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What is bubble hash and can you make it at home?

What is bubble hash and can you make it at home?

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Bubble hash, also known as ice water hash, is a specific type of hash concentrate made with ice water. It’s called bubble hash because when smoked, it bubbles. It’s also called ice water hash or water hash due to the preparation method.

Bubble hash can vary in color, ranging from light blond to red and even black. The color is determined by how well the hash was extracted, by the cultivar of cannabis and its ripeness. Light color hash has been more finely sieved and is considered higher quality. The best bubble hash is called “full melt” because it bubbles until fully melted away. 

Thanks to technological advances, the commercial preparation of bubble hash has changed since the 1980s, but you can easily make this hash at home with just a few materials. 

What is hash made from?

All cannabis plants produce trichomes from resin glands on the buds. To the naked eye, trichomes are tiny fine hairs, but under close examination, trichomes are actually shaped like mushrooms with a fine stalk and big head. These trichomes hold most of the good stuff in cannabis, namely the cannabinoids and terpenes

The process of making hash separates the trichomes from the rest of the plant matter to create a highly concentrated product. The abundance of cannabinoids and terpenes, the primary molecules implicated in the entourage effect, delivers a unique and flavorful experience when smoked or dabbed.  

To make bubble hash, cannabis flower or trim is mixed with ice water in order to make the trichomes more brittle so they readily break off the plant before being filtering through the micron screens, sifting out larger pieces of plant but keeping the cannabinoids and terpene rich trichomes.

Trichomes can range in size from 15 micrometers (um) to 500 um and come in shapes and types (Ryan Lange/Unsplash)

Trichomes grow on the plant in different types, shapes and sizes. These trichomes can range in size from 15 micrometers (um) to 500 um. Non-glandular trichomes do not produce any cannabinoids. Bulbous glands range from 15 to 30 um and capitate-sessile resin glands are between 25 to 100 um and also contain cannabinoid-rich resin. Both of these trichomes have a very short stalk. Capitate-stalked resin glands range from 100 to 500 um and are visible by the naked eye.

Trichomes that are smaller than 25 um produce minimal cannabinoids. Simple separation or sieving is used to separate the trichomes by size, which impacts the overall grade or quality of hash. It may sound strange to get your flower wet, but trichomes are not water-soluble and will not mix with the water.

The difference between hash and bubble hash

Though it is commonly stated that all hash products are completely solventless, that’s not entirely true. Bubble hash is technically not a solventless concentrate as water is used as a solvent to separate the trichomes from the rest of the flower, but in some ways this is just semantics. The bubble hash process differs from traditional hash preparation, which doesn’t use water or ice at all.

Unlike other solvent-based extraction methods, water is extremely safe for everyone to handle. The simple creation process makes it a favorite of DIY cannabis enthusiasts and home growers alike. 

In many ways, hash and bubble hash are the same substance. The main difference between the two forms of hash is the method of preparation. 

They both: 

However bubble hash is made with water and left uncompressed while regular hash is made by hand and compressed into brick or temple ball. 

What you need to make bubble hash

Making your own bubble hash is doable, albeit time-consuming. While there are a variety of specialized (and expensive) machines for making bubble hash, you can easily do it the old-fashioned way with a few bags and buckets. 

You will need: 

  • Cannabis flower or trim
  • Bubble/filter bags (at least four with ascending screen filters, but as many as you would like) 
  • A wash machine, a hand mixer, or stir sticks 
  • 2 bags of ice 
  • 3-4 ounces of cannabis flower or highly quality trim 
  • 5-gallon bucket 
  • 2-3 gallons of cold, purified water
  • 25 micron screen or muslin cloth
  • Metal spoon or utensil
  • Optional: cheese grater and cardboard box

How to make bubble hash

Step 1: material prep 

  1. Layer your filter bags together from the smallest to the largest and secure them around the rim of the bucket. The finest micron screen should be at the bottom and the screen with the largest micron screen on top.
  2. Fill your bucket halfway with ice and water, leaving plenty of space for the cannabis and agitation process. Agitation is key to this process as it separates the trichomes from the plant material. However, too much agitation (or the warming of the water) can lead to excess plant material being collected in the first bag.  

Step 2: separating the trichomes 

  1. In the first bag, add your cannabis and submerge it into the ice bath. 
  2. Vigorously mix the ice, water, and cannabis together for about 20 minutes with the mixing device. The water should start to turn blonde, brown, purple or green depending on the color, age, and quality of the flower being washed.
  3. After mixing, take the first bag out. Squeeze the bag to ensure the water is emptied into the next bag and bucket below. 
  4. Set this bag of wet, washed cannabis aside if you’re going to wash multiple times and capture every bit of trichome. Otherwise you can toss this wet herb and clean the bag. 
  5. Remove the second bag from the water and wash the hash to the bottom of the bag. allow it to drain into the next bag and squeeze out as much water as possible. Then scrape the material off the inside screen with a spoon onto your 25 micron screen or muslin cloth. Set the bag aside.
  6. This is the first filtration of hash, widely considered the least pure form. While it may not be ideal for smoking or vaping, this is great for making edibles. After the first filter bag, the color of the hash will lighten as you are pulling less plant material.
  7. Remove the third bag from the bucket, wash the hash from the sides of the bag to the bottom of the bag, and let the water drain into the next bag. Squeeze the excess water.  Scrape the hash off the filter screen and add it to the cloth, adding to your pile of collected bubble hash trichomes. Continue removing your bags, draining the water into the next, and scraping the hash off the filter until you’ve reached the last one. 
  8. If inclined, rewash the cannabis by repeating steps 1-9. This time the cannabis is already in the largest bag. Add more water and ice to the bag and repeat the process. Not all trichomes will be extracted after the first wash, but definitely expect less yield on the second wash. You will eventually experience diminishing returns from continued washing, so at this point you can make the decision to stop washing your flower.

Step 3: drying the bubble hash 

11. Chop and spread the hash to increase surface area, which will allow the hash to dry quicker. You can keep each round of hash separate or combine them together. 

Optional: Place the hash in the freezer for 2-3 hours. Remove from the freezer and grate with a cheese grater onto a sheet lined with parchment paper. Use the small holes to create fine hash. This step helps discourage mold growth by creating a greater surface area, allowing the hash to dry faster. DO NOT try to grate warm hash. It will melt and not grate.

12. Allow to dry in a cool dark place for 5-7 days. Some people like to use a cardboard box for storage to pull moisture away from the hash, or the mesh cloth above a paper towel also works. Change the paper towel once soaked. Air movement can also be beneficial in the drying process, but DO NOT turn a fan on directly in front of your hash as you risk blowing away all your hard work.

Tips for making bubble hash

  • Keep it cold. The colder you can keep the ice, water, and cannabis, the better your hash will come out. Cold temperatures are applied to every step of the process, but especially during the ice bath. Trichomes are sticky and must be frozen to detach from the plant matter. By freezing your cannabis beforehand, you can extract the trichomes more easily, which may lead to higher yields during washing. 
  • Use purified water. Tap water can contain chemicals like chlorine and fluoride which some believe harms the trichomes. If possible use filtered or purified water, but unless you know the water quality is particularly poor where you live, it’s likely okay to use tap water, knowing it could detract from the overall flavor profile. 
  • Dry your hash. The presence of water can encourage mold growth, which is a commonly reported problem with hash. Ideally a freeze dryer would be used to remove moisture from the bubble hash, but these can be expensive. Using a cardboard box is an affordable alternative that draws moisture away from the hash, unlike plastic or metal, which will hold the water and lead to mold growth. 
  • A two-bucket setup. While bubble hash can be made using one bucket, a two-bucket set up can make the job easier. Each bucket contains one bag. Pour cannabinoid-rich water into one bucket. Remove the bag and squeeze out the excess water into the bucket. Transfer this water into the next bucket containing the next smaller bag. Continue with this process until all bags have been filtered through.
  • Separate the hash. Keep the hash separated based on micron screen size. This way you won’t undo the work of separating them in the first place.
  • Don’t feel the need to use all bag sizes included. You may find that using all bags included in your kit is excessive. The most important bags are the 220, 160 or 120, 90 or 73, and 25 micron sizes. Experiment to find what works best for you.
  • Collect with a frisbee. Pull the portion of the bag containing the hash taut around a frisbee. This provides tension on the bag, making collecting the hash easier.  

What are bubble hash bags? 

A bubble bag, also known as a filter bag, is a bag specifically designed for making bubble hash. These bags contain micron screens to sift the trichomes by size, separating plant matter from the trichomes. Some bags are entirely a micron screen, while other bags only contain a mesh screen at the bottom of the bag. The higher the micron screen number, the larger the holes in the sieve. The “micron” denotes micrometers (um), which is 1 one-millionth of a meter.

  • The first bubble bag should be 220 microns, large enough to allow fine sand through but small enough to keep plant matter contained. 
  • The final bubble bag should be 25 microns. Any smaller and the trichomes will no longer be able to pass through the filter. 

Typical bubble bag sets include a variety of 25,45, 73, 90, 120, 160, 190, and 220 um (micron) bags. The following are the best-known names in the industry that make bubble bags for hash:

How to smoke bubble hash

Bubble hash is a versatile product. You can mix it into any way you like to use weed, as well as any food and drinks – but you’ll have to be sure to decarb if you’re looking to score a buzz from eating hash. You can also eat your hash as is (post-decarboxylation), but many people don’t enjoy the taste of such concentrated cannabis. 

  • Roll bubble hash into a joint or a blunt 
  • Add it to the top of a bowl pack 
  • Smoke it with a vaporizer or dab rig 
  • Mix it in with food or drinks
  • Stir it with butter or oil for a fast way to make cannabutter or canna-oil

Bubble hash potency

Like other concentrates, bubble hash is extremely potent thanks to the concentration of THCa within trichomes. A typical bubble hash ranges from 30-60% THCA and produces a fast-acting, intense high when smoked or vaped. This is actually on the low end of THC percentages for cannabis concentrates, but you still shouldn’t expect to be very productive! If you’re prone to anxiety or paranoia with strong THC, mix CBD into the flower mix for your bubble hash or follow up your smoke session with a CBD tincture. . 

That heating part is extremely important because the majority of the hash will always contain THCa that is not decarboxylated, meaning that without adding heat, you will not get the classic THC high from it.

How to press bubble hash into rosin

Like bubble hash, rosin is another form of cannabis concentrate. Rosin relies on heat and pressure to separate cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis flower or hash. Once bubble hash is dried, it can be pressed into rosin, making bubble hash rosin

Most cannabis manufactures use specialized machines (rosin presses) to extract rosin, but a hair straightener or an iron can produce similar results at home. 

  • Place the dry bubble hash between two sheets of parchment paper. 
  • Set the straightener or iron between 170-210F
  • Compress the hash under the heated plates for anywhere between 1-3 minutes.

Bottom line

Bubble hash is a potent concentrate that can easily be made at home with the right equipment. With a bit of quality cannabis, elbow grease and patience, you’ll have a strong, versatile extract perfect for adding an extra hit to your next sesh. Whether you’re just starting out with concentrates or are an avid ice water hash fan, bubble hash’s lower THC percentage (compared to other concentrates) and robust terpene profile are a great way to explore full spectrum products.

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