Alright dabbers, let’s face it: most of us just can’t puff on live resin all the time. For those of you who live in states where medical marijuana is outlawed, it can be particularly difficult to find clean concentrates of reasonably high quality. Even in California, it’s not uncommon for people to settle for darker, harsher, less expensive concentrates processed under less-than-optimal conditions when options are slim or money is tight.
Luckily, there are several processing methods one can use to clean these concentrates— one method, commonly referred to now as “winterization,” is particularly safe and can be used to further purify even high-quality concentrates.
Butane-extracted hash oil tends to be a mix of cannabinoids, terpenes, lipids and other plant waxes that get pulled out by the solvent during extraction.
In order to separate the active cannabinoids and terpenes from inactive plant waxes via winterization, the concentrate must be redissolved in a new solvent (ethanol aka grain alcohol) that is liquid at room temperature so its solvability can be more easily manipulated by temperature.
Once the concentrate is dissolved, the mixture can be cooled such that the inactive waxes and lipids precipitate out of the solution (form solids) which can then be filtered, leaving you with a pure cannabinoid/terpenoid mixture.
The resulting resin is known as absolute shatter because it contains no inactive impurities.
Make Absolute Shatter
In order to convert your concentrate (any kind of hash!) into absolute shatter, you’ll need the following:
Grain Alcohol (Everclear)
(optional) 5A molecular sieves if you only obtain 151 proof Everclear
Round coffee filters
hotplate or a hot water bath (pot of water)
(optional) A/C vac and a vacuum chamber, preferably with a cold trap
Step 1: Preparation
First about the alcohol: if you live in a state where you can obtain 190 proof grain alcohol then all you have to do is buy a bottle and you’re ready to go!
Those of us who can only obtain 151 proof are wise to purchase a few lbs of molecular sieves from a legitimate lab supply store online in order to dry out 151 proof alcohol.
Molecular sieves are zeolite pebbles with pores just big enough to trap water molecules. Slowly pour the alcohol into a mason jar (preferably cooling in ice, the reaction gets HOT!) and let it sit overnight to allow particles to settle at the bottom and the water to be trapped by the sieves… you can leave the alcohol in that container until you’ve used it all (at which point you should burn off the remaining alcohol outside and then bake the sieves in the oven at max heat for a few hours to dry them out….
Be careful not to put alcohol
soaked sieves in the oven, the fumes can ignite and pop the oven door open… dry them or soak them in water first)
Step 2: Dissolution and Separation
Once your alcohol is ready, it’s time to get to it. Combine the alcohol and concentrate in a glass container and heat it up with your hotplate or water bath such that all solid particles have dissolved, it takes a few minutes.
I’ve found about 30ml of alcohol per gram concentrate is sufficient, it’s preferable to use as little alcohol as possible since you’ll be evaporating it off later.
After your concentrate has fully dissolved in the hot alcohol, cover the container and carefully place it in the freezer overnight along with the funnel and another container— we need these to be cold.
When you come back in the morning, you will see some solids floating in solution. Those are the inactive waxes! Time to filter these out.
Fold the coffee filter in half then in half again so it’s a quarter circle.
With the pointy side facing down, pull out a single of the filter so it forms a cone-shaped pocket like those cheap cups you see in office water coolers
Stick this in the frozen funnel and let it sit in the freezer for a few minutes to make sure it’s cold.
Now you’ll want to position the funnel-with-filter so its resting over your empty frozen container and slowly pour your alcohol-concentrate mixture through the filter.
You’ll want to use a mason jar or some other container that makes it easy to rest the funnel and let the solution filter with the freezer door closed.
If the solution warms up, the waxes will dissolve back into solution… the colder the better!
Step 3: Evaporation
You will be left with wax residue in the filter (throw this away) and a container full of frozen mother liquor full of your purified concentrate. All you have to do is pour this liquid into a dish and evaporate off the alcohol and you’ll be home free! There are two ways to do this:
Method 1: (no vac) if you pour the liquor off into a thin layer, the alcohol will evaporate off with just a little air circulation (you can put it somewhere warm to speed things up).
Method 2: you can use a vacuum chamber to “cold boil” off the alcohol but if your pump uses vacuum oil, a cold trap is advised to capture alcohol fumes which quickly ruin clean pump oil.
Check the consistency, it should form a fairly stable shatter once fully purged (and even if not fully purged, you’re just vaporizing small amounts of ethanol which reacts with water) and even darker absolute shatter tends to be exceptionally smooth and enjoyable since no long plant molecules are being burned.
As always, use an abundance of caution (with regards to safety and publicity)! Alcohol is still flammable! But don’t be afraid to try this process on a small scale if you have a hard time finding good quality concentrate.
Stay safe, stay educated, happy dabbing!