If you love weed and haven’t had your head in the sand for the last few years, surely you’ve heard of shatter. Maybe you’ve even toked the stuff. If you have, you know it’s awesome.
But how do you make shatter? There are a number of different methods for extracting the resinous trichomes from cannabis plant matter, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll stick to the popular “BHO” (butane hash oil) method.
Concentrate extraction methods
Cannabis extraction techniques vary by manufacturers, but they generally fall into two camps: Solvent-based and solventless extraction methods for concentrates. Solvent-based methods utilize solvents such as butane, propane, carbon dioxide (CO2) and ethanol to dissolve the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant matter.
Solventless extraction methods bypass the need for harsh solvents. Instead, solventless extraction uses sifting techniques with fine mesh screens or heat and pressure from a pressing machine to extract the plant’s trichome resin. Solventless extraction methods can produce flavorful extracts such as rosin, bubble hash, kief and hash.
Each extraction method offers its own pros and cons, but butane and propane are the most common solvent types used to make high-quality shatter due to their ability to strip the plant’s psychoactive compounds in a fast and effective manner. Butane and propane also are able to produce a wide range of concentrate consistencies.
We are going to walk you through everything you need to know about how to make BHO using butane solvent extraction. To start, keep in mind that the BHO method tends to be a hazardous process. Making shatter indoors is a terrible idea and stands a decent chance of blowing your house off its foundation. But BHO can be done in relative safety if thorough caution is used.
Considerations When Making Shatter
When making shatter, or any cannabis concentrate for that matter, there are three high-level considerations one must look at:
- Input material quality
- Extraction parameters
- Post-processing parameters
Let’s take a look at each of these considerations and how they come into play when producing shatter.
How to Make Shatter
High-quality material produces high-quality outputs. While there are parameter tweaks and “tricks” an operator may use to increase output quality, the old adage “fire in, fire out” rings true to this day. When making shatter and most other concentrates produced for vaporizing, we want to utilize the least amount of post-processing possible, in order to maintain the general composition of active ingredients from the raw input to the finished output.
The single largest consideration in creating the stable, glass-like shatter consistency is the moisture content of the input material. The material should be 8% water content or lower. Dry material makes achieving our goal consistency easier and repeatable. It’s also important to note that different cannabinoid and terpene profiles will alter the final form of the finished product.
Standard low temperature hydrocarbon extraction parameters are utilized for primary extraction. Using low temperature extraction, as opposed to a higher temperature boiling solvent like ethanol, mitigates the extraction of phospholipids, thus creating a higher-quality, higher-potency finished product. Most operators will opt for a butane-dominant solvent blend or utilize 100% n-butane in this scenario. Too much propane will pull the lighter terpenes, thus increasing terpene content and influencing nucleation of THCa throughout the batch, causing it to “sugar.”
Our final consideration in this category is residual solvent content of the raw oil when removing it from the machine. It’s important to leave enough liquid solvent behind so that you can gently pour the concentrate out of the machine to agitate the solution as little as possible, prevent THCa nucleation, and avoid “sugaring” the slab.
It should be noted that while a shatter slab may “sugar” it does not mean the product couldn’t or shouldn’t be consumed. Some people have preferred a sugared shatter concentrate, but for the purposes of making “true” shatter we will attempt to avoid this result.
The raw concentrate is then poured onto parchment paper–lined vacuum oven trays to form the thin sheet “slab”-style consistency that shatter is known for. Oven temperatures vary depending on the strain, but we feel 93 degrees Fahrenheit is a great starting point.
What you will need
The first step to making shatter is to gather your supplies. You’ll need:
- an ounce of uncut marijuana
- an “extraction tube”
- at least one butane canister
- a coffee filter
- an electric range and double boiler
- a Pyrex dish to collect the shatter
- strips of parchment paper
- single-edged razor blades
How to make shatter
With all your required supplies to hand, grind your weed and let it sit for a while. You want it to be dry, not too fresh. If you pack an ounce into the extractor and spray it with a full 12-ounce canister of butane, you should get roughly 3.5 grams of shatter. This amount of concentrate you produce will depend on how laden with crystals the buds are; some BHO extractors get up to 20% yield.
Step 1. Fill the extractor with ground marijuana
To continue making shatter, fill the extractor with pot. These “honey oil” extractors can be purchased at most head shops, but you can also make one yourself. Be sure the weed is packed tight, but not too tight. You don’t want air pockets, but you want the butane to saturate all the marijuana.
Step 2. Saturate marijuana with butane
One end of the extractor should have a small hole, the other a cap with several holes and an internal filter. Store-bought extractors come with a filter, but coffee filters also work for DIY. To make your concentrated marijuana, carefully and slowly spray the butane through the top hole until the canister is empty. A thick green-gray-brown oil should drip from the bottom holes into your Pyrex container.
If you want to know how to make marijuana wax without destroying your home at the same time, listen up. This part is absolutely essential: Spray the butane outdoors, with ample ventilation, as far as possible from any buildings, vehicles, or other potential sources of ignition. Even a hidden pilot light could spark an explosion, and you definitely don’t want that.
Step 3. Evaporate off the butane
The next step in making shatter can also be rather dangerous. Fill your double boiler and put it on a hot electric range. Make sure it’s electric: Use a gas stove and you’re liable to start a fire. Now place the Pyrex container in the top portion of the boiler and let the liquid evaporate. This gradually removes the butane, leaving you with true shatter.
It’s important to make sure you boil all the solvent away when you make shatter – otherwise you could end up smoking a product still tainted by butane, and that’s bad for your lungs, not to mention potentially explosive. You’ll know the process is finished when the shatter stops bubbling.
Step 4. Purge remaining butane
At this point, you’re left with a thick, amber shatter with trace amounts of butane, and many feel that the solvent must be further purged before consumption. This can be done using a pressurized vac pump, and our grower’s process goes like this.
“We vacuum purge all concentrates to remove the remaining traces of liquid butane. We do this using a 3 cfm one-stage vac pump (don’t waste your time with two-stage units). The BHO is placed in a thin layer on a glass dish inside the chamber, and the air and butane are sucked out through the pump. It is important to have a gauge that shows you the temperature inside the chamber to avoid burning off the oil.”
After the vacuum purge operation, you will have removed almost all traces of butane from your cannabis oil, leaving you with a pure, flavorsome product.
Step 5. Scrape and store
Finally, use a razor blade to scrape the potent concentrates off the bottom of the container and place it on parchment paper to cool. You may need more than one razor to scrape up your full-extract cannabis oil, as they can become hopelessly sticky.
And that, in a word, is how to make THC wax. The only thing left to do now is smoke it!