Over the past few years, live resin cannabis products have seen a surge in popularity. But what exactly is live resin, and how does it differ from other cannabis concentrates and distillates?
Mat Pridham, Greybeard’s director of extraction, explains it to us like this: “Live resins are extracts or concentrates made from plants that were cut down while they were alive. They’re never dried, and are typically flash-frozen.” Calling an extract “live resin” is much more than just a marketing term — the production methods change the entire experience by keeping as much of the plant intact as possible. “They maintain that frozen state throughout the entire production process”, Mat continues. True live resins are never exposed to the amount of heat, air, and light necessary to dry the cannabis plants. This offers certain benefits, including the superior aroma that you’ll find from live resin compared to dried products. “When you dry cannabis plants, you boil off about 90% of the water”, Mat tells us, “and with it, many of the terpene compounds responsible for unique flavours and odours.”
Maintaining a cannabis plant’s terpene levels during production has become vital for cannabis entrepreneurs. It’s not just for the sake of better flavours and aromas, either. Terpenes are said to contribute to the entourage effect, along with other compounds like THC and CBD. They all work together to change the types of highs a consumer experiences from different plants. “You get a more unique experience by trying different live resins, while experiences with different cured resins will often feel pretty similar”, Mat explains. “Live resins are more nuanced.”
Producing live resin comes with a certain set of challenges, though. Mat points out that it requires a lot more room for storage than dried plants. “On top of that”, he adds, “you have to keep live resin frozen — if it thaws out, it’s garbage.” In addition to the need for freezer space, it can also take much longer to get the same level of yield from fresh plants. The equipment used for extraction is based on volume, and you can fit twice as much of the dried plant into the chamber as the fresh plant. What this means, Mat explains, is that “it’s going to take you twice as long to extract the same amount of oil from the fresh plants, compared to dried plants.” Even once the live resins have been produced and stored properly, keeping them at a low temperature while they’re being delivered to new locations is important too. There are tons of advantages to enjoying live resin, but the costs of producing it can add up quickly.
(Left: Live Resin Terp Sauce; Right: Paired with Live resin GB Diamonds)
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Mat has also noticed an unfortunate practice that seems to be emerging among certain live resin producers — particularly those that sell vape pens. Live resins are rich in THCA, and Mat tells us that “THCA wants to live as a crystal.” The problem, he continues, is that “if you fill up a cart with that, in a matter of weeks it will start to crystallize, and you won’t be able to consume it.” In order to get around this problem, he tells us that a lot of producers have been cutting their live resins with cannabis distillate in order to maintain a consistency that will work. “It goes below that saturation point, and they’re able to keep it in a liquid state for longer,” he explains. “Of course, the problem with that is that it’s not live resin anymore — it’s live resin cut with distillate, and potentially other botanical terpenes as well.” He likens distillate with “hot dog water” because, like hot dogs, clear distillate is often produced using parts of the plant that wouldn’t be fit for sale otherwise. Cutting a valuable product like live resin with distillate, he adds, “is essentially like boiling a beautiful T-bone steak in hot dog water. You’ve ruined the experience by filling it with this low-grade product.”
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