What is Full Melt Hash, and Why is it So Rare?
Full melt hash, also affectionately referred to as six star, is what most hash makers and connoisseurs consider to be the finest final expression that cannabis as a plant has to offer. Despite being the holy grail of the extracts world, it’s a surprisingly rare product even in the most mature markets like Colorado and California, and is simply unavailable in many others. Further, aside from the hash heads, most people don’t know what it is or what they’ve probably thought was true melt was five or even four star hash instead. Whether full melt is a brand new term to you or something you’ve had the pleasure of enjoying on many occasions, we’re here to break down exactly what it is and why it’s so damn scarce in today’s industry.
So What is Full Melt, Anyway?
Most folks reading this article will at least be familiar with the concept of trichomes. In the event you’re not, they’re the small, microscopic pin-shaped structures that cannabis plants produce which contain a large portion of its cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other desirable compounds. When you squeeze a bud and it’s sticky, that’s the resin from the trichomes being expressed onto your fingers. To find out what “full melt” really means, we caught up with Marcus Richardson, aka the legendary Bubbleman who helped popularize ice water hash with his branded Bubble Bags and techniques, to get an answer.
Full melt is the aggregation of many thousands of the very best trichomes, and according to Marc, it’s a common misconception that when it’s vaporized in small dabs it’s supposed to leave no discernible residue. In fact, it was originally called FMCD, which stands for “full melt clear dome” and was smoked on heated stainless steel screens. In the late 1990s when bubble hash was quickly becoming more popular, quartz bangers and dab rigs were not a thing yet. When ice water hash is true full melt, it actually means instead that it needs to fully melt into a pure, transparent liquid with large, clear domes as it bubbles during vaporization. Even the best six star will inevitably leave a tiny bit of amber residue in your banger, but it’s how perfectly clear and clean the bubbles are is what determines whether it's a true six star hash or not. When it’s the real deal, the hash you’re consuming is indeed world-class quality and can only be made with solventless methods.
Every time a cannabis plant grows, it produces trichomes in varying quantities and sizes with different concentrations of the molecules listed previously. When a particular phenotype grows a lot of them in the right size with the exact right characteristics, you have the potential to create a full melt hash, but still not always. To do so, it truly requires exceptional cannabis that has been grown perfectly. According to Marc, it doesn’t come down entirely to the hash maker’s skill, but also the growers' too, and when people ask him how to make full melt, he tells them to learn how to grow better. Fair enough. We also spoke with Collin Palmer of Vessel Life Science and PAX, who has been making melt on the east coast for ages. He noted that the sieving process is critically important to get right to ensure organic debris is fully removed before drying occurs, which is far from easy. Even if your sieving is dialed in, not every strain or plant can produce the correct quality of trichomes needed to make full melt. In fact most don’t, even if their handlers wish they did. It’s also not a controversial opinion that most of what is sold as six star is actually “five star”, which is still very good hash, but does not rise to that final level full melt does.
In order to attempt making six star hash, which is the top of the grading scale for ice water hash and dry sift, you absolutely must have premium starting material to try. That encompasses a few key factors, including elite genetics in general, a propensity to grow a lot of what are called capitate-stalked trichomes, and the right flower structure to enable those trichomes to be easily detached in an ice water wash process without being too fragile either. Trichomes grow in many different shapes and sizes though, so they’re graded by their physical size, which are on a scale of microns. To get a better sense of this, a human hair can be anywhere from 17 to 180+ micrometers, which is denoted in μm. Trichomes are sized in the same fashion, and the best ones that might produce full melt usually fall in the 90μm to 120μm category, which is pretty close to the thickness of copy paper. As a result, they’re tiny and easily damaged.
Full melt can be made in a traditional ice water bath process (aka bubble hash) or by dry sifting buds, but it is even rarer still to come across sifted melt that was never washed. Both processes work essentially the same way by taking ultra high quality cannabis flowers, typically freshly frozen, and detaching those special trichomes with the intent to isolate them whole. The main difference with bubble hash is the wet trichomes have to be carefully dried first. Finely tuned freeze dryers accomplish that for most processors significantly better these days than air drying did in the old days, but that doesn’t stop some small batch hash makers from air drying their melt. When done correctly, full melt is a truly coveted variety of solventless hash that can exceed the finest live rosins and resembles the texture of a fine sand.
If Six Star is So Great, Why is it So Rare?
The challenges of making six star hash, while large, are not fully reflective of why it’s so uncommon at dispensaries or in the legacy markets. Consumer education appears to be severely lacking for one thing and it’s not going to be a very cheap product given the rigors of its production. A gram of melt will often retail for between $50 - $70, which is still less than many hash rosins. So if it’s not impossible to make and the price point is okay, what’s the problem?
In addition to the difficulty of growing basically perfect cannabis in the first place, the real issue why you don’t see it at your local store much, if at all, is that it is very tricky to transport and store, and that most people don’t know what it is. Bummer. According to BDSA analytics, bubble hash of all grades or stars is 1% or less of all dabbable concentrate sales¹, which are only 10% of all cannabis product sales in the US². These numbers really put into perspective how limited full melt sales are, which in the opinion of the TerpGuide staff is a minor industry tragedy. There are great growers out there that are capable of making more of it, but since only apparently connoisseurs buy it and even then in small quantities, it has always been and will continue to remain seldomly available.
Perhaps it’s ironic that six star bubble hash or dry sift will immediately melt into a gooey, sticky mess when it’s at room temperature for just a moment. Unless you show up with ice packs and a lunch cooler to the dispensary, it’s probably not going to survive the trip home as beach sand. If not kept in the freezer, this unavoidable change reduces shelf appeal very quickly. Additionally, each jar must be sealed tightly to prevent early oxidation. In today’s world of quick transactions and high volume legal cannabis sales, that just doesn’t really make a lot of sense for growers, extractors, or stores in many cases. These cruel factors have led to what feels like an ever increasing drought of solventless melt in shops across the country.
The Experience of Full Melt Hash and How To Save It
If you have never tried full melt, we strongly suggest you seek it out should some be available in your area. It can be a little tricky to work with on a dab tool, but don’t let that stop you, even if dabs aren’t usually your thing. As opposed to rosin, which is resin that has been pressed out of trichomes and filtered, six star will almost always offer stronger body highs, rich flavors, and potent cerebral effects. The best hash makers who dedicate most of their energy to making the best solventless that they can will save special varietals of full melt in their freezer and break it out on special occasions like one would of a fine wine, rare liquor, or select cigars from the Dominican Republic.
Everyone knows the culture-changing rallying cry of Save The Whales. Now maybe it’s time to Save The Melt. This really starts with all of us, and we’ll be the first to admit that it’s a lot easier to reach for another gram of rosin than it is some melt. Great growers and labs are going to make what customers want to buy, so it’s our sincere belief that even modest increases in demand will result in more being available. Perhaps this is a pipe dream but we don’t think so. That same BDSA article mentioned earlier also clearly shows how much demand there is for solventless rosin nowadays, so we’ll keep preaching the good gospel that melt is worth your time and your money. If you decide to sing with us on six star, we promise you won’t be disappointed.
Heading Image Credit (with permission): Bubbleman
Editor’s Note: Rest in peace Bizarre Brothers Space and Korpi, who were early solventless hash pioneers that coined the original star-backed rating system for bubble hash and dry sift.