What Is Live Resin?

Live Resin Concentrate
Photo by: Roxanna Gonzales/Shutterstock

There are countless products and creations that come from cannabis strains; it's truly a gift that keeps growing and giving.

Live resin is a relatively new gift. It's popping up everywhere in popular dispensaries, as marijuana consumers are realizing that this method of extraction is yielding amazing results with higher terpene content and cannabinoid purity.

Impossible? Not at all. It's live resin, and this concentrate is here to stay.

What Is Live Resin?

Live resin is a specific type of cannabis concentrate that is made using a special technique and is known for its flavor and potency. The method is centered around using living cannabis. This is done by taking freshly harvested cannabis and sometimes freezing it both before and during the extraction process.

The amount of time the reaped cannabis is dried and cured before the extraction is another factor that sets it apart from other procedures of extraction, but the main impact comes from the lack of dehydration.

Normally, concentrates are not made from still-living flower or flower that’s frozen immediately after the harvest and throughout extraction. It's usually the opposite.

Instead, decarboxylation is usually the go-to process. Decarboxylation (the scientific word for drying and curing) is a process that deeply affects terpenes—the oils within the plant's cells that contribute to flavor. The terpenes are typically depleted with increased exposure to oxygen, heat, and light. Terpenes and terpenoids are huge contributing factors to the unique taste and smell of each strain of cannabis, and there are hundreds of (identified) types.

Live resin avoids this terpene reduction by opting for a fresh route. Without drying and curing, the flower remains "live," even with freezing temps throughout the process. The result: the cannabis maintains its terpene content. The flavors are vivid, fully aromatic, and much more potent than other forms of concentrates.

Terpene content is the biggest distinction between live resin and normally decarboxylated flower. However, an additional perk is that live resin concentrates have a much higher THC content. For comparison, average plant matter can contain up to 25% THC. With live resins, it can be as much as 80-90% THC. This has a large appeal to members of the cannabis community, for the obvious benefits of high THC levels. However, since the main purpose of live resin is higher terpene levels, THC does vary and can take a backseat to other properties.

Origin Story

Live Resin Concentrate on Dabber
Photo by: Roxanna Gonzales/Shutterstock
Live resin is a newer addition to the marijuana world. Between 2011 and 2013, a group of Coloradan growers and extractors got together and decided to try new methods of extraction. These guys, including EmoTek Labs founder "Giddy Up" and his partner "Kind Bill," are credited with introducing live resin into the mainstream. Their idea of using frozen fresh plants, plus a BHO extractor of their own creation, hit the cannabis markets and consumers have not looked back.

How It's Made

While the marijuana world has many do-it-yourself solutions for many products, live resin is not something that can really be made at home. The process requires specialized knowledge and equipment and comes with the "do not try at home" disclaimer.

The extraction process starts immediately after the cannabis plant is cut. After it has been severed, the plant begins to instantly lose terpenes, so quickness and efficiency are of upmost importance. Often times, the plant undergoes a freezing process to try and preserve the terpenes before they continue to further deplete.

As this freezing happens, the trichomes (the glands that produce the resin, in addition to the CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids) become very fragile and brittle. Careful, tender, and steady hands must handle the cannabis with caution to avoid causing any damage, especially breaking off any limbs.

In contrast to the normally decarboxylated cannabis, this freshly frozen plant has a high water content. The extraction of the live resin must be done at sub-zero temperatures to maintain the water content. Usually, butane is used to extract the cannabis oils; with live resin, the best and safest method is with a closed-loop system.

These are systems are extremely costly (around $10,000), and work by cooling and liquidating solvents (such as butane), which can then bond with cannabinoids and terpenes before pulling them from the plant. The chilled liquid butane then goes through a dewaxing process, where the extraction is purified, removing fats, waxes, and lipids. Heat is then applied to the mix, boiling the solvent out. What's left is a concentrated oil, chock-full of tasty terpenes and filled with pure cannabinoids.

The used butane is then re-pressurized and chilled, so it can be used again. This cyclical transformation is where the name closed-loop comes from.

Types of Concentrates

Concentrates have several forms and consistencies, based off of user preference. When live resin is added into the creation process, options unfold. Live resin can be transformed into saps, sugars, jellies, butters, and shatters.  The following are concentrates that could potentially be made with live resin.

Live Resin Sauce

Live Resin Sauce, more commonly known as terp sauce or terp juice, is all about consuming terpenes in their flavorful form, resulting in high-quality potency. With about 60% more terpenes and 40% more THC than average concentrates, live resin sauce is made using butane hash oil, and like most live resin products, either freshly cut cannabis material or a flash-freezing process. It's usually stringy and has a wiggling property when poured.

Live Resin Sugar

Sugar wax is a concentrate recognizable for its grainy texture and fullness of flavor. Often made both intentionally and by accident, sugar wax is thick and less sticky and tends to be rich in terpenes, resulting in complex flavors. Crystals are formed as lipids in the wax breakdown and separate from the cannabinoids and can also come from accidental over-agitation or condensation. Using live resin can deepen and enhance the flavor profiles. When sugars are more sappy, they can often be whipped into more of a buttery consistency.

Live Resin Jelly

Also known as jelly hash, jelly concentrates are a mix of cannabis water hash and cannabis hash oil. Since oil and water are notorious for their separation, the name jelly comes from the pair's inability to mix completely; instead of a single solution, the result looks more like a jiggly jelly-like substance. Jellies are usually potent, so adding live resin into the mix would intensify the flavors.

Live Resin Diamonds

Considered one of the most fragrant and potent of all concentrates are diamonds, made from fresh frozen cannabis plants. In this form of live resin, THCa is singled out—once it's isolated from the extract, large crystals are formed. From there, a high-terpene mix is drizzled over the crystals. The result is a potent, aromatic concentrate that shines bright like a diamond, in a category of its own.

Live Resin Shatter

Shatter has a hard, smooth, and glass-like consistency. Unlike the other options, which are not solid, shatter is more difficult to produce from live resin; the process was already very dependent on temperature (and very easy to mess up), and adding frozen flower into the mix only complicates things. With a translucent amber color and attractive appeal, shatter breaks easily into shards. Moisture, high terpene content, and heat affect the texture, while the live resin contributes heavily to taste.

Live resin is a gift—through creativity and innovation, this new category of concentrate has managed to better preserve the best things about cannabis. With increased aromas, flavors and potency, living flower is a resource that is changing the quality of how marijuana is consumed. Live resin, thankfully, is keeping it fresh.