What is Cannabis Shatter and Wax

Where's Weed

Published on 10/13/19

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Updated Feb 24, 2022

Two of the biggest things in the cannabis world right now are extracts and dabs. If you go to any Cannabis Cup-type event, you'll be inundated with the many various types and consistencies of marijuana concentrates. That massive growth is likely because cannabis concentrates is one of the fastest growing categories for cannabis industry products. We saw cannabis concentrate sales spike up by 40 percent in 2020 alone, and that growth has not slowed down since. As a result of that huge swell in popularity, innovations in extraction techniques have exploded as well. People just keep finding new and innovative ways to get the most out of their cannabis! This massive investment has led to new forms of concentrates, propelling their popularity in cannabis culture. Concentrates have become so popular, in fact, that it's not uncommon to hear people asking whether 7/10 (the annual celebration of smoking dabs) is the new 4/20.

If you are new to cannabis concentrates or the world of legal cannabis in general, all the lingo can seem confusing at first: wax, shatter, budder, dabs...the list goes on. It can all seem dizzying and unapproachable. However, that doesn't have to be the case. Many of these products have been around for a long time, used by medical patients who need an extra amount of THC or by recreational users who enjoy the purity and clean high that you get from concentrated cannabis. If you're a cannabis user who's ready to try something new, or a medical user who might benefit from medicine that packs a higher punch of THC, then concentrates might be for you.

Before you dive into the deep end, however, it's important to first get a better understanding of what types of cannabis wax products are out there, what forms they come in, how to use and produce them, and how to get the most out of what you're buying with your hard-earned money. That's why we here at Where's Weed put together this handy, one-stop-guide for any and all things shatter, wax, and other cannabis concentrates. So with that in mind, let's start with the basics!

What are Concentrates?

At their most basic level, cannabis concentrates are just the finished product by which the psychoactive components in cannabis - THC, CBD and other substances - are separated from the plant matter and concentrated to increase their potency. There are extraction methods that utilize physical techniques, while other methods use chemical solvents to extract cannabinoids - but either way, the result is a concentrated form of cannabis in which the THC percentage can be upwards of 75 percent. Think of cannabis concentrates like you would with fruit juice at the store. The stuff you're getting in the bottle when you buy apple juice is often more flavorful, sweeter, and is far easier to consume than your average apple. At their core, cannabis concentrates are the juice of the apple without all of the crunch and skin that comes with eating an apple. 

Proto-Concentrates: Kief and Hash

To understand the basics of cannabis concentrates like wax and shatter, we'll first have to break down some different concentrates and go into detail on what makes them unique. While every concentrate will typically have high amounts of cannabinoid compounds, their appearance and the way you use them differ. 

So with that in mind, let's break down some different cannabis compounds you might come across on your next trip to the dispensary!

Kief

If you have a grinder with a little screw-on basin at the bottom which catches all the golden-yellow, pollen-like dust that separates from the buds as they are ground, then you technically have a concentrate! This is called kief and it is the most rudimentary form of cannabis concentrate, and it's a good place to start if you are experimenting with concentrates. 

Many people like to add a pinch of kief on top of a pipe or bong bowl, or sprinkle it on a joint. Some people even smoke pure-kief bowls. It may not be the easiest way to smoke a concentrate, nor is it exactly going to be the cleanest, but it will offer a boost to the potency of your marijuana. Think of it like the cheese you're putting on top of a big plate of pasta. Is the pasta good without cheese? Sure. But it's better with that cheese! 

Potency range: 20-40 percent THC

Hash

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Hash is commonly thought of as the original cannabis concentrate. It was referenced in the writings of Marco Polo, who told fanciful tales of assassins who smoked hash before doing their...work. Think of hash like the actual OG of the cannabis world, the granddaddy of them all when it comes to concentrates. 

But what exactly is hash and how is it made? Well, basically hash is kief that has been condensed or pressed into a flaky, sticky brick. It has long been popular among old-school stoners for its cleaner smoke and powerful punch.

There are a few different ways to make hash. Some people utilize a home-brew method in which the kief is pressed together and baked while wrapped in a wet newspaper. Others use more mechanical methods, like industrial presses, to force the kief to bind together. Even more sophisticated methods use dry ice to essentially flash-freeze the cannabis, allowing the kief to shake off more easily.

Hash can be smoked by itself in (very strong) joints or added to joints to make them a bit stronger. It can also be smoked out of a pipe. Or, if you're really in a pinch, you could smoke it like teenagers have done since the 1970s: off a hot knife you warmed up over the stove.

Potency range: 40-60 percent THC

Time to Whip Out the Dab Rig: Rosin, Wax and Shatter

Rosin

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While kief and hash are more like proto-concentrates, rosin, wax and shatter are rising in popularity across the cannabis marketplace. These are the types of concentrates you'll typically find alongside someone's dab rig, well-stocked in dispensaries all over the country. A dab rig (more on this in a moment) is essentially a modified bong that is set up to carry the heated vapors of the concentrate rather than the combusted smoke of cannabis flower.

Rosin is the safest of the three major concentrates to make at home yourself. It's made mechanically, by pressing the whole cannabis bud in between two sources of heat and collecting the rosin which has melted off the flower and re-hardened as a tacky, amber substance. You then heat that in the dab rig with a dabbing nail and inhale.

The biggest difference between rosin and both wax and shatter is that rosin doesn't require a solvent to make. The solvent used in the other two is usually butane, which is highly flammable, and - I simply cannot stress this enough - extremely dangerous to use at home. Rosin, on the other hand, can be made pretty safely at home using a hair straightener and some parchment paper.

Potency range: 60-80 percent THC

Wax

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Cannabis wax - sometimes called budder, crumble or a range of other names - is a form of butane hash oil, or BHO.

BHO is made by soaking cannabis in a solvent, usually butane, to separate the plant and the cannabinoids. Originally, this was done in open systems, which meant that the butane would get into the air and increase the risk of explosion. It is highly unsafe. More sophisticated, closed-loop systems now exists (and are preferred by commercial manufacturers) but are expensive to buy and hard to maintain - plus, they're not foolproof.

When you're comparing wax, shatter and other concentrates like budder, crumble and so on, the main difference is agitation. While the concentrates are cooling, agitation will change the consistency of the final product. For instance, by introducing more agitation into the process, you can produce a waxy substance that feels and acts a bit more like cool coconut oil: flaky, not entirely-solid, and with a lower melting point.

Potency range: 70-90 percent THC

Shatter

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If you've heard at all about cannabis concentrates, you've probably heard about shatter. Partly because it's known as an extremely concentrated form of cannabis and partly because its production sometimes leads to deadly explosions.

But compared to wax and rosin, shatter isn't all that different. (It's certainly not the dangerous menace that local media outlets have occasionally made it out to be). The main difference is in consistency: whereas wax is brittle and soft, shatter is hard and  tacky like toffee.

Shatter is considered among the purest forms of cannabis extracts on the market. Generally, it's thought that more translucent amber shatter is of higher quality and purity - however, other factors like terpenes and starting material can change that.

Potency Range: 75 percent or more

The Big Question: How Do I Smoke This Stuff?

More than anything else, the thing that keeps people away from shatter and wax and other concentrates is the difficulty in smoking it. Simply put, it's a bit more difficult to smoke these extracts on their own because you need something called a 'dab rig.' The name is said to have come from the amount you should smoke - in other words, you only need a dab of extract.

However, a dab rig doesn't need to be that complicated. It's really just a modified piece of glass that resembles a bong. Instead of a bowl, a dab rig has a few parts and accessories to get you the best hit:

  • a nail (or e-nail)
  • a dome
  • a dabber

The process basically runs like this: The 'nail' sits in the part where you might expect a bong's bowl to go. The nail is heated up - usually with a small blow torch. The dome is then placed over the nail and the dabber (which at this point has a small bit of concentrate on it) is placed in the dome against the nail. You then inhale, just like it was a bong or water pipe. Many concentrate connoisseurs agree that using a carb cap will make your hit last a bit longer and allows you to fully absorb all of the THC.

The hit will be pretty smooth, since you're not inhaling a whole bunch of extra plant material. That can be deceiving, though: since you're inhaling far, far more THC. It is advised to exercise caution and go very slowly when first hitting a dab rig. The rush of THC often has a physical rush, so be prepared.

The Bottom Line

With so many concentrates to offer, it's no wonder that they're one of the fastest growing and most popular sectors of the legal market today. You're getting a powerful dose of cannabinoids, you don't actually have to consume that much to feel the effects, and they're affordable and easy to store. Really, there's no downsides here! And now that you're familiar with concentrates, what they do, and the differences between them, you can enter a dispensary prepared to have a great time with some wax or shatter!  

What is your favorite type of cannabis concentrate? Leave us a question or comment below telling us what you think!