As the name suggests, cannabis concentrates are marijuana products comprised of concentrated THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and/or CBD (cannabidiol) extracts derived from the cannabis plant. (1) The solvent, the level of terpenes, and the process used to create the final product determine its characteristics. Types of cannabis concentrates include shatter, wax, and oil, among others.
Shatter has a reputation as the cleanest and purest extract type, and we’ll discuss how to make it and use it later in the article. First, here’s a short description of some of the most popular types of cannabis concentrates, starting with shatter.
Popular Cannabis Concentrates
The three primary categories of cannabis concentrates are shatter, wax, and cannabis oil. While the three categories each have their own defining characteristics, potency levels, and types, they are all high-potency forms of cannabis. So, what are the differences between the three?
The most obvious difference between cannabis concentrates is their appearance. An easy way to think about it is, if the concentrate is a solid and you can see through it, it is shatter. If you cannot see through it, it’s a wax. Oil, of course, is a liquid, so it’s easy to tell apart from shatter and wax. (2)
The cannabis concentrate known as shatter has a transparent, amber appearance that looks glassy when cold, but more like thick honey when warm. (3) Shatter is sometimes compared to honey in its color as well. The level of transparency and richness of color vary based on certain factors, such as the amount of moisture and heat used during the process. Also, the liquidity of the product increases as the percentage of terpenes (the fragrant oils that give different cannabis varieties their varying aromatics) increase. (4)
Shatter is often consumed through the dabbing or vaporizing process, although smoking it mixed with marijuana flower is also possible. (3) Shatter is the most potent of all concentrates, but since it is slightly unstable, over time it changes into budder. (4) (5)
Wax is an opaque, solid (though soft) substance that is produced via a similar process as shatter. In appearance, wax looks buttery, and it does not have the same translucent appearance as shatter. Different wax consistencies are created using varying oil textures and different moisture and heat levels. (3) Variations of wax include the following:
- Budder: A gooey wax form that has more moisture and is runnier than other concentrates. It is created by whipping the extract while purging it. The whipping effect adds air to the extract, which turns it into a solid upon cooling. Budder is the smoothest and creamiest of the waxes. (6)
- Crumble and honeycomb: Wax with a soft, yet brittle, texture.
- Sugar crumble: Known for its crystallized surface and crumbly texture, sugar crumble is easy to handle because it is not very sticky. (2)
- Wax crumble: Similar to sugar crumble, but with a smoother surface. Wax crumble is not sticky, and it’s creamier than sugar crumble. (2)
Any amount of agitation or whipping during the purge process eliminates the extract’s transparency, which means that a wax is the ultimate result. Along with the level of agitation applied during the purge process, the temperature used is another factor that determines whether you end up with a shatter or a wax. The term “purge” refers to the process of using heat and agitation to eliminate solvents from the cannabis concentrate so that the product is safe for consumption. (7)
Just as with other forms of cannabis concentrates, cannabis oil extracts are also more potent than the cannabis flower. Sold in liquid form, cannabis oils are often consumed through the use of portable vaporizer pens that look similar to writing pens. When you buy THC oil in a disposable cartridge form, the cartridge screws into a reusable battery, and that is what creates the pen-like appearance. Polypropylene glycol (a medical-grade solvent) and CO2 oil, combined with the cannabis extract, are used to create the liquid that is deposited into the cartridge.
How to Use Shatter
Now that you have a better understanding of what shatter is, let’s take a look at a few ways you can smoke it.
The easiest and least expensive way to smoke shatter is by adding little bits of it to the marijuana flower that you’re smoking in a joint, blunt, marijuana pipe, or bong. No additional equipment is necessary. However, shatter’s unique taste may not shine through by using this method, although the high will still be stronger than when smoking flower alone. (10)
- If adding shatter to a pipe or bong, place a bit of ground marijuana in first, followed by a small layer of shatter, and then top it off with a bit more ground marijuana. That way, the flame does not directly touch the shatter, and it prevents the THC from burning off before it enters your lungs.
- If adding shatter to a joint or blunt, keep the shatter away from the ends to prevent the direct flame from coming into contact with it.
For those new to vaping, not all vaporizers work with all products. So, if vaping is your preferred method, make sure that the vaporizer you buy is compatible with shatter. Smoking shatter using a compatible vaporizer allows you to taste the shatter’s pure flavor, while an incompatible vaporizer may not function with shatter at all. Also, compatible, poor-quality vaporizers deliver poor-quality hits and a lesser flavor. So, be prepared to spend more for a high-quality shatter vaporizer. (11)
The dabbing process involves specialized equipment that is available at many smoke shops. The shatter is placed on a pre-heated surface called a “nail.” The user then inhales the vapors through a specialized pipe called a “rig.”
Extra caution is necessary, as the nail is heated between 550° and 750° Fahrenheit. Additionally, either a blowtorch or an e-nail (electronic control) is used as the heat source.
Dabbing is also considerably more expensive than other shatter-smoking methods. Depending on the quality and features, such as water-filtering elements, a dab rig can cost as little as $50 or as much as $5,000.
Shatter and other marijuana concentrates, such as wax and oil, offer a more intense high than the traditional method of smoking marijuana flower. While do-it-yourself shatter may not be for everyone, we hope that this article offers at least a glimpse into the process and helps you understand where your product comes from and how it is made. What’s your favorite form of cannabis concentrate and delivery system? Tell us in a comment below.