Why Freeze Drying Cannabis for Extraction is Important
Cannabis begins to degrade the moment it’s harvested, losing precious cannabinoids and terpenes. That has serious consequences for cannabis manufacturers, who may need to store their biomass for some time before using it in the production of cannabis oil and other extracts. Fresh is better, and that’s where freeze drying comes in. Freeze drying helps preserve cannabis and its compounds longer and prevents contamination in storage. The end result is fresher flower and higher quality extracts. Here’s everything you need to know about freeze drying in cannabis extraction and how to choose a freeze dryer for your extraction facility.
How does freeze drying cannabis work?
The freeze drying process involves placing frozen cannabis flower under a vacuum and gentle heat to convert the ice directly to vapor, skipping the liquid phase altogether. This process, known as sublimation, dehydrates the flower in an instant without subjecting cannabinoids and terpenes to excess heat or atmosphere , both of which degrade the overall quality of the flower. The result is flash frozen bud that’s better preserved and less likely to develop contaminants or other issues.
What are the benefits of freeze drying cannabis?
Freeze drying can be a fast and effective way to quickly cure cannabis flower shortly after harvest, protecting the cannabinoids and terpenes that are valuable to manufacturers. Freeze drying is much faster than conventional drying and curing methods, which can take several weeks to complete.
In addition to this significant advantage, freeze drying cannabis flower offers the following benefits for cannabis manufacturers:
- Prevents contamination: Because freeze drying removes the need for a drying and curing room, there is much less risk of issues like pest contamination. Freeze dryers also have the ability to control humidity levels and remove moisture that could promote the growth of mold or mildew.
- Saves money and space: Freeze dryers allow cannabis manufacturers to save on square footage and operational costs by eliminating the need for large dryingrooms. It also ensures these non-vertically integrated extraction facilities are able to store fresh, high quality cannabis for future production runs, enabling them to purchase flower in wholesale quantities without diminishing quality.
- Improves shelf life: When stored properly, freeze-dried cannabis can have a shelf life of over a year while retaining its cannabinoid and terpene content. That’s much longer than conventional drying and curing methods.
How do cannabis manufacturers use freeze-dried cannabis?
Extractors are moving toward using freeze-dried cannabis with solvent-based extraction processes like hydrocarbon extraction, SFE, and ethanol extraction. Hydrocarbon extraction or “BHO” is commonly employed in the manufacturing of live resin. Live resin is known for its elevated levels of cannabinoid and terpene content, which offer heightened effects and big flavors. Water is detrimental to many solvent-based extraction methods as excess water reduces the effectiveness of the solvent itself. Better extraction efficiencies are made possible by freeze drying.
Freeze drying isn’t just for cannabis flower; it's for solid concentrates like hash as well. For manufacturers producing fresh hash, freeze dryers ensure their bricks retain their quality and stay free of contaminants just as they do for flower.
What to look for in a freeze dryer for cannabis
There are a few things to look for when choosing a freezer dryer for your cannabis products. Consider the following before buying a freeze dryer for your cannabis extraction facility.
- ETL/UL ratings: ETL and UL certification indicate whether or not a piece of equipment has been tested by third parties and verified to meet compliance standards. Make sure that any freeze dryer you purchase meets these standards to guarantee reliability and safety.
- Pricing: Depending on the size of the operation, freeze dryers can get expensive. At Holland Green Science, our freeze dryers are both functional and affordable. Our Xiros high performance freeze dryers are commonly used across the globe for both pharmaceutical and recreational purposes. Cannabis extraction facilities require significant upfront investment, but our freeze dryers are compact enough to save on cannabis processing equipment costs while remaining large enough to get the job done.
- Capacity: Freeze dryers range in size and temperature, so you’ll need to be sure to choose the right one for your facility. One of Holland Green Science’s newest freeze dryers, The Xiros Mikro, is perfect for those working with minimal space in their labs. Our Xiros Mikro can accommodate up to nine shelves, has an easy to load, low profile design and is UL certified. This unit has been designed to run 24/7 with superior performance. If you are manufacturing products on a commercial scale, you’ll need a freeze dryer that is large enough for your supply. It’s also important to note that equipment sizes can play a direct role in processing times. That’s because larger units often offer faster speeds. A typical freeze drier may be about 20″ W x 20″ D x 30″ H and able to process between 5kg and 7kg per batch. At Holland Green Science, our units range from 8kg ice condenser capacity per 24 hours up to 1,000kg and beyond.
Safety considerations when freeze drying cannabis
There are a few potential hazards and safety concerns to consider when freeze drying cannabis. All manufacturers making use of freeze dryers should be sure to consider the following safety precautions before beginning operations.
- Personal protective equipment: It’s extremely important that personnel wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling freeze-dried cannabis. For example, gloves will protect your skin from the dangers of sub-zero temperatures. Masks and hair nets are also commonly used to minimize the chance of bacteria and other contamination entering the product.
- Testing and maintenance: Regular testing is essential to ensure that laboratory equipment functions correctly. Regular testing offers manufacturers the opportunity to conduct preventive maintenance, keeping machines running smoothly and preventing damage before it interrupts production.
- Proper training: Cannabis manufacturers must provide their personnel with appropriate training for using equipment like freeze dryers. Carefully walking your team through safety procedures and handling instructions will lessen the risk of human error and create a safe working environment for all. Documenting your safety procedures is also a key part of attaining Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification. Find out what it takes to run a GMP ready cannabis business in our comprehensive guide.
Freeze drying for a better cannabis extract
Freeze-dried cannabis extracts are the top tier in quality, aroma, terpene content, and more. That’s why at Holland Green Science, we offer UL-certified freeze dryers and cannabis extraction equipment that can help your team get it done the right way. For more information about how we can help outfit your extraction facility with a freeze dryer of its own, check out the freeze dryer product page here.