What Is Solventless Shatter?

Before diving into the solventless aspect, let’s take a moment to acknowledge shatter’s rise over the past decade or so. Most often when people refer to shatter, they are referring to a product that was extracted with butane, propane, or other mixes of hydrocarbons.

KM MadarinButter Shatter

Traditional hydrocarbon shatter made at KushMasters (@kmlabs.co) in Boulder, Colorado

For years, shatter has gained hype over other types of concentrate like wax through its combination of potency and texture. Resembling a piece of amber or yellowish glass, shatter comes in a sheet-like form and gets its name from the appearance and consistency. It lives up to its label, breaking easily like a pane of glass. The texture and durability of cannabis shatter make it ideal for dabbing, as it tends to melt quickly and efficiently onto a rig’s heated nail. Making it that much more appealing is its high potency, often reaching or exceeding 80% THC when crafted by experienced producers.

As mentioned before, traditional shatter is produced from cannabis plant material and extracted using a solvent like butane or propane. This method has been and still remains popular among extractors for its ability to create a consistency that is easily packaged and simple to dab. However, it comes with its share of drawbacks, including the loss of terpenes, as solvents can strip many of the most valuable compounds from the source material.

That isn’t the case with solventless extraction though. When you eliminate the use of solvents, consumers can savor the all-natural terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids that are preserved from the starting material. While some solventless extraction methods don’t always reach the same yields that solvent-based methods do, the gap continues to close with each passing innovation. “Resin/trichome farming” has become a popular term for breeders working to grow cannabis with resin-abundant trichomes, specifically for solventless hash making. With the right kind of starting material, equipment, and knowledge, solventless concentrates can reach over 80% THC, just like BHO (butane hash oil) or any other solvent based extract.

slab of solventless shatter

Girl Scout Cookies solventless shatter

Minus the use of solvents when extracting, solventless shatter is similar to that of traditional shatter. The main distinction is the way it’s produced, which uses zero chemicals in any part of the process. The solventless method has gained traction among producers and extract fans alike in recent years.

Safety plays an immense factor in production as well. While it likely won’t impact any compliant businesses, the risk factor associated with solvents remains apparent. DIY extraction labs have led to horrendous explosions in remote setups and residential neighborhoods, causing death, injury, and property destruction. That isn’t the case with solventless. The chance of an explosion is non-existent compared to processes using combustible compounds like butane, propane, and ethanol. As such, solvent-based businesses have to shell out more funds to ensure their facility is safe and able to contain any potentially catastrophic outcomes, which require blast-proof C1D1 rooms in most instances.

Extractors and businesses have been aware of the differences in processes and products for some time, while consumers are coming around to the benefits of solventless at a bit more of a gradual pace.

When learning what solventless shatter is, consumers more often than not quickly realize the appeal. In recent years, scores of consumers have indicated a preference for all-natural products in their lives. For those individuals, solventless products make the most sense. Solventless shatter, ice-water hash, and other rosin products require zero chemicals or harmful toxins during any part of their extraction and production phases. As such, the consumer inhales no residuals and experiences an exceptional product that contains natural terpenes and flavors derived from the source material.

Instead of blasting your cannabis flowers with solvents to later obtain shatter, consider a chemical-free extraction method. This process uses nothing but ice, water, heat, and pressure to produce a clean solventless oil. Rather than relying on chemical solvents, the combination of heat and pressure forces cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids out of the plant’s trichomes—more on that in the section below.

Be sure to invest in proper equipment before producing any concentrates. Some people utilize home tools such as a hair straightener with clamps to produce rosin or solventless shatter. While this can work, you won’t yield consistent results and the process is not efficient. Instead, opt for a machine that can be used at home or commercially like the Helix rosin press. Sure, a press is costlier than a hair iron, but it is significantly less than a solvent-based extraction lab with a required C1D1 room. More importantly, it also involves a much safer process while producing a higher quality product. Plus, unlike a hair straightener, a rosin press was made to do the job.

How to Make Solventless Shatter

While the process of making solventless shatter has only been popular for a short time, the technique has been commonly utilized with other plants for centuries. For instance, extracting the oil from an olive involves a similar process to that of solventless extraction.

The method for making solventless shatter starts with the freshly harvested cannabis plant. After harvest, the plant is frozen to preserve the live essence, terpene profile, and cannabinoids the plant offers. Freezing the freshly harvested plant also helps the trichomes detach easily during the hash washing process.

After it has been thoroughly frozen, the plant material is submerged in an ice-water bath, soaking for around 20 minutes to fully drench the buds. The ice-water mixture is then agitated using a paddle or trichome separator for a given amount of time based on material, quantity, and many other factors. Check out this article previously posted by our sister company PurePressure for more in-depth information on the ice-water hash washing process

Ice-water-hash-washing-bath-solventless-extraction

Ice-water and fresh frozen cannabis soaking before agitation

Once the ice-water agitation process is complete, the bath is skimmed to remove any remaining impurities. The trichome-rich water is then filtered through various sized micron mesh bags where the wet hash is collected, scooped onto trays, and freeze-dried for moisture removal. At this point, you have dried ice-water hash, also known as bubble hash, that can be consumed as is, pressed into rosin, solventless shatter, and much more.

solventless shatter and rosin

Solventless shatter (R) is created with higher temperatures

When making solventless shatter, which can be made with flower as well and not just hash, producers will typically use higher press temperatures around 220°F to achieve the glass-like end consistency, while pressing at lower temperatures like 180-200°F will give your end product a sappier texture. When it first comes off the press, solventless shatter has a translucent property and will look sappy while still hot. That said, keep in mind that the oil eventually cools down and hardens to create the glass-like consistency.

Overall, the color of your end product is dependent on several chemical factors, including the quality of your starting material but predominately how mature the trichomes were when they were harvested, how much if any anthocyanins were present, and the temperature that the rosin was pressed at. That being said, a rosin press with precise temperature and pressure control such as the Longs Peak, is incredibly helpful when making solventless shatter and more

Solventless Shatter vs. Other Extracts

Not all cannabis concentrates are created equal. As such, understanding the differences between solventless shatter and other extracts can be a bit tricky. While challenging for some to grasp at first, the discrepancies should become rather apparent in time. Consider some of the key differences in a few of the market’s most popular cannabis concentrates.

Solventless Shatter vs. Rosin

These two extracts are essentially the same and are both made using a rosin press. For both, a producer is applying exact heat and precise pressure to force the oil from the trichome head. Other source materials such as cured flower, kief, or trim can be utilized in solventless shatter as well. However, for both solventless shatter and rosin, using ice-water hash that is derived from freshly frozen cannabis will deliver a high quality “live” extract. As we mentioned above, a key differentiation in solventless shatter is that it is typically pressed at higher temperatures to achieve the desired consistency.

3-Helix-3-ton-flower-rosin

Solventless shatter pressed from dried and cured cannabis flower

Solventless Shatter vs. Hydrocarbon Extracts

The key differentiation in solventless shatter versus hydrocarbon extracts like BHO and its many SKUs, would simply be the use of solvents during extraction. Butane is still the most common solvent used for extracts, which is why the abbreviation BHO has essentially become a household name. Today, BHO is often associated with concentrates the same way Kleenex is synonymous with tissues. As we mentioned, It and other hydrocarbon extracts can be formed into several different SKUs including live resin, shatter, wax, sauce, and crumble that each have their own unique properties.

Winterization plays a critical role in bringing these chemically extracted products to life. The process occurs when a lab tech purges the butane from the cannabis oil. Winterization occurs in three steps: mixing the solvent solution with ethanol and freezing it, passing the mixture through a filter to separate and catch waste, and finally distilling the oil to remove the ethanol. The winterization process is believed to remove solvents used in extraction, but time and time again, lab tests show that residual solvents remain. The only fail-safe way to ensure that extracts are free from residuals is to go solventless.

Solventless Shatter vs. Live Resin

Besides the obvious fact that solventless shatter does not use solvents and live resin production does, there is a key distinction between the two. What determines if a product is “live” or not depends on if the cannabis flower was frozen immediately at harvest to preserve the live essence. Solventless shatter can be made from a few source materials such as fresh frozen ice-water hash, dry sift, kief, or dried and cured cannabis flower. Meanwhile, live resin always utilizes cannabis that was harvested and frozen at peak freshness for preservation. The result is that live resin is a much higher quality product than other solvent-based extracts.

When producing cannabis concentrates, the source material and the extraction process will determine the finished product’s quality. A combination of quality starting material and the extraction method is what separates top-tier cannabis products from those that get left behind on dispensary shelves.

Pros and Cons of Solventless Extraction

First and foremost, rosin products like solventless shatter are “cleaner” and more natural than BHO. When consumers choose solventless extracts, they eliminate the concern of potentially inhaling harmful chemicals. Even if all residual solvents are removed from the end product, which is typically the case, solventless alternatives are the superior option and are quickly becoming more available.

Consider the benefits for consumers and producers alike. Overall, solventless extracts are the cleanest way to consume concentrates while preserving the flavonoids, terpenes, and cannabinoids that are found in the live plant.

Concerning production, solventless extraction methods are safer, more cost-effective, and more manageable when a skilled technician leads the process. When the use of flammable materials like butane are removed from the process, things are much less complex. Whether legal or illicit, there have been accidents like explosions due to faulty extraction processes or inexperienced hash makers. These explosions are dangerous and potentially life-threatening. And quite frankly, these incidents are a terrible look for the cannabis industry. With solventless extraction, the process is much safer, and the potential risks are greatly reduced as long as the process is followed carefully.

Additionally, the equipment required to produce high-quality solventless extracts is priced at a fraction of hydrocarbon set ups. Solvent-based operations can quickly run up their startup costs by building C1D1 rooms and maintenance on these facilities is pricey. On the other hand, a solventless operation is much more flexible and can safely and easily be customized for the space you have to work with.

As far as cons, there aren’t many when it comes to solventless extraction. For years, the main knock was its inability to match solvent-based yields, a substantial hurdle that drove producers to butane and other chemicals. While still an issue with some strains, the gap is continually closing, especially when using top-quality, resinous starting material and premium solventless extraction equipment. Price remains a concern to some consumers. However, as discussed below, that issue is being addressed as the market advances.

Is Solventless Shatter the Future of Concentrates?

We’ll leave it up to you to determine if solventless shatter concentrates are the market’s future. It is undeniable that extracts are a top market performer and should continue to be in the years to come. With a substantial presence in the market and new legalization each year, producers have to consider adding extracts to their SKU offerings. In previous years, it may be justified to say that solvent-based concentrates were the way to go but that isn’t so much the case today, thanks to experimentation and advancements in technology.

Rosin and solventless shatter are now being produced commercially, making the price justifiable for both the consumer and the producer. As mentioned above, producers can save thousands of dollars by choosing solventless extraction over a chemical operation that must account for all the higher risks associated with its processes.

The concentrates market continues to evolve, paving the way for innovation and opportunities to grow businesses, attract consumers, and develop a more comprehensive array of SKUs. In the years to come, improved hardware will be just as necessary as improved market insights. Each will play pivotal roles in further developing a space that should continue to have a firm grip on the ever-expanding market.

If you are a hash maker, it would be wise to consider the world of solventless SKU production if you have not already. Connoisseur preferences around concentrates are constantly evolving and brands that keep up with the trends are sure to see success. With lower startup costs and safer operating procedures, solventless labs are a promising path that producers are taking and thriving.

Are you looking to take the next steps with solventless production? PureCannalabs’ team of expert consultants is here to help you comfortably get started. From lab site planning to remote or on-site SKU training, we are here to help your operation flourish.  Feel free to reach out for additional information as well as any questions you may have. We’d love to help get your solventless products off the ground and in the hands of eager customers. Contact us today to get started.