This guide is being completely rewritten
Introduction to THCA:
There are many methods (times and pressures and techniques) to mechanically separating THCA from rosin. Most work well. Some do not. This is the one I use, as I have had consistent success with it.
CannaPlates THCA guide is only a guide. Your results may vary, as mine have, in this not so cheap adventure. Hopefully I have borne most of the cost of this adventure, so that you don't have to make the same mistakes.
THCA is made by separating the components of the rosin. The mild heat and mild pressure of this process, causes the terpenes in the rosin to melt before the THCA does and the terpenes are forced out with the mild pressure leaving behind THCA.
To begin with you need the right kind of rosin. Rosin that is clear or shatter like or greasy or runny will not work. Do not try to use these kinds of rosin and expect results. You will not get them. The rosin MUST be cakey. The drier the better, It must be chunky like chunky peanut butter that has dried out.
The more crumbly you can get your rosin, the better off you will be. You need the rosin to be like this, otherwise in the initial push of mild pressure combined with the mild heat, you would just melt and push the runny rosin through the holes in the bag.
While the process I use gives a better than average return, it can get expensive, but the payoff is melting your face off good. I have found on average, that you will get 1/3 of your weight back in THCA using this method.
What you need per press:
2 - 25u rosin bags
Rubber gloves (medical or automotive type)
A minimum of 3 grams of crumble rosin, more is much better.
1-5 pieces of parchment paper mad into directional folds. There are times it may be prudent to change the paper.
Rosin tools, like in the image below, to help shape and move your rosin.
An evening or afternoon of time. this takes several hours to do properly.
The good thing is that you don't have to stand over it and watch it.
Its a set and forget until the next phase of the process.
The Rosin Prep:
Gather up all the rosin into a small package that so that it can fit into the bag. If you are using the right consistency of rosin, then this part is mostly painless, but can be a sticky mess if not done properly. Patience in the prep is needed as well.
Here you see 9 grams of Banana Cake crumble/budder type flower rosin. I have formed it into a shape that will fit into the bag and then I freeze it. Using the paper as a tool to help you shape the rosin is a good thing to do, but you can see on the paper, that I was handling it a bit too much and its starting to warm up and it is starting to stick to the paper. Avoid this if you can.
If it does happen, just put the entire paper, with the rosin into the freezer for a few minutes and then collect as normal. Make religious use of your freezer. It is a tool to be used.. a lot.
Here you can see the shape that makes it easy to get into the bag. How do you get it into the bag and not have it stick to the bag? Yup. You got it. Freeze it AND the bag. HINT: If possible put this into the bag INSIDE the freezer. Lean into it haha. It really does help.
Once the rosin is situated reasonably well in the bottom of the bag, do the final forming and positioning of the rosin in the bag. Don't manipulate it so much that the rosin starts to extrude from the bag. Just get it positioned it he corners the best you can. You will be pressing it.. it will flatten out. If you have to toss it back in the freezer because it stuck to the bag, do so if you have to reposition. The bag will pull away when frozen.
Now you can trim off any excess bag you may have, but leave about 1/2" so that you can fold it over. Take bag #2 and put bag #1 with the rosin in it, inside the 2nd bag. Insert it while making sure you put the folded side of the 1st bag at the bottom of the second bag. Sorry for the crappy pic below. It seems I never took a picture of this step, so I recreated it with an old bag on the inside, to show you how it looks.
You use this 2nd bag to hold the 1st bag closed! Ok we are almost ready to get start separating!
The Paper Prep
Lets go over the paper prep first. When doing these kinds of presses, it is advised you use a directional folded paper. What this means is you need to fold your paper in a way that it forces everything to come out the front! Here is a easy video guide on doing just that.
Once you have your parchment made we can move on to the next step which is placement of the bag within the paper and plates. Most of it is explained in the above video, but lets review it.
When placing the paper between the plates you want to have the back fold of the paper between the plates entirely. Unlike with flower pressing we WANT that back fold under the plates instead of sticking out the back. We also want the edge of the bag close to the back fold with about 1/8"-3/16" space all around the edge of the bag, on both sides and the back. The space you give will be determined by the amount of material you have in the doubled up bags. Place the front of the bag about 1/4" from the front of the plates, placed in between the parchment as suggested above. You want it close to the front so that you can see what is going on. and for the easy flow of the terpenes coming out and they will... a lot!
There is not a lot of expansion to this material/method, but it still does happen and we have to allow for more space than we need, but not too much space either. It is a small detail, but important as you do not want the bag breaking through that folded paper. That can become a legendary mess to clean up and really puts a kink in the flow of things.
The Temperature and Pressure Sequence:
Hour 1 - 40 C to start and NO pressure to speak of for the 1st hour or so,
I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH.. NO PRESSURE TO START WITH FOR THE 1ST HOUR! Only the weight of the plates is all you need for the 1st 45 minutes to a hour. If you are seeing the rosin oozing out of the bag when you FIRST apply the pressure....STOP! Release the pressure and start over. You only want to see the rosin just at the edge of coming out, but not coming out, if that makes sense? The needle on the gauge has not moved. No pressure except the weight of the plates.
To start with you don't need a lot of heat or pressure. The idea here is to allow the terpenes to melt and flow out of the bag, while the THCA stays behind in the bag. Set the temperature to 40C and place the bag as shown below. You want to use your directional fold paper and keep the edge of the bag, close to both the edge of the paper and the front of the plates. You can see in the image below that the terpenes are starting melt and come of of the bag. This is at the tail end of the 1st hour.. you should see some kind of melting happening by that time.
Hour 2 - 50C and you want to add just enough pressure to make the needle move and then just settle back to zero if it wants. You want maybe 50Lb at this stage. The increased heat the that TINY bit of extra pressure will cause the 1st big flow of terpenes. Put a jar under the paper as shown BELOW and catch the terpenes. DO NOT make the mistake of thinking more pressure is a good thing at this stage.. Do not think "Look how well its coming out! More pressure is good!!"
...NO NO! This is where that patience ingredient comes into play.
30 minutes into this hour 2, increase the pressure to 100lbs total... so BARELY off the needle rest on the gauge.. be careful here, too much pressure and you can screw it up. Be gentle.
You can see in the image above how the terpenes are melting and flowing down the paper with practically no pressure on the bag. Crease your paper to help direct and catch it in a jar.
Hour 3 - 60C and while that is heating up to that temp lets crack the plates and have a look at what is happening. (CAN BE VERY STICKY!!)
Take the paper and bag out of the plates carefully and open it up gently to expose the bags. and remove the outer bag, leaving the inner bag closed and secure.. DO NOT OPEN this inner bag!! Use gloves and be careful how you handle this for min sticky mess. Set aside the cut off bag (we will deal with this later and the old paper) and use a new directional fold paper if you want.
But before you do that lets do a test. Take the inner bag and do this TAP test like in the video below. That is THCA and you did it right and lets continue! DO NOT OPEN THE INNER BAG!!
Hour 4 and the last hour! - 70C. This will be a fast hour. Lots to do in a small amount of time! Lets get started!
Reposition your THCA patty back into the plates in a directional paper as before. SLOWLY apply 2 tonnes (yes 2 tonnes..metric!) of pressure slowly over the next 2 minutes. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Apply another 1 tonne of pressure over the next 1 minute. Let it sit for another 15 minutes. You should now be at 3 tonnes. Apply the last ton of pressure over the next one minute. Let it sit for 30 mins.
It now should be pretty much terpene free and look something like the images below.
And the other side below..
Open the bag gently.
Cut the bag open, while being careful to not disturb the contents too much.. break it just enough to help get it out of the bag.
Once the bag is emptied, you can further process this to remove any 'terpene coloured" parts with a sharp knife or razor blade.
This will greatly enhance the end look of your diamonds, once we are done. Below you can see the cut off terpene coloured THCA. Save it. Smoke it as it is! It will still have a bit of flavour and is delicious! Raw and well pressed THCA has minimal flavour. If anything it has a heavy hash like taste. Almost a neutral hash taste if that makes any sense..
Below you can see the 'cleaned up' raw THCA.
Set this aside for now.
Remember the bag you cut off and any other terpene laden items.. now is the time you can press them clean. Just put all the extra bags in between paper and press it hard and fast. 10 secs at 3 tonnes is fine. No need for subtle pressing here. Slam it to 4-5 tonnes. You are just cleaning up empty bags that have terpenes left in them.
To be continued...Skiffy! haha!