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What are live resin cannabis concentrates?

July 8, 2020

Once a cannabis plant has been harvested, there are many processes between that and the final product that can destroy the plant’s valuable flavors and aromas. Additionally, many extraction techniques purge terpenes and other compounds, leaving the consumer with an odorless concentrate completely devoid of its original essence.

But live resin concentrates are able to capture the flavors and aromas of the living plant through extraction, compared to other types of cannabis concentrates.

What is live resin and how is it made?

Live resin is a type of cannabis concentrate that is produced using a unique technique—freshly harvested cannabis is frozen to a subcritical temperature prior to and throughout the extraction process, skipping the drying and curing phases.

The drying and curing process that a cannabis plant typically undergoes can have a devastating impact on terpenes, the compounds that account for flavor and aroma. They are present in the trichomes, which line virtually every surface of a mature cannabis bud and its surrounding foliage.

During drying and curing, the cannabis plant wicks itself of moisture and chlorophyll. Trichomes may also be subjected to adverse conditions such as: increased exposure to heat, oxygen, and light, and physical agitation, which all can degrade terpenes.

By freezing the plant immediately following harvest, the cannabis plant retains its valuable terpene profile, original flavor, and fragrance through the extraction process and into the final product.

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What does live resin look like?

live resin concentrate

Live resin is typically a dark yellow color. It is a more malleable concentrate, sitting somewhere between a sauce and a wax—not too wet and not quite like taffy.

Like all cannabis concentrates it is extremely sticky, so you’ll need a dab tool to handle it. Depending on the producer, some live resins may have a runny consistency and some may be more solid or waxy.

Where did live resin originate?

Live resin is relatively new to the cannabis concentrate scene. Its humble origins go back to 2011-2013 with a small group of growers and extractors in Colorado.

Among them, William Fenger (also known as “Kind Bill”) and EmoTek Labs founder “Giddy Up” pioneered the live resin extraction process by developing a specialized BHO extractor capable of maintaining the incredibly low temperatures needed to produce live resin.

Together, they were able to preserve terpenes, flavor, and aroma during the extraction process.

What makes live resin different from other cannabis concentrates?

Live resin differs from other concentrates such as shatter, rosin, or other BHO products because of its high terpene content. A more complex terpene profile can deliver a different and more complex experience as well, because of the entourage effect—how all the different cannabis compounds work together to create an experience.

Fans of cannabis extracts tend to place a high value on flavor and aroma as well as effects, so there’s a big demand for live resin concentrates.

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What distinguishes live resins from one another?

live resin

Photo courtesy of Arizona Natural Selections

Products labeled as live resins often differ in viscosity, ranging between saps, sugars, jellies, butters, and even more solid shatters. While terpene concentration can effect viscosity, products can also be mechanically altered post-extraction, such as when saps are whipped into butters.

Some live resins only contain certain lighter terpenes such as pinene and myrcene. A smaller number of terpenes can impact flavor and effects. Variations can occur because some extraction processes fail to capture other terpenes, but the terpene profile also depends on the starting material used.

No matter how a concentrate has been extracted, it is only as potent and palatable as the plant and parts of the plant it came from. Extracts utilizing the whole plant can often have a more complex terpene profile than those utilizing only fresh frozen flowers.

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How to store live resin

Keep live resin cool and in an air-tight container, preferably in a fridge if you can. This will preserve the terpenes and keep it tasting and smelling great for a while.

Leaving it out in the open with the lid off will cause it to dry out quickly, making it harder to handle and damaging the taste.

How to consume live resin

There are a few ways to consume live resin.

Dabbing

Most people dab live resin. To do so you’ll need a dab rig and either a torch and nail or an e-nail. You’ll also need a dabber tool—most likely something with a scoop on it, given live resin’s consistency—to handle the concentrate and put it in the nail.

A good nail temperature is around 550°F—this will preserve the terpenes and flavors without scorching the concentrate.

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Vaping with a dab pen

You can also put your live resin in a dab pen, which is like a vape pen that allows you to put concentrates into it instead of a vape cartridge.

Be sure to use a dabber tool to get the live resin in the oven of the dab pen, then click the button and you’re set.

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Topping off

You can also put some live resin on top of a bowl, joint, or blunt for an added kick.

The evolving popularity of live resin

Live resins have come quite a long way since their Colorado inception. As recently as a few years ago, they were an enigmatic and rare product only found in certain connoisseur markets at premium prices, sometimes exceeding $100 per gram.

Although live resins are still sold at a higher premium than other concentrate products, namely BHOs, nowadays live resin prices are much more affordable and most dispensaries carry a range of options.

As the market for cannabis concentrates continues to demand more flavorful options that offer a more complex experience, live resins will continue to be made. After all, enjoying a concentrate that remains true to the fragrance of the flower it came from is truly a remarkable experience.

This post was originally published on January 31, 2017. It was most recently updated on July 8, 2020.

Patrick Bennett's Bio Image
Patrick Bennett

Patrick lives with his wife and daughter in Denver, where he spends his time writing, photographing, and creating content for the cannabis community.

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