This past spring/summer of 2018, I was approached by a fellow named Nick Dunne, He asked if I would be interested in lending my views and experience in a rosin story he wanted to do for Lift&co Magazine. After checking his credentials and asking a few questions it was clear to me he was on the level and so I agreed to do this.
He called me and we chatted for about a hour and he recorded our conversation. Over the next few weeks we communicated back and forth and he finished it about a month before the publish date of September 26, 2018.
I was pretty excited to see this come to print. I want to thank NIck and Lift&Co Magazine for the opportunity to do this!
The story is below.
The Rundown on Rosin
Using pressure and high temperatures, the 'solventless' cannabis extract can be made at home with a surprising technique.
By Nick Dunne • Sep 26, 2018
Imagine a cannabis extract that’s free of harmful solvents and richer in terpenes. It can be made at home in under 15 minutes, without needing to work with more dangerous substances like butane. Well, imagine no more: Meet rosin.
Rosin is a solventless extract made by pressing buds or hash with heated plates to squeeze oils out of the flower. What comes out is a sticky resin-like oil that can be vapourized on a dab rig. Rosin falls under the umbrella of extracts, which are concentrated cannabis products that often come in a sticky, resinous form. Rosin is similar to butane hash oil (BHO), the most commonly found extract on the market, in its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrations and ability to be worked into different textures such as budder or wax.
To explain the history and science behind rosin, we contacted James (we're withholding his last name), owner of rosin press manufacturer Cannaplates. Cannaplates is a legal business, but concentrates (and edibles) will remain illegal for up to a year after recreational cannabis becomes legal on Oct. 17. However, legally obtained dried flower can be used to make rosin at home.
History of rosin
High temperatures and pressure have been used for thousands of years to make perfumes and oils, but its application to cannabis is a surprisingly recent development. The extraction method caught on among diehard extract aficionados in 2015 after grower Soilgrown Solventless uploaded a (now-deleted) video to Instagram pressing rosin with a hair straightener. Since then, the rosin pressing community has grown in size and sophistication.
Extraction companies such as Soilgrown now produce rosin at a larger scale, and equipment manufacturers such as CannaPlates and Pure Pressure have popped up in recent years. James started pressing his own rosin four years ago after watching Soilgrown’s video, and says the little-known extract is coming into its own on the consumer market.
“Once legalization hits, it’s going to open things big time.”
Solvent vs. solventless extracts
Rosin’s main appeal is that it’s a solventless extract. Most weed extracts are made by using solvents—typically butane or propane—that dissolve the THC, cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids from the flower. Once extracted from the plant, the solvent is eliminated through a purging process, and what’s left is the extract.
However, the key problem with these extracts is that residual solvents can still remain in the oil even after the purge. Even high-quality industrial extraction machines will produce butane hash oil that contains residual solvents. Granted, it can test incredibly low, but the exact level of solvent concentrations can’t be known until the extracts are tested. But because rosin is extracted by heat pressing and not through a chemical process, there are no traces of chemical solvents in the product.
There hasn’t been much published medical research on the health effects of consuming BHO, nor is there a universally agreed-upon “safe” concentration of residual solvents in cannabis extracts. But the idea of smoking trace particles butane may not be appealing to everyone. Cannabis testing labs often test residual solvent concentrations in extracts, and states such as Colorado that have legalized cannabis are still tinkering with the acceptable concentrations of residual solvents.
Regardless, users should consider the health risks from ingesting trace solvents when using solvent-derived extracts, especially if they’re using them for medical purposes.
James says rosin also preserves the cannabis buds’ terpenes better than solvent-made extracts, giving better flavour to the dab. Terpenes evaporate at high temperatures, which means exposure to heat will degrade them over time. With pressing rosin, James says the buds are only exposed to a maximum temperature of around 100℃ for about a minute, leaving minimal damage to the plant’s terpenes. Meanwhile, the purging process in solvent extraction exposes the bud to low heats (100-120℉) for several days. Over time, this damages the terpenes, which “mutes” their effects, according to James.
How pressing rosin works
You get what you put in: When pressing rosin, the quality of the bud directly impacts the size and quality of your yield. For ideal results, you’ll want to press fresh, high-THC bud. Because the press is squeezing the oils out of the trichomes, product that's fresh and ripe with trichomes will produce more rosin.
Humidity is key: Storing your bud in a sealed environment with humidity packs will keep it fresher and optimized for pressing. Dry bud will absorb the oils. By maintaining a humidity level of around 60-62%, your bud will be ideal for pressing.
Decarbing “rosin chips” for edibles: The remaining squeezed flower can be used for edibles. James has provided a technique on his website doing so.
Different temperatures, different textures: Cooler temperatures and extended press times can alter the texture and consistency of rosin. James has a rough guide on what a given temperature/time combination will generate.
Pressing rosin at home
Making rosin yourself is relatively safe compared to working with highly flammable substances such as butane and propane. Using solvents is always risky, and James warns of the vast amounts of misinformation on the internet for making butane hash oil.
“There’s a ton of information on BHO on the internet. Most of it is wrong,” he says.
Learning to properly make BHO can take years, according to James. And even then, a simple mistake can lead to serious injuries and death.
“I can’t stress this enough: it’s dangerous,” says James.
Even though a proper rosin home press is fairly affordable and easy to use, the most basic press is probably in your bathroom drawer—a hair straightener works in a pinch. Here's how to do it:
- Place a nug on a piece of parchment paper and fold the paper over it. With the hair straightener on its lowest heat setting (around 280-330F), give it a squeeze for five to seven seconds.
- Remove the parchment paper from the straightener, peel off the squeezed nug and let the sticky rosin cool down for about five to ten minutes.
- Gently collect the rosin with a dab tool or a toothpick, and it’s ready to be vaporized on a dab rig. The product will be tasty and provide a clean, smooth high. To avoid plant matter getting into your rosin, you can purchase micron screen bags that filter the rosin out from the plant.
Caution should still be exercised when making rosin. Hair straighteners can burn, and there are risks when working with hot plates and a hydraulic press. Of course, James says the machinery and equipment should be properly used.
“Just keep your fingers and toes out, and you’ll be fine.”