Live resin header image from Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

When discussing the merits of live resin vs. rosin, there are a lot of angles to consider both for brands and consumers. Both concentrates can pique the interest of consumers while providing brands with lucrative, highly sought-after SKUs.

But what are rosin and live resin? A fair deal of confusion can be expected when first entering the space. There is never any shame in asking what is live resin or what is rosin, especially when first stepping into the cannabis market. These two extracts are just the tip of a seemingly ever-growing iceberg of concentrates. Between solventless and solvent-based extracts, the varieties are seemingly endless, but some key distinctions give customers the opportunity to purchase a product that best fits their needs and budget. 

Today’s focus will mainly center on the rosin vs resin debate, touching on what exactly makes both so popular, how they’re made, and which one is the best choice for consumers and businesses alike. 

Live Resin Vs. Rosin: What’s The Difference? 

Before diving into the nuances of live resin and live rosin, it is essential to mention that both are considered cannabis concentrates, or extracts, depending on who you ask. While they fall under the same broad umbrella, live resin and live rosin have substantial differences, essentially putting them on the opposite ends of the resin extract spectrum, despite being made from similar source material. Now, let’s explore some of those key differences. 

Golden in color and often granular in appearance, live resin stands out in several ways beyond our sight and smell. Primarily, it can be considered a step above the rest of the pack of concentrates made with solvents. Live resin serves as one of the best reasons to extract using fresh frozen flower when using hydrocarbon processing. The process helps retain the natural terpenes lost during the cultivation and extraction process used by numerous other popular concentrates on the market that use dried, cured cannabis instead. 

Using fresh frozen flower allows live resin to provide consumers with a product that retains significantly more of its original terpene profile. It’s typically well above any other solvent-based extracts that use dried-and-cured source material, giving it the upper hand when comparing live resin vs. non-live hydrocarbon options. The naturally retained terpenes in live resin tend to create a more enjoyable consumption experience than other solvent-based products that are often made with lower quality source material, or are blended with non-single source terpenes or distillate. Live resin helps provide more of the natural full-plant experience, which many proponents believe is the optimal way to experience a cultivar’s true effects. 

A significant selling point to the live resin full-plant experience is its potency. Like other extracted items, live resin helps increase the strength of a cannabis product well above flower. Depending on its source material and production process, live resin’s THC percentage can reach between 65% and 95%.

On the other hand, live rosin is frequently considered to be the top concentrate on the market thanks to its robust aromas, flavor, and whole plant experience that are all possible without any solvents in the extraction process whatsoever. While live resin excels at terpene retention compared to other solvent options, live rosin is comparably terpene and cannabinoid rich, if not more so in some cases. Rosin is a time-honored extraction process that, as a technique, that has taken significant steps from its early days of using hair straighteners and parchment paper to create the golden, oily extracts produced using the right amount of heat and pressure. Now days, craft producers across the world are making live rosin and solventless concentrates that many connoisseurs consider to be vastly superior to live resin, which has driven enormous growth in the category as markets have matured.

The use of heat and pressure without solvents helps live rosin retain more of the plant’s natural mono and sesquiterpenes, so that customers can experience an aroma and flavor exactly as the live flowers were at harvest. Live rosin’s ability to maintain the original essence of its terpenes, cannabinoids, flavonoids, and other organic compounds is critical in delivering consumers with the full-plant experience. This experience can be enjoyed in several consumption forms, from dabs to vape cartridges to edibles. While rosin tends to reach substantial THC potency levels, often topping 80%, expertly crafted live resin tends to edge it out. That said, both should deliver a dosage of THC that most consumers, medical or recreational, should require to satisfy their needs or wants.

Those looking to produce their concentrates for business or personal use have to consider the process that comes with each item. Live resin will almost assuredly come with startup costs well into the six figures, whereas rosin will likely run into the mid-five figure range for a commercial lab, and significantly less than that for a home enthusiast. 

The uptick in live resin costs stems from the solvents used in the process and the safety precautions that come with its certification. The additional safety measures run from installing more sophisticated exhaust and fire extinguisher systems to building full-scale, blast-safe rooms to mitigate any explosions or fires (known as C1D1 rooms). On the other hand, live rosin and ice water hash production tends to be a much less intricate process due to its natural elements. The shift from hair straighteners to dedicated machinery helped increase consistency of solventless products significantly, leading to what many are calling the “rosin revolution” that we’re experiencing today. 

How To Make Live Resin 

While making live resin requires skill and precision, once mastered it as a pretty routine process that entry level lab technicians can handle easily. When performed correctly and using top-tier plant material, the result is one of the most potent and pliable products around. That said, the live resin extraction process is one that requires pressurized hydrocarbons and is not always made with premium quality material.

To reiterate, the key to live resin’s success is found in the first step and its use of fresh frozen flower. Instead of beginning the drying and curing phase, freshly harvested flower is flash-frozen in subcritical temperatures around -20°F to -40°F to lock in the plant’s freshness and profile. The clipped cultivars remain frozen throughout the extraction process. Typically, producers begin extracting within a day and a half of harvesting. At this point, live resin begins to resemble other solvent-based extraction methods. The frozen plant material is introduced to hydrocarbon solvents that pass through the flower, which dissolved the cannabinoids and terpenes into a resinous mixture. The most common solvent used is butane, but combinations of propane and ethane are sometimes used as well. 

Then, the solvent-resin mixture is emptied onto trays which are then put into a vacuum oven to purge off the residual solvents for consumption, or are put into jars to be pressurized to “crash” and make THCA diamonds and sauce. A variety of separations, textures, and modifications can be made depending on the type of material used and how it’s processed. While plenty of live resin is made with high quality clean cannabis, the fact remains that live resin and BHO extraction are often used to remediate cannabis that won’t pass testing for a variety of reasons, including mold, bugs, pesticides, and so on. It’s also much easier to mask low quality starting material with BHO processing because of all of the ways color can be modified in the end product, where consumers often associate lightness or high clarity with quality.

Like most cannabis concentrates, live resin extraction has its variety of processes employed by producers to achieve different end SKUs. In time, as producers gain expertise and wisdom, they are likely to develop their preferred methods for creating unique forms of live resin, often altering the texture, potency, flavor, aroma and other critical areas of the consumption experience that different consumers seek.

How To Make Rosin

Rosin, to make properly, takes its fair share of skill as well. Unlike live resin, making rosin is a more straightforward method but requires material that is completely contaminant free. Also, like live resin, there are variances to the rosin extraction method. That said, most producers follow a relatively similar process that, instead of relying on solvents, focuses on a process that has been refined for decades. 

Before diving into how the professionals make rosin today, we want to give the nod to the extraction process’s innovators, namely Soilgrown, who is credited with being the first person to discover modern rosin. Those early extractors that found dual uses for a hair straightener helped shape the rosin-making process into what it is today. While the trend is fading away thanks to specialized equipment, scores of DIY producers still rely on the hair straightener rosin method. While it won’t yield the top-tier, high-volume quantities needed for a business, the old school method can do enough of the trick for personal and small-batch use. 

How To Make Rosin Using A Hair Straightener 

Those wondering how to make rosin with a hair straightener should consider following a method that first involves gathering a few household items. Start by picking your cannabis flower, parchment paper, and a tool for collecting the extracted oils. Dabbing tools work well if you have any around. The most crucial piece of equipment is your hair straightener. Ideally, find one with a lower heat setting to avoid any adverse effects to the plant’s terpenes – aim for around 200°F – 250°F, if possible. 

Once everything is collected, turn on the hair straightener, allowing it to reach the temperature as mentioned above. While it heats, place your flower into a folded piece of parchment paper. Press it shut once the flower is positioned on the paper. From there, place the parchment paper and flower onto one side of the heated hair straightener plates. Firmly press the straightener’s clamp down for 5 to 30 seconds to allow for the resin to be extracted. Once completed, turn off the straightener and open the parchment paper for collection and storage. 

While the method may be ideal for inexact home creations, it won’t serve businesses or perfectionists. The hair straightener DIY method has mostly fallen by the production wayside because the tool isn’t suited for rosin extraction. While it got the ball rolling on the endeavor, the truth is that items like hair straighteners, t-shirt presses and other heated plates tend to provide uneven heat distribution on plant material. A varying amount of pressure and heat can result in blowouts or under-extracted parts of the plant. 

Thankfully, innovation makes this much less of a concern today. 

How to Make Rosin With a Rosin Press

The creation of rosin pressing-specific equipment served as a game-changer for producers and consumers alike, allowing for the creation of products that enable rosin to reach its full potential as a potent, versatile extract. Dedicated equipment helped provide rosin producers with what DIY tools could not: even heat, consistent pressure, and overall improved yields by a significant amount. 

Producers can go one or several routes using a rosin press machine, using either flower, hash, or dry sift as their inputs. While newer producers may opt for flower because of its low cost and ease of pressing, it doesn’t tend to make a product that connoisseurs are looking for compared to high quality ice water hash or sift rosin. That said, the vast majority of solventless producers prefer using live bubble hash as their starting material due to its improved quality, aesthetic, and potency. The lighter-in-color extract does require a bit more steps but results in a higher-grade extract if produced using top-grade cultivars. 

With flower, the first step is to layout your flower in a rectangle that fits the parchment paper or, much more commonly, to fill a rosin bag with the flower first. Ensure that the starting material is neither too dry nor damp before pressing (around 60% RH is ideal, as measured in a sealed car with the cannabis). Be sure that you’re starting with enough flower to generate a sizable yield, which is often at least a few grams. Additionally, be sure to use enough paper or a bag large enough to collect the extracted oils. Otherwise, a blowout or messy oily overrun could occur. 

Once in the paper or bag, place the flower onto the bottom plate of your rosin press machine. Select the ideal temperature and press settings. Then, you can begin to press either using a manual or automatic press, depending on the device used. After 30 seconds to approximately 2 minutes, the press should be complete. Check the completed yield and collect the extracted oil into a glass jar.

Like we mentioned before however, most processors prefer pressing hash for a variety of reasons. One of the primary reasons is the flower rosin can take a significant amount of product to generate yields in the 10 to 30% range. Hash yields tend to be larger in volume, as you’re already working with a concentrated product in hash, and you have much more versatility with the end products because the trichomes are pre-separated in the ice water hash process, enabling more SKU potential.

The extraction process should be relatively similar to flower rosin. However, unlike flower, using a rosin bag is a mandatory tool rather than merely a suggestion. Working with hash can lead to blowouts and melted oils that parchment paper can’t stand up to alone. A bag or stainless steel wrap is needed to retain the extracted contents. Even then, be sure not to fill the bag with too large of a hash patty. Otherwise, a messy blowout can occur just like with flower. 

Warm Cure and Cold Cure Rosin

The next step is critical in creating various textures and consistencies using rosin, but is only really available to processors pressing hash rosin. With several options to choose from, cold cure and warm cure rosin provide extractors with ample SKU opportunities while offering consumers a bevy of textures to enjoy and put to use. 

Warm curing sees collected solventless rosin placed in sealed glass containers exposed to temperatures between 90°F and 110°F. The gentle heat creates changes in the rosin, which helps separate the terpenes which can then be siphoned off for cartridges, diamonds and sauce, or other products. Producers can use many methods to expose extracts to the needed amount of heat, but keeping your rosin away from sunlight is strongly suggested. In certain conditions, a jar can be left out at room temperature, which tends to create a product similar to a wet badder.

Other methods, like heating pads and rosin press plates, are also standard tools of the practice. Depending on the method, temperature, and length of exposure, the warm cure rosin approach should see several texture and consistency changes over time. Some hash makers also use non-pressurized table top ovens that enable low warming, which are convenient.

Another method, known as cold curing, takes the opposite approach. Instead of using heat, producers can turn to colder temperatures. Sometimes even just simply cool temperatures can do the trick. Like warm curing, rosin is left in glass jars over some time, ranging anywhere from one day to a week. Temperatures tend to vary between 40°F and 60°F, resulting in creating a variety of other badder-like textures. In addition to appealing to badder enthusiasts, cold curing is a preferred method of many producers and consumers due to its minimal risk to plant profile degradation. 

Like warm curing, cold cure rosin techniques can vary. Some methods can do just fine being left out on a counter in the house for a few days. Others will use a refrigerator to create a cooler, darker setting for its texture to take shape. 

What Is Live Rosin? 

Rosin itself is an incredible concentrate for consumers and businesses alike. So too is live rosin. Both are incredibly valuable and desirable, though there are differences to consider when comparing rosin vs. live rosin. First, what is live rosin? Unlike rosin, live rosin made with bubble hash that was processed from fresh or frozen flower. Like live resin, this retains the original essence of the cannabis plant, but instead of being bathed in chemical solvents, it’s washed with ice and water to separate the trichomes themselves from the cannabis buds. Those trichomes are then filtered, collected, and freeze dried. 

Using fresh or frozen flower might give you an idea of how to make live rosin in the same vein as live resin–and you’d be right in its source material. It’s clear to notice differences in the end product, whether the comparison is live rosin vs live resin or traditional rosin. 

Each item has the potential to do wonders for a company’s SKUs, but only live rosin can typically tout itself as the most flavorful item of the bunch due to its retained plant profile. Keep in mind that its texture will change as well. Unlike rosin and its oily nature, live rosin’s texture will more likely take on a buddery consistency when stored improperly.

Which Is Better? Live Resin or Rosin 

In the battle of live resin vs rosin, a case can be made for either–with some saying the consumer wins out regardless. 

The benefits of rosin and live resin can justify why a consumer would choose either. However, the decision ultimately comes down to preference. Those seeking the highest THC potency possible at the lowest price point may choose live resin. On the other hand, consumers seeking the highest quality, whole plant consumption experience are likely to prefer live rosin. 

The choice for producers can be a bit more complicated. Until recently, it was fair to ask, ‘is rosin profitable for my company?’ Those days are gone, as solventless extraction continues to close the gap in quality and yield production. Coupled with the significantly lower startup costs, and it is clear that rosin and other solventless extracts are undoubtedly worthwhile endeavors for any producer. 

Are you looking to learn more about rosin, live resin or live rosin? Be sure to contact Pure Cannalabs today!