Keeping Cool: The Key to Live Concentrates
The term “live” in relation to concentrates implies that the cannabis used has not been dried, cured or exposed to high heat. This is to help preserve as many of the natural terpenes in the plant oils as possible. Heat and evaporation contribute to terpene loss, so most producers seek to minimize both conditions. How they do this, differs depending on their end product.
If you’re a grower (and a smoker) you are likely familiar with the process for preparing your buds for consumption. Cannabis flowers meant for smoking are prepared by first drying (they must lose enough moisture that they don’t risk becoming moldy) and then slowly curing them over a period of weeks to bring out the best flavors.
SKIPPING DRYING AND CURING
When it comes to live resin, the process can differ significantly. Some concentrate processors skip drying and curing and use fresh frozen plants instead. With fresh frozen plants, the plant material is almost immediately frozen after a rough “wet” trim. In this case, mold doesn’t have time to develop and early exposure to low temperatures saves many of the terpenes that would normally be lost to evaporation during drying and curing.
The curing too is skipped, because where live concentrates are concerned, it does more harm than good. Curing is an important step in preparing flowers to be smoked because, among other things, it allows the leafy portions to mellow out the “lawn clipping” flavor of fresh cut (or fresh dried) grass. But when making live concentrates, as much of the leafy material as possible is removed, so it doesn’t matter as much what the green parts taste like.
The rest of the “live” processes are similar to a normal run, but with temperatures kept low to retain as many of the terpenes as possible. A benefit to live concentrates is that since more of the terpenes are kept, they can contribute to the flavor. Waiting time from harvest to processing is also reduced and once frozen the material can be stored as long as needed before use.
Because of the additional work involved, live products tend to command a higher price than their conventional counterparts. They are well respected among cannabis connoisseurs and have done well in competitions.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TERPS
An alternative to live resin that is more popular with producers than consumers, is the addition of foreign terpenes to fractionally distilled concentrates. The process basically separates the different components (THCa, terpenes, etc.), which can then be remixed (with or without additional terpenes) in precise amounts which mimic the levels and flavor of live resin (or a variety of other flavor profiles).
With this method the starting quality of the cannabis is less important as the flavor and character will be added by terpene formula. This makes a repeatable, consistent product possible, which are traits consumers are traditionally attracted to. In traditional commercial products consistency is a factor. For example, there is an expectation that one box of Brand G breakfast cereal will be very similar to previous boxes of Brand G breakfast cereal.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE CANNABIS MARKET?
With cannabis, unless individuality continues to be valued (think live resin aficionados or other very refined cannabis consumers you know) it is likely pave the way for a market-driven and mass-produced product. The wine industry is an interesting point of comparison. We can all agree that when it comes to fine wines, individuality counts. Whether the cannabis industry will follow suit – with consistency favored over individual taste profiles -- is at this point, anyone’s guess. That part of the cannabis story has yet to be written.