A look at the cannabis market will show that the growth rate in sales for live resin has been outpacing most cannabis-related products since 2019. Flower may continue to dominate the industry, but concentrates — especially live resin — are beginning to catch up.
In 2021, the growth rate in sales for live resin in California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, was more than double that of the entire market for concentrates, which increased by 14%.
This trend will only continue to rise, so it’s worth understanding what’s fueling the demand for live resin and its soaring popularity.
What makes cured resin and live resin different?
A discussion about live resin will naturally require an explanation of what resin is by itself.
Resin is the substance that cannabis extract artists capture from the plant’s crystal-white glandular hairs, also known as trichomes.
These resin glands contain terpenes, the chemicals endowing each cannabis flower with its unique signature flavor and aroma, as well as cannabinoids, the compounds responsible for the plant’s medical and psychoactive properties.
Producers use different methods to extract the resin to create a variety of products from it. From budder or badder to sauce, jam, and shatter—resin is the basis of all concentrates.
Resin-derived products can be categorized into two different types: live resin and cured resin. What sets the two apart is the post-harvest process.
When producers dry and cure a cannabis plant, they extract cured resin. When they flash-freeze the cannabis plant immediately after harvesting, they extract live resin.
Cured resin is cheaper and faster to make, whereas live resin requires more time and comes at a higher price, but it also offers a much richer cannabis experience.
Let’s find out why. Part of the reason lies in how it’s extracted.
How is live resin extracted?
Like cured resin, live resin relies on solvent-based extraction methods involving expensive equipment handled by expert producers. The process can be challenging and even dangerous, which means only the pros should be carrying it out.
When it comes to live resin specifically, ensuring the flash-frozen plant material is properly maintained is no simple task. After the plant is cut, it’s immediately frozen to conserve the flower’s unique properties.
Here’s the problem: freezing trichomes makes them brittle, so if they’re not handled with care, they can easily break.
Then there’s the issue with the space required for freezing and storing the plants. Since they don’t go through curing and drying, the whole plant is used, which means it’ll take up double the storage space as cured plants. Extracting resin from a larger plant means the process takes longer.
Now comes the most complicated part of the process: managing that delicate combination of low pressure, flammable compounds like butane, and cold temperature to extrude the resin out of the frozen plant.
A closed-loop system is commonly utilized to infuse the frozen buds with butane. The chemicals in the butane bond with the cannabinoid and terpene receptors to flush them out of the buds.
Once the lipids, fats, and waxes are extracted, the solution is heated to flush out the butane into a solvent tank so it can be reused after. Hence the term “closed-loop,” as the system reuses the solvent.
The cold temperatures used in the process allow the toxins leftover from the solvent to be fully purged, as they’re not water-soluble. The key takeaway here is that when live resin is properly extracted, it doesn’t contain any residue from the solvents used in the process.
Finally, the fact that live cannabis flower was used in the extraction process, is what ultimately influences the unique experience of live resin. A huge part of why live plant material has such an impact on the end product lies in its high cannabinoid potency but especially in its rich terpene content.
The magic of live resin is in the terpenes
The special love for live resin resides in how it captures the unique chemical profile of the original cannabis flower.
Live resin offers up to a 90% higher concentration of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid when compared to a regular flower. That said, the love for live resin is less about the level of THC and more about the terpenes, the chemicals that give each cannabis flower its unique aromas and flavors.
There are hundreds of different terpene compounds in cannabis plants, and each one has unique properties.
Pinene gives off an earthy pine scent and is believed to offer anti-inflammatory properties. Limonene is known for its citrusy fragrance and may be useful in uplifting one’s mood.
Then there’s myrcene, the most common terpene found, which exudes a clive-like, peppery scent. It’s the terpene most associated with sleep and stress relief.
On the flip side, cannabis contains terpene compounds like caryophyllene, which have denser chemical compositions. They tend to give the cannabis plant its stronger muskier odors.
When cannabis is dried and cured, more of the terpenes with the fruitier or floral fragrances evaporate because their chemical composition is simpler and lighter.
But the heavier, more pungent terpenes can withstand the evaporation during the curing process, so more of them remain, and will be more present in the final product.
When flash-frozen cannabis flower is used, the full spectrum of the original plant’s signature terpenes is conserved, giving way to a more faithful rendition of its range of tastes and smells.
What’s more, terpenes don’t only influence the cannabis plant’s aroma and flavor, they also have therapeutic properties.
When terpenes work in tandem with the cannabinoids that cause the psychoactive sensations, they give rise to what is known as the entourage effect: the complete cannabis experience, with its complex variety of flavors, aromas, and medicinal and sensorial effects.
This is the ultimate treasure found in live resin. Its ability to more precisely capture the original cannabis plant's rich essence.
What products can you make from (live) resin?
Live resins vary in potency, flavor, aroma, and thickness, as do their psychoactive and medicinal effects. These characteristics, in turn, depend on the original cannabis strain of the plant used, and how it was grown.
As with standard resin products and other cannabis concentrates, producers use different methods of altering the live resin produced after extraction to achieve varying textures and consistencies.
That’s part of the reason why you get such a range of end products.
For example, shatter is created by taking the extract after it’s been purged of solvents and then poured into a giant parchment paper to dry. What you get is a concentrate with a smooth hard texture that’s easily breakable, like glass.
The resin concentrate called crumble has a dry bumpy texture, which is achieved by purging the resin extraction at low heat and adding vacuum time to pull the solvent from the resin.
There’s waxy live resin whose consistency is easier to manage. If it resembles cake frosting or butter, it’s rightfully called badder or budder. This kind of end product is achieved by whipping up the concentrate at the end of the extraction process to help purge the solvents. That’s what gets you the waxy consistency.
Concentrates like budder, crumble, and shatter look more uniform because of how the cannabinoids and terpenes are integrated.
Then you have resin concentrates such as a terpene-rich sauce and cannabinoid-rich diamonds, a dual-product made at the same time.
Their extraction process is drawn out longer and the temperature is further manipulated to control the rate at which the solvents are removed.
This allows the cannabinoids to crystalize to form diamonds while the leftovers after the diamonds come out become a sauce. Hence the names.
The point here is that the combination of dabbing diamonds with their sauce gives the user a rich taste with an amazing high.
How is live resin consumed?
There are many ways to consume live resin, but the most common and effective would be through dabbing or vaping with a cartridge.
While vaping offers simplicity and mobility, using a dab rig will be able to offer the best experience. Given live resins’ varying viscosity, you might need special dab tools for scooping the concentrate into the "banger" of the rig.
The easier way to consume live resin is with a dab pen, which works just like a vape pen but with the different concentrate.
Is live resin worth the price?
Understandably so, as live resin is harder to make, it is more expensive. Why cured resin or live resin concentrates is a very personal choice.
For those connoisseurs passionate about exploring the best of each cannabis plant's unique properties, from its flavor and aroma to its medicinal and psychoactive properties, live resin is the only option.