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 Make Shatter
Different variations of the shatter recipe exist, but the recipe below is an easy-to-follow, tried-and-true version that requires very few special tools. Below is a list of the required materials:
- Uncut marijuana (1 pound)
- 1 extraction tube
- 1 coffee filter
- 1 glass dish (like Pyrex) to collect the shatter
- Razor blades (single-edge)
- Parchment paper (cut into strips)
- Minimum of 1 butane canister
- Double boiler and an electric range
What follows are the step-by-step instructions for making your own shatter at home. Since you will use a butane canister, you should wear protective eyewear during the process.
Grind the Weed
After collecting the necessary materials, grind the marijuana and allow it to sit in the open for awhile. The goal is to get the marijuana to dry out some so that it isn’t too fresh. (8)
Fill Extractor with Marijuana
After drying the ground marijuana, pack it into the extractor. The extractor should be filled tightly enough to avoid air pockets, but not so tightly that the butane cannot completely coat all of the marijuana. (8)
The necessary extraction container is available at most head shops. One ounce of marijuana packed into an extractor should yield about 3.5 grams of shatter when using an entire 12-ounce can of butane. (8)
Spray Butane into the Marijuana-Filled Extractor
Warning: To minimize the potential of an explosion, spray the butane outdoors in a well-ventilated area away from any ignition sources, structures, or vehicles.
After filling the extractor with marijuana, slowly spray the butane into the extractor’s top hole, emptying the butane canister. Hold the extractor over the glass container during the process so that the oil created by the process has a place to land.
A store-bought extractor has a small hole on one end and several holes on the other end. The end with multiple holes has a cap and an internal filter. Some people prefer to make extractors at home and use coffee filters in place of the internal filter found on store-bought extractors. After spraying the butane into the marijuana-filled extractor, a grayish-brownish-greenish thick oil drips from the bottom holes and into the glass container.
Evaporate the Butane
The evaporation process is also potentially dangerous and should be completed using only an electric range. A gas range increases the chance of starting a fire, so avoid open flames of any kind during this step.
First, place the double boiler (fill the bottom section of it with water) on a preheated electric range. Then, place the glass dish (with the marijuana extract) into the top part of the double boiler, and allow the liquid to evaporate. Shatter remains after the butane gradually evaporates.
To avoid smoking shatter that is still polluted with butane, make sure all of the solvent is boiled out before moving on to the next step. A key clue in determining whether or not the process is complete is to wait until the shatter stops bubbling.
Remove Residual Butane and Terpenes
Even the most thorough boiling process may leave residual butane and terpenes in the shatter, a pressured vacuum pump is used to remove the unwanted excess. Terpenes are welcome in other marijuana products, but not in shatter. Why? Terpenes make the product sappy, not hard. (9)
Professionals may use a 3 CFM one-stage pump for this final filtering step. In this step, the oil is placed on a glass dish inside the chamber, and then the residual butane and terpenes are sucked out. A gauge that shows the chamber’s internal temperature is important for this step so that the oil isn’t burned off in the process. After this step, additional butane and terpenes will have been removed, leaving you with pure shatter.
Scrape and Enjoy
Scrape the shatter off the bottom of the container using the single-edge razor, and then place it on the parchment paper strips to cool. The shatter can get incredibly sticky, so you may need more than one razor. Once cooled, the shatter is ready to smoke.
How to Use Shatter
Now that you’ve made your shatter and it’s ready to enjoy, 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.