Live resin is a relatively new form of cannabis concentrate that is taking the industry by storm. Not only does live resin wax provide you with a potent concentrate, but it also enables you to enjoy the real aroma and flavor of the marijuana plant. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to see, feel, and smell a cannabis plant as it is being harvested, you’ll know that it is an entirely different animal to the concentrates you find in dispensaries.
The terpene content of living buds offers astonishing aromas, and a single whiff is like walking a stairway to heaven. Alas, once the weed has been harvested, many of the processes that occur between the period when the plant is cut to when you get hold of the final product remove the majority of the weed’s aromas and flavors. Too many extraction techniques leave you with a product that gets you high but lacks the elegance, bouquet, and taste of fresh marijuana.
If only there were a way to maintain the integrity of the plant so that you receive a concentrate that contains all the magic of cannabis. Thankfully there is, and in this article, we will show you how to make live resin. One of the main differences between live resin and rosin, for example, is that the former requires trained technicians and expensive equipment. In other words, you can try to try to create live resin, but it will cost you!
What is Live Resin?
Live resin is a form of cannabis concentrate created via a specialized technique, and it quickly became popular in states such as California and Colorado soon after marijuana was legalized. It is similar to CO2 and BHO concentrates insofar as it requires the right equipment and experienced individuals to complete the process correctly.
Live resin extraction involves the cryogenic freezing of a newly harvested marijuana plant at temperatures below 292 degrees Fahrenheit. The process is also known as full-spectrum, because it involves the whole cannabis plant including the stalk, branches, and leaves. Aficionados love live resin shatter because it helps to preserve the terpene profile of weed. If you use CO2 and BHO extraction, many of the terpenes are lost because they utilize high heat, dissolving any terpenes with a low boiling point.
Typically, once a cannabis plant has been harvested, it is then cured and dried, but this process also damages a plant’s terpene profile. When you purchase cured concentrates, you are buying a product that lacks the true essence of a marijuana plant. When a plant is cured, manufacturers wait a certain amount of time to allow the weed to wick itself of moisture and chlorophyll prior to the extraction process.
During this period, the plant’s trichomes are exposed to heat, oxygen, physical agitation and light. All of these factors help degrade terpenes, so the concentrate you receive lacks the aroma of the plant and also ensures you miss out on potentially therapeutic ingredients.
How to Create Live Resin Extract
It is a different story entirely if you purchase live resin dabs. The plant is flash frozen straight after harvest and kept at extremely low temperatures for the duration of the extraction process. Professional companies spend a small fortune on the equipment used for the procedure.
It involves the use of a ‘closed loop system’, which means the process starts and ends in the same place. One tank contains the hydrocarbons, butane, and propane. These materials are stored in the container and chilled down to cryogenic temperatures. High grade butane is placed in the first tank and, under pressure, it gets pushed into another tank which contains the marijuana plant matter.
The butane gets to work by dissolving the trichomes as it is pushed through the second tank. It slowly travels through the tank and soaks the weed. As soon as the butane passes over the cannabis, it bonds with the terpenes and cannabinoids, thus stripping the marijuana of its active compounds.
Next, the butane flows into the third chamber, also known as the cryogenic or dewaxing column. It purges the plant fats, lipids, and waxes to purify the extraction further. Finally, the liquid makes its way to the collection chamber, which heats the butane until the majority of it is boiled off. The result is a concentrated oil laden with cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. The remaining solvent flows through another pipe and ends up back where it started.
Once the process has been completed, the live resin is at less than 4% of its original weight. At this stage, the resin is still too volatile and it self-purges the remaining carbon dioxide. The THC molecules crystallize and separate while staying suspended in a thick oil that offers the beautiful aroma of terpenes.
Where Does Live Resin Come From?
It is a relatively new creation, so live resin’s history is rather short. Most sources credit ‘Kind Bill’ (real name William Fenger) and ‘Giddy Up’ (founder of EmoTek Labs) with stabilizing and introducing this form of concentrate to the market sometime between 2011 and 2013.
They developed a unique BHO extractor which was able to maintain the extremely low temperatures associated with live resin and combined it with their desire to use freshly frozen marijuana plants to create extracts. The result is exceptionally potent concentrate. Most of the highest terpene concentrates recorded at Cannabis Cups in recent years have been live resins.
What’s the Difference Between Live Resin and Other Concentrates?
It is all about the terpenes. Making live resin involves freezing the plant as soon as it gets cut. Crucially, it is neither dried nor cured. The drying and curing process has long since been considered crucial; however, up to 60% of terpenes can be lost during the curing process regardless of how well it is conducted.
The live resin process, on the other hand, takes freshly harvested bud and shock freezes it immediately. As a result, there is no chance for the plant’s terpenes and cannabinoids to degrade. In contrast, other concentrates use dried and cured weed. Technically, live resin is a BHO that is created by exposing marijuana to butane. You can produce live resin via CO2 extraction by using a vacuum oven to remove impurities. This oven uses relatively low temperatures for a few hours.
As live resin contains far more terpenes than other types of concentrate, it has a sappy-liquid consistency. It is not as rigid or stable as typical BHO products such as glass or shatter. However, the aroma and taste will blow you away! All it takes is a couple of grams of resin to offer the full spectrum of aromas from a newly harvested cannabis plant.
How Drying Degrades Terpenes
A study* by Ross and ElSohly at the University of Mississippi, published in 1996, looked at what happens to a marijuana plant’s terpene content during the drying process. In the study, the authors harvested 60 grams of weed from the same plant and grouped them into four categories; each of which consisted of 15 grams:
- Fresh weed.
- Dried at room temperature for a week.
- Dried at room temperature for a week, then stored in a brown paper bag for a month.
- Dried for a week and stored in a paper bag for three months.
Next, the four batches were steam-distilled, and the extracted oil was analysed. It is important to note that steam distillation only extracts a plant’s terpenes. The main terpenes that were removed included myrcene, limonene, Linalool, and caryophyllene. Unsurprisingly, the fresh weed had the highest terpene content, and most of the terpenes evaporated during the first week. There was little in the way of evaporation after that point.
Overall, the study discovered that drying made changes to the relative terpene concentration. Monoterpenes, known for being small and light (such as limonene) evaporated quickly. Sesquiterpenes, known for being large and heavy (such as caryophyllene) took much longer to evaporate, which meant they comprised a significant percentage of the oil after the drying process.
The conclusion was that you need to extract terpenes from freshly frozen buds if you want to get the highest percentage. Of course, moisture in the bud hinders butane as it tries to dissolve the terpenes and cannabinoids in a plant.
How to store live resin
Keep live resin cool and in an air-tight container, preferably in a fridge if you can. This will preserve the terpenes and keep it tasting and smelling great for a while.
Leaving it out in the open with the lid off will cause it to dry out quickly, making it harder to handle and damaging the taste.
You’ll want to keep the aromatic bouquet and full flavor of live resin for as long as possible. Preserve the potency and quality of your live resin by keeping it away from heat, light, moisture, and open air. An airtight and lightproof container is best to help maintain its texture and consistency, as well as protecting the cannabinoids from degradation and preventing the terpenes from evaporation. If you’re in the market for live resin containers, look for concentrate storage containers made of silicone or glass. Silicone has another perk: It’s easier to scrape sticky concentrates out of it.
Light and temperature can speed up the breakdown of your live resin. Keep it stored in a cool environment, ideally in the refrigerator, or even just a cold room. After each use, be sure to close your live resin’s container securely. Leaving your live resin out in the open makes it vulnerable to a loss of potency, and can result in a change of color, texture, and taste.
How is Live Resin Made?
WARNING: THE MANUFACTURING OF LIVE RESIN AND OTHER CANNABIS CONCENTRATES SHOULD ONLY BE PERFORMED BY PROFESSIONALS AS THESE PROCESSES CAN BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.
For safety and health reasons, producing extracts should be left to professionals, as the safety precautions and equipment require precision and accuracy.
The Live Resin process typically uses liquefied petroleum gas, such as butane or propane, as a solvent. Ethanol or carbon dioxide (CO2) are also solvents used for making extracts, but to a lesser extent.
The cannabis plant material is harvested and is frozen immediately. You can flash-freeze plant material by either slowly dipping it into a cold insulating cylinder filled with liquid nitrogen, or placing it in a cooler with dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) on the bottom. If using a cold box, the temperature of the container should ideally be steady at -40 degrees Fahrenheit (also -40 degrees Celsius).
The overall process for producing live resin is the same as other extracts. The most significant difference with producing live resin is the solvent must be cooled to -40 degrees Fahrenheit (also -40 degrees Celsius). Live resin is typically made following these five steps:
- Packing the material column with the frozen plant material.
- Chilling the solvent.
- Passing the solvent over the material to create the solution.
- Applying very little heat to the solution to promote the vaporization of the solvent.
- Chilling the solvent tank to recondense the vapors.
Another critical difference with the live resin process, compared with other types of extractions, is the temperature of the vacuum purge. The goal is to retain and keep as much of the essential oils as possible and prevent their evaporation. In order to do this, the processors use a vacuum oven set at just 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (about 18.33 to 23.88 degrees Celsius). Crumble, by comparison, is purged at a temperature range of 110 degrees Fahrenheit to 135 degrees Fahrenheit (43.33 degrees Celsius to 57.22 degrees Celsius).
Live Resin Decarboxylation
Live resin, like BHO, uses a solvent to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis. The difference here is that live resin is made using fresh cannabis buds that are frozen right after harvest, rather than cured buds. The extraction also happens at below-freezing temperatures to create a super-rich extract, which then needs to cure for about two weeks. The result is an extremely potent extract that, like BHO, can have various different textures, and preserves many more terpenes and flavonoids than some of the other processes listed here.
“Refined” Live Resin\Sauce
Live Resin\Sauce concentrates are a mix of THC-a crystals or diamonds of varying size, suspended in a mix of saucy or waxy terpene infused goop. The idea behind this method is the use of an “oil bath” with test tube to decarb a live resin\sauce concentrate with an initial lower heat separation and extraction of a “terp sauce” layer from the larger THC-a crystal\diamond portion layer of the concentrate, aiming to preserve as much of the terpenes from potential damage from prolonged decarb temps, while still performing a proper complete decarb for a nice smooth stable oil.
The idea is simple, separate and decarb the THC-a diamonds alone, sparing the terpene sauce goop the prolonged decarb temps and the damage they can do to preserve the concentrate’s terpenes while still doing a proper decarb.
There are a lot of specialty tools but this was my MacGyver-ed technique with tools on hand. You can adapt to your tools on hand or within budget. For example, I use an induction cooktop with cast iron griddle to mimic a hotplate with some semblance of digital temp control but an actual hotplate would be easier if you one.
- Test Tube & Cap: Pyrex 9800-13 Test Tube (13mm x 100mm) \ Test Tube Cap
- Dab Tools: LTQ Vapor Dab Tool (Extra Long) \ Standard Dab Tool \ Folded out Paperclip
- Syringe: Luer-Lok Syringe, preferably Glass Luer-Lok but Plastic (or Plastic) would probably be fine | 18g-20g 1″ Blunt Tip
- Beakers: 100ml Glass Beaker for oil bath, 50ml come in handy for holding test tubes, 25\10\5ml good for holding empty carts
- Heat Gun
- Induction Cooktop w\Cast Iron Skillet or Round Griddle |OR| Hotplate
- Probe Food Thermometer with Needle Probe
NOTES to CONSiDER
Test Tube & Cap: The tall and narrow aspect of the test tube is what makes it appealing for this method as it makes watching the bubbles from decarb easier but it also makes getting the concentrate into your decarb container a pain in the ass. You’ll want quality reusable test tubes like Pyrex and rimmed models for extra neck strength. Don’t get cheap disposable sample test tubes as their glass is brittle. I settled on the Pyrex 9800-13, the 13mm x 100mm of Pyrex’s rimmed reusable test tube line. Their 16mm would have been easier to load the concentrate since its wider but its 125mm tall and the extra length would make it an even bigger pain in the ass to load. Pyrex makes 16mm x 100mm test tubes but they’re non-rimmed which isn’t ideal for using with a cap, so the 13mmx100mm rimmed Pyrex 9800-13 was the compromise but its performed well. The cap is nice to have but during decarb if you keep it on you’ll have to periodically pop it off to release pressure otherwise it will eventually pop itself off.
Syringe: I use a Hamilton 500ul Glass Syringe but I imagine a good quality plastic syringe will work fine too, Luer Lok preferable with securing the tip. The important thing to consider is that the syringe should be long to reach the bottom of the 100mm test tube, so those short and fat disposable glass distillate syringes won’t work easily. You also have to take into consideration the 13mm test tube has about a ~10-11mm inner diameter but head of the luer lok syringes are about 10mm so it fits fine. You’ll want to 18g-20g 1″ needle tip, thinner needle tips like 22g become a pain in the ass as smaller thc-a crystal can clog and block the smaller diameter opening during the terp sauce extraction stage.
To load the concentrate, my current ad-hoc method is to use a Standard Dab Tool with its smaller spoon head to scoop about ~0.4-0.5g of the concentrate onto the big canoe shaped head of the big LTQ Vapor Dab Tool. The LTQ Vapor Dab Tool is a nice ~140mm long as opposed to the shorter 120mm of the standard dab tool allowing it to read the bottom of the 100mm test tube with more left over space to hold the tool with your fingers. I carefully slide the LTQ Dab tool into the test tube, holding both horizontally when sliding in, then I use a Heat Gun on its lowest setting to gently warm the tube and dab tool inside until the concentrate slides off the LTQ Dab tool as I slowly lift the dab tool while heating, allowing the concentrate to slide off, into the bottom of the tube. Rinse and repeat to get the other ~0.4-0.5g of concentrate it. Then I use the Standard Dab tool to scrape as much residue left over in the concentrate jar and then scrape the dab tool itself using the folded out paperclip and carefully use the wax stuck to the paperclip to deposit that last bit into the test tube. Just do your best but try to avoid getting too much of the concentrate on the top portion of the test tube walls. While it will slide down as it gets heated, there will always be a film residue, so the farther is has to slide down the more waste. So to get max amount of final oil, try to get as much of the concentrate cleanly into the bottom.
I then add about 3 microdrops (~0.06ml) of a C8-C10 MCT Oil named Pyur Thinner to the concentrate. This isn’t strictly necessary but I feel it will act as an additional carrier and maximize the amount of the terpenes siphoned during the next stage by giving a bit more light oil fractions for the terpenes to dissolve into.
Decarboxylation Weed Temperature In An Oven
The temperature at which you want to do your decarboxylating will depend on how much time you want to spend in the decarboxylase process. The decarboxylation cannabis temperature will also depend on the kind of flavor you want your weed to have. If you use lower temp for a longer time, you will preserve more terpenes, which gives your weed its smell and taste.
This method is the most common approach used to start the reaction that removes the carboxyl group from your THCA to yield THC:
- Preheat your oven to 220 – 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Break your cannabis into smaller pieces with your hands.
- Spread your weed out onto your baking sheet.
- Heat the weed up for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Remove from the oven. Your weed will be browned, hard, and crumbly. Use your hands, a grinder, or food processor to further grind the weed to a coarse grain but not a powder. Now your weed is bursting with available THC, ready to be used for your favorite recipes.
Our non-cooking cannabis users have testified that decarboxylation can be done in a microwave. This is a non-preferred method as one cannot be sure the microwaves will not zap some of your cannabinoids or terpenes, but when you smell the result, it is clear that plenty of strong cannabinoids and terpenes remain. Just put in the microwave for 1.5 to 3 minutes on high and you’re done. An advantage of this method is there is far less chance you will burn any of your weed in the microwave. Also, it’s much quicker than other methods.
Sous Vide Decarboxylation Temperature
The Sous Vide method is the brainchild of Sir Benjamin Thompson, an American British physicist. One of his experiments involved even-cooking a mutton shoulder using this method. In short, the weed is vacuum sealed in plastic, then a water-circulating heating element is placed in a pot of water to heat the water evenly. Next, the vacuum sealed weed is placed inside and slow cooked to decarboxylate fully and evenly.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Vacuum sealing machine
- Weed grinder
- Sous vide precision cooker
- 10-quart pot
- Grind your weed up to a coarse grain but not a powder, be sure to collect any kief produced.
- Seal your weed in heat-safe plastic with your vacuum sealer.
- Place your sous vide precision cooker in your pot filled with water and set the temperature to 200 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Once the water reaches the correct temperature, add your sealed weed and cook for 1 hr 30 mins to 1 hr 40 mins.
The advantage of this method is that the water circulates to produce an even temperature, all of the weed is cooked evenly and thoroughly providing a consistent amount of THC and CBD throughout. This process also protects your weed from burning on the outside.
How Long To Decarb Weed
How long it will take to decarb weed depends on your goals and the decarb method. In the oven, you can use a higher temperature and a shorter time, or a lower temperature over a long time. Decarboxylation occurs at temperatures between 200 and 300 degrees. Many weed enthusiasts prefer to decarboxylate at lower temperatures for longer periods of time in order to keep terpenes from evaporating. Terpenes give the weed its smell and provide some therapeutic action. Some of them smell of lemon or lavender. They give the weed a quality of aromatherapy that is central to the action of weed. If you have ever noticed yourself getting high just from smelling your weed, this is the action of terpenes on your memory. It is an effect of classical conditioning. Just as Pavlov’s dogs salivated on hearing the sound of the bell, you feel high just on smelling the terpenes in the weed.
Live resins have come quite a long way since their Colorado inception. As recently as a few years ago, they were an enigmatic and rare product only found in certain connoisseur markets at premium prices, sometimes exceeding $100 per gram.
Although live resins are still sold at a higher premium than other concentrate products, namely BHOs, nowadays live resin prices are much more affordable and most dispensaries carry a range of options.
As the market for cannabis concentrates continues to demand more flavorful options that offer a more complex experience, live resins will continue to be made. After all, enjoying a concentrate that remains true to the fragrance of the flower it came from is truly a remarkable experience.