrane, releasing the precious oils prematurely. Not only that, we want to be as gentle as possible with the source material so we don’t pulverize it during the extraction, sending tiny particles of plant contaminants throughout. 

Hash makers achieve phenomenal results with both hand washing and machine washing. That said, we prefer the hand washing approach, mostly for the control it gives us over the amount of turbulence and agitation in the ice water. With hand washing we have greater ability to sense and respond to each unique batch of material, and make sure we’re getting the most out of the material while keeping contamination to a minimum. 

How do you wash your hash? Let us know in the comments!

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