What’s the difference between distillate vs shatter, and is one better than the other?
Recreational and medicinal cannabis users have more options than ever before regarding product variety and consumption methods.
From tinctures and edibles to concentrates and dry flower, mainstream adoption of cannabis has paved the way for increased innovation of edibles, extracts and other concentrated forms of cannabis extracts. With so many options out there, figuring out which product format is best for your objectives can be challenging.
If you’re not sure whether to go with distillate vs shatter for your medicative needs, here’s how the two compare against each other and which one you should you use depending on your preferences.
Distillate vs Shatter – Is There a Difference?
Distillate and shatter are both forms of cannabis extracts. Cannabis extracts are concentrated cannabis products made by extracting or isolating cannabis compounds into one product.
While shatter is a solid cannabis extract that contains cannabinoids and terpenes – distillate contains only a single cannabinoid, generally THC.
Cannabis distillates are generally a thick liquid, similar to molasses. Distillate does not require any further heat before consumption, meaning you can eat it as is, while shatter requires decarboxylation before its effects can be felt.
What is Distillate?
Cannabis distillate is a viscous, molasses-like extract that’s incredibly pure and potent. Approaching close to 95% purity, these extracts are generally available in purely THC or CBD formats, as well as hybrid THC and CBD options.
Distillate is available in syringe format as well as vape pen cartridges. Their versatility, ease of use and discreetness have made them a popular choice for many cannabis users for a quick and easy way to medicate.
Distillate is made through a distillation process known as molecular distillation. This involves using a series of vacuums to remove every other compound except the desired one, in this case being THC.
The next major process is called short path distillation. This process involves using pressure to lower the boiling temperature of the mixture. As a result of short path distillation, the distillate is decarboxylated, “activating” the cannabinoids and making them bioavailable.
In other words, the extraction methods used to make distillate mean that distillate is ready to be used without any additional smoking or vaping required.
Read our guide on “what is CBD and THC distillate” for more detailed information on this easy-to-use extract.
What is Shatter?
Shatter is a longtime member of the cannabis extract community. Shatter is a type of BHO or Butane Hash Oil extract. Invented in the late 90s, shatter is a cannabis concentrate made by exposing cannabis flower to a solvent, usually butane, to extract its desirable compounds.
Once the solvent and flower mixture is saturated, the solvent is evaporated through a purging process, leaving behind the cannabinoids, terpenes and other desirable cannabis compounds.
Shatter itself can vary from product to product. Shatter can range in colour from dark amber-brown to golden light yellows. The consistency also varies, from highly brittle and glasslike to more waxy and pliable. Generally, it is the brittle consistency that consumers expect when they hear shatter. Once you put some pressure on shatter, it will shatter – which is where the name originated.
Read our guide on “what is shatter” for more detailed information on this beautiful and translucent extract.
Distillate vs Shatter Differences
While distillate and shatter are both cannabis extracts, they offer vastly different benefits and experiences. While both can be used to medicate, their flavour, potency and usability differ. Depending on your objectives and living situation, one might be better than the other.
Flavour and Terpenes
In fruits, vegetables, and some insects, compounds known as terpenes create the flavour and aroma that they produce. Terpenes are also present in cannabis and are believed to contribute to the high to particular strains through the entourage effect.
Both distillate and shatter have terpenes, but since the distillation process removes virtually every other compound except for the selected cannabinoid, terpenes have to be re-introduced into the extract to give it its flavour. This can alter of experience and high you can get from the product as the artificial terpenes aren’t the same as the strain’s original terpene profile.
Shatter, on the other hand, retains much of its original flavour since the terpenes are not removed during its production. In addition to its appearance, shatter is well known for its flavour and is often thought to be one of the most flavourful concentrates available. Additionally, since no terpenes are removed, shatter can provide a more holistic experience than distillate.
Cannabis concentrates, as the name suggests, are concentrated forms of cannabis. As such, all extracts will be considerably more potent than dry flower.
Numbers-wise, distillate’s average potency of 80% to 95% beats out shatter’s potency of 65-80%. However, as discussed earlier, potency isn’t the component in cannabis extracts that influences a product’s high.
No matter which product you choose to go with, cannabis extracts will get you significantly higher than dry flower. But if potency is a concern for you, distillate wins out, but not by a huge margin.
Since distillate is already decarboxylated, it can be used in a variety of ways. Distillate can easily be dabbed, eaten as is or even infused into your favourite food and beverages. You can even add distillate to a bong bowl or joint to create twax joints.
The most popular way to use distillate is by vaping it with a THC vape pen. These vape kits come equipped with a vape battery, a charger and a distillate cartridge for you to medicate whenever you’d like. Distillate is also odourless and won’t leave any lingering smells, allowing users to consume it inside or outside their dwelling.
Shatter, on the other hand, is not decarboxylated so it has to be dabbed in a dab rig. Dab rigs are large, stationary sets of equipment that have to be set up. While dabbing also doesn’t produce any lingering smoke or odour, it tends to produce more vapour than distillate.
Is Distillate better than Shatter?
Distillate is a better product if you want one and only one cannabinoid without any other compounds tainting your experience.
If you just want to consume THC or CBD, there are few better options than distillate.
While cannabis distillate comes in various flavours, those who don’t care for terpenes or dislike cannabis flavours can purchase flavourless distillate that can be infused into foods and beverages.
Distillate is also a good option for medical cannabis patients as it allows very precise dosing.
Beyond precision, distillate is also more suited for huge doses of THC or CBD.
If you need a large dose due to your medical situation, few options provide such an easy way to do so, all without any lung or throat agitation because you can simply eat distillate. Compared to edibles, you can get much higher THC levels with distillate- and you don’t have to worry about calories.
Is Shatter Better than Distillate?
Shatter is the better choice for those looking for a more full, holistic experience and are unafraid of investing in the equipment.
Shatter remains more faithful to the plant than distillate does and is also often tastier too. Additionally, since most of the plant’s cannabinoids, compounds and terpenes are preserved, you’ll be able to experience the entourage effect more readily.
Distillate vs Shatter – Your Objectives Matter
The differences between distillate and shatter are more minute than one would expect. While distillate is easier to consume and more accessible, it’s not as flavourful or as nuanced as shatter. Your recreational and medicative objectives will have more of an impact on your choice than the potency, flavour and usability of distillate vs shatter.
If you have the means to do so, trying both types of extracts out will give you a better idea of their differences and similarities and help you decide which is best for you.