Now that cannabis is becoming legal in more and more states, you’re probably starting to come across all its different forms - like flower, pre-rolls, concentrates, etc.
Concentrates have increased in popularity over the years, with the great debate of deciding between shatter vs wax taking center stage!
Before we delve into that though, let’s do a quick rundown of what a concentrate actually is.
A concentrate is simply a concentrated form of the interactive compounds, the cannabinoids and the terpenes, pulled from the trichomes on the cannabis plant.
Concentrates are basically a way of cutting out the middleman (aka the flower) and getting straight to the point of having the desirable properties of the plant.
Even better, concentrates typically have 4-5 times higher THC levels (usually at 80% or higher) compared to their flower form thanks to the extraction processes of concentrates from the cannabis plant.
You’ll probably also hear concentrates referred to as “dabs.” While the phrase often refers to a method of smoking concentrates (we’ll get into that later), concentrates have also earned this nickname since just a little dab of this product can go a long way!
The Differences Between Shatter & Wax
So you’re ready to buy concentrates, but where do you even start? Here’s a little rundown of the two most popular and potent types of cannabis concentrates - shatter and wax.
What is Shatter
This translucent, glassy-looking amber concentrate looks like a flattened hard candy, and shatter is true to its name in that it looks like it will shatter into pieces if you drop it.
It is extremely potent with THC levels typically at 80% or higher.
When shopping for shatter, the more transparent the product, the better the quality. You should also be able to notice a nice cannabis aroma wafting off this concentrate.
Once you have your shatter, there are different ways you can smoke it. Some people like to use an oil rig or vape pen, while others will sprinkle it in with their flower for their bowl or joint.
If you decide to go the oil rig route, you’ll use a method called “dabbing.” This is heating up the dab nail to the proper temperature and taking just a “dab” of the concentrate to drop into your prepped oil rig. The product will then combust, you inhale the smoke and voila - you’ve just dabbed!
What is Wax
Wax is more malleable than shatter in that it takes on a gooey consistency that resembles coconut oil. It’s amber in color and more opaque than the translucent shatter.
Because of its consistency, many agree that this concentrate is easier to manage than shatter.
Just like shatter, wax has high THC levels that are usually 80% or higher, making this one an equally potent concentrate.
When you’re looking to buy your wax, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting one that has a nice amber color. If you see a wax with a green hue, this means it didn’t have a high quality extraction.
When you’re ready to smoke your wax, you can pretty much use the same methods you would with shatter by smoking it out of an oil rig, vape pen or even sprinkling it in with your green to add to your favorite bowl or joint.
If you go the sprinkle route, just know that wax’s somewhat sticky nature may make this more of a challenge compared to shatter.
Shatter Vs. Wax
So which is better - shatter or wax? Well, that depends on what kind of smoke you’re going for.
Some would argue that shatter’s rigidity makes it a bit more of a challenge to manage when it comes to heating and using the oil rig.
That being said, if you want to just sprinkle your concentrate in with your green, then wax is going to pose more of a challenge due to its sticky nature.
If you are being guided solely by your desire to have a high THC concentrate, then let the wind be your guide and grab whichever option gets you most excited on your next trip to the dispensary!
Types of Cannabis Concentrates
Shatter and wax may be the most popular and most potent types of cannabis concentrates, but they aren’t all that is available. There are a number of options to consider when you’re exploring the world of cannabis concentrates.
Regardless of which concentrate you choose, you’ll be looking at a product that has a much higher THC level than just using bud.
Hash is the old school concentrate that your parents were smoking.
Hash is made from gathering the trichomes off the cannabis flower (you may also know trichomes as kief, that wonderful golden dust that collects under your grinder screen) and compacting then extracting or distilling them.
The traditional form of hash is to see it compacted into either bricks or balls. But like other concentrates, this one can be converted into other forms as well.
Many would consider hash rosin to be the purest form of cannabis concentrate.
Hash rosin is made from bubble hash (hash that was extracted using the ice bath method) and then pressed into rosin form.
Rosin itself comes in different consistencies depending on the exact method used to produce it. You may see it as a thick and sticky golden liquid material, similar to syrup. Or, you may find it closer to a soft butter consistency – and then anywhere in between.
There is also flower rosin, which eliminates the step of creating the hash and simply extracts the rosin from the cannabis flower itself. This type of rosin typically pulls in more of the cannabis flower flavor and has a touch of green in its hue. You’ll also find a lower THC content compared to hash rosin if you go the flower rosin route.
Budder is a cannabis concentrate that closely resembles - you guessed it - butter! It has a nice golden amber color and has a thick and smooth consistency, similar to a soft butter or cake icing.
Thanks to its consistency, budder is considered easier to manage than other forms of concentrate.
Unlike other concentrates, budder pulls in more of the cannabis terpenes, leading to additional benefits of using this concentrate outside of just having a high THC content.
Because budder retains a decent amount of terpenes, its flavor and aroma will more closely resemble the cannabis flower it originated from when compared to other forms of concentrates.
Distillate is a pure cannabinoid oil, either in the form of THC oil or CBD oil.
It’s a fully stripped down concentrate that doesn’t pull in any terpenes, usually leaving it devoid of any flavors or scents. Because of this, distillates are often used in topicals, for making edibles, or for use in vape cartridges.
This is a great concentrate option if you are looking for a straight THC induced high.
While distillates focus solely on a cannabinoid, other cannabis oils exist that also contain some of the plant’s terpenes if you’d prefer to have a product that provides more of the full cannabis entourage effect.
How Cannabis Concentrates Are Made
It probably comes as no surprise that with all the different concentrate consistencies, there are different methods used to produce these cannabis-based goodies.
Supercritical CO2 Extraction
The supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction method is considered one of the cleanest cannabis solvent extraction methods that is favored by those who are focused on maintaining health-conscious cannabis options.
This extraction method uses CO2, heat and pressure to pull the cannabinoids and terpenes away from the cannabis flower.
Solvent extraction typically uses either ethanol, propane, butane, CO2 or alcohol to extract the cannabis concentrates from the plant.
This method involves soaking the flower in the solvent and then performing a distillation, or extraction, process. The concentrate then goes through a purging process to remove the solvent.
Like CO2, using ethanol or alcohol as a solvent is considered one of the “cleaner” extraction methods.
The alternative would be to use hydrocarbons, like butane or propane, as the solvent in the extraction. Using hydrocarbons results in higher THC yields, thus products like shatter and wax are typically created using the BHO (butane hash oil) extraction method.
However, there are some concerns that hydrocarbon residues can be left in the concentrate if not done properly. There is also an increased risk in this method due to the volatility of hydrocarbons.
Methods of non-solvent extraction use agitation, heat, pressure, and/or ice and water to separate the concentrates from the cannabis plant.
This is considered the cleanest form of cannabis concentrate extraction and is a great method to keep an eye out for if you are health-conscious about your cannabis.
Now that you know the various types of concentrates and different methods of extraction, you are ready to stroll into the dispensary with confidence and start exploring the world of cannabis concentrates!