Materials & Use

Vaping Wax: A Guide to Vaping Concentrates

Gabi Antunes

Sep 7, 2019

Named for its sometimes solid, sometimes soft consistency, wax is a highly potent cannabis extract is gaining popularity in medical and adult-use markets across America. What is wax exactly, why is it so popular, how is it made, and how can it be consumed? Let’s take a look into the world of cannabis-derived wax.

What is Wax?

Cannabis wax is a concentrated extract of the cannabis plant that can take several different forms depending on the precise extraction and refining process. Whether it is the light and airy variant known as budder or the drier, softer crumble, wax is highly potent and commonly used in vaping and dabbing.

Generally, wax includes elevated levels of the intoxicating compound found in cannabis known as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Depending on the specific cultivar from which the concentrate was derived, some samples of wax clock in at around 90% THC content. That makes wax one of the most potent concentrates on the market today.

How is Cannabis Wax Made?

Wax is made through a process of extraction, like other concentrates. There are several methods of extraction but the most typical involve using solvents to draw out the compounds found within the plant. For example, an extractor might use butane to pull the cannabinoids, such as THC, along with other compounds out of the plant. Other extractors prefer to use carbon dioxide as a solvent because it tends to result in fewer impurities in the final product.

Once the compounds have been drawn out of the plant, extractors need to remove the solvent to leave behind the cannabis extract by itself. Generally, this is done by subjecting the solution to heat, a process which boils off the solvent and leaves behind the compounds.

Wax varies in its consistency quite a bit because of variations in the refining method. Budder, for example, is typically refined quickly at very high temperatures. During the refining process, budder is also “whipped” to create the light and fluffy consistency. Crumble, on the other hand, is generally refined at lower temperatures over a longer period, which results in a drier end product.

While the specific type of wax each refinement method produces looks, feels, and even tastes differently, the cannabinoids and terpenes — the compounds responsible for a cultivar’s aroma and flavor — are left behind in high concentrations. Budder and crumble derived from the same cultivar, then, would have very similar compound profiles despite their differences in appearance and consistency.

How can you Vape Wax?

Vaping wax requires an accessory that’s designed to accept wax materials. In the vaporizer world, select models are designed specifically for use with wax, while others, like the PAX 3, include special concentrate inserts that allow the consumer to vaporize wax in addition to dried cannabis flower.

The process to load your wax material into your chosen device’s chamber varies from device to device. Always consult your device owner’s manual first to be sure you are doing so correctly. Oftentimes, wax vape pens will have a chamber that resembles a bowl. Sometimes, this chamber needs a special insert or pad for concentrate use. Take a small amount of wax on the end of your dab tool, ideally about 0.1 grams, and place it gently in the chamber as instructed in the manual. Be careful not to touch the heating element with your hand while loading your material. Once the wax has been loaded, close the oven according to your device’s instructions and ensure it is snug.

Some vapes work better if you “prime the wick,” meaning allowing some material to melt around the coil or heating element before you begin vaping. Not every device requires you to do this, so reference the owner’s manual before your first session.
Select your desired temperature setting and allow your device to heat up. Generally, a good temperature range for vaporizing wax is between 315°F and 450°F. Changing the temperature within this range can alter your overall experience, especially regarding flavor and vapor density. Experiment with different temperature settings to identify which works best for your desired vape experience. Once your vaporizer heats up to your selected temperature setting, you’re ready to begin your session.

Vaping vs. Dabbing

Wax is commonly used in dabbing as well, which seems similar to vaping at first glance but is a unique process all on its own. Dabbing involves the use of a pipe called a dab rig, which includes a metal nail. When dabbing, consumers heat the nail with a blowtorch until it is red hot. Using a dab tool, a small amount of wax is placed onto the heated nail, where it instantly transforms into a combination of smoke and vapor that can be inhaled by the consumer.

While dabbing can also be done with an electronic device known as an e-nail, which can appear much like a portable vaporizer, the key difference is that dabbing causes the partial combustion of the material. Vaporizers only bring material to their boiling point when used properly, ensuring that no combustion takes place.

Whether you vaporize or dab wax concentrates is a personal decision. Both are effective consumption methods, although they differ from one another in overall taste and experience. If you’re interested in vaporizing wax, you’ll need to start by acquiring a wax vaporizer that can support your ideal session.

What to Look for in a Vaporizer for Wax

If you’re in the market for a wax vaporizer, there are a few factors that should influence your decision. First and foremost, you need to confirm that any device you are considering is compatible with wax. Beyond this obvious functionality, though, you should consider the following:

  • Price: Vaporizers can vary in price quite a bit. While you don’t want to cut corners and buy the cheapest vape out there, the most expensive devices aren’t necessarily the best either. Balance cost with functionality in order to get the best experience with a device that will last.
  • Oven capacity: It’s important to select a vaporizer that can hold the right amount of material to support your session duration. In addition, understanding where the heating element is in relation to the oven is especially important for vaporizing wax.
  • Heating method: There are two main types of heating methods that vaporizers use today: conductive heating and convective heating. Conductive heating involves a physical connection between the material and hot element such as the oven wall, directly transferring heat to vaporize the wax. Convective heating involves the flow of hot air through the device, indirectly vaporizing your material as you inhale on the mouthpiece.
  • Temperature setting: Vaporizers vary in their temperature ranges. A range that includes settings between 315°F and 450°F is optimal for wax, so seek a device that has at least a couple settings in this range.
  • Battery: Battery life and charging time can vary from vape to vape. Be sure to choose a vaporizer with a battery life that supports your typical session durations and a charging time that won’t leave you without a ready-to-use vape for too long.
  • Additional features: There is a wide range of additional, useful features that vaporizers support. For example, some vaporizers can connect with mobile devices via Bluetooth® to unlock additional functionalities. Other devices can monitor your usage, track your sessions, and help you conserve material.

Wax is a popular cannabis concentrate for its high potency and unique flavors. As vaping grows in popularity alongside concentrates, many devices are specifically designed for use with wax. If you’re looking for a vape that can accommodate wax, you have quite a few to choose from. Investigate your options thoroughly to find the one that best suits your desired vape experience.