Concentrates, Explained

Shatter, wax, crystals - what’s the difference?

There are some who believe concentrates to be healthier for the lungs

As cannabis is driven further and further into mainstream culture, concentrates have emerged as a popular way to consume the plant.

Concentrates are made by extracting the most desirable parts of cannabis – cannabinoids and terpenes – and removing excess plant material. Most are extracted using solvents like butane or ethanol, but there are plenty of solventless methods as well. They are then processed into a variety of different forms, from oils to hash to shatter. 

Their high potency and rapid onset time has made concentrates a favorite among many seasoned consumers. They can be used in a variety of different ways as well. Some like to add concentrates to their flower bowls or joints for a little extra punch. Others like to vape them using pens with pre-filled or refillable cartridges. 

The most popular way to consume concentrates by far, however, is dabbing. Dabbing involves using a pipe, referred to as a rig, to vape the concentrate. Part of the rig, called the nail, is heated, left to cool for a bit, and then concentrates are directly applied to the hot surface, turning the concentrate into vapor to be inhaled.

There are some who believe concentrates to be healthier for the lungs. When smoking flower, the combusted plant material creates black tar. If you’ve ever smoked out of a bong or glass piece, you’ve probably seen it collect on the inside. That tar can do a number on your lungs.

Most of the time, Concentrates don’t contain any of that excess plant material. They’re usually consumed by vaporizing, which is also thought to be a healthier way to consume as there is no combustion involved. 

However, concentrates have proved to have their own set of health risks if not tested for safety. Just look at the recent vape crisis that swept the nation last summer. Additionally, most concentrates are made using solvents like butane or ethanol, which can leave residue in the final product if not done correctly. The best way to make sure a concentrate product is safe to consume is by purchasing it from a licensed or trusted source that can provide a test report to vouch for its safety.

Now, Let’s take a look at some of the more common concentrates and their differences. 


Kief is one of the simplest concentrates out there. It is commonly made by using a three-chamber flower grinder to grind your cannabis, which allows resin glands to fall through to the third chamber. These resin glands, which are the bulbous tip at the top of a trichome, contain a large concentration of the flower’s cannabinoids and terpenes. However, there will also be a fair amount of plant material mixed in. Many use kief by topping of their flower bowls or joints. Others use it to make hash. You can also use kief to make dry sift, which is a high quality concentrate but tough to make. It’s basically kief that has had the plant material removed, leaving just the potent resin glands to be consumed. 


Also known as Hashish, hash has been around for centuries and is one of the oldest forms of cannabis concentrates. There are many different kinds of hash, but pressed kief is the most common. It’s made using kief, which is heated and pressurized to a form. Pressurizing the kief makes the product turn darker, which is why hash usually has a dark brown coloring. 

There is also dry-sift hash, which is similar to pressed kief but made with dry-sift. Bubble Hash is also very common, and is made using ice-cold water and a series of mesh-screened bags to separate the trichomes by size. And I’d be remiss to not mention indian charas. Charas are made by rubbing fresh cannabis buds between your hands for hours. After some time, the trichomes will form a resin that is molded into creamy balls or sticks. Hash can be used with flower in bowls or joints, or dabbed on its own. 


Shatter is an extract, which is a subcategory of concentrates made using solvents like butane. Named for its texture, shatter is a glass-like substance with a tendency to snap when handled. It is usually translucent with a bright, yellow coloring akin to honey. Shatter usually has a high cannabinoid content and medium to low terpene levels. It is typically consumed by dabbing.


Another extract, wax looks like it sounds: like wax. It’s just like shatter, except that it’s been processed differently for a gooey texture. It’s easy to handle and manipulate, making it popular among concentrate lovers. Wax typically has a high cannabinoid content and low terpene levels.  You can add wax to any flower bowl or joint, use it in a vape device, or dab it. 


Also known as Budder or Batter, Badder is another extract and is made in a similar process to shatter and wax. However, badder is whipped by processors on a hot plate to achieve its frosting-like texture. They can range in color from yellowish gold to a greenish brown. Badder typically has a medium level of cannabinoid content and medium to high terpene content. It’s a great concentrate to use in handheld vaporizer pens and other devices. It can also be dabbed, or added to a flower bowl or joint. 

Live Resin

Live Resin is extracted directly from fresh cannabis, before it has been dried or cured, unlike most other concentrates. This helps the product retain many of the terpenes that are typically reduced by the drying and curing process. It comes in a variety of different forms, but usually has a sugary consistency. Live Resin typically has a medium cannabinoid content with high terpene levels. 


Cannabis oil, such as RSO, is extracted directly from the plant as is, and contains many of the plant’s valuable compounds like cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. There a few different ways to extract oil from cannabis. Some use solvents like butane and hexane. Others use a non-toxic solvent like Supercritical CO2. There is even a way to produce cannabis oil at home, using common cooking oils like coconut oil. All oils can be consumed as is, or can be utilized to create other cannabis products.


The main component of many edibles and vape cartridges, distillate is a translucent oil that primarily contains one specific cannabinoid, such as THC or CBD, with some trace concentrations of other cannabinoids. It’s a versatile concentrate that can be used on its own to be dabbed or vaped, or, because it’s already decarboxylated, it can be utilized to make other cannabis products like edibles and topicals. It does not contain any other plant materials or compounds, like terpenes, in its raw form. Its lack of terpenes means it has no smell or flavor, either. 


Also referred to as Diamonds, crystals are considered the purest concentrate as they contain a high concentration of a single cannabinoid with trace amounts of others, much like distillate. They appear solid and look exactly like crystals, hence the name. They’re made by refining cannabis oil and are extremely potent. However, they also lack terpenes and consequently has no flavor or aroma. Sometimes, extractors will use crystals to make sauce, another concentrate form, by mixing the crystals with terpenes. Crystals are primarily consumed by dabbing. 

Fortunately for us, there are so many different ways to enjoy concentrates. Just remember that they tend to be far more potent than regular flower, so it’s important to moderate your dose. Be sure to find out if the product you’re interested in has been tested so you can achieve the right dosage and be sure you’re consuming a safe product. 

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