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Commercial Cannabis Trends: Fresh Frozen Cannabis

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    In the cannabis industry, the use of fresh frozen material is rapidly expanding, thanks to both the increasing accessibility of freezer equipment and the growing demand for “live” cannabis concentrates, such as live resin and live rosin. In fact, live resin accounted for 34% of US cannabis sales in 2022, and in 2023, rosin has emerged as the biggest solventless subcategory for consumers.

    Fresh frozen cannabis, also known as “whole plant fresh frozen” (WPFF), offers cultivators an innovative method of preserving the terpene and cannabinoid profiles of freshly harvested plants. The technique halts the degradation of essential compounds and oils, maintaining the original flavor and aroma of the plant material and allowing for the creation of higher-quality cannabis concentrates. 

    As consumer expectations evolve, studies show that freezing freshly harvested cannabis flower can preserve precious terpenes and cannabinoids more effectively than drying and curing.

    Here, we’ll explore the benefits of producing fresh frozen cannabis and detail the methods cannabis cultivators can use to extract the full value from their fresh frozen buds. 

    What is Fresh Frozen Cannabis?

    Fresh frozen cannabis refers to a specific method of storing the flower. With this method, plants are immediately frozen after harvest to preserve their natural chemical composition. Often, this method involves removing the fan leaves but doesn’t require extensive trimming. The cannabinoid-rich buds are placed in moisture-resistant bags to be frozen, skipping the traditional drying and curing process. 

    The immediate freezing of the cannabis plant material prevents the degradation of cannabinoids and terpenes that typically occur during drying when the plant is exposed to various levels of heat. Terpenes are volatile and can easily evaporate and degrade when exposed to heat, air, or light. 

    By bypassing the drying process, fresh frozen retains a profile much closer to the “live” cannabis plant, resulting in more aromatic, and flavorful extracts. Fresh frozen material, with its excellent terpene and cannabinoid profile, is ideal for the creation of high-quality extracts. 

    Cannabis cultivators can use the fresh frozen flower to create:

    • Bubble hash: A popular form of extract made by washing frozen buds in ice water to separate trichomes from the plant material. The trichomes are then filtered and dried to form bubble hash. 
    • Live rosin: Produced with a rosin press, live rosin is created by applying heat or pressure to ice water hash. This squeezes the resinous compounds from the plant material without the use of solvents. 
    • Live resin: Frequently used to capture a broader spectrum of terpenes and cannabinoids compared to other methods, live resin extract involves the use of solvents to pull the oils directly from the frozen plant material. 
    • Live edibles: Can be produced using these live extracts for high-quality edibles and other infused products.

    Using fresh frozen cannabis with these extraction methods allows for the creation of robust products that maintain the original flavor and potency of your specific cannabis cultivar. 

    The Benefits of Processing Fresh Frozen Cannabis

    Processing fresh frozen cannabis has benefits for cultivators, extracts, and consumers. First, cannabis produces volatile terpenes, which are frequently lost during the drying and curing process. Some estimates suggest as much as 95% of a plant’s terpenes disappear throughout the entire process, from harvest to curing. 

    The fresh frozen process preserves the “live” essence of the plant, keeping those terpenes intact and preventing them from degrading. This high level of terpene retention results in extracts like live resin and live rosin having a richer flavor and aroma. Moreover, products like bubble hash created with fresh frozen material tend to have a better melting texture, indicating a higher quality of product, with less plant material and higher concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes.

    WPFF also benefits from less vulnerability to environmental conditions. Even with the support of cannabis processing automation machinery, curing and drying the cannabis flower requires specific environmental conditions. There’s no guarantee that the atmospheric conditions in your facility will be on your side when you’re harvesting and processing your cannabis. 

    With fresh frozen, you don’t have to worry as much about getting the perfect dry and cure conditions at that moment. You can simply de-fan your flower, bag it, and place it in the freezer. This essentially stops the clock on the plant’s biochemistry, allowing you to choose the perfect time to process the flower into extracts. If you have surplus cannabis, you can also save a portion for a later date. 

    For cannabis cultivators, using fresh frozen flower for extract production can also accelerate the time to market, and reduce processing costs. Fresh frozen material eliminates the need for drying and curing—two labor-intensive processes—so you can reduce the need for extensive support and additional labor. By bypassing these two time-consuming stages in harvest processing, you can respond more swiftly to market demands and trends, giving you a competitive edge over other cultivators.

    Fresh Frozen Cannabis getting loaded into a hash washer for trichome separation

    How to Process from Harvest to Fresh Frozen

    Effectively processing fresh frozen cannabis from harvest requires a meticulous approach, which starts with choosing the right buds and equipment. 

    Step 1: Preparing Your Equipment 

    To start, you’ll need the right equipment to process your fresh frozen flower. Cannabis mills and trimming products aren’t necessary here, as you only need to remove the large fan leaves from the cannabis plant. However, you will require an effective bucking machine, such as Triminator’s buckers, to rapidly remove the buds from the stalks prior to freezing.

    Alongside commercial-grade bucking equipment, you’ll need moisture-resistant storage bags to preserve the quality of the flower during freezing and a commercial freezer capable of reaching temperatures significantly below the freezing point for rapid preservation.

    Step 2: Harvesting and Preparing Flowers

    When harvesting plant material for fresh frozen cannabis, it’s essential to only use high-quality buds. Damaged or diseased cannabis buds should be immediately discarded and never frozen or washed for bubble hash. Poor-quality buds will harm the quality of your solventless extracts. 

    The goal during this preparation process is to retain as much of the plant’s natural compounds and chemical makeup as possible, for a “live” product experience. To get the harvested flower to the freezer as fast as possible, work in smaller sections of your crop. Harvest the buds and trim and freeze quickly to prevent them from sitting out at room temperature for very long.

    Step 3: Freezing the Cannabis Flower

    Following preparation, your buds need to be placed within sealed, moisture-resistant bags. It’s crucial not to overcrowd these storage bags, as overpacking can damage trichomes and reduce the quality of the live resin or live rosin you extract at a later time. Additionally, if you’re preparing your fresh frozen cannabis for bubble hash, it’s best to ensure that the buds are looser in the bags to ensure the flower is not compacted when you are ready to wash. You want to be sure that the cold water can reach the center of the flower during the process for optimal trichome separation. 

    The bags then need to be placed into commercial freezers that can rapidly reduce the temperature and halt the degradation process. Studies demonstrate that THC and cannabinoid degradation is often minimal in properly frozen cannabis compared to products kept at room temperature or within a refrigerator. This highlights the importance of rapid, efficient freezing. 

    Considerations When Freezing Cannabis

    Fresh frozen can be a valuable addition to a cannabis cultivator’s product portfolio, allowing you to tap into the growing demand for live extracts and products. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind when approaching this process. 

    First, it’s essential to choose the right cultivars. Frozen buds are often processed with the ice water extraction method. At Triminator, we recommend prioritizing the use of strains with fully developed trichome heads in the range of 72µm to 120µm. You can consider conducting a test wash to determine whether a given cultivar will adapt well to the fresh freezing process. 

    Beyond this, you’ll also need to ensure you:

    • Choose the right freezing equipment: While a specific type of freezer isn’t necessary for fresh frozen cannabis, you will need to ensure it can reach at least 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Commercial-grade freezers are often preferred because they are more reliable at preserving consistent temperatures. However, regular performance checks and maintenance may be necessary to ensure your systems operate at peak performance at all times. 
    • Select the right storage duration. Cannabis shouldn’t be stored indefinitely. Usually, it’s best to limit storage to between a few months and a year. However, it’s worth noting that untouched cannabis in a commercial freezer can last a significant period of time. One study found that THC degrades almost completely over 4 years at room temperature but can be kept almost entirely intact if stored at -20°C (-4°F). 
    • Pick the right packaging materials: Selecting the ideal packaging materials is crucial to preventing contamination and damage to your fresh frozen cannabis. Package your buds loosely, but securely within moisture-resistant, airtight bags. Place your bags into your freezer system carefully to protect the flowers and avoid breaking off the delicate trichomes. 
    • Maintain the right temperature: The temperature of your commercial freezer should be kept stable and usually well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. This ensures that trichomes remain intact and that cannabinoids and terpenes are well preserved. Avoid exposing your plants to temperature fluctuations or light by keeping freezer doors shut at all times. Additionally, if you’re using dry ice, make sure you keep it away from your buds, as it can bruise trichomes.
    • Label everything: Label all of your storage bins and bags clearly, including the cultivar, dates, and times of harvesting and freezing. Ensure that you leave your buds to freeze for at least one or two days before extraction. Your buds should be fully frozen first to enable a successful live rosin, live resin, or bubble hash extraction process down the line. 

    Discovering the Benefits of Fresh Frozen Cannabis

    Fresh frozen flower is an exceptional strategy for preserving the intrinsic qualities of your cannabis plant. It preserves the essence of the fresh plant, such as its terpenes and cannabinoids, leading to the development of high-quality live products that are cherished for their potency, flavor, and aromatic qualities. 

    By bypassing the drying and curing stages, fresh frozen flower maintains the plant’s natural profile, streamlines the production process, and accelerates your time to market for extracts and infused products. As demand for these “live” products continues to increase, leveraging this production method can deliver exceptional benefits to cannabis cultivators. However, the right equipment and process are crucial for success. Reach out to Triminator and discover how our bucking machines and extraction equipment can help you access the full benefits of your fresh frozen flower.

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