A brittle, glass-like cannabis extract with a tendency to snap when handled. Shatter is named for its break-ability, like shattered glass, and is favored for its ease in handling while dabbing. Shatter requires long and delicate purging cycles to properly remove all solvents used in the manufacturing process.
“This Shatter is much stronger than the flower I’m used to smoking.”
More about shatter
What is shatter?
Shatter is an extract, which is a type of cannabis concentrate that’s produced using solvents. Shatter’s appearance is typically translucent, though its coloring can range from a bright honey-like amber to a darker yellow shade similar to 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 snap-and-pull quality, like taffy. This variation in consistency gives some insight into an individual product’s cannabinoid profile. Specifically, Shatter that’s higher in THC will tend to be sappier than a product with a higher level of 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 Shatter that’s easier to break apart.
The history of shatter
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, Shatter 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 consume shatter
Like other cannabis products, Shatter can be consumed in a variety of ways. Referred to as “dabbing,” this method involves a small water pipe called a “rig” with a flat bowl, called a “nail,” which is designed to tolerate high temperatures.
To take a dab, preheat the nail with a small gas-powered torch until it reaches the optimum temperature. Using the flat end of the dabber, drop a small piece of Shatter onto the nail. When the Shatter comes in contact with the hot nail, it 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.
How to store shatter
When stored improperly, Shatter can begin to break down and lose its initial consistency, flavor or potency. To prevent this degradation, Shatter should always be stored in an airtight and light-proof container. Shatter should ideally be stored in a cool room. To ensure Shatter stays consistent for as long as possible, protect it from high temperatures, moisture, oxygen and ultraviolet and direct sunlight.
Remember, heat is Shatter’s 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 to store Shatter, 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 of the shatter may be compromised, resulting in a final product that has a texture similar to butter or sugar.
Other factors may affect Shatter production. Agitation, high temperatures, residual solvents or leftover moisture from the starting plant material all can cause the oil to end up as Budder, rather than yielding the desired snap or brittleness of Shatter.
How shatter is made
WARNING: THE MANUFACTURING OF SHATTER AND OTHER CANNABIS CONCENTRATES SHOULD ONLY BE PERFORMED BY PROFESSIONALS AS THESE PROCESSES CAN BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.
For safety and health reasons, producing extracts should be left to professionals, as the safety precautions and equipment require precision and accuracy.
The overall process for producing Shatter is the same as other extracts. The most significant difference with producing Shatter is the post-extraction process. Shatter is typically made following these six steps:
- Selecting a starting material.
- Packing the material column.
- Chilling the solvent.
- Passing the solvent over the material to create the solution.
- Removing the solvent from the solution with heat to promote the vaporization of the solvent.
- Chilling the solvent tank to recondense the solvent vapors.
Shatter can be made from a variety of starting material, such as cannabis flower nugs to using plant remnants such as trim or shake. When making Shatter, the desired cannabinoids are separated from the raw flower through an extraction process that uses heat and compression. Next, any unwanted materials are removed with a solvent-induced vacuum purge.
Shatter can be made with myriad solvents, but the most common chemicals during the purge are liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) or ethanol. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a solvent utilized for other cannabis concentrates, but is a poor choice for this extract, as it removes the moisture from the plant material that typically prevents it from developing its characteristic texture.
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), along with a lack of agitation, when compared with the manufacture of other concentrates, give Shatter its recognizable glasslike appearance.