Extraction technology has forever changed the way we consume cannabis. Smoking, dabbing, and vaping extracts have become a subculture in the cannabis community — where glass blowers, hash makers, and cultivar hunters are celebrities in their own right. With this rise in tech comes intriguing and intricate ways to process cannabis flowers into highly concentrated smokeable products.
Most extracts are often named for their texture and consistency — budder, wax, diamonds, crumble, and snap ‘n pull being a few of them. But perhaps two of the most well-known and sought-after types of extracts come with the question: what is the difference between shatter vs. live resin?
Let’s look at how they are similar, what sets them apart, and if one is better than the other.
What is Live Resin?
Live resin is a cannabis extract made from fresh, live cannabis plants. At the peak of harvest, the plants are cut down and flash-frozen in an attempt to preserve the precious trichomes. It’s in these glistening glands that the terpenes and cannabinoids live, providing for the flavor, aroma, and effect of each strain of cannabis. The plant’s essence is inside these trichomes, and the typical cut, dry, cure process can damage these fragile terpenes and degrade cannabinoids.
Live resin is a thick, saucy extract and can somewhat resemble the crystallized honey left at the bottom of the jar. Its color is bright and vibrant, often golden orange and shiny. The plant’s terpene profile remains intact when using fresh flowers, providing a rich flavor and complex aromatic extract. It’s bursting with terpenes, tasting like fresh fruit, musky mangoes, or astringent herbs. Live resin is very true to the flavor and effect of the live plant, but with a higher concentration of terpenes and cannabinoids.
Another way to make live resin is to process the freshly trimmed flower immediately after harvest. Some companies like Bloom Brands process the plant within two hours after harvest to ensure the preservation of trichomes at their ripest. The result is an ultra-creamy extract that glistens like diamonds. Not overly sticky or too thin, it melts perfectly onto the nail of a dab rig.
What is Shatter?
Shatter is a cannabis extract that is made with dried, cured flower and trim. What goes into shatter will indicate what comes out. So, if using big, whole buds, the resulting product will be more robust in potency and more aromatic and flavorful than using just trimmings. Even though the trichomes have been dried and likely have endured some damage during transport and storage, they still hold valuable compounds that give life to potent extracts like shatter.
Shatter is made by using a hydrocarbon, most often butane, in a closed-loop extraction machine. During the production cycle, the trichomes are separated using heat and compression. The post-extraction process involves placing the extracted oil into a high-pressure vacuum oven to purge any residual solvents. It’s during this process that the shatter takes shape. Unlike the saucy texture of live resin, shatter is like a very thin sheet of brittle, yet slightly firm extract. It is translucent or golden and can resemble Swiss cheese, with holes where air bubbles popped during the vacuum purge. Shatter melts easily but will remain in a sheet until it’s intentionally ‘shattered’ before use.
Live Resin vs. Shatter: The Primary Differences
It can be easy to confuse the many types of cannabis extracts, especially for anyone new to the scene. When considering live resin vs. shatter, the primary differences may seem negligible to a novice, but quite noticeable to a connoisseur.
The extraction processes are fairly similar, though incoming material is different when discussing live resin vs. shatter. With varying properties, features, and smoking experience, is there a clear winner in the live resin vs. shatter debate?
The Extraction Process
The primary difference between live resin vs. shatter is the incoming material. While live resin can take on many forms post-extraction, it is always made with fresh cannabis flowers that have not been dried or cured.
Rarely does live resin become a shatter, however, since that would somewhat deplete the purpose of creating a live resin in the first place. Instead of freshly harvested or flash-frozen flower, shatter begins with dried flower and trim.
To obtain its extreme purity and translucence, shatter undergoes purging and filtration processes that leave many terpenes behind. However, both shatter and live resin can be made on the same type of extraction equipment with the same solvent.
The Properties & Features
The terpene content in live resin is unrivaled. Shatter’s terpene content is relatively low.
The entourage effect is more active with the rich mix of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that are preserved in live resin. The phenomenon of the entourage effect occurs when all of the plant’s natural botanical compounds work together synergistically.
Some schools of thought believe that the more a plant is separated from its natural components, or the further it is processed, the less therapeutically beneficial it might be.
The visual distinction is also quite apparent. Shatter gets its name from its glass-like consistency that will ‘shatter’ if dropped. It is often seen in sheets and stored lying flat, usually wrapped in parchment paper. Live resin is similar in appearance to a waxy crumble and is usually stored in a glass container.
The Smoking Experience
Despite the fact that shatter usually has higher THC percentages, live resin is considered the more potent of the two due to the unique nature of the entourage effect. Because of this, live resin is often chosen for its therapeutic benefits for both body and mind. They are mostly consumed in the same ways with dabbing or adding to a bowl of flower. Shatter is not a suitable texture for a vape pen, but live resin, when made properly, makes for an excellent cartridge.
Choosing live resin or shatter is just a matter of preference. Fortunately, there’s no need to decide! Diversity is one of the fantastic things about adult-use and medical marijuana. You can choose a live resin vape cart for convenience while experiencing a flavorful and therapeutic strain. Or, shatter is a fun way to try out new textures if you want to dab a high THC extract on a dab rig. Let the diversity of cannabis inspire you to find many new ways to appreciate this incredible plant.