Guide To Trichomes and Solventless Extraction



Viviane Schute

Cannabis enthusiast and student of the art of solventless extraction

An understanding of trichomes is vital for rosin extractors. Trichomes carry the highest concentration of compounds that extractors target and cannabis connoisseurs seek, namely cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. The abundance and quality of trichomes in cannabis starting material has a direct impact on the quality and yield of the rosin. 

What Are Trichomes?

What exactly are trichomes? Trichomes are the fine, hair-like outgrowths that cover the surface of cannabis stalks, leaves, and flowers. They appear like tiny shining crystals and give dried flowers that classic sugary look that’s characteristic of high quality cannabis. In general, trichomes have a diverse range of structure and function, but on the cannabis plant they are glandular hairs composed of a stalk and a head. Within these tiny trichomes, and specifically in the glandular head, the cannabis plant produces unique compounds that give our favorite plant it’s magic. 

Trichomes grow all over the cannabis plant, but they’re of the highest quality and quantity on the flowers and surrounding small leaves. Early in the plant’s flowering cycle the trichomes are clear, but toward the end of the lifecycle the trichome heads turn cloudy and then eventually amber. This is an indication of the plant’s maturity and the sign that cannabinoids and terpenes are at a peak level of expression and ripeness. 

Trichome Production

For cannabis cultivators growing for the purpose of rosin production, optimizing trichomes is top priority. It all starts with plant genetics, then environmental factors, plant nutrition, and proper care and handling of the plant itself. 

Slightly stressing the plant during the end of its flowering cycle can stimulate increased trichome production. This is a delicate balance, as too much stress can be detrimental, but just the right amount forces the plant to invest more energy in trichome production as a defense mechanism. Introducing UV-B light and decreasing humidity are two examples of stressors that can be effective. 

Maintaining cool temperatures is another key component of protecting and preserving trichomes. Temperatures over 80 degrees fahrenheit can degrade trichomes and cause terpenes to evaporate, undoing all your work to help the plant reach its top potential.

Preserving and Protecting

Handling cannabis starting material with care is also essential in preserving trichomes. Trichomes are very delicate, which means they can be easily damaged. Avoid rough treatment, mishandling, and over-agitation, as trichome heads can rupture and cause the compounds therein to oxidize. This oxidation has a negative effect on the quality of the rosin, so take extra care to be gentle with cannabis material anytime you’re handling it. 

Trichome Collection

Heat and pressure applied to cannabis material during the rosin extraction process transforms the trichomes it contains, releasing the compounds inside and forcing them to flow away from the pressure. The resulting material is the rosin that we’re after, and it’s the final stop for the trichomes’ long journey from cultivation to harvest to extraction. 

Trichomes can be squished directly from dried and cured cannabis flowers (known as flower rosin) or first isolated and collected before being pressed (known as hash rosin). 

Trichomes collected for hash rosin can be first extracted from the plant using several methods. Possibly the most popular is the ice water extraction method, in which cannabis material is agitated in ice cold water and then filtered out of the water using a set of screens. The screens capture the trichome stalks and heads which are collected from the screens, dried, and then pressed. Bubble hash produces some of the best yields and highest quality rosin available. 

Conclusion

Trichomes are the ultimate prize, and these unassuming little appendages are worthy of all the care and concern they’re given during cultivation, harvest, and handling, and ultimately pressing. When cultivating cannabis for the purpose of rosin extraction, think of yourself as a trichome farmer. Every action you take should be geared toward facilitating the most thorough expression of the plants’ trichomes. 

Trichomes are the ultimate source of truth for the cannabis plant. They capture the genetics of the specific strain and the environment in which the plant was cultivated. Trichomes are like a cannabis plant’s fingerprint and they tell no lies. What story are your trichomes telling?

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