Absolute Shatter: Make Your Own!

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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.

Winterization

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

Metal funnel

Round coffee filters

Freezer

hotplate or a hot water bath (pot of water)

Glass containers

(optional) A/C vac and a vacuum chamber, preferably with a cold trap

Step 1: Preparation

AbsoluteShatter - 1First 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.AbsoluteShatter - 11

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.

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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 coolersAbsoluteShatter - 17

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.AbsoluteShatter - 22

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.

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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).

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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!

The Advantages of Closed-Loop BHO Extraction

vacuum purged shatterMarijuana extraction technology has changed rapidly over the last few years thanks to a greater demand for concentrates and wide-spread decriminalization and legalization. The black, tarry “oils” that were once acceptable forms of “hash” have all but disappeared (apparently some poor fools are still smoking that toxic ‘Rick Simpson Oil’) and in particular, the development of closed-loop extraction technologies has represented a paradigm shift in the way both producers and consumers approach concentrates. At this point, closed-loop butane extraction is the best, most efficient method we have for extracting THC and when set up properly, it provides a scientific level of safety and control that can yield the highest quality products possible.

Closed-Loop Extraction is Safer

The most obvious advantage to a closed-loop extraction setup is that it provides a much greater degree of safety than “open blasting.” BHO extraction has gotten a bad rap over the last few years because plenty of stupid, inexperienced stoners try their hand at open BHO extraction and end up on the news because they blew themselves up. A closed-loop extraction is just that– it’s completely sealed off so that no butane can escape the system into the surrounding environment (thus avoiding filling the room with butane, though proper ventilation is always necessary, closed-loop or not). 

Closed-Loop Extraction is More Efficient

Closed-loop systems will naturally be under greater pressure than open systems which, while not directly affecting solubility in any meaningful way, does increase the interface time between the raw marijuana and butane thus allowing for a more complete extraction.

Closed loop systems also allow for a more precise control of temperature which does have a direct effect on the solubility of THC into butane– though there are two ways of thinking about it. While an increase in temperature of the butane does allow for greater solubility of THC (and thus a more efficient extraction), it also increases the amount of water in the product (as water is just slightly soluble in butane), though thorough drying of the raw material and solvent could combat this.

Rather, many extraction artists choose to cool the extraction column to sub-zero temperatures which, while decreasing the solubility of butane, prevents many of the undesirable plant fats and waxes (and water) from making it into the solvent. This is a choice method since it avoids the need to “polish” or de-wax later using a cold ethanol wash. Closed-loop extraction systems also prevent butane from being needlessly evaporated and some systems even offer the ability to recover butane, allowing solvent to be used many more times without needing to be recharged.

Closed-Loop Extraction Yields The Highest Quality Product

The great Budweiser-endowed beer-scholar Charles Bamforth says with regards to taste in what is good, “to each her own,” but it’s hard to deny that the strongest, most flavorful, most cosmetically pleasant concentrates have been produced through closed-loop extraction. The only products that seem to come even close are the most carefully crafted, ultra-fine ice hashes which can hardly be seen as representative of an efficient extraction method.The use of these technologies is always accompanied by temperature-controlled vacuum purging which is the other half of the art & science of MMJ extraction. The vacuum purge is used to remove butane below the taste threshold of 3ppm, far below any level that could be considered dangerous to anyone.

While concentrates still have some legal-grey area, even in states where marijuana is legal, these advantages to closed-loop extraction are the reasons why the most forward-thinking states– states like Colorado– are creating regulations that will impose industry standards requiring closed-loop extraction for the safety of everyone.

If marijuana helps you and you live somewhere where it isn’t legal, you should move to Colorado (seriously!). Let’s stop open blasting once and for all, it’s just not very good.

Vape Pens and Hash Oil: Revolutionizing Cannabis Culture

vapes and hash oilVape pens represent the leading edge of America’s marijuana revolution.

While bongs, tight joints and big blunts still accomplish their medicinal work with reliable rituals involving rolling and unsavory bong water, the contemporary vaporizer is as easy and portable as its e-cigarette brother.

No one has to know you’re getting your medicine. But if they find out, they’ll be impressed that you’ve got a state-of-the-art vaporizing device that administers mind-blowing doses of clean butane hash oil (BHO) while allowing exhalation of cool, discrete vapor.

The vape pen is to medicinal users of dabs and other THC concentrates what a flask full of single-malt scotch is to the sophisticated nightlife denizen.

The rechargeable dab rig has become de rigueur for live music fans, club-goers, barflies and even foodies who need a quick hit without the production of cigarette-making or pipe-stuffing. In this day and age, who wants to be stuck in a corner holding a lighter to a glass pipe?

BHO and other concentrates commonly used in vape pens as well as dab rigs(wax, shatter, honey oil, dabs) is produced by extracting more pure forms of THC with butane. The process creates bubble hash, “budder,” BHO and more solid concentrates like wax and shatter.

Unfortunately, from 2011 to 2013, the butane used in the process has wreaked some havoc and created alarm for authorities. Butane is essentially lighter fluid, and it’s highly flammable. Some inexperienced amateurs have sparked explosions and fires. In California, a failed, 2014 bill that would have applied new regulations to medical marijuana dispensaries initially included language that would have outlawed concentrates altogether.

But a funny thing happened in the last year or so. The fires subsided and the professionals took over. It’s now possible to obtain BHO, dabs and other concentrates from professional labs that specialize in safe, transparent processes. Just ask your local budtender.

The realization that even low grade marijuana can be turned into high-potency concentrates through this butane process has revolutionized American cannabis culture. Stores in most medical and recreational marijuana states display and sell concentrates front-and-center. The potency and value, even compared to a strong strain of traditional bud, is manifold. It’s the hottest segment in the red-hot pot market.

And so, the stoner’s hour of 4:20 has been transformed into 7:10 which, flipped over, says OIL, as in BHO.

In places like California, Colorado, Washington and more, dab rig users are getting their OIL on at City Council meetings, kids’ soccer games, golf courses, and anywhere else they can puff relatively privately on a pen-sized miracle.