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Thanks to rapidly growing legalization, America's cannabis industry has seen plant science and product development advance more in the past decade than possibly ever before. And no place is that rapid-fire R&D more readily apparent than the world of cannabis concentrates.
After decades of mixing bubble hash into spliffs and sprinkling kief on top of bowl packs, the dab revolution has taken hold and revolutionized the extract market over the past 10 years. Starting with butane hash oil (BHO) blasted in backyards, the cannabis community now obsesses over solventless rosins, low-temp dabs, hand-blown rigs worth $20 thousand, and more highly refined extracts and accouterments.
At the top of that list are "live" concentrates made using whole-plant fresh frozen material. Live dabs and vape cartridges are highly sought after and often carry a higher price than their dry counterparts. If you're still wondering why fresh frozen cannabis is so popular, what is live resin, or can you freeze marijuana at home, we've got everything you need to know about going the cold route with your next harvest.
Before we get into the hyper-specific aspects of fresh frozen cannabis production, it is important to know why cultivators across the country are buying up dry ice and deep freezers every harvest season. To be clear, fresh frozen cannabis is used for concentrated extraction purposes only. Sure, the bud still looks amazing and the trichomes still shine, but freezing cannabis is in direct opposition to the drying and curing process that produces flower for smoking.
Instead, fresh frozen techniques forego the entire drying process and head directly from the garden to the freezer. While the drying room is a necessary step for smokable buds, the lengthy open-air process also degrades delicate terpenes and converts THC into the heavy-handed cannabinoid CBN. By using dry ice and deep freezers to lower the temperature of weed as soon as it is cut down, growers can retain the most characteristics of the living plant possible.
When the extraction process is executed with solvents that are also kept at freezing cold temperatures, the resulting concentrates contain extremely high terpene and cannabinoid contents, giving users an experience that many growers say is the truest essence of the cannabis plant.
Alright, so now we know why growers are buying up deep freezers and what happens when you freeze weed, let's dig into the process of producing concentrates from fresh frozen pot. Like all cannabis products, it all starts in the garden.
Whether the weed is grown in soil or hydroponically, under the sun in the great outdoors, in a greenhouse, or fully indoors, harvest season comes along with universal characteristics. Big buds begin to dwarf broad fan leaves, the smell of strong terpenes permeates the entire cultivation site and cannabinoid-rich trichomes quickly transition from transparent to cloudy to deep amber. But once it's ready to cut, the next step will determine the future of your crop.
For cultivators freezing cannabis for extraction, containers of dry ice are brought into the garden so that plants can be frozen as soon as they are cut from their roots. From there, the cannabis is sealed in vacuum bags and stored in deep freezers that drop to temperatures as low as -38 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, that's very, very cold.
From there, the frozen marijuana is either ground up and pushed through a traditional hydrocarbon extraction process using super cold butane, propane, hexane, or other chemicals, or it is agitated in ice water to create a solventless concentrate. At the end of the day, the extraction process for fresh frozen flower is very similar to that of dried and cured bud, but with decidedly different end results.
When you're shopping at a dispensary, the easiest way to know if the concentrated cannabis product you're buying came from a fresh frozen extraction process is the word "live." Whether it is fresh frozen live resin or live rosin, any cannabis product with the word "live" in the name - live budder, live wax, live sugar, etc - denotes a fresh frozen production method.
So what is the difference between fresh frozen rosin and live resin? The former describes any fresh frozen extracts made using a chemical solvent. The live resin category covers concentrates made with butane, CO2, ethanol, propane, and other solvents. Similarly, live resins can come in a variety of consistencies depending on the quality of the flower and environmental factors during the extraction process.
Live rosins, on the other hand, are produced using a solventless method. Usually, that means agitating fresh frozen buds in a large vat of ice water until the THC and terpene-packed trichome heads are separated from the rest of the bud. Once the wash is complete, fine mesh bags trap the precious gold hash and let the water wash out. Next, the resulting trichomes are collected and freeze-dried. Lastly, the fresh frozen solventless hash is pressed intolive rosin. Both live rosin and live resin are perfect for dabbing and carry broad spectrums of cannabinoids and terpenes for that make for face-melting smells, otherworldly flavors, and an exceptional high.
Outside of dabs, live resins are taking on another life in vape cartridges. Despite its short lifespan, vape cartridges have already undergone a few product make-overs. Originally made with BHO cut with food-grade glycols, carts went mass market with the introduction of distillate extracts. Recently though, health concerns and demand for strain-specific vapes have made live resins incredibly popular with cartridge manufacturers. In addition to carts, live resins and rosins can be infused into foods, beverages, and even topicals for a true full-spectrum experience.
Across the legal weed industry, cannabis companies are reserving larger quantities of every harvest for fresh frozen concentrate production. In California, Raw Gardens freezes its entire crop for live resin concentrates and cartridges. In Colorado, 710 Labs has become one of the industry's most popular brands thanks in large part to their top-shelf selection of live rosins. Likewise, multi-state operator Blue River Terps is using proprietary mechanical separation techniques to produce a variety of solventless live rosins in a slew of different consistencies, including one of the industry's first fully solventless rosin vape cartridges.
If there's one thing that's for sure, fresh frozen cannabis concentrates aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
Are you prepping your own harvest to put your next batch of weed in the freezer? Or do you have a favorite brand of live rosin that we missed? Hit us up in the comments and let us know your thoughts on fresh frozen bud.