Education & Wellness

What is Shatter?

June 23, 2022

If you’re a cannabis consumer then no doubt you’ve come across the term shatter at least once or twice – but what is shatter, exactly?

Put simply, cannabis shatter is a form of cannabis concentrate that resembles stained glass in that it is usually thin, and nearly translucent. When broken, the concentrate shatters into pieces, which is how it got its name.  

Shatter is one of the most popular concentrates for its looks alone, often clear to amber in shade and anywhere from easily breakable to a sap-like consistency. In general, it is on par with other concentrates with 50-90% THC on average.  

Exploring Cannabis Concentrates

While shatter is popular, it takes a very particular process to be made and it’s not always the easiest to work with. Wax, also known on occasion as budder, is preferred by many because it’s easier to handle with dab tools. 

Image of golden yellow cannabis concentrate on the end of a silver dab tool, next to a green cannabis leaf, on a pink background
Shatter gets its name by how the product breaks apart. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Concentrates are called many things including wax, budder, crumble, honeycomb, sap, live resin, and shatter to name the most common. While each has their own unique look and consistency, they are all forms of cannabis concentrates and are made and consumed in the same basic ways.  

However, there are some concentrates like THC oil and Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), which are better used in edibles or as a sublingual. There are also concentrates like rosin, which is made with only heat and pressure instead of solvents that make wax, shatter, and live resin for example. 

How is Shatter Made?

Concentrates like shatter can be made from any part of the cannabis plant that produces trichomes. Most commonly, buds are used because of their higher THC concentration (when compared to trim or stems). The THC is then extracted using a solvent – usually butane or CO2– and is put through a process called closed-loop extraction, to create concentrates like shatter. 

The process takes the solvent into a chamber where it mixes with the raw cannabis material and is extracted repeatedly before being sucked away a final time. What gives shatter its glass-like appearance is the high temperature it is extracted at inside the closed-loop machine. After the solvent is removed the extract is sucked into another chamber where heat is used to purge away the remaining solvents. 

Silver metal machine with multiple chambers
Shatter gets its text by the high temperatures at which it is extracted in a closed-looped machine. Photo credit: Shutterstock

In fact, one of the biggest differences between shatter and other concentrates is what happens after the extraction process.  Post-extraction processes determine the consistency of shatter concentrates.  Everything from temperature, pressure control, agitation, moisture content, residual solvents (ideally none), and even improper storage can affect the eventual outcome of a concentrate. In the case of shatter, the extracted concentrate receives little to no post-extraction processing after the purging steps, and is left to cool and harden.

Interestingly, shatter that has higher levels of THC tends to be sappier, more bendable, and malleable while shatter high in THCA is more brittle and glass-like. Both offer similar effects, though the more glass-like and brittle the shatter, the higher quality it is usually considered to be.  

The solvents used can vary from one producer to another but the most common is BHO or butane hash oil extraction when it comes to shatter. However, other solvents used to make concentrates include propane, ethanol, alcohol, CO2, among others. 

How Do You Use Shatter?

There are multiple ways you can consume shatter. How you choose to have your wax is up to personal preference in the end – though dabbing is the one you’ll come across the most. 

Using a Dab Rig

Probably the most common way to consume shatter is with a dab rig. In essence, the rig is a bong or water pipe. Only, instead of lighting a bowl and inhaling smoke, you are dabbing wax on a hot surface using a titanium, ceramic, or quartz banger and inhaling vapours. 

A piece of golden-yellow shatter on top of a dab rig, metal nail beside the glass chamber
The most common and preferred way to consume shatter is with a dab rig. Photo credit: Shutterstock

If you’re not sure what we’re talking about here, then check out our other article “What is a Dab Rig?” for more information on what dab rigs are and how to use one.  

Using a Dab Pen

You can’t use just any vape pen with shatter or any other type of wax for that matter. Many vaporizer pens are only meant for cartridges filled with THC oils and cannot vape shatter. However, there are dab pens that have a chamber for concentrates and an atomizer that heats to vaporise it. 

Smoking with Flower

If you find yourself with shatter and no dab rig or pen to vape with, another option would be to smoke it with your regular ground cannabis flower. This can be done by placing a bit of the wax into the centre of a bowl pack, or rolling it into a joint (also sometimes called “twaxing”). While this will get the job done, it is less efficient in retaining the cannabinoid content when compared to using a rig or dab pen. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Shatter and Wax Different?

Essentially, shatter is a type of solvent–based cannabis extract  in the same way that budder or crumble are. The process for making these concentrates is similar as is their potency, effects, and flavours. The key difference is that wax is whipped or agitated during the cooling stage. Shatter refers to a specific type of concentrate that often appears as glass and tends to shatter when it breaks and is created with higher temperatures. 

Is Shatter and Dabs the Same Thing?

“Dabs” generally refers to the wax being used in the process of consuming – or “dabbing” the concentrates. So, yes, shatter and dabs are technically the same thing. However, shatter may not be the only concentrate being referred to when someone is talking about dabs.  

Is Shatter Better Than Wax?

Shatter is considered one of the most potent forms of cannabis solvent based extract, though it doesn’t often have a higher THC percentage than any other form of wax. It gets this reputation for the near clear colour and sticky or fragile consistency, which leads people to believe it is more potent than other wax. 

Can You Put Shatter in a Dab Pen?

The answer to this is both yes and no. If you have the right dab pen – one with a chamber meant for concentrates – then go right ahead, load it up and enjoy! However, if your pen is one that normally has a replacement cartridge to screw onto it you shouldn’t attempt to refill an old cartridge with your shatter or other types of wax.