Over the last 5-10 years, cannabis concentrates--in all their forms-- have been taking the marijuana industry by storm.  The all-encompassing term, cannabis concentrate, refers to powerful extracts which have been drawn out of cannabis plant material, typically with the use of a solvent like Propane, Butane , Ethanol, or CO2 .  The different methods and solvents used for extraction create different consistencies, different potencies, and of course, a plethora of different names and nicknames, including, but certainly not limited to wax, live resin, rosin, honey oil, hash oil, shatter, budder, and dabs.  

Today we’re going to explore the similarities and differences of two  well-established cannabis extracts -- Shatter and Wax.

BHO Shatter and Wax

Both shatter and wax are made with butane or isobutane, which is why they are often referred to as BHO (Butane Hash Oil) concentrate BHO refers to the method, and their names, wax and shatter, refer to the appearance of the final product.

 

Shatter on left, Wax on Right
(Photos by:  Andres Rodriguez)

Appearance and Consistency

Shatter: Shatter is translucent or transparent in color, glass-like in appearance, and brittle in consistency--hence the name, shatter.  When warmed, shatter will take on a consistency similar to thick honey.  Because shatter is so brittle, it can be harder to handle and measure.

Wax:  No surprises here, the consistency and appearance of cannabis wax is similar to soft candle wax, ear wax, or even coconut oil. Wax is easy to handle due to its flexible consistency.

The appearance of wax and shatter is determined by a few small differences in the way each is produced.   

How BHO Wax and Shatter are Made

Vacuum Oven

Shatter and wax begin the same way -- cannabis plant material packed into an extraction tube where it is soaked or “blasted” with liquefied butane (which separates the trichomes from the plant).  Afterwards, the resultant mixture is heated to evaporate or “purge” any remaining butane, and what’s left is a concentrated mix of the plant’s cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids (and a THC content of 80% or higher). 

Experts will use a professional purging system, such as a vacuum oven, for the final step of this method.  

So where does the method differ? For shatter, the purged extract is left to rest and settle on a flat surface, where it forms into a thin, brittle, translucent sheet. Extract intended for wax, however, is agitated (stirred, whipped, mixed) during different stages of production and/or purged at a higher temperature.  Once agitated by either heat or movement, the extracted cannabinoids begin to crystallize, creating the non-translucent appearance of wax.

Translucent Shatter vs. Crystallized Wax (Photos by WeedPornDaily.com)

Keep in mind, this is a simplified explanation of the BHO process -- it is both a science and an art, and also dangerous.

How BHO Wax and Shatter are Consumed

Smoking Shatter or Wax requires high heat, which has played a part in the growing popularity of the words Dab and Dabbing.  Dabbing is the process of vaporizing a cannabis concentrate by placing it on an extremely hot metal object and inhaling the vapors.  This can be done several different ways, but the two most popular are by using a rig, which is a smoking piece fitted with a glass or metal “nail,”: which is heated until it is red-hot (500-600 F). When a “dab” of shatter or wax touches that nail, the extract is instantly vaporized.   

Metal Nail being heated
(Photo by PhotoFM.com)

Vape Pen
(photo by WeedPornDaily.com)

Vape Pens are an easier way to dab, requiring fewer steps and with smaller gear.  A vape pen usually comes with an atomizer, battery, mouthpiece. To use, one simply places a dab of shatter or wax on the coil, connects the mouthpiece, and inhales.

Conclusion

The biggest difference between wax and shatter is their appearance, and this is due to very slight differences during their production process (in the case of wax, applied agitation). Shatter can be more difficult to produce as you have to be careful not to agitate it, which would ruin its glassy, translucent look, but it also tends to be more stable and last longer than wax.

Regardless of these minor differences, both wax and shatter are extracted with butane, consumed via dabbing or vaporizing, and have extremely high THC potency (60-90%), which, I think, makes them much more similar than different.  

If you want to learn more about extraction processes and cylinder gases, please contact us!

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