If you're staring at your shatter right now and you can't tell if it's good or bad, we can help you figure it out. After all, you wouldn't want to invite your friends over and bash their throats with some bad shatter. But hopefully you're reading this article before making a trip to a dispensary, or wherever you get your shatter from.
I stumbled across this video from Dain (Cannabis Review TV) while doing stoner-like things on You Tube. He covered the ins and outs of detecting good from bad shatter pretty well. You'll learn all you need to know by watching his video, but if you're in a place where you can't watch you can read my take on it below.
The Rundown On Shatter
Common Misjudgment of Color
One of the big things people look at to judge shatter is the color. While the color of it is insightful, it's not the be all end all sign to whether you shatter is good or bad. What the color really gives you is a rough gauge of how old or fresh the trichomes were at the time of extraction. That's pretty much all you can tell by the color. Whether the trichomes were fresh or not doesn't really give you a good indication of the flavor or potency of the extract.
If the shatter was made out of fresh bud that was actually harvested prematurely, you would get the beautiful amber-golden translucent color. From first appearance you would think you bought some amazing shatter, but later you would find out otherwise. It could be even worse if it was harvested prematurely, wasn't grown properly, and wasn't purged all the way. It would still have the beautiful color but would be far inferior in terms of potency and flavor.
If the shatter was made out of old trichomes, it's going to be dark but not necessarily inferior. If the buds were nourished to perfection, harvested at the perfect time, and purged the way only an experienced extractor could, you would get a very high-quality shatter. It would not be the sexy amber-golden color, but it would have flavor for days and be upwards of 80% potency.
So with shatter, you can't judge it by color alone. The color may tip you off to some other things that may effect the quality, but it's not a absolute rule that golden shatter is better than dark. If someone uses old material, then you might wonder why. Maybe they are cutting corners and using old trim they scraped up or don't care for quality as much as they do for making money. These are just assumptions and are not necessarily true, but if you have bad experiences with darker shatter then you can assume they cut corners somewhere.
Starting Material (Biggest Impact)
The starting material is a huge determining factor in the quality of the final product of any cannabis extract. If you start with some crappy flower you got from your deadbeat friend, your extract is going to be low grade. Of course, this goes back to the growing process. Without going into too much detail, if it was grown properly and harvested properly you'll have a good plant material to start with. If you're using trim and not buds, you're going to get lower quality shatter. It won't have the rich flavor that comes from the terpenes in the buds.
When the shatter is made with old trim, it'll be even lesser quality than if made with fresh trim. The rules to trim apply just like anything else. Fresh trip from a plant that was grown excellently, harvested properly, and purged properly will produce the best shatter possible from trim. Take any of those variables and make them negative and the quality of the shatter will be lessened, just like with flower.
For the perfect shatter, you want to start with fresh buds that were grown well and harvested at maturity. This will yield the most flavorful and potent shatter, assuming the extraction process is done properly.
If you can see the test results before buying, that's probably the most reliable tool to base your decision off of. If you don't know what you're reading, then just look at the THC level. At the very least you'll get some potent extract that is guaranteed to give you an intense high even if it's not the most flavorful. It's a lot easier to guage the quality of your shatter after you buy it than before. It's not ideal for us, but once we find a company who knows what they're doing we can stick with them.
Feel and Flavor
Now that you know you can't rely on color as a reliable indicator of shatter quality, you have to look for other signs. It should have a sappy feel to it, but it shouldn't be as liquid-like as an oil. It should have it's own distinct form and should not change shapes based on the container it's in. You can feel the shatter, but not while at the dispensary. They don't want you shoving your hands in their products. This will only work after you've already bought it. While at the dispensary, I judge by color. It's not a perfect science, but what else can you go by?
You have to smoke shatter to really asses the quality. It's the only reliable way, and even then it's only as reliable as you are good and experienced at dabbing. If you dab it improperly, you might think it's bad but really it's just your awful dabbing skills. But assuming you know how to dab properly, you'll be able to asses the extract by smoking it.
The first thing you'll be able to notice is the flavor and smoothness. If it irritates your throat on it's journey to your lungs, you've got a loser on your hands. Bad shatter is harsh and hard to breath in. You'll find yourself coughing it right back up, wasting nearly the whole dose. On the other hand, if it goes down easy and you can hold it in your lungs for several seconds, you've got some good stuff on your hands. Good shatter is so much smoother than smoking a joint and it's much easier to hold in than a bong rip. The vapor should be smooth, which indicates it doesn't have a lot of residual solvents.
You'll also notice the flavor and smell. It won't smell as strong as smoking a bowl, but it should have a nice pure aroma when exhaled. This purity should also be reflected in the flavor. If you don't enjoy the flavor of it, it's either a low-quality extract or you're plum crazy. If you like the flavor and smell of marijuana in general, then good shatter will take your love for weed to the next level. The flavor should be light years better than the flavor you get while smoking.
By assessing the flavor and smoothness/irritability, you'll be able to easily tell good from bad shatter.