The Science of Shatter: How the Most Potent Cannabis Concentrate Gets Made

The Science of Shatter: How the Most Potent Cannabis Concentrate Gets Made

Yellow amber concentrate

Everyone has their favorite type of butane hash oil (BHO) and if you ask enough people, one answer will come out above the rest. Cannabis shatter is a staple product among cannabis extract consumers of all stripes.

Whether you are new to concentrates or are curious about the hash oil you have been dabbing, you can explore more about the history, production, and science of the world's most popular cannabis concentrate.

What Are Cannabis Concentrates?

Let us start with the basics. Cannabis concentrates are nothing new to the cannabis scene. In fact, their storied use goes back to ancient civilizations who would use cannabis resin for religious, spiritual, recreational, and medicinal purposes.

Cannabis concentrates are concentrated forms of pure cannabis oil, composed of the plant’s dissolved trichomes. Trichomes contain the plant’s active cannabinoids and terpenes, responsible for its intoxicating and therapeutic effects.

Compared to cannabis flowers, concentrates offer a significantly higher THC or CBD content. In fact, shatter can contain between 80 and 90% cannabinoids compared to the 10 to 25% THC or CBD found in cannabis flowers.

What Is Shatter?

Thc cbd extract concentrate

Shatter is just one of many different types of cannabis extracts, each with their own unique properties in terms of malleability, consistency, color, aroma, and potency. Shatter, in particular, stands out as one of the most striking cannabis concentrates on the market.

Generally, shatter is a hard and brittle slab of cannabis resin and can feature some holes, similar to the look of Swiss cheese. Shatter can range from a dark amber to a golden yellow to a clear and translucent color. In some cases, shatter can take on a more pliable and sticky form known as pull ‘n’ snap.

Whether you have got the hard candy shatter, clear shatter, or sticky pull ‘n’ snap on your hands, be prepared for a wild ride. Shatters high potency and intense aroma can break through your tolerance cap, even if you are a high-tolerance user.

There are many benefits to the consumption of this strong extract, including its high potency and fast-acting effects, but it can have some risk of adverse effects for first-time or low-tolerance users who are not used to the high THC content.

The History of Shatter

While shatter's current form is a relatively recent introduction to the world of concentrates, making concentrates is an ancient practice. Cannabis extraction, in its current form, took off in the 1990s with the rise of solventless methods such as dry sifting and ice water extraction.

By the 2000s, solvent-based extraction, particularly hydrocarbon extraction, was beginning to take hold, primarily as an open blasting method. Now, operators use the safer closed-loop method. Shatter was born out of the technological innovations and techniques in cannabis chemistry.

What Is Solvent Extraction?

Cannabis kief, hash, rosin, live rosin, and bubble hash are all produced without the use of solvents, using various techniques to remove the trichomes from the plant material. While this method can produce pure and potent concentrates, solvent-based extraction can produce shatter and other full-spectrum concentrates at scale.

Common solvent-based extractions used in the cannabis industry are largely used in other industrial applications such as coffee decaffeination, the production of food flavorings, and the creation of fragrances.

Among the many types of solvents used (ethanol, CO2, hydrocarbons), BHO extraction is one of the most cost-effective and efficient methods of creating a wide range of concentrates, from crude extract for edibles to live resin with a high-terpene content.

What Is Hydrocarbon Extraction?

Shatter is usually made using hydrocarbon extraction, which uses butane and/or propane as a solvent. Butane and propane are largely favored by extraction technicians due to the solvents’ relatively lower boiling points compared to other solvents.

Low boiling points mean that extractors can use lower temperatures to process the material and preserve more of the plant's terpenes, known to have low boiling points compared to the heavier cannabinoid compounds.

In a licensed extraction laboratory, extraction technicians operate closed-loop hydrocarbon extractors, vacuum ovens, and other BHO equipment necessary for the extraction and refinement of cannabis resin.

Shatter starts off as dried and cured cannabis flower or trim. Higher quality biomass results in a higher-quality shatter. The biomass can be grinded down, although hydrocarbons are efficient at extracting cannabinoids and terpenes from whole flower buds.

The biomass is loaded into the extraction vessel where the pressurized butane solvent is pumped through the biomass, stripping the desirable active ingredients from the plant matter. Closed-loop extractors can then recycle and reuse the solvent.

What Is a Post-Extraction Purge?

During the purging process, shatter is introduced into a vacuum oven, where the vacuum environment lowers the boiling point of butane, making it easier to evaporate it from the final product without losing out on too many cannabinoids and terpenes.

It is during this process of removing the residual butane where extraction technicians can apply a particular technique to create a desired extract consistency and texture. For instance, by whipping extract samples, operators can push more air into the product making it buttery, smooth, and creamy.

Cannabis shatter requires being purged in temperatures between 95º and 115º F and a vacuum pressure of at least -600 mm Hg. High temperatures can negatively affect to be concentrate, but shatter uses a gentle heat to create its hard and brittle consistency, like hard candy.

Shatter’s glass-like form is the result of its high cannabinoid content and relatively low terpene content. Terpenes, the plant’s aromatic compounds, have a more sauce-like and runny physical state, which can be great for other types of extract such as diamonds and sauce, terp sauce, and budder.

Shatter, however, cannot work with a high level of terpenes since these compounds can render the product goopy and sappy. Instead, extractors want a hard and glass-like extract, which can be achieved with the application of heat to the concentrate.

How to Consume Shatter

thc concentrate

A major part of consuming high-grade shatter is storing it properly. For instance, if stored in an open-air environment, the shatter can begin to degrade, lowering the potency and flavor. In addition, improper storage can lead to nucleation, where the product begins to “sugar up.”

Sugaring up refers to the process where, in the presence of terpenes acting as a solvent, the THCA molecules start coming together and form sugar-like crystals instead of being homogenized. Shatter that has nucleated can still be consumed although the product loses its original, glass-like form.

For this reason, we recommend storing cannabis concentrates in an airtight container in a dry, dark, and cool location.

Shatter can be consumed in a number of different ways, but the general process is to heat the product and inhale. Shatter can be used to top off your pipe or bong bowls, add extra potency to your joints, or be dabbed on a dab rig, e-nail, or portable vaporizer.

In addition, shatter can be used as an ingredient to make any type of edibles or topicals. Compared to plant matter, you will be using far less shatter in your recipes.

No matter how you enjoy your shatter, make sure to always buy from licensed producers who have independently tested their product for purity and potency and go low and slow if you are new to concentrates since this is one of the most potent ones around.

Producing Clear Shatter with Media Bros

Media Bros’ innovative line of filter media and hardware can take hydrocarbon extractions to the next level. CRX and CRY filter media can handle various types of biomass quality and produce an ultra-clear and translucent extract by removing the oil’s pigments and impurities.

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