Have you ever found an old forgotten gram under the bed or in a drawer and wondered if it was still safe to dab? Can dabs go bad? While cannabis concentrates don’t spoil in the traditional sense, they do have a shelf life. Here’s a complete rundown on old dabs and whether or not you can still smoke them.
What happens to dabs as they age?
Just like practically everything on earth, cannabis concentrates degrade over time. Flower, edibles, topicals, and tinctures all degrade after sitting on the shelf for a long time. But when it comes to dabs, you can expect the color to change, the terpenes to dissipate, and the cannabinoids to transform into different cannabinoids. For example, THC degrades into CBN, which is known to make you feel extremely sedated. Most concentrates are a light golden yellow or honey color when they’re fresh, though they tend to degrade into shades of amber, rust, or even brown. The color change indicates that the terpenes are evaporating out, reducing the flavor and potency.
Concentrates go through the process of nucleation as they degrade. Nucleation is the process where parts of the concentrate begin to separate from one another. Time, temperature, and the contaminants and lipids in the concentrate all affect how fast the process occurs.
Take THC and THCa, for example. The two tend to separate during nucleation. The terpenes that give the concentrate its signature scent and flavor also separate and congeal, making the product turn gritty or sugary in texture.
Cannabis itself nucleates relatively quickly. Ordinary buds lose 17% of their potency when they’re kept at room temperature outside of an airtight container for one year. With concentrates, the rate is a bit faster. Hash and kief can lose up to 50% of their THC in the same conditions in the same amount of time. The only outlier is THCa crystals, which are pretty shelf-stable when they’re kept away from light in an airtight container.
Regardless, nucleation causes the important parts of the concentrate to separate and degrade, leaving you with lost flavor, potency, and a drastic change in appearance. Dabs don’t go bad in a way that makes them unsafe to smoke, but they won’t smell, taste, or feel like they did when you first got them.
How to prevent concentrate degradation
Peak freshness on cannabis concentrates is before six months if you’re storing them in airtight containers and keeping them away from light and heat. If you’re looking to store dabs long-term, there are a few things you can do to protect them.
First and foremost, keep your concentrates at a cooler temperature. You’ll also want to avoid sunlight and air, so for best results, you should keep them in an airtight container in the fridge. Light and heat exposure can act as a catalyst and transform terpenes and other compounds or contaminants, causing an unappealing color change and reducing the flavor. It can also speed up the rate that THC degrades into CBN, turning your concentrates into sleep medicine.
Storing your concentrates at a cooler temperature can increase your shelf life and preserve the flavor and potency of your concentrate by slowing down the process of nucleation. It also helps retain the texture or consistency of your dabs. An airtight container is also vital since it protects it from losing terpenes to evaporation or, worse, mold, which can cause respiratory problems when dabbed.
For best results, store your concentrates in an airtight, UV-resistant container to keep them smelling, tasting, and feeling great for up to a year.
Can you smoke old concentrates safely?
After about a year, most concentrates aren’t worth smoking. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Some types of hash or rosin have been known to get better with age, but they only get worse in most cases. Old concentrates become off-colored, less potent, and flavorless.
A good rule of thumb is that you lose about 20% of your potency in one year when it comes to concentrates. If you purchased dabs checking in at 80% THC, you’re down to about 64% THC and 16% CBN, which is sure to make you sleepy. It’ll still get you high in a pinch, but you’ll feel very couch-locked and sluggish.
The most important thing is to take care to avoid lipids. As a concentrate nucleates, the lipids separate from the terpenes and cannabinoids and form a bunch of white and yellow blobs. If you dab lipids, it’s going to hurt your lungs and can potentially make you quite sick. They’re easy to spot, so they’re easy to avoid, but at the end of the day, don’t risk it. Just get some fresh dabs.
Ultimately, when in doubt, just throw it out. There are so many good concentrates in California that there’s really no sense in wasting your time on an ancient gram that won’t feel, smell, taste, or look even remotely as good as you remember it.
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