Updated May 6, 2022
Dispensaries are responding to this by placing discounts on wax that has sugared up. So what is the truth behind why some wax sugars and why others do not? Is sugaring a sign that a sample has reached a shelf life? Is sugared up shatter an inferior product?
Polymorphism or “nucleation” is what happens when lipids and/or contaminants left in a sample of shatter begin to separate from the cannabinoids they homogenized with during the extraction process. . The trichomes are just looking to revert back to their natural state. This happens for several reasons and cannot be attributed to a single causation.
- Strains with higher lipid content in the trichome heads, in other words a more dense waxy cuticle layer surrounding the bulbous head of the trichomes, tend to sugar up more when made to shatter. Also, other strains contain terpenes that are hydrophilic, meaning they attract water.
- Contamination and or/agitation of the sample (dust, pollen, water, etc…) either during or post processing can also cause nucleation to begin in susceptible strains. As aforementioned, some strains contain hydrophilic terpenes that will increase the chance of water entering into the sample if it has been improperly stored.
- Winterization, otherwise known as “dewaxing,” is a process used to remove the lipids from the finished product. Often, these lipids can be harsh on the lungs and unpleasant to inhale. This is why some hash users prefer a dewaxed product. This does not guarantee that a sample will not sugar up, but the process will certainly help.
- Nucleation can also be triggered by changes in temperature, humidity, or overexposure to oxygen over a period of time. This is why proper storage of shatter is essential.
Some people claim that moisture in the starting material sample will cause nucleation to occur. This is only partially true in that moisture can be a trigger for nucleation just as any contaminant in the product has the potential to be. Besides, winterization solves this issue as well.
Sugared up shatter is not bad. It is still very safe to consume. Some hash connoisseurs prefer dabbing sugars over shatter. Their argument: it tastes better. Valuable terpenes are often lost during winterization. Not only are these terpenes responsible for the flavor, but they have the ability to modulate cannabinoid synthesis. It is because of this that some processors seek to recreate sugar in the lab. Others go a step further by adding back strain specific terpenes to samples.
To conclude, some strains will always sugar up regardless of winterization. Others will almost never sugar up, especially if dewaxing occurs. In the end, the best thing to do to avoid sugaring up is to store wax sealed in a cool, dark, dry place with little exposure to air movement. This will help ensure that your wax doesn’t prematurely sugar up. Also, be careful when handling your shatter. Don’t panic if your wax sugars up, it’s still perfectly dabbable.
Some fans of sugared product love the taste, (claims of a stronger and more flavorful product are not to be dismissed). Either way you like your products, sugaring will not harm your extract..it may even make it more tasty!