Any Fan of Shatter and/or Pull & Snap Hash Oil Will Tell You that They Have at Some Point Experienced a “Sugaring Up” Effect in Their Product, Here’s Why.
Most people these days already know about concentrates/extracts like shatter, rosin or BHO (butane honey oil), but the fact that it can “sugar” up is not familiar with everybody. Sometimes, it takes time for an extract to start “sugaring” so some people just don’t get to experience it, however the opinions about this process are divided and many discuss the reason for this to happen.
What does “sugared” shatter/BHO look like?
To keep it simple: Sugaring is some kind of process in a cannabis extract that will lead the extract to a sugary-like structure. Some batches/strains will do this and others don’t which makes it even a bigger mystery. Many people are discussing the cause of this process and their theories are very different!
Some say it’s the condensation build up in the extract while others having doubts about the extraction process itself. Some people dislike the extracts that are sugared up however others are quite positive on them, we would say it’s a matter of taste!
But what’s really the cause of sugared Shatter/BHO?
The transformation from a smooth/sleek extract to some “sugar” is caused by specific, fatty compounds that are found in plants. These compounds will end up in your extract and are able to start a reaction which, in the end, results in a sugary structure.
This process is called: Polymorphism or “nucleation”.
Nucleation means that lipids and other contaminants (The compounds) in your extract are seperating themselves from the cannabinoids they have blend in with. The blending of cannabinoids and other contaminants occurs in your extracting proces, we call this homogenization, which is like the opposite of nucleation). Once seperated, these lipids are starting to attract each other and form their own crystal-like structures.
What exactly are these lipids?
If you didn’t know: Lipids are fats, waxes and fat-soluble vitamins found in the trichomes of (cannabis) plants that will eventually end up in your extract. Based on genetics some strains have higher lipid levels then others. So an extract from strain “X” could sugar up way faster then others as they contain more lipids which start the nucleation process faster.
These lipids are always looking to revert back to their orginal state once triggered. So they are starting to attract each other and form bigger crystal-like pieces in the soft extract. This makes it look a bit like sugar. Cannabinoids and terpenes don’t have this characteristic so they will stay the same wich leads to Firm, hard structures mixed with soft liquid like cannabinoids.
Every strain has their own amount of lipids and other contaminants. This makes that the nucleation process varies per strain a lot! If you want to avoid sugared up extracts, it’s a great idea to test multiple strains and find out which contain less lipids. Then work with that one!
Multiple facts about nucleation:
- Nucleation can be triggered by multiple causes. This means that something in it’s environment changes and starts the nucleation process. Things like: Temperature, humidity or a longer time being exposed to fresh oxygen. So proper storage is very important if you want to avoid this!
- Some strains have higher lipid levels in their trichomes then others. More lipids will cause the trichome head to get a more stable, waxy structure. Extracts made of strains with lots of these lipids are tend to suger up faster.
- Trichomes always contain multiple terpenes and some of them are called: hydrophilic. This simply means that they attract water and other liquids. I’ts possible that these terpenes attract liquids in the extraction process or storage which could speed up the nucleation process.
- There is a method to remove these lipids from your extracts that is called: Winterization or “dewaxing”. This also happens pretty often with hash because these lipids often cause a harsh, sharp and unpleasant smoking experience. Dewaxing your extract will decrease the chance of nucleation remarkably but it’s not a guarantee. Next to that it improves the taste and quality of your extract.
Sugared up shatter is not bad and 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.
We have learned that the nucleation process is the cause of a sugared up extract. This process can be triggered by multiple things that are all depending on what strain you used for extraction + what method you used to extract the cannabis. Some strains will never start to sugar and some will always do (even after dewaxing them), it’s up to you to find out.
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!
Article by the team from Grow That Weed.