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Cannabis Concentrates - Shatter vs Wax

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JoshuaHolt JoshuaHolt
Added 22 December 2020

Cannabis Concentrates Shatter Vs Wax

New forms of cannabis extract have been taking the market by storm. Concentrates are becoming widely sought out by cannabis connoisseurs for their exceptional quality, but what makes them so special? Let's take a look at two similarly potent, solvent-based extracts pro dabbers hit on each and every day; shatter and wax.

Solvent or Solvent-less?

Solvent-based Extracts Vs Solvent-less-based Extracts

When it comes to cannabis concentrates, there are two primary methods of extracting the trichome oils from the plant. Either the process uses a solvent, or it doesn't. The results from each are widely appreciated but some methods deliver better flavour, while for others it's more about potency. Which is better depends on the person making or consuming it.

Solvents such as butane (most common) or isopropyl alcohol allow the resin from marijuana flowers to be seamlessly stripped away. Using pressurized chambers and cold temperatures, butane is blasted over the weed, purging it of its active compounds. The solvent is then heated to evaporate the remaining impurities, leaving a concentrate rich in THC and other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

Cannabis Trichomes

Solvent-based extracts have been around for years but the techniques used to make them have evolved dramatically and now allow for more accuracy than ever. However, the methods used to make them are dangerous and pose a big fire hazard. Making this type of concentrate can also be expensive for the casual home grower, and requires special equipment to perform it safely.

Solvent-less ExtractsSolvent-based Extracts

Rosin

Live Rosin

Kief

Dry Sift

Hashish

Bubble Hash

Solvent-less Shatter, Wax and Budder

BHO

Live Resin

Shatter

Budder, Crumble or Honeycomb

Wax

Sap

Pull N' Snap

Terp Sauce

THC Diamonds

As for solvent-less cannabis extracts, the process behind them does not use chemicals solvents. Some consumers these days lean towards solvent-less extracts due to their equally high quality. Pressing cannabis flowers into rosin, making bubble hash or dry sift, or preparing edibles are just a few of the popular ways to make extracts without solvents.

Shatter and wax are both made using solvents, however the process for each involves manipulation to achieve specific outcomes. Of course, there are many variables when it comes to the final texture of a hash oil and it can be tricky to get the same consistency each time unless you are using the same cannabis strain. Consider that the ratio of oils produced by a cannabis plant can be different from strain to strain.

Cannabis Concentrates

BHO (Butane Hash Oil)

Live Resin

Butane hash oil (BHO) refers more to the extraction technique rather than a specific type of concentrate and consistency. Most of the solvent-based extracts made today are made using butane. How the equipment is used is what makes the final product differ so much. Depending on the way extract is heated, purged or mixed during the process, the final product has distinct texture and appearance. 

Slight temperature, pressure and time adjustments in the extraction process can create all kinds of cannabis oil products. With the advancement of modern techniques, there is now certainly plenty to choose from when it comes to BHO cannabis concentrates. On your concentrate adventure you my have heard of shatter, wax, sap, budder, crumble or honeycomb, all of which use butane in the extraction process, although there are methods of making some of these without solvents. 

Live resin is another product of butane hash oil extraction, which involves freezing fresh flowers and stripping the trichomes under extremely cold conditions.

Shatter

Cannabis Concentrate Shatter

Shatter is a golden-brown cannabinoid concentrate (BHO) that is translucent and has a brittle texture to it, hence the name 'shatter'. Shatter is one of the strongest cannabis products being produced in current times and can reach THC levels of over 80% with the right equipment and expertise.

Shatter is made at slightly warmer temperatures than wax is and it is not agitated during the heating process. This is what gives shatter its translucence, as well as its sappy texture before it cools down. Essentially this makes it more of a pure product than wax, because the oils are closer to their natural state.

Shatter, Syrup and Pull N' Snap Concentrates

Pros of Shatter:

  • Has many uses - can be smoked in a joint, vaped or dabbed.
  • Easy to handle - hard, brittle texture allows portions to be broken off without hassle.
  • High THC content.

Cons of Shatter:

  • Process uses solvents (flammable hazards)
  • Shatter has strong psychoactive properties that may be too heavy for beginners
  • Not always accessible and expensive - cannabis concentrates are highly sought after and the demand does often not meet the supply.

Wax

Cannabis Wax Concentrate

Wax is another type of butane hash oil extraction. Wax is made in a similar way to shatter but involves lower temperatures and further manipulation of the oils. The concentrate is mixed, agitated or 'whipped' during the production process. This creates a waxy, buttery substance with a texture like that of butter, ear wax or solidified coconut oil.

Cannabis wax is known for its creamy, sugary texture, rich flavour, and of course super high levels of THC (around 80%). Like shatter, wax has different names depending on its consistency, and can be found in dispensaries labelled as 'budder', 'crumble' or 'honeycomb'.

Budder and Crumble

Pros of Wax:

  • Generally has more flavour than shatter
  • Smooth and creamy taste
  • Diverse terpene profile - lower temperatures during production help to preserve terpenes
  • High THC content

Cons of Wax:

  • Process uses solvents (flammable hazards)
  • Depending on their texture, waxy concentrates can be tricky to handle and dose correctly.
  • Better suited to dabbing rigs, which can be expensive.
  • Not ideal for first timers - dabs are strong and the rigs require a bit of knowledge to use them properly.

What's The Difference?

THC-rich Cannabis Buds Make For Good Shatter or Wax

Now we have a clearer representation of shatter and wax, their appearance and effects, you still might be wondering why they turn out so differently?

The way the resin molecules are 'bound' together during processing gives shatter and wax their unique qualities. Shatter is essentially a more well bound concentrate where the molecules are connected instead of clustered together, which is the case for wax.

Air and moisture are the two main differences that separate shatter and wax into their own category, even if they are made from the same cannabis plant. Minimal adjustments during the purging and drying stage sees big changes in the composition of the oils in the final product.

Using Shatter or Wax

Dabbing Rig For Consuming Cannabis Concentrates

Dabbing is the most common way people enjoy cannabis concentrates like shatter or wax. However, concentrates can also be consumed in joints, bongs, pipes, and vaporizers (make sure it's one that is designed to vape extracts). Just remember that the THC content in shatter or wax is extremely high compared to the flowers, so even as a regular consumer it's better to take it slow if you've never tried concentrates before.

Whichever way you prefer, be sure to make sure the solvent has been fully purged from the extract otherwise the product could contain harmful elements. This is one of the main concerns with BHO extractions and for a good reason. Although it comes with different risks, some people make it at home for that very reason; they can be 100% sure the final product is clean.

Making Solvent Based Extracts Is A Hazard

Tip: Be extremely careful if you decide to try making BHO extractions at home. Work outside in a well ventilated area and do not breathe the fumes of the butane. Never have an open flame present while performing extractions.

Rosin is made without solvents and instead the cannabis is pressed using heat. Thanks to Experimentgreen from GrowDiaries for the video.

Conclusion

The development in the cannabis concentrate scene over recent years has been impressive and it's thanks to old techniques like BHO extraction that we now have awesome products like shatter and wax. Time to get the dab rig out.

If you found this article useful or have any comments regarding shatter and wax, feel free to share your thoughts with the community!

External References

Butane hash oil and dabbing: insights into use, amateur production techniques, and potential harm mitigation. Substance abuse and rehabilitation. - Al-Zouabi, I., Stogner, J. M., Miller, B. L., & Lane, E. S. (2018)

Exploring cannabis concentrates on the legal market: User profiles, product strength, and health-related outcomes. Addict Behav Rep. - Cinnamon Bidwell L, YorkWilliams SL, Mueller RL, Bryan AD, Hutchison KE. (2018)

Cannabis Contaminants: Regulating Solvents, Microbes, and Metals in Legal Weed. Environmental health perspectives. - Seltenrich N. (2019)

Butane Hash Oil Extraction Hazards. - New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (2013)

The Dangers of Dabbing: A Case of ARDS Following Inhalation of Vaporized Butane-Extracted Cannabis Product. - Albrektson, K. & Masroujeh, Ramy & Young, B.P.. (2019)

This article was updated December 2020.






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