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.
Capitate stalked trichomes are the most prevalent and desirable types of trichomes on the cannabis plant. These look like long, slender tubes with a round globe on the top. 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.
Learn how to harvest trichomes at peak ripeness in our article How To Harvest Cannabis for Peak Ripeness.
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.
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.
Learn how to make bubble hash in our article How To Wash Bubble Hash.
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?
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are capitate stalked trichomes?
These are the largest type of trichomes on the cannabis plant, providing the bulk of the medicine-rich resin.
How big are trichomes?
Trichome heads, the most desirable part of the trichome, vary in size but are often between 50 and 90 microns in diameter. They are barely large enough to see with the naked eye.
Can cannabis growers increase trichome production?
Providing ideal growing conditions allow plants to be healthy and robust and have the energy needed to produce copious amounts of trichomes. However, stress training, such as tying down branches to open up the structure of the plant, can also increase trichome production.
What is the best way to preserve trichomes?
Once harvested and dried, trichome-rich cannabis material is best preserved in an air-tight glass container kept in a cool, dry, dark place.
What do trichomes contain?
Trichomes contain the cannabis resin that's packed with cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes, which are the key active ingredients in cannabis.