Marijuana Concentrate Breakdown: Wax vs Shatter

I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m not a fan of herb vape pens and because of this I get alot of concentrate related questions. One question that I hear time and time again is, “What is the difference between wax and shatter?”.

Luckily Reme Kilam and Sirius J put together a very nice overview discussing the the qualities of each. But for those that do not feel like reading the entire guide, you can find a quick 2 minute video below that covers the basis.

Wax vs Shatter

marijuana oil vs wax
Image via HighTimes

Crumble, Wax and Budder

An extract that you cant see through is different on a microscopic level than a transparent one. If you cant see through it, that means the THCA and other solids have separated from the other components that are liquid, like terpenes. When light passes between two mediums of different densities, it gets refracted; multiphasic, amorphous solids are generally not transparent. Same goes for hash oil.

Once the extract is purged of the butane, youll generally have a shatter-like oil. Agitating the oil makes this into a wax, and agitation can come in a few different ways. Some people choose to raise their temperatures under vacuum (from 90-110 or even 120+) once they have achieved clean translucent oil. Some people choose to whip their oil and put it back under vacuum at the same temperature. And some just whip it and leave it alone. Any agitation will turn it into a non-transparent extract.

The consistency of the original shatter or sap will dictate the consistency of the wax or budder than forms from it. Sappier extracts will turn into a peanut butter goop, while harder shatters will become wax or crumble.

marijuana shatter vs oil vs wax

Image via HighTimes

Accidental Waxing and Auto-Buddering

Besides the obvious visual and textural differences, the cause of hash oil “waxing-up” can generate some heavy debate. Many extractors know how to produce a wax-like product instead of translucent oil, but the actual reason their product changes into an opaque wax often is not considered. Contrary to popular belief, even if a product has been de-waxed or winterized, a wax-like texture can still be achieved whether or not waxes or lipids are present.

Auto-buddering can happen for many reasons after the blasting process. If too much moisture gets introduced, either during the extraction or because of the humidity in the starting material, the water that is left over in the product when under vacuum can kick start the process of nucleation, leading to a budder or wax.

It is also possible that the molecules were physically agitated earlier in the process, when the collection tank was scraped. If not careful, this scraping action can serve the same function as whipping the oil (physical agitation), ultimately waxing-up the end product. The same thing can be said about adding too much heat accidentally. When molecules are heated, they tend to move around more energetically, and because of this energetic movement in conjunction with vigorous bubbling under vacuum, the oil once again is agitated to the point of nucleation.

Sometimes translucent oil will wax-up after being stored over a period of time. In this circumstance, the agitation is occurring either because of residual solvent trying to evaporate or because of terpenes trying to evaporate.

Shatter is slightly unstable and tends to degrade into budder over time. The THCA molecules tend to crystallize by coming together, but the viscous nature of the oil slows this down. Still, it eventually happens to a lot of shatter at room temperature or higher.

Refrigeration is key for preserving extracts, but it needs to be done right. Improper handling upon thawing can lead to the introduction of moisture and quick degradation of all your product.

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