What is shatter, how is it made, and is it safe?
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Times are changing and people no longer only smoke their herb in a joint or a bong.
Extracts are the latest trend amongst cannabis users and if you don’t own a good vaporizer or a dabbing rig, you are no longer hip.
One particular kind of cannabis concentrate is attracting plenty of special attention lately; Shatter.
Cannabis shatter is special kind of BHO (Butane Hash Oil) which has users both excited and divided.
To clear up some of the mystery, we take an in-depth look at cannabis shatter. We will explain what it is, how it is made, and will try to clear up the smoke on the topic.
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS SHATTER?
“Shatter” is a term used to describe an extremely potent type of BHO (Butane Hash Oil). All BHOs use butane (a liquified gas) as a solvent to extract cannabinoids and terpenes (to a lesser extent) from cannabis plant matter.
Cannabis shatter boasts a beautiful golden color. It is a hard, glass-like extract that usually shatters when it is dropped (hence the name). Shatter is extremely translucent, often leading people to assume that it is the purest of all cannabis concentrates. It can contain up to about 80% concentrations of THC and other cannabinoids.
Shatter can occasionally be sold under some other names. You will find it mainly as “sap” or “pull ‘n snap”, depending on the texture of the final concentrate.
Where shatter is hard and glassy, sap is slightly more runny, with a texture more like tree sap. Pull ‘n snap usually sits somewhere in the middle with a texture similar to taffy.
All of these products are essentially made the same way, but slight variations in heat and moisture content give them their different textures.
HOW IS SHATTER MADE?
Shatter is a solvent-based cannabis extract. Being a type of BHO, it uses butane to separate trichomes from the cannabis buds and trimmings and hereby concentrates the cannabinoids and terpenes found in the plant.
Trichomes are small, glass-like crystals found on the cannabis plant. These trichomes contain the highest concentrations of THC and other cannabinoids and terpenes.
All cannabis concentrates (different types of BHO, hash and even kief) are essentially made by harvesting and concentrating trichomes.
The process for making shatter is relatively easy. It involves soaking, or “blasting” cannabis buds and trimming them with liquified butane in order to separate the trichomes from the plant. The resulting mixture is then collected and heated in order to purge as much butane from it as possible.
The purged mixture is then left to rest and settle so it can form a thin sheet of extract.
Waxes, budders, and other types of concentrates are often stirred, whipped, or shaken during various stages of the production process. This agitates individual molecules within the extract and creates a final product that has a cloudy, possible even creamy appearance and texture.
Shatter is not agitated during the heating processes. This is why it has its translucent appearance.
On the contrary to what some people like to belief, the translucence of shatter has nothing to do with its purity; the purity of the extract comes down to how well it has been purged of its solvents and the quality of the cannabis used to produce it.
HOW TO USE SHATTER:
Shatter and other types of cannabis concentrates are often referred to as “dabs.” This is because probably the most common way to use concentrates such a shatter, is with a dab rig. But there are other options out there.
Here are a few ways you can use shatter:
Adding some small pieces of shatter to a bowl, joint, or blunt is probably the easiest way to use shatter. This way you don’t have to to invest in any specialized gear.
However, mixing shatter with flower will mask the unique taste of the extract and isn’t ideal for anyone who wants to truly experience the unique flavor of the concentrate.
Hash pipes were traditionally designed to be used solely for smoking hash, charas, or kief. However, there are some newer pipes that can also work with solvent-based extracts like shatter. This would probably be the cheapest option for anyone looking to experience shatter by itself and isn’t willing to invest in a new vaporizer or specialized dab rig.
Portable vaporizers vary greatly in price depending on their quality and features. Most portable models will not work with solvent-based extracts like shatter, while newer and more sophisticated vapes will work with flower, kief, and all kinds of extracts such as shatter.
Vaporizing shatter is probably the best way to enjoy the pure flavor of the concentrate and its uplifting qualities, while avoiding the adverse health effects associated with smoking.
However, poor quality portable vapes tend to struggle to sufficiently heat concentrates like shatter and result in poor quality hits and a degraded flavor (mainly because they run off battery power).
This means that anyone looking for a reliable vaping experience should be willing to invest in a decent vaporizer. And this might be pricey.
Dabbing involves vaporizing shatter or any other concentrate on a heated surface (usually referred to as a “nail”) and then inhaling the vapors through an oil or dab rig (essentially just a specialized pipe).
The “nail” is usually heated to somewhere between 285 and 400°C (550 and 750°F) and can be either heated with a blowtorch or controlled electronically (known as e-nails).
Dab rigs can include water filtering elements like a regular bong and can cost anywhere between $50 and $5,000 depending on the features of the rig and the glassblower who made it.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING SHATTER?
Shatter offers both recreational and medical cannabis users a new way to use and experience marijuana.
With extremely high cannabinoid concentrations, a single hit from a dab rig, vaporizer, or hash pipe loaded with shatter, allows recreational users to get an extremely strong hit almost immediately. This way it offers patients strong and fast relief from symptoms such as severe pain when needed most.
IS SHATTER SAFE?
The world of dabs and dabbing is highly controversial. While some cannabis users are thrilled by this new way to experience cannabis, others are scared off by how they’re produced, their potency, and the way they’re consumed.
One of the biggest concerns surrounding BHO extracts is the way they are produced. Butane is an extremely volatile and flammable substance.
As we said earlier, BHO production requires the substance to be heated in order for the chemicals to be purged from the extract.
While professional extract producers working in legal markets such as Colorado and California have specialized equipment to safely handle butane, amateur “chemists” have tried to make this stuff at home, which has resulted in explosions causing serious injuries and even death.
Another major concern surrounding BHOs like shatter, is their potency.
BHO concentrates can contain cannabinoid concentrations of up to about 80%, whereas as regularly flower usually contains around 15%. While it isn’t possible to fatally overdose from cannabis, it is much easier to lose control of your dosing with concentrates and end up with your head in the toilet bowl.
Finally, people are also concerned with the way BHOs are consumed. Some people say that dabs are the “crack” of cannabis, simply because of its aesthetics.
All of these issues make it hard to pass a final judgement on shatter and tell you whether it is safe.
If you’re interested to try it for yourself, make sure you buy it from a respected manufacturer and have someone guide you through the process of how to consume it and especially dosing it.
One thing we would like you to remember most; never try to make shatter at home! No matter how experienced you think you might be.
For more information on cannabis extracts like shatter, wax, budder, and cannabis concentrates in general, check our special feature on cannabis concentrates.