What’s shatter?

What’s shatter?

A solvent-based cannabis extract, shatter is a golden-coloured, glass-like substance that’s highly concentrated. This article looks at how it’s made, how to consume it, the pros and cons of choosing shatter, and shopping and potency considerations.

Marijuana smokers who are looking for a heaver-hitting high are turning to “shatter weed,” a concentrate that contains up to 90% cannabinoid content, and in some cases even reaching a whopping 99%. These days, cannabis is reaching unprecedented levels of potency, with concentrations of  THC regularly exceeding 20%. But, for weed enthusiasts and experienced smokers who want to be adventurous, this simply won’t do the trick.

This is where concentrates such as bubble melt hash, budder, and honey oil come into play, but there are few concentrates stronger than shatter.

What is shatter?

what's shatter

Shatter is an extract, which is a type of cannabis concentrate that’s produced using a combination of weed plant materials and solvents. The appearance of shatter weed is typically translucent, though its coloring can range from a bright honeylike amber to a darker yellow shade like olive oil. 

Visually, all shatters may appear to have the same consistency, but the physical texture of individual products can vary from extremely brittle to a taffylike snap-and-pull quality. This inconsistency gives some insight into an individual product’s cannabinoid profile. 

Specifically, shatter that’s higher in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) will tend to be sappier than a product with a higher level of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), which will be much more brittle by comparison. At room temperature, THC is a sappy oil, giving shatter with a high THC content a more viscous consistency, whereas THCA is solid at room temperature, yielding a fragile concentrate that’s easier to break apart.

Benefits of Shatter

A main benefit of dabbing shatter is that it offers an incredibly fast method for cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream, offering near instantaneous effects. Due to the increased potency of cannabis extracts, users are also able to take on a “less is more” approach in using their cannabis.

Dabbing shatter means you no longer need to inhale large amounts of burning plant material to get the effects you want. That is a good thing. Rather than smoking entire joints and exposing your lungs to harmful chemicals in the smoke, consumers can dab once or twice to get their cannabinoids, inhaling only vapor – not smoke.

Shatter is also more stable due to its molecular structure, so it will last longer before degrading compared to wax and other similar extracts. However, some users find the hard consistency difficult to break up and measure out into individual uses. Try lightly heating your dabber before using it to break off a dab from your shatter.

What is CBD shatter?

While shatter is most well known for its high levels of THC, many concentrate makers also produce a variety shatter that is high in cannabidiol (CBD) and very low in THC. In general, CBD shatter is geared primarily toward consumers who want the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the intoxicating effects of THC.

Because CBD shatter contains a concentrated, potent dose of CBD, it can be an excellent option for medical marijuana patients and other consumers interested in health and wellness.

History

Shatter is a relatively recent development within the full history of cannabis consumption. Its roots can be traced to the age-old practice of hashish production. By the late 1990s, the process of modern cannabis concentrate production was being refined, and what we’d now consider shatter was first produced. 

In 1989, author D. Gold published a second edition of his original 1973 book, “Cannabis Alchemy: The Art of Modern Hashmaking,” which included the first full explanation of how to make hash. A year later, in 1990, medical technologist Michael Starks also published a second edition of his 1977 book, “Marijuana Chemistry: Genetics Processing and Potency,” with a detailed explanation of the hash production process.

By the late 1990s, Canadian cannabis manufacturer BudderKing first marketed budder and shatter, with its products hitting the shelves of dispensaries in 2003. In 2005, the techniques for producing these products were published in Cannabis Culture magazine. By the 2010s, it emerged as a staple in cannabis consumption with dab rigs set alongside water bongs in smoke shops’ shelves, with a shared sentiment among concentrate users being, “If it doesn’t shatter, it doesn’t matter.”

How to use shatter

Is shatter the same as dabs?

what's shatter

Technically, yes. All shatter can be dabbed, but not all dabs are considered to be shatter. Referred to as “dabbing,” this popular method involves a small water pipe called a rig with a flat bowl, and a “nail,” which is designed to tolerate high temperatures. In this case, the consumer would be dabbing shatter, but other forms of concentrates can also be considered as dabs.  

To dab, preheat the nail with a small butane or propane torch until it reaches the optimum temperature. Using the flat end of the dabber, drop a small amount of concentrate onto the nail. When it comes in contact with the hot nail, the concentrate will instantly vaporize. Place a cap over the nail to capture the vapor and inhale through an opening on the opposite end of the rig.  Dabbing concentrated marijuana products like shatter typically offers a more potent high, as well as terpene-rich flavors and aromas, especially compared with smoking marijuana. Consuming shatter means having the necessary dab tools, which can have a significant impact on the experience. The temperature of the nail at the moment of consumption, for example, will affect flavor, and may alter the healthful effects.

What are the side effects of shatter?

As shatter and other cannabis concentrates often have significantly high THC levels, it’s important to be mindful of the potential side effects that may come from consuming these potent products. Though THC has demonstrated several medical and therapeutic uses, overconsumption could cause certain adverse side effects, such as anxiety and paranoia. If you’re new to the world of cannabis concentrates, you should start with the smallest viable dab and gradually increase your dose to avoid these unwanted side effects. 

What happens if you eat shatter?

Shatter requires decarboxylation, or the activation of its compounds through heat, to produce the desired effects. This form of concentrate is meant to be vaporized using a dab rig, e-rig, or vaporizer, so the high concentration of potent cannabinoids can decarboxylate and interact with the body immediately. Consuming unheated shatter in raw form is unlikely to produce any desirable effect.  

How to use CBD shatter

Fortunately, using CBD shatter is no different than using the kind with high concentrations of THC, but without the intense high. You simply dab it the same way you do any other type of cannabis concentrate.

Make sure that you’re using shatter that has been manufactured specifically to contain high levels of CBD and low levels of THC, as this will maximize the therapeutic effects of CBD while minimizing the intoxication of THC. Similarly, other CBD concentrates such as CBD wax and CBD isolate can also be consumed using the dabbing method.

Storage considerations

When stored improperly, shatter can begin to break down and lose its initial consistency, flavor, and potency. To prevent this degradation, it should always be stored in an airtight and lightproof container. Ideally, it should be stored in a cool room. To ensure the concentrate stays consistent for as long as possible, protect it from high temperatures, moisture, oxygen, as well as ultraviolet light and direct sunlight.

Remember, heat is shatter’s worst enemy. It causes the cannabinoids and terpenes to activate. Ideally, that should happen only upon consumption, not while it’s resting in a container. Dispensaries, smoke shops, and many online stores offer concentrate storage accessories for concentrates, such as silicone containers. 

Why does shatter turn into sugar, budder or crumble?

Despite the wide range of textures, colors, and consistencies of extracts, they follow a similar production process. If certain factors aren’t closely followed, if solutions are mishandled at any point of production, or if the shatter isn’t stored correctly, it may ultimately yield something other than the desired product. 

If the initial extraction or subsequent vacuum purge are performed improperly, then the glasslike consistency may be compromised, resulting in a final product that has a texture similar to butter or sugar.

Other factors may affect the production process. Agitation, high temperatures, residual solvents or leftover moisture from the starting marijuana plant material all can cause the cannabis oil to end up as budder, rather than yielding the desired snap or brittleness of shatter.

How shatter is 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.

what's shatter

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 long does it take to purge shatter?

Additionally, the lower temperatures and pressures utilized during this purge, between 85 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (about 29.44 to 37.77 degrees Celsius) at -29 inches of mercury (inHg) of pressure, along with a lack of agitation, give shatter its recognizable glasslike appearance compared with the manufacture of other concentrates. A full purge takes anywhere from 8 to 24 hours.

How to make shatter

Like dab wax, shatter is a BHO extracted from the cannabis plant. The differences come after the initial extraction process, when the BHO is cooled to induce solidification. Unlike dabs, which are left undisturbed while solidifying, the BHO is shaken and stirred as it’s left to cool. This results in a solid cannabis concentrate with an entirely different appearance, one that’s translucent and glasslike. Despite these differences, though, the effects of dabs and shatter are more or less identical, as they’re both derived from BHO.

On the molecular level, the differences between dabs and shatter are the result of differing molecular alignments, which is determined by heating versus cooling, pressure applied, and handling (whether the mixture is shaken or left undisturbed). Dab wax has a relatively disorganized molecular composition, while the molecular alignment shatter is organized into neat, parallel rows.

Like dab wax, shatter can be vaporized with a dab rig. A small pinch of shatter is applied to the dab nail, which is subsequently ignited to heat the concentrate and produce a potent vapor that delivers powerful, instant effects.

How to make THC oil

Unlike dab wax and shatter, THC oil is a liquid cannabis concentrate and not a BHO. And whereas wax and shatter are extracted using butane, THC oil is usually derived using CO2. Except this CO2 isn’t a gas, like it is at room temperature. To act as a solvent, this CO2 is first heated and pressurized until it morphs into a supercritical liquid. Only then can it strip the psychoactive compounds from the trichomes of the original plant matter. The resulting liquid THC oil is rich in cannabinoids and terpenes and commonly used to create vaporizer cartridges to attach to battery-operated vape pens.


Cannabis concentrates are often preferred by consumers who are after a more powerful high, or those who suffer from ailments that require instant relief, such as chronic pain, migraines, and other common conditions. As cannabis concentrates continue to grow in popularity, more innovation and research on these potent delivery methods is sure to follow.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Fawn Gleason

    Shatter weed is very, very strong. It will give you a high like no other, but you have to train yourself to tolerate it. Definitely not for everyone

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