The Cold Cure

The Cold Cure

Developers are in the middle of a race to see how freeze-drying technology can be applied to dry and harden weeds faster, making a process that could take weeks almost instantaneous. Drying cannabis after harvesting removes water from the flowers so that it can be smoked or evaporated properly. Drying usually takes 10 to 14 days. The flowers are then cured for a week to a month to remove additional moisture, preserve the buds and help preserve flavor and potency. Using freeze-drying technology, he completes within a day or hours what used to take weeks.

Common drying and curing include hanging dried buds, mason jars, burps, and commercial tools that enable the finishing process, but freeze-drying technology is rapidly changing the landscape. increase. But does that process really work? Will more cannabis companies consider adopting this technology in the future? high times We checked with experts about this relatively new drying and curing method. There are different tools available for drying, freeze-drying, curing, or preparing to cure, and some are designed specifically for drying cannabis.

“It’s a different technology” Oaksterdam instructor Geoff Jones To tell high timessaid that the process of freeze-drying traditionally dried and cured cannabis is like comparing personal production preferences, such as hand-trimmed cannabis to machine-trimmed cannabis. pointed out. While the flowers differ in texture, they actually differ in size, potency, or nug structure.

Mr. Jones has taught the medical cannabis field in California for more than 20 years, co-founding the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative (OCBC) in 1995 and helping to form the Oak Stardom. Jones admits it’s not the same as line-dried cannabis or traditionally dried flowers, but believes there’s room for freeze-dried cannabis in the cannabis field.

Several companies are leading the way in finding the most efficient solutions for reducing drying and curing times. Avoiding line drying systems also helps reduce other problems such as mold.

WAVE, a company that manufactures freeze dryers in Vienna, Austria, is one of the companies making use of this innovative technology. Alejandro Serdas, general manager of WAVE Freeze Dryers USA, a veteran cannabis industry veterinarian, says freeze-drying cannabis makes the post-production process more energy efficient and offers other benefits. .

“There are a series of benefits, such as energy efficiency, avoidance of mold during the process, and preservation,” says Serdas.

Each company we spoke with offers machines with different benefits, often using patent-pending technology.

high times magazineOctober 2022

The technology behind freeze-drying

Traditional freeze dryers process cannabis by freezing the flowers, then reducing pressure and applying heat to turn the frozen water within the buds directly into steam, or sublimation. With this in mind, each company offers different processes.

“You basically start with a material, freeze it for a bit and then put it under vacuum and basically sublimation happens,” says WAVE CEO Dan Berlin. “The ice quickly turns into steam. [moisture] Unlike traditional freeze-drying, which takes out all the water when making things like freeze-dried berries. We strive to treat cannabis effectively so that it does not have to go through all the drying and curing stages. “

On the other hand, Cryo Cure’s patented design has some key differences from traditional freeze-drying methods, which the company wants to distinguish for those new to freeze-drying. increase.

“We work hard to get the public to understand the difference between freeze-drying and cryo-curing because they both use a freeze-dryer. It couldn’t be more different,” explains Tracy McAfee, CEO of CryoCure. This system keeps more trichomes and terpenes intact than traditional freeze-drying.

The company says the Cryo Cure system’s freezing temperatures and drying times are more fine-tuned for cannabis than similar products. The cryocure process involves freezing cannabis or industrial hemp at -20 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 or more hours to preserve the shape and integrity of the flower, and some models include a freezer for this purpose. is built-in. As with other freeze dryer models, the frozen product is placed under vacuum pressure into the material chamber.

Keirton Inc. and Tridome Technologies launched the Velos Cold Cure Process and Velos Essence, combining a drying and extraction process in their own machines while preserving quality and preserving tarps. Velos Essence can capture essential oils for use in flavors, edibles, beverages, fragrances, and pharmaceuticals in vaping cartridges.

“Velos Essence is a patent-pending process for extracting terpenes. It extracts the full terpene profile—monoterpenes and everything from fresh cannabis,” says Keelton CEO Jay Evans.

Terpenes are the chemicals in cannabis that give the plant its taste and aroma. These volatile hydrocarbons also influence pot’s effectiveness and are classified by the number of carbon units they contain and are classified as monoterpenes containing two isoprene units.

“About 80% is extracted, so the flowers can be used for other extractions, and terpenes can be added after extraction,” Evans explains. “So there’s a lot of the extraction process, which damages the monoterpenes. This makes everything happen organically.”

Velos also has new products that are still in development. Even burping, a process that allows moisture and CO2 to escape during the curing process, can be automated.

“It’s called the Cure Pak,” Evans says. “This is a device, not yet released, but a device that plugs into a traditional trash can or tote that automatically monitors the gases inside the tote along with the temperature and humidity, allowing those gases to reach a certain concentration. I’ll burp my tote bag when I reach “level.” “

WAVE’s freeze dryer technology is active.

Save time and improve efficiency

Final curing using a freeze dryer takes less than 24 hours. Nearly every company we spoke with offers a similar schedule of about 12-24 hours. Using technology usually means money for companies looking to improve efficiency. From collecting buds to harvesting can now be completed in a few days.

“Maybe it takes a few days, but then we can pack it,” says Cerdas. “I don’t need that much” [normal] process. “

But if you don’t want your cannabis flowers to dry as much as other traditional freeze-dried materials, you can always expect the same results from your freeze-drying system unless the settings are tailored to your specific needs for cannabis flowers. There is no limit.

“Traditional freeze-drying, even with a freeze-dryer, works as long as you can control it, if you know the right parameters, so it preserves the terpenes,” says McAfee and CryoCure. Founder Greg Bowman said. “In a nutshell, what we are doing is being able to skip the hanging stage of drying and go straight to final curing. It cuts down from ~2 weeks indoor hanging drying to 12-16 hours depending on cultivar density.”

Conventional freeze dryers are designed to remove all moisture, which is not what is required for smokable flowers.

“So that’s where our secret sauce lies. We set the perfect recipe so that it doesn’t strip out all the terpenes and water,” Bowman says. “We started to realize that there weren’t that many companies making refrigerators to choose from. It is made and specialized for different industries.”

When using a conventional freeze dryer, it is not specifically designed for batches of cannabis flowers. And companies like Cryo Cure are already mitigating many of these issues, making it a more cost-effective purchase for growers.

“Downtime is worth dollars,” Bowman says.

The Velos Cold Cure process offers a similar schedule, with potentially significant efficiency gains.

“Post-harvest drying, which used to take 10 to 14 days, or 10 to 20 days, depending on how we do it, can be reduced to one day,” says Evans.

Hand-dried cannabis (left) and freeze-dried cannabis (right).

What do buds feel like?

Although the size of the buds is the same, some say that the texture is slightly different. Freeze-dried flowers range in texture and weight from light popcorn to nearly indistinguishable from hang-dried cannabis. The quality of flowers depends on which machines and processes are used.

Therdas said WAVE goes beyond simply freeze-drying the flowers, because freezing the flowers causes irreparable damage to the cell walls.

Typical freeze-drying “ends up producing flowers that look and feel like popcorn, but they crumble,” he explains. “Along with that damage comes the horrifying problem of massive loss of terpenoids to low-temperature boiling caused by a combination of vacuum and temperature.”

Theldas prefers to call his cannabis “sharp-dried” rather than freeze-dried.

“Basically, sharp dried flowers are very similar in feel, smoke and behavior to regular hanging dried flowers,” he says.

The difference in texture may not matter too much to everyone, especially those whose main concern is keeping cannabis fresh for as long as possible.

“What I can say about this freeze is that it won’t capture 100% of the market, but it will have a similar niche as Folgers coffee or any processed ingredient that can be stored quickly.” says Jones. “Because if you put this stuff in a wiretap bag and you want it to last for two years, just because it doesn’t taste good doesn’t mean the herbs you put in yourself are delicious. Gender will change.”

WAVE’s Freeze Dryer model is also attractive to extraction artists, as the texture of the original flower is less important.

“Some people are using this equipment for bubble hashing in their extraction business,” says Serdas. “And this is always interesting because the benefits it brings are quite different from what has happened in the past. No, it turns out to be damaged.” Anohana. And it tastes weird and I feel like people really hate it. “

Some agree on the difference in texture, but think it’s better.

“There are obvious differences. First, the color and appearance is much better than traditional dried flowers,” says Serdas. “Often the terpene profile is better. What traditional customers are not used to is the texture.

One of the benefits of freeze-dried cannabis is that it can be stored for a long time.

“It needs to be stored in a light-tight, airtight container, and it will last a long time,” says McCaff. “I have some samples that have been in the cupboard for about three years. They look exactly the same. and said, “Wow, that’s good.” And also it’s 2 years old!

How the consumer market reacts to freeze-dried cannabis remains to be seen, but the benefits in terms of time savings for producers are undeniable.

This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of the magazine. high times magazine.

Chris M.

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