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Rosin vs. Shatter

Rosin and shatter are two of the most in-demand cannabis concentrates on the market today, and while they share many similarities, there are some important differences that consumers and extraction businesses should be aware of. The main distinctions lie in:
  • The extraction process 
  • Market value (cost) 
  • Physical characteristics 

It’s important to understand all of these characteristics because the differences between rosin and shatter aren’t always visible to the naked eye.

Rosin vs. Shatter: The Extraction Process

The main difference between rosin and shatter is the extraction process: One uses a solvent, and the other is solventless. Whereas solvents were once a requirement, it’s possible to make premium cannabis concentrates nowadays using basic elements like water, agitation, heat, and pressure.

Shatter Extraction

Solvent Extracted Cannabis Shatter

Live shatter

Traditional shatter is a solvent extract, most commonly made using a butane hash oil (BHO) extraction. Other solvents, like propane and ethanol, may also be used. Supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) is another increasingly popular solvent used to make cannabis extracts, though it's seldom used for shatter because the excessive moisture loss can sacrifice the brittle texture that makes shatter unique. 


The initial processing for shatter is roughly the same as for any solvent extraction. If we’re talking about a closed-loop hydrocarbon extraction system (the most common method), like the kind used for BHO, the initial extraction would look roughly like this:

  • The cannabis starting material is inserted into a material column within the system. 
  • The material is chilled. 
  • The solvent slowly passes through the material column, where it dissolves the plant material and isolates the resin from the trichomes. 
  • Heat is applied to purge the solvent from the resulting extract. 
  • The solvent tank is chilled to capture the remaining solvent vapors, and the purging process is repeated to eliminate residual solvents. 
  • The extract is collected. 

The above method basically holds true whether you’re producing shatter, wax, budder, or any other conventional solvent-based extract. With shatter, though, the main difference lies in the post-processing.

After the initial extraction is completed, the extract undergoes a shatter purge, a type of solvent-induced vacuum purge that uses low temperatures (roughly 85°F to 100°F) and pressure (-29 inches of mercury in Hg). This purge eliminates any remaining plant debris and gives shatter its characteristic color and texture. The purging process can last from 8 to 24 hours on average.

Rosin Extraction

Rosin Drip on Parchment Solventless Cannabis Extract

Fresh pressed live rosin

Rosin is a solventless extract that’s produced using a combination of pressure and heat. DIY extractors have been experimenting with rosin for decades, using tools like T-shirt presses and hair straighteners. In recent years, rosin has made its way into the mainstream with the help of state-of-the-art rosin press technologies.

A rosin press extraction looks like this:

  • The cannabis starting material (e.g. flower, sift, or hash) is inserted into rosin filter bags or wrapped in mesh rosin screens
  • The cannabis is then placed between two heated plates on the rosin press. 
  • The extractor programs their desired rosin press settings. Settings can vary significantly depending on the starting material and the end goal, but the temperature typically ranges between 170°F and 220°F. The ideal pressure range will typically fall between 300 and 1,500 lbf.
  • The extractor presses the rosin. With a hydraulic or manual rosin press, this may involve the use of a hand pump or twist mechanism. With a pneumatic rosin press, this may be done at the touch of a button. 
  • The resinous sap is squeezed out from between the plates and collected onto parchment paper (preferably food-grade parchment paper). 

From there, the rosin can undergo additional processing (such as rosin curing), or it can be consumed or packaged as-is.

When compared to other concentrates like shatter, rosin is the premium option. For starters, rosin extraction is much more affordable than other extraction methods, it’s generally faster, and—most importantly—no solvents are required. It’s as close to a perfectly natural extract as you can get.

And you can enjoy all of these advantages without sacrificing quality. You can use a rosin press to produce premium solventless extracts that are virtually indistinguishable from traditional solvent extracts.

That being said, you must use high-quality starting material as the quality of the flower will translate to the quality of the end product. Fire in = fire out.

Rosin vs. Shatter: Market Value

Rosin vs Shatter Cannabis Extract Products

Live rosin (L) (Instagram: @kmlabs.co) and live resin shatter (R) (Instagram: @grave_farms)

While rosin and shatter are both high-quality extracts, rosin does tend to carry a higher price tag. This is, in part, because there are no solvents involved in the production process. Since the only extraction ingredients are pressure and heat, rosin is perceived by some connoisseurs as being cleaner and purer.

To clarify, the term “pure” can be misleading here. For one thing, we’re talking exclusively about the absence of chemical solvents, and not the absence of other cannabis plant matter or contaminants (those are separate issues that can plague both shatter and rosin if you aren’t careful). In addition, it is possible to process shatter so there is no residual solvent leftover, so it would be misleading to suggest that rosin is automatically a cleaner product.

Still, in today’s market (especially in light of the 2019 vaping lung injury outbreak), some discerning consumers are exceedingly cautious about purchasing chemical-based products. Rosin is uniquely appealing to these types of connoisseurs.

And market data attests to this fact. Solventless extracts like rosin are selling for as much as $100 per gram while BHO extracts, in some cases, have seen their prices decrease over the past three years.

Of course, your own rosin can vary substantially in quality depending on how it’s produced. For best results, you’ll want to start with fresh-frozen cannabis and use it to make a live rosin product.

Physical Characteristics

Shatter is notable for its unique appearance and texture. It gets its name from its glass-like appearance, as it is typically sold in thin sheets and can crack like a pane of glass. The consistency is often brittle or stretchy. In terms of color, shatter generally has a yellow or amber hue that’s translucent. 

Rosin can take on many textures depending on the starting material and how it’s processed. It can be waxy, glassy, sappy, or oily. Rosin’s color can vary from a golden honey-like hue to an off-white depending on the quality and the extraction process.

In terms of potency and cannabinoid/terpene concentration, rosin and shatter share similar makeup. THC concentration can exceed 80% in some cases. A high-quality hash rosin can even measure up to 90% THC, particularly if it’s made from fresh-frozen cannabis (though this isn’t the norm). No matter which one you choose, you’re going to end up with one strong cannabis concentrate.

Solventless Shatter - The Best of Both Worlds

Solventless Rosin Shatter on Parchment

Rosin shatter on parchment post press

There is one extract that combines the best of both shatter and rosin: solventless shatter.

Solventless shatter is a rosin extract with both the shape and consistency of shatter. It’s the solventless alternative to traditional shatter. It can be made with either hash or cannabis flowers as the starting material, though hash rosin will generally give you better quality and potency.

The trick to making solventless shatter is to press your rosin at a higher temperature, usually around 220°F. Whether you’re pressing cannabis flower or hash, your fresh rosin should have a sappy texture. As the oil cools and hardens, you’ll be left with a glass-like consistency that’s comparable to traditional shatter. You can learn more about it in this comprehensive guide to solventless shatter.

So when comparing rosin vs shatter, the better question is: Why not have the best of both worlds? New technologies are making it possible, and these technologies are changing the cannabis concentrate market for the better.

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