What Is Live Resin?

In the cannabis world, there is a seemingly endless supply of new and different products on the market, especially within the area of cannabis extractions and concentrates. Cannabis processors are constantly looking for new and improved ways to extract concentrated cannabinoids while maintaining the complex aroma, flavor, and terpene profiles.

Live resin is the latest and one of the most highly advanced extraction products in today’s cannabis market. Why? Let’s learn more about live resin and why it’s such a game changer for cannabis concentrates.

What is Live Resin?

Live resin was first introduced to the cannabis world by a Colorado farmer, William “Kind Bill” Fenger, an extraction specialist who eventually became known as the “Godfather of Live Resin.” Live resin extracts are unusual because the cannabis used for extraction is the fresh flower directly from the garden. The flower is frozen within 30 minutes of harvest, putting the plant into a stasis before the changes that begin during the typical drying and curing process can take place. It is then put into deep freeze storage until the extractor is ready to extract the material. As the fresh flower is frozen immediately following harvest and basic trimming, the live resin extraction process  preserves the aromatic and flavor profiles of the plant at the peak of the plant’s life cycle. The fresh buds and sugar leaves are flash frozen and remain frozen during the entire extraction process.  In order to use frozen flower, it is necessary to use specialized extraction equipment capable of maintaining a steady lower temperature during the extraction process.

How is Live Resin Different from Cured Plant Extraction?

Most cannabis concentrates use cannabis that has been dried or cured for extraction, rather than using the fresh plant. However, the drying and curing process often removes many of the flavorful and aromatic terpenes and may cause degradation of the plant material. This results in a cannabis concentrate that has fewer terpenes and less flavor than live resin. One of the major advantages of using the fresh frozen cannabis flowers is the intense terpene profile that is preserved, differentiating it from concentrates produced using traditional dried cannabis.

How Do You Make Live Resin?

Making any kind of cannabis concentrate is best left to professional processors and extractors using specialized machinery, and live resin is no exception.

A simple way to flash freeze the flower is to place it in a cooler with dry ice, with the optimal temperature between -10 degrees and -50 degrees Fahrenheit — ideally at a steady -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 degrees Celsius). It is important to freeze the material as quickly as possible to prevent any degradation of the product or the material beginning to rot in the sealed bags.  Once the flower is frozen, more advanced extraction equipment is required for making live resin extracts, as the flower must remain frozen during the entire extraction process. It is not uncommon to see large amounts of dry ice and liquid nitrogen at live resin processing facilities to maintain these low temperature requirements.

Much like the extraction process, the vacuum purging process of live resin extracts should be processed with very little heat to prevent the volatile terpene profiles from boiling off. During standard cannabis extractions, the vacuum temperatures can vary from 80 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 49 degrees Celsius), but when extracting live resin, it is necessary to keep the vacuum purge at a much lower temperature. By maintaining a lower temperature, more of the essential oils and terpenes locked in during harvest are preserved, making a much more flavorful and potent extract.

What Types of Products Can Be Made with Live Resin?

Depending on the extraction method used, the end result of live resin can have a wide range in consistency and viscosity. Due to the higher concentration of terpenes in live resin, the extract can have a lighter and less viscous appearance than the average cannabis concentrate made from dried or cured cannabis.

The most common types of live resin products are:

  • Gems & Juice/Sugar
  • Cake Icing/Badder
  • High Terpene Extracts
  • Cannabis Derived High Terpene Pen Cartridges

It is possible to create live resin shatter, although it is much more unusual due to the high terpene content of live resin and its general less viscous nature as compared to cured plant extracts.

Why is Live Resin Gaining Popularity?

Live resin contains the highest levels of essential terpenes that give cannabis extracts not only the best flavor profile, but the highest level of medicinal properties. There are over 120 distinct terpenes that have been identified in cannabis, and they each have medicinal benefits. Some of the most common terpenes found in cannabis:

  • Myrcene
  • Pinene
  • Limonene
  • Linalool
  • Beta-Caryophyllene
  • Eucalyptol

Live resin extracts tend to contain higher levels of terpenes such as limonene and myrcene, which are emitted in lighter, more fruity and floral scents that are accurate to the fresh cannabis flower. Live resin extracts provide the true to the plant experience that consumers are looking for.

What Does This Mean for Manufacturers?

For cannabis extractors, processors, and manufacturers, it is well worth making the investment in more advanced extraction equipment that provides the ability to strictly control temperatures at each stage of the process. However, handling cannabis intended for live resin means creating a new set of guidelines for every step of the way, from harvest all the way through production.

From a design, layout, and process flow perspective, the facility will need to be able to accommodate the storage of the frozen material in deep freezers. The material preparation process is also most ideally done within the walk-in freezer, and the loaded columns are preferably stored in the freezer until the moment of extraction. Depending on the state you are operating in and its regulations, the material may be able to be stored in refrigeration trailers located on the exterior of the facility. While there are additional up-front costs during the facility build out phase as well as more expensive equipment requirements, there is a very nice payout if you are able to produce live resin extraction products at a large scale. With proper planning, it is certainly worth the effort.

Recap

To recap the highlights of the process:

  • During harvest, trim the major fan leaves and thick stems, leaving only the flower buds and sugar leaves.
  • It is crucial to freeze the flowers immediately to maintain the volatile terpene profiles that are easily lost during drying and curing.
  • Any plant material awaiting extraction should be stored, ideally in a commercial, industrial freezer at -10 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, and should be extracted as soon as possible for the best results.

Although it can be quite an upfront investment to get specialized machinery, the cost could worthwhile for the experienced processor looking for a new niche and forefront. Live resin often sells for top dollar due to the high terpene count and exceptional flavor.

Curious about manufacturing live resin? Learn more about how Union Cannabis Group can help you get started – we look forward to speaking with you.

Dylan Thiel

Dylan Thiel is the Chief Technical Officer of Union Cannabis Group. He also designed and now serves as the Lab Director in Washington’s premier cannabis extraction facility at Phat Panda (Grow Op Farms, LLC).