Making Concentrates with Tasia Mercadente
In this month’s Growers Network Spotlight the focus is on Tasia Mercadente, who runs Santiago and Dunbar Extracts in Arizona. She performs many extractions, producing a wide variety of concentrates, including waxes, crumbles, shatters, and oils. Since learning about cannabis as a teenager, Mercadente has pursued it, forming a company and focusing her career on extractions for both recreational and medicinal users.
Growers Network: Why make concentrates?
Tasia Mercadente: I got into making cannabis extracts to help cancer patients, which started because of my best friend. He had to get a testicle and a hernia removed out of the same region. I started giving him CBD and high potency THC capsules. He’s taking them every day now, and they’re really helping him with the pain and some other symptoms.
GN: What concentrates do you make?
TM: I make live resin, shatter, and crumble extracts. Crumble is like a cookie crumble. It breaks apart really easily into a dust. It’s stable, but crumbly and not gooey at all.
Live resin starts by freezing flower. When you take a cannabis plant down, you immediately put it in a cryogenic freezer. After it’s frozen, you blast it with butane. Live resin should be a little bit gooey. It should be stable, but moldable, like pottery before it’s fired.
Shatter has the consistency of glass. It’ll break easily. People prefer it to be a transparent gold color because that shows how clean it is. Some of the darker kinds can have more THC, but aren’t as good. My Bubba Skywalker turns out a blonde shatter, without fail, at 72.63% THC. My God’s Gift produces a dark, amber color shatter at 77.92% THC. The dark amber color is seen as less desirable, despite the higher concentration of THC.
GN: Is there a predictably to making extracts?
TM: Whenever you put something new in, you don’t know what you’re going to get out. If I run trim from some unknown place, I wouldn’t know what kind or amount of product I would get. I also don’t find out until the next day because I run a 12-hour purge in the vacuum oven. Luckily, I know how to take that product a step further. I can throw it in a rotary evaporator, distill it, make tinctures with it, or something else.
GN: What do you try to avoid when performing extractions?
TM: I try to avoid blowing myself up. When you’re blasting, you’re unleashing a ton of highly flammable butane into the air. It can blow it up if you blast in a non-ventilated area. Generally speaking, closed-loop systems are safer than open-air blasting because they cycle the butane via tubes into another tank, preventing significant oxygen exposure. This is why you sometimes hear about cannabis grows blowing up. Somebody was not taking appropriate safety precautions.
GN: What equipment do you use for extractions?
TM: I use a closed-loop butane extractor for my BHOs, and Everclear alcohol for my tinctures and edibles. My policy is that if you’re going to ingest it, it should be an edible product.
For purification, I use a couple of things. I’ve already mentioned rotary evaporators to remove solvents. I also use vacuum ovens as one of my key components in purification. We also have a custom distillation apparatus setup. The rest is just standard laboratory equipment — beakers, flasks, test tubes, racks, the works.
GN: What’s your extraction procedure?
TM: First, a safety check. Make sure all your valves are closed and the area is free of flammable materials and physical hazards. Clear the space and all distractions. Second is blasting. Blast the flower in the tube with butane until nothing is coming out of the flower tube. This requires a lot of focus. You need to understand which valves to open and close and what pressure you’re working with. Third is purification. I purge the butane by fonduing the mixture in a bowl-shaped boat floating on hot water. Afterwards, I put the boat into a vacuum oven for 12 hours and come back the next day. I set my vacuum oven temperature based on a chart I found some time ago, detailing the different cannabinoids and compounds you can extract.