Posted in The Green Ace Blog

What is “Shatter” and how are concentrates made?

Shatter, Wax, Budder, Oil, Crumble. You’ve likely heard of all of these if you’re in the market for Cannabis. What are they and are they all the same thing? While the majority of us are fairly familiar with what dried flower, or Cannabis, looks like smells like and tastes like, concentrates are a more daunting product to navigate and fully understand.

Before you buy shatter online from us, you may want to educate yourself on other concentrates.

For instance, you have full spectrum concentrates, “live” concentrates made from fresh material, and isolated compounds of specific cannabinoids. Solvent based, ie made with a solvent like butane, propane or carbon dioxide. Then there are a whole array of solvent free or solventless products, ranging from rosin to bubble hash. Some people swear by good live resin, others won’t touch anything that’s been produced through a solvent and prefer rosin. Some like to dab, while others prefer oil pens for their convenience. There are too many products and everyone has their own personal favourite. Reaching a consensus as to what the “best” concentrate is would be nearly impossible, but this article will help to clear up some of the confusion.

What is a Cannabis Concentrate?

Shatter is a cannabis concentrate, or extract, which is a broadly encompassing word. But it really means any product where the essential, psychoactive or therapeutic compounds of the plant have been extracted and the plant matter has been reduced. When you have a kief catcher in your grinder and you notice kief or crystal (more specifically, trichome heads) in the bottom chamber, you have created cannabis concentrate. The glandular trichome heads are where most, if not all, of the therapeutic, psychoactive, and aromatic properties of the plant are found. Concentrates are great as the health implications of vaping vs smoking are much less.

Cannabis concentrate producers pour their blood, sweat and tears into isolating or extracting the contents of those aforementioned trichome heads. There is a wide plethora of different techniques and processes used to isolate them, all with their own ups and downs. Some are better therapeutically and some are focused on providing the most pungent flavours and tastes. There truly is something for everyone when it comes to cannabis concentrates Here we will break the process of each down so that you as a consumer can try your hand at making your own, or at the very least know more about the concentrates that you may purchase.

Solvent based Concentrates

Many of the concentrates you will come across as a consumer will have been extracted with the help of solvents. Most commonly butane, but sometimes ethanol, carbon dioxide (co2), or even propane are used. Essentially the solvent breaks down the walls of the glandular trichome heads, and carries the contents of the trichome heads with it into a collection pan or the like. From there, the solvent is removed through the use of heat, vacuum, rotary vaporization or a combination of two or more of them. The most common solvent extracted concentrate many consumers will come across is Shatter, but waxes, live resins and crumbles are quickly growing in popularity. New products are created every day by ambitious producers. It can be confusing to consumers just looking for the right product for them, but we will help take some of the confusion out of it in this article.

Shatter / Pull and Snap

Easily the most common form of concentrate, this is what many cannabis consumers will have their first concentrate experience with. The reason for its name is the characteristic glass like texture true it typically has. True shatter, when struck or broke will shatter into tiny fragments just like glass. This is because of the crystalline structure of THC. Shatter is created most commonly by spraying or “blasting” butane through dried, cured cannabis flower or trimmings. Then, the butane is evaporated off with heat and vacuum pressure, and the process is finished; right? Many starting concentrate producers would think so, but this will not typically give you the characteristic glass like texture and shatter some consumers are after. Winterization is required to achieve this state. Winterization is the process of removing lipids (fats, waxes) from the concentrate. It’s called winterization because the process requires cold temperatures. The concentrate is typically dissolved in a solution of ethanol alcohol and kept cold until the lipids settle and can be removed. The final product, once all residual solvents are gone, will be glassy and shatter, and will be a more potent and pure product. Without this process, you will likely end up with a product more close to “pull and snap” which as the name suggests, has a stretchier taffy like texture. It should be noted that pull and snap is not always worse than shatter, excess terpenes can contribute to a pull and snap texture and I don’t think anyone would mind too many terpenes.

Wax and Crumble

The next most common concentrate people will come across, and what many people will be familiar with, is wax, budder, crumble or honeycomb. Wax is very similar to shatter in how it’s produced (extracted with solvents in the same fashion), but the process differs and it can contribute to a very different consumption experience. When concentrate producers want to create wax or crumble, they use specific temperatures and agitation to their advantage. Generally, air is whipped into the concentrate while it is still in solution with the solvent. This does a few things, one being that it helps speed up the purging (elimination of solvents) process. More importantly though, it results in an entirely different texture of product, and a different consumption experience in the end. Wax or Crumble has a less stable structure and more volatile terpenes, which means they will smell much more potent and handle entirely different from shatter. Many people pick wax like products because they find it easier to handle when it comes time to consume the product. While shatter breaks apart when being handled, wax is much less likely to do so. Wetter waxes can be almost molded to your smoking implement while harder crumbles can be handled with bare hands and sprinkled on bowls or into joints.

Live Resin and Sauce

Probably the most popular and generally considered to be the highest end, live resins and full spectrum concentrates are quickly taking the market over as the most sought after product available for those looking for a premium experience and a high concentration of terpenes. Live resin is produced by taking fresh (not dried or cured) frozen material and butane blasting it. This results in a very unique experience for the end user, as many terpenes change entirely during the drying and curing process. This concentrate is the most likely to taste/smell like the plant it was sourced from. Sauce, or High Terpene / High Cannabinoid Full Spectrum Extract, is created with exceptionally high quality material with a very high terpene content. It goes through a crystallization process where it’s kept in solution with the solvent at cold precise temperatures so that THC-A Diamonds can naturally form, and the terpenes can be separated off as a fraction. This is a small scale version of what’s known as fractional distillation. More on fractional distillation and THC-A Diamonds to come in another article. After this process and after purging residual solvents, the THC-A diamonds and terpenes are reintroduced to each other in amounts meant to replicate the original cannabis plants full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes.

The most potent of THC extracts is distillate, which is more refined.

Solventless Extracts, Hash and Rosin

Solvents certainly aren’t the only way to extract greatness from your product. Humans have been creating Hashish for thousands of years and work is still being done to perfect the craft. Hashish, or Hash, is a collection of the isolated or sifted trichome heads. It can vary widely in potency but some of the best hash is more potent than any solvent based extract. Hash like many aspects of cannabis, finds its roots in the middle east, particularly in Afghanistan and Morocco. For thousands of years humans have cultivated cannabis, and rubbed the resinous trichome heads off them to produce a smooth potent product for smoking. Another not often discussed but very simple way to create concentrates is with heat and pressure, and the resultant product is known as Rosin. Quickly gaining in popularity due to the ease of production, most people at home already have the equipment necessary to try their hand at making their own. A hair straightener with semi precise temperatures and pressure is all that’s needed to squeeze resin out of your cannabis flowers.

Conclusions

While the market for concentrates is vast and varied, with proper knowledge consumers can easily differentiate and figure out which type of product they like to consume. It’s always best to try a small amount first to see how it works with you in particular, but if that fails The Green Ace is here to help you inform your decisions. You may have to learn how to use a vape, but the internet is also full to the brim with information about cannabis concentrates and the production of them, and more information is uncovered and found out every single day. Stay tuned for more in depth guides for how you can create your own concentrates easily, and safely.

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