With legalization happening in more places, it’s increasingly easy to purchase substances like shatter – marijuana concentrates that are extremely potent. Translucent and glass-like, shatter is growing in popularity among cannabis consumers. What is marijuana shatter and how are these kinds of concentrates different from traditional cannabis?
What Is a Concentrate?
Cannabis concentrates like shatter, wax, honey oil, and others provide a different and much more powerful high than basic flower. They’re essentially cannabis that has been put through a process to extract and concentrate the desired chemicals – namely, cannabinoids such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), as well as terpenes.
For recreational consumers, the ideal finished concentrate is potent and packed with high-inducing THC. When it comes to shatter, THC levels can run as high as 80%. Some cannabis oil concentrates are very low in THC and high in CBD; shatter with higher CBD ratios is often used for medicinal purposes.
How Are Shatter Marijuana Concentrates Made?
Making shatter requires a solvent such as CO2 or butane. To make butane hash oil (BHO), CO2 shatter, or wax, manufacturers put cannabis plant material in a holding container and force a solvent through it order to extract the cannabinoids.
The process is a rather dangerous one that requires knowledge about how to properly handle the chemicals being used. Emboldened by do-it-yourself YouTube videos, novice BHO manufacturers have caused explosions, fires, and injuries by using improper equipment and extraction methods. CO2 extraction is a safer process that uses more natural ingredients.
After the extraction process, the result is an extremely strong substance that has much more THC than traditional cannabis. Its consistency varies: a cannabis concentrate can be an oil, a soft, smooth substance known as budder, a malleable, crystallized material known as wax, or shatter—an amber-colored, glasslike form of hash oil.
These are all commonly known as “dabs,” and the typical method for smoking these materials is known as “dabbing.”
How is shatter made?
Shatter can be made using a variety of production methods, but it is typically created using butane or hydrocarbon solvents. Butane extracts are also called BHO, short for “butane hash oil.” To make BHO, cannabis is typically contained in a tube where butane or other hydrocarbons are pushed through the plant material, stripping away desirable compounds like THC and CBD. The concentrated oil is collected and may be further refined using additional techniques. “Purging,” for example, refers to the removal of excess residual solvents using a vacuum chamber, and “winterization” refers to the separation of fats and lipids from the oil.
Shatter and other types of BHO are extremely dangerous to make using at-home DIY setups due to the flammability of butane fumes. Attempts to make BHO in home environments have resulted in several accidental explosions. Professional-grade shatter is produced using safe closed-loop systems that prevent these fumes from entering the ambient environment.
Difference between shatter and wax
Shatter refers to cannabis extracts that take on a hard, glassy form while waxes are softer and more malleable. The difference between shatter and wax is primarily a superficial one: it’s merely a cosmetic difference caused by a difference in molecular agitation. Shatter maintains its glass-like consistency because the molecules in the extract were left undisturbed during processing, whereas the molecules in wax were agitated.
The level of transparency achieved in the production process does not reflect the potency of the extract. In other words, shatter is not necessarily higher in THC than wax, and vice versa. To determine the potency and chemical composition of any given extract, refer to the lab results of individual products at your local dispensary.
One practical difference between shatter and wax has to do with ease of use. Wax is softer and sometimes easier to handle using dabbing tools like scoops. Because shatter tends to crack apart into unpredictably sized pieces when broken, you may find that it’s a little harder to scoop and dose the correct sized dab.
Wax vs Shatter: What’s the Difference?
With all of the various marijuana concentrates available, many people are left wondering the difference between wax or crumble vs shatter. The main difference is the consistency. When it comes to shatter BHO and other concentrates, the finished result can be runny and gooey (honey oil), waxy (wax and crumble), taffy-like (pull-and-snap), or hard and glasslike (shatter).
The final consistency of concentrates depends on the flower material the manufacturers used, with some marijuana strains rendering softer concentrates and others hardening up rather easily. Manipulation and processing can also create shatter vs crumble, but regardless their form, all concentrates end with high levels of cannabinoids, making them incredibly potent.
Experienced BHO manufacturers put shatter through a purification process that strips out the wax, fat, terpenes, butane, and other materials that remain in other concentrates. This process takes out a lot of the flavor that remains with other BHO concentrates but makes the final product a lot stronger.
From pull-and-snap to crumble, wax, and shatter, smoking dabs requires a dab pen, a dab rig, or a water pipe modified for the purpose of dabbing.
Because dab pens are small, discrete, and inexpensive, they’re accessible to most who would like to try concentrates. One of the big problems with vaporizers, however, is that with underpowered heating elements and puny batteries, they often don’t get the concentrates hot enough. This can affect the size of each hit, as well as the overall flavor of the smoke.
The most popular way to smoke shatter, wax, and other concentrates is dabbing. This requires a dab rig, a specialized device with a metal “nail” or glass banger attached to a water pipe.
Smoking shatter marijuana concentrates requires a source of intense heat to vaporize the material. Many people like to use a handheld torch to heat up the nail where the dab will be placed. Electric nails, or e-nails, eliminate the need for an open flame (and cut down on the risk of burns and fire).
First-time dabbers tend to take a hit and hold in the smoke the way they would for a bong or joint hit. This isn’t necessary for dab hits, though, and will cause lung irritation. The best method is to exhale before taking a hit and then inhaling the smoke before blowing it right back out again. Smaller inhalations work best for those who are prone to coughing.