There are a lot of articles on the internet advertising “easy ways to make shatter at home”. These blog posts are typically deceptive at best and straight up dishonest at worst – There is no easy way to make shatter at home. That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, but easy and/or cheap it is not.
That said, if you’re here wondering exactly what shatter is and how it’s made we’ve got you covered. We’ll take a look at this notoriously strong cannabis concentrate, talk about how the pros make shatter in an industrial setting, and go over some ways you can get close – very close – to replicating the same thing at home. Let’s get in to it.
What Is Shatter?
Shatter is one of several products that fall into the category of “cannabis concentrate”, containing THCA, THC, and/or CBD (note: though shatter can have any one or all three of these molecules within we’ll just be referring to shatter as generically THC-based through out this article). What we call “shatter” is a cannabis concentrate that comes in a mostly solid form; shatter is typically glass-like and fragile, with a translucent amber-brown hue.
How Shatter Is Made
Making shatter is a multi-step endeavor:
- Harvest, cure and dry (and likely decarboxylate) your cannabis/hemp.
- Remove the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant matter using heat, pressure, or a solvent (likely all three).
- Expose the extracted cannabinoids to further solvent and high-pressure purges to remove impurities.
- Let the extract dry out before storage.
While curing and drying cannabis is common practice in most harvests it’s the methods the cannabis is treated with that get us our eventual shatter. Each one of the steps in this process comes with it’s own intricacies, which we’ll go through below.
Solvents & Vacuums
When a cannabis plant is exposed to heat, pressure, or a solvent of some fashion the THC is released from the plant material and forms a yellow-amber colored liquid – This liquid is a highly concentrated THC solution, typically referred to as “hash oil” or “honey oil”, ideally containing THC, terpenes, and very little else.
After this oil has been extracted from the plant matter it enters a process of purification: First the oil is subjected to a new round of chemical solvent soaks before being sent to a heated vacuum chamber, both of which further remove impurities from the concentrate.
These steps, particularly the vacuum purge, are the key to several different types of cannabis concentrate, as slight variations are the keys for making shatter, wax, crumble, and even THCA diamonds.
Having been stripped of as much non-THC material as possible the oil is then left to dry; the remaining liquid turns into a solid, glass-like substance referred to as “shatter”. Interestingly the texture of the shatter can help denote what the main molecule present is – THCA and CBD will set into a harder shape at room temperature, where primarily THC-based shatter will have a stickier, more tacky feel.
It’s the solvent flush and vacuum purge that makes shatter very difficult to replicate at home; while making the honey/hash oil that is the precursor to shatter is very well within reach of the average smoker, vacuum machines aren’t exactly standard equipment for the home hobbyist cannabis enthusiast.
What About Making Honey Oil?
As we said at the start of this article most other sites on the web purportedly telling you how to “easily” make shatter at home are really just telling you ways to make honey/hash oil, and will lead to disappointing results if you’re expecting that solid, crunchy texture of real shatter.
Unfortunately, though hash oil may be “easy” to make that doesn’t mean the process is without it’s issues, mainly safety-related. As mentioned the plant material needs to go through a process that will strip cannabinoids from the plant, typically meaning a volatile, potentially harmful chemical solvent.
How to Make Honey Oil for Shatter
Before we dig in we feel a few words of warning are appropriate here.
What we are about to describe is dangerous, and can lead to a loss of property, limb and even life. This is no joke: Multiple people have lost their homes and their lives to butane explosions while trying to make hash oil themselves, and if you undertake the following method for making hash oil at home understand you may well replicate their failures.
We’ve decided to detail one of the most commonly known methods, which uses butane – And yes, we do mean the exact same stuff you fill lighters with. There are multiple ways of making shatter, from isopropyl alcohol soaks to CO2/carbon dioxide treatments (you can even make hash oil/shatter with everclear), and while you can make shatter at home without using butane this has long been the solvent of choice due to its availability and affordability.
As butane is a highly flammable gas make sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside if able, and stay far away from any sources of spark or flame. As the solvents evaporate into the air during the process their fumes can and will go up at a moment’s notice, potentially leading to disaster.
Again: This technique is dangerous, and should only be attempted by professionals in a controlled environment.
How to Make Honey Oil with Butane
Making hash oil with butane is often referred to as a “BHO” (for “Butane Hash Oil”) extraction. By taking cannabis and blasting it with cold, pressurized butane, trichomes, terpenes, and other desired cannabinoids are washed away from the plant material, leaving behind many of the lipids that an ethanol extraction would add to the final solution.
To make hash oil with butane you require the following:
- Well ground marijuana: Same as above; well-ground buds but not super-fine powder.
- A screen or filter: Anything that will hold your marijuana in place will work but better filters with the proper micron sizes will result in a purer, more oil-like end product.
- An open container: This is what you set the screen on. Make sure it’s something you can easily reach inside of – A flat bottom is also recommended.
- A can of butane: You want this to be the pressurized type, often used for refilling torch lighters.
- Parchment paper: Parchment paper is perfect for putting your finished extract onto, as it won’t absorb the THC from your concentrate.
Place your screen or filter on top of your container – You want it to be recessed to keep your flower from blowing away under the butane, so the further down into your container the better.
Once your screen is situated place your ground-up flower on top and position your can of butane so it is pointing downward toward the marijuana and into the container.
Now trigger the butane, making sure to keep the cold solvent away from your fingers (you may need something to help you activate the butane canister; we found a clothes pin to work well), and spray it down toward the marijuana.
After a few seconds there should be quite a bit of bubbling clear liquid in your container – Set it aside in a warm area with good circulation and the butane will quickly evaporate, leaving behind an amber/brown liquid that is your hash oil. This leftover concentrate may then be placed on a piece of parchment paper or into a wide-mouthed glass jar for storage.
Will Anything Make This Easier?
There are specialized products available known as “extraction tubes” that can save a lot of time and hassle (not to mention cold fingers) when making BHO, and can be a smart investment for someone who plans on making hash oil regularly.
An extraction tube is a long, cylindrical object, typically with a wide opening at one end and a narrow, pointed opening at the other. To use an extraction tube simply fill it tightly with cannabis (you want as little air between the ground marijuana as possible) and then aim your butane into the wide end.
As the butane filters through the cannabis your solvent extract will begin to release from the other side (we recommend doing this over parchment paper, to catch the extract as it exits the tube).
A good extraction tube will typically be made of a hard substance such as metal or glass and should have a heavy construction. These can be easily ordered online; expect prices anywhere from $10 to $25.
Should I Decarb Before I Make Honey Oil?
Absolutely. When making an extract designed to be smoked/vaporized decarbing isn’t quite as important as it would be for an extract meant to be eaten, but even if making shatter that’s only destined for the chamber of a vape pen decarbing still has its place.
As we discuss in our “Decarboxylation 101” article decarbing prepares the THCA in cannabis for consumption via eating while also removing moisture content. Moisture is the enemy when it comes to making shatter (hence using butane, a solvent that will easily evaporate), and decarbing your cannabis will help make sure as much moisture as possible has been removed from the eventual end product.
For removing other contaminants we look to…
Winterizing Your Butane Hash Oil
Using butane to make honey oil leaves behind a product that has few – but still some – contaminants from the plant matter, such as lipids or chlorophyll. To further purify any THC concentrate you can put your extract through what is known as a “winterization” process.
Winterizing means, much like the name suggests, taking your extract down to a maintained, very cold temperature. As the concentrate chills the fats and other unwanted leftovers from the cannabis plant separate from the THC and terpenes, enabling them to be strained away from the pure THC extract.
To winterize simply place your concentrate in a sealed container and leave it in the deepest part of your coldest freezer for roughly three days. After time has passed you should see little lumps of waxy material floating inside your (now much clearer) concentrate – A quick pass through a filter will see these lumps removed, leaving you with a cleaner, higher quality product.
How to Make Shatter from Honey Oil
Now that you have your honey oil the next step in how to make shatter can either be extremely easy or extremely difficult.
The Easy Way:
Leave your honey oil out at room temperature, preferably on a flattened surface and in a dry area with good ventilation – It can help to gently bang your holding receptacle against a flat surface to help encourage the removal of air pockets inside the mixture (leaving the extract on parchment paper can also wick away some small amounts of moisture).
As additional moisture is drawn out of your honey oil it will begin to harden; how much it will firm up depends highly on the purity of your oil and the environment you’re in. Don’t expect it to ever get as truly glass-like as “real” shatter would, but if you’re interested in how to make dabs at home this is an excellent place to start.
The Hard Way:
Buy an in-home industrial vacuum oven; expect one of these to run around $1000 – $2000 dollars for a mid-range model. From there, unfortunately, the exact methodology for making shatter from hash oil lacks a clear public consensus – Times, temperatures and length will vary based on your machine, and particularly when it comes to extraction methods companies and individuals are known for keeping their secret techniques well guarded.
What we can tell you with certainty is that the process will likely take multiple days, and your extract should be kept at a temperature in the low/mid-90s Fahrenheit. During this time you’ll need to keep an eye on your oven to make sure the temperature and pressure are remaining constant – Some machines may need to be re-pressurized every hour or so.
Ultimately you’ll need familiarity with your specific vacuum oven, which is something that only comes with time and practice; if you can make acquaintances with someone who has the right equipment and already knows how to make shatter, we recommend doing so.
Making shatter isn’t a simple or easy process, and learning how to make shatter at home isn’t something someone can briefly sum up in a blog post – Technique, ingredients and equipment all make a very large difference when it comes to how your extract should be processed, and without in-depth knowledge of all three making a dispensary-replica shard of shatter can be a lofty goal for most home cannabis enthusiasts.
But we do hope our article has at least explained why it can be hard to learn how to make shatter on your own, and while we can’t quite guarantee our above methods will produce the easily-breakable amber shards of glass shatter is known for, we can say with certainty that you’ll be getting a concentrate you can be proud of. Happy smoking!