Do you ever wonder what the difference is between shatter and live resin? Cannabis concentrates offer a menagerie of options for the smoker, vaper, and cannabis buff, no matter what you’re after. But with so many consistencies, potencies, and flavours available in the big wide world of concentrates, it can all get quite confusing.  

In the continuation of our series of Distillate vs. Liquid Shatter vs. Live Resin: What’s the Difference?, we are now diving into live resin versus straight shatter. If you want to buy cannabis concentrates in Canada, you’ll need to know the key differences between these two options. If you vape, dab, or smoke, their individual properties make all the difference.

What is Shatter?

Shatter is the firmest cannabis concentrate — clear and almost glasslike

As the name suggests, shatter is cannabis concentrate with a glass-like consistency. The texture varies somewhat from one strain to the next but is somewhere between a piece of glass and a pull-and-snap toffee. It’s usually quite golden, although some shatters end up dark amber or with a slightly brown hue, depending on the producer. 

For years, shatter was the go-to premium concentrate beloved by dabbers. Why? Because it’s highly malleable yet easy to handle. Compared with saucier concentrates, like diamonds or terp sauce, it’s firm enough to stay where you put it — including on the dabber. 

Shatter comes from a butane extraction, which combines butane with heat and pressure to pull out the valuable terpenes and cannabinoids from the original material. Unlike other easy-to-make at-home extractions, shatter production requires a professional lab and technicians.

Most producers use only premium and strain-specific bud for shatter production. Some producers may also use kief or hash for shatter. Of course, lower quality shatters exist, usually made from miscellaneous trim and shake.

Between live resin and shatter, shatter always registers much higher in THC and other cannabinoids than live resin. The extraction process relies on such high temperatures that most volatile terpenes burn off during production. While the potency varies from one brand to the next, and even from one batch to the next, expect upwards of 80 percent THC with each dab. 

What About Liquid Shatter?

If you vape more than dab, you’ve likely stumbled into a product called liquid shatter. Although it sounds like an oxymoron, it’s just one step removed from conventional shatter. THC vape pens and other refillable vapes require a specific concentrate consistency to function. If the vape liquid isn’t thin enough, the ceramic coil won’t efficiently vaporize. 

Therefore, liquid shatter vape pens come with cartridges filled with a more viscous concentrate. Liquid shatter vape cartridges contain both shatter and a dilution, usually with medical-grade PG or PEG400. These are common and safe ingredients and suitable for vaping.

What is Live Resin?

live resin
Live Resin is Bright Gold and Saucy

If you are a cannabis connoisseur that prefers concentrates with more flavour than straight-up potency, you’ll likely prefer live resins. Instead of hitting upwards of 80 percent THC like a shatter, live resins focus on terpenes. 

Live resin is a syrupy golden cannabis concentrate with variable size crystals swimming inside. These crystals are pure THCA, the acidic form of THC found in fresh flowers. Once you dab, vape, or smoke THCA the heat transforms the acidic molecule into the one we all know and love: THC. So technically, live resin contains sauce (terpenes) and diamonds (THCA), which can be sold together or separated. 

For the terp lover, live resin is a godsend in a world of concentrates focused solely on potency. Whereas shatter may contain only one or two percent terpenes, live resins can reach upwards of 12 to 15 percent. But, this does change the final potency. Most live resins register under 50 percent THCA. It’s a price to pay when flavour matters.

Just like shatters, live resins also require butane extraction, but the extraction happens at sub-zero temperatures to preserve the terpene profile. Remember, terpenes are incredibly volatile, especially following exposure to heat, therefore live resin production happens well below freezing to trap those delicious flavours into the concentrate.

Another crucial component that differentiates live resin from shatter is the need for fresh, frozen material instead of dried, cured flower traditionally used in concentrates. Cultivators throw fresh bud straight into sub-zero freezers within a few hours of harvesting to capture as many terpenes as possible before they naturally begin to degrade during the curing process. The faster the cultivator gets the buds into the freezer, the better the final product’s terpene profile.

Live resin is ideal for vaping, whether in a vape pen cartridge or a concentrate compatible portable vaporizer. Live resin is also beloved by dabbers. In fact, it’s so popular among dabbers it spawned the whole terp sauce trend. Live resin lends itself to dabbing, although, unlike shatter, live resin a bit messier to handle because of the saucy consistency. 

Is Shatter or Live Resin Better for Vaping?

If you love cannabis concentrates, you likely sit into one of two camps: flavor or potency. Either you chase unique terpenes or big-doses of THC. 

If you love an experience that’s big on terpene profile (but still with a reasonable level of THC), live resin is your go-to option. Live resin captures the natural terpene profile of the original strain. The terpenes may also create a more nuanced high than a pure shatter, thanks to the entourage effect.

But if you love a powerful high, stick with shatter. Shatter and (liquid shatter for vape pens) focuses on cannabinoids to deliver a pure high and medicinal relief. Live resin may have upwards of 50 percent THC, but a shatter can reach 80 percent. 

Because vape pens are affordable, it is easy to experiment between the two options: liquid shatter and live resin. With one battery, you can quickly and easily switch between two very different experiences. Pull out the live resin for a mellow high with bursts of nuances or use the shatter cartridge for more powerful, THC-focused relief. The variety is part of the joy of cannabis concentrates.