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Sugar vs. Sand vs. Sauce: What’s the Difference Between These Cannabis Extracts? 

With so many terminologies and methodologies involved in cannabis concentrates, it’s incredibly easy to get lost in a sea of options. You may have heard of concentrates like wax or shatter, but what about harder-to-find newcomers like sugar, sand, and sauce? This Ethos guide dives into the difference so you can feel confident navigating your choices.

What is a cannabis concentrate?

A cannabis concentrate is any cannabis product that includes a heightened concentration of phytocannabinoids (and sometimes terpenes). The concept of concentrates is nothing new: For millennia, societies have used mechanical means like applying heat and pressure to create hash and similar cannabis products. But in the modern cannabis industry, concentrates are breaking new ground, utilizing advanced technologies to create products with different textures, potencies, unique scent and flavor profiles, and much more.

Why are there so many different kinds of concentrates?

There are many extraction methods employed to extract the phytocannabinoid and terpene content later used in concentrates. These range from supercritical CO2 extraction, to the use of alcohol-based solvents, to water-based extraction methods. And that doesn’t even account for concentrates that are made with heat, pressure, or other methods.

Another key difference is how this resulting extract is treated. Extractors have developed a wide range of artisanal techniques to put their own twist on products. For example, some extractors prefer to whip their extract, resulting in the fluffy and creamy budder as it cools. Others agitate their extract to cause separation and encourage the formation of crystalline structures throughout. As extractors experiment with more post-extraction techniques, novel consistencies and types of extracts emerge.

Sugar vs. sand vs. sauce: a comparison

While you have more than a dozen concentrate options, sugar, sand, and sauce stand out for their unusual names and their less-than-common appearance on dispensary shelves. Key production differences result in unique textures that influence appearance and the device you’ll use to consume them.


While its name may make this concentrate easily confused with edibles, sugar is indeed an inhaled concentrate with the appearance of honey or wet sugar, hence its namesake. It’s the result of a process called “sugaring,” when phytocannabinoids and terpenes separate during the extraction process. Then, when cooling, the trichomes crystallize, taking on a sugary appearance. This is particularly common in cultivars with high amounts of hydrophilic terpenes or fatty compounds. Sugar is best used with portable dab pens.


While its name may make this concentrate easily confused with edibles, sugar is indeed

Unlike sugar and sauce, sand (also called “beach sand” or “dry sift”) is not an extract. Instead, it’s made by finely sifting trichomes through a series of increasingly small micron screens to separate these rich resin glands from the plant material. The result is a granular, sand-like product that is super potent and jam-packed with terpenes.

Sand tends to be expensive compared to other concentrates due to the labor-intensive and time-consuming process required to generate even low yields. However, a little goes a very long way. You can sprinkle a tiny bit onto your flower to bring extra potency into your session.


Sauce is made from isolated and separated phytocannabinoids and terpenes that are reunited in a unique concentrate. The phytocannabinoids become crystallized, while the terpenes take on the form of a liquidy oil. Sauce is sticky, thick, and even chunky, thanks to the crystals. Sauce fans gravitate to this concentrate for its potent aromas and flavors. Sauce is best consumed with desktop or portable vaporizers. Want to try out sugar, sand, or sauce? Get the right device first. Check our device guide.

Do sugar, sand, and sauce create different experiences?

Cannabis consumption experience can vary to some degree between concentrates. Sugar, sand, and sauce will all have slightly different chemical makeups, even if they are produced from the same cultivar of cannabis, because differences in the production process will yield slightly different compound profiles. In the case of sauce, it is difficult if not impossible to expect any sort of real consistency from one dab to the next because of its uneven distribution of phytocannabinoids and terpenes.

The key phrase here is “chemical makeup.” Phytocannabinoid profile and terpene profile are much more important in determining the experience you’re most likely to have while consuming sugar, sand, or sauce. Phytocannabinoids and terpenes influence one another and affect your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) in different ways, dependent on factors like ratios and potency.

In addition to chemical makeup, your environment, body composition, and prior experience with cannabis can all influence your experience when consuming sugar, sand, or sauce (or any other kind of cannabis product!). That means that no two people are guaranteed to have the precise same experience with a cannabis product. The best way to understand how sugar, sand, or sauce will shape your experience is to start low and go slow, monitoring how you feel as you go.

Is sugar, sand, or sauce right for you?

Whether you prefer non-extract concentrates like sand or extracts like sugar and sauce (or if you want something totally different), an Ethos associate or pharmacist can help point you in the right direction for the product best positioned to offer you the relief you’re hoping to achieve. They can talk you through your options, explain what you can expect with each concentrate, and show you how to consume each concentrate with your device. Browse the menu of your favorite Ethos dispensary to see what’s new.

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