🇺🇸 Retired veteran, father, rock-climbing expert & rosin connoisseur
Focusing on the how-to’s and correct processes is like playing offense, while avoiding potential mistakes and pitfalls is playing defense. Let’s take a look at some practices we’ve seen (and even tried ourselves) that often lead to unwanted results while washing hash or dry sifting.
#1 Pulverizing Material with a Drill-Powered Mixer While Washing Hash
The goal of mixing ice water and cannabis is to release trichomes from the plant material by allowing the trichome heads to break free from their stalks. While agitating the material it’s inevitable that the plant material will break apart into smaller pieces, but we want to minimize this disintegration. Tiny pieces of plant material that match the size of full trichome heads are hard to filter out with the bubble wash bags, and thus become contaminants in the hash. So the trick is to agitate the material enough to let the trichome heads break free from their stalks, but not so much that the green cannabis material breaks down into tiny pieces.
Mixing too aggressively will cause the plant to release thousands of tiny pieces of material, leading to green hash. One of the biggest culprits in essentially pulverizing cannabis material is the drill-powered paint mixer, a trick that has been employed for decades but has more downside than upside.
While attaching a paint mixer or other paddle-type accessory to a hand-held drill makes it easy to mix ice water and cannabis material, it comes at the expense of excessive contamination in the hash. The power of the drill is too much for the delicate job of washing hash, and it shatters the brittle cannabis material due to the excessive force it inflicts.
Hand washing with a steel or plastic paddle is better. If you’re committed to automation, then an agitator or washing machine on a low setting is the way to go. Remember, it should be the vortex in the water that does the work of releasing trichomes, not the brute force of beating up the material.
#2 Adding Too Much Ice to the Water
Stirring ice water and cannabis around in a circle forms a vortex, the tornado-like spinning shape at the center of the wash bucket or washing machine. This feature of fluid dynamics creates enough power to separate trichome heads from their stalks, and is the perfect way to utilize the ice water extraction method. Let the vortex do the work.
While we want to keep the ice water as cold as possible, adding too much ice to the mixture proves to be counterproductive, in that it diminishes the vortex effect. Ice should be floating freely within the slurry, not completely crowding out the cannabis material within the wash bucket. Too much ice prevents the water and cannabis from remaining fluid enough to form a proper vortex.
Instead of overdoing it with the amount of ice in your water, take other approaches to keeping things extra cold, like using a water chiller and insulating your wash bucket or washing machine. Learn more in our Bubble Wash Bucket Insulation Guide and Top 5 Ways To Keep Your Ice Water Cold for Ice Water Extraction.
#3 Using a Corrugated Drainage Hose from a Washing Machine
Mixing ice water and cannabis material in a washing machine is a great way to control and automate the agitation phase of extraction. It’s common to repurpose a standard washing machine, like the countertop variety made for washing small loads of clothing. After everything is mixed within the machine, water must be drained through your bubble wash bag set, and the easiest way to do it is through a drainage hose. But, beware of the standard drainage hoses that they normally include.
Washing machines not specifically designed for hash production often come with corrugated drainage hoses. The corrugation is what gives the hoses that “ribbed” or accordion-like appearance. As water drains through the hose after mixing, those tiny ripples along the inner edge of corrugated hoses catch a significant amount of trichomes, where they remain trapped, never to be collected.
Install a smooth-surfaced hose onto washing machines to ensure all the trichomes escape with the water and into your bubble wash bags.
#4 Washing with Low Quality Wash Bags That Release Fibers into Your Hash
Speaking of bubble wash bags, there’s no need to blow your budget on the priciest brands on the market. At the same time, it’s not worth buying the cheapest bags out there. Cheap bags made with low quality materials are not only more costly over time as they require more frequent replacement, but the low-grade nylon disintegrates after several uses, releasing tiny fibers into your hash.
Tiny pieces of plastic are an even greater concern than tiny pieces of plant material to contaminate your hash. Don’t skimp on quality by using bubble wash bags that aren’t up for the job. Cheap, flimsy-looking material and sloppy stitching are signs of a subpar product that you should avoid.
The Press Club’s Bubble Wash Bags combine top quality and a reasonable price point so you can have peace of mind in their performance without breaking the bank.
#5 Dry Sifting with Dry Ice
Contamination is a recurring theme in our list of most common mistakes, and this last mistake involves contamination as a result of using dry ice when dry sifting. Unlike the ice water extraction method of making bubble hash, keeping cannabis material dry and brittle is key creating the best dry sift. Cannabis trim leaves and/or flowers are swept back and forth across a sieving screen with open palms, allowing the trichomes to break free from the crispy dried material. The trichomes then fall through the mesh filters for collection while the remaining material is held back.
Similar to ice water extraction, cold temperatures are massively beneficial when dry sifting. Some extractors like to place dry ice beneath the mesh screens in order to chill the material and make the trichomes even more brittle. The more brittle the trichomes, the easier the heads can separate and fall away for collection. However, this approach comes at a cost.
Although using dry ice generally increases dry sift yield, the resulting super-cold temperature also makes the cannabis material so crisp and crumbly that it shatters into tiny pieces that contaminate the sift. These tiny pieces of material are the same size as the trichome heads or even smaller, making them extremely hard to separate from the final product. Even after using the Static Tech method to clean dry sift, these tiny plant contaminants often remain.
Make sure the room in which you’re dry sifting is cold, but don’t go as far as using dry ice to chill the material. While you may be happy with the yield, you likely won’t be happy with the quality.
Solventless extraction is an art, and mistakes are just occurrences relative to the desired outcome. There’s no need to be afraid of making mistakes, they can be useful teachers. As you gain more experience in solventless extraction, you can use this list to help you see around blind corners and possibly avoid some of the pitfalls we’ve experienced on our journey.
What are some of the mistakes you’ve learned from along the way? Let us know in the comments!
Thoughts? Let us know by joining our secret Facebook group. Hang out with a community of like-minded solventless heads like yourself. Ask our head extractor questions, share your latest press and learn from hobbyists and experts in the industry.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is dry ice?
Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide that gets extremely cold, much more so than regular ice. Dry ice sublimates at around -109 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is a vortex?
The flow of water that spins around an axis, and looks like a tornado or a funnel in the water.
What is a corrugated drainage hose?
These are the hoses that have deep ridges throughout. They are accordion-style rather than smooth on the sides. These corrugated hoses can catch bubble hash as it's drained from washing machines.
Can you use a hand drill with a paint mixer to agitate cannabis for making bubble hash?
While this is a relatively easy and automated way to mix cannabis and ice water, it's not ideal because it pulverizes the material and leads to plant contamination in the hash.
How much ice should you add to water for washing hash?
The minimum amount of ice should be used, just to keep the water close to freezing temperatures. Use chilled water and an insulator on your wash bucket rather than overcrowding with ice. Too much ice diminishes the vortex effect in the water.