🇺🇸 Retired veteran, father, rock-climbing expert & rosin connoisseur.
Fresh frozen is a means of preserving the terpenes and cannabinoids in cannabis by freezing the flowers immediately after harvest. Freezing the resin slows the breakdown of these therapeutic compounds produced within the trichomes of the flowers. This breakdown is a natural process that occurs at a faster rate while drying and curing. But with fresh frozen, there is no drying or curing involved. Fresh frozen cannabis is premium source material for making concentrates like bubble hash and live resin, which are known for their intense flavor and supreme potency.
Fresh frozen cannabis offers a number of advantages over traditional dried and cured cannabis. First, the terpenes and cannabinoids are preserved, which results in a more flavorful and potent product. Second, oxidation happens much more slowly with fresh frozen cannabis that’s properly packaged, resulting in concentrates with a much lighter color.
Not only is the end product from fresh frozen cannabis even better than what extractors get from dried and cured flowers, but fresh frozen also gives hash makers greater flexibility in their production schedules. Once the buds are packaged and frozen, they can be stored in the freezer for up to several months without losing their potency or flavor.
However, the process is not as simple as just chopping down plants and nonchalantly packing them into the freezer. Incorrect packing and storing methods can significantly detract from both quality and overall yield of the material.
Objectives for Packing and Storing Fresh Frozen Cannabis
Fresh frozen cannabis that’s properly packed and stored preserves and protects the delicate trichomes, and the resin contained within, as much as possible. The main objective for packing and storing fresh frozen cannabis is to minimize its exposure to oxygen inside the bags, while at the same time preventing the buds from getting tightly smashed together. Making efficient use of the freezer space is another key consideration. Leaving just enough air in the bags to act as a cushion can keep the weight of multiple stacked bags from crushing each other.
So, we want to:
- Remove excess air inside the bags to minimize oxidation
- Leave just enough air to provide a cushion when the bags are stacked one on top of the other in the freeze
- Avoid overfilling each bag in order to protect the delicate trichomes
- Make efficient use of the space inside the freeze without packing the freeze too tight (same concept as buds inside the bags)
- Preserve the flowers in such a way that they’ll easily separate from each other when unpacking the bags
- Aim for fluffy pillows
What We Don’t Want
It’s disheartening to get high quality material from a reputable grower, only to pull frozen-solid bricks of flowers out of the bags. If you need a metal pick to break apart the flowers, you’re witnessing some damaged resin, and a frustrating experience.
Cramming flowers into overfilled vacuum-sealed bags and packing the bags as tightly as possible into the freeze is the worst way to pack and store fresh frozen cannabis. This compresses the flowers together and can easily bruise or rupture the trichomes, which causes resin to leak out.
Bricks of frozen buds are exactly what we don’t want.
How To Pack and Store Fresh Frozen Cannabis
Before we get to the actual packing and storing, it’s important to know when to harvest the resin. Peak ripeness is key.
The resin is at peak ripeness when the vast majority of the trichomes take on a milky appearance. All clear heads signal the resin still has some time to mature, while mostly amber heads means the resin is a bit past its prime.
When the trichomes are showing signs of peak ripeness, it’s a good idea to do a test wash so you can get an idea of what the yield is going to be. Then, harvest everything in cooler temperatures, which is generally after the sun sets outdoors, or early in the morning.
Remember to handle all the buds delicately. Resin is precious and easy to lose if you’re careless and aggressive during harvest. Only handle flowers by the stems, don’t actually touch the trichomes.
Buck the buds down into golf ball to quarter-sized pieces. Also, avoid cutting the leaves, which will cause chlorophyll to leak out. Remove all fan leaves at the base of the stems.
Read more about harvesting and handling fresh frozen in the article Top 10 Tips on How To Prepare Your Harvest for Fresh Frozen.
Now, when it comes to packing the bags, here’s the process we recommend:
1. Use 2.5 or 3-gallon Ziplock bags and aim for 1000 grams per bag. This amount of bud in these sizes of bags will allow the material to remain in one flat layer, freeze evenly, and store most efficiently while protecting the resin. Keeping the weight consistent at 1000 grams/bag is also great for counting and tracking.
2. Do not vacuum seal the bags! This will squeeze the buds together and damage the trichomes. Vacuum sealing removes all air from the bags, so there’s no cushion to protect the flowers when the bags are stacked inside the freezer. The goal is to remove excess air, but leave a little inside similar to a bag of chips. The extra air is what keeps the chips inside from breaking when the bags get jostled around.
3. Make sure to pack the bags into a chest freeze within 4 hours after harvesting. The sooner you can get the flowers into the freezer, the better. Remember not to pack the bags too tightly, which can cause the flowers to press into bricks.
4. Avoid stacking the bags on top of each other inside the freezer right away. It’s best to wait until the flowers are frozen before you start stacking them for longer-term storage. If possible, leave extra room in the freezer so you can rotate the bags.
5. Be sure your freeze is large enough to accommodate all your fresh frozen without damaging the resin. A good rule of thumb is that a 5 cubic foot freezer will hold about 15,000 grams of fresh frozen material, allowing for some extra room to prevent the flowers from smashing into bricks.
6. **Optional flash freeze*** If you have access to dry ice, freeze the flowers immediately after they’re carefully packed into the bags. This means you’ll harvest the flowers, buck them down into the right size, and pack them into the Ziplocks. Then put the bags into a container with the dry ice, which will cause the resin to freeze rapidly. Then you can move the frozen buds into the chest freeze for storage.
This process is all about protecting and preserving the high-quality resin that farmers work hard to produce. Diminishing the quality of resin in the final hour through a haphazard packaging and storing process is the last thing we want to do.
This is a good example of what your freezer should look like with properly packaged and stored fresh frozen:
If you are looking for the most flavorful and potent cannabis experience, then fresh frozen cannabis is the way to go. Carefully and thoughtfully packaging and storing the buds in the freezer will ensure that that resin maintains the same qualities it had on the live plant.
Limit the weight of fresh frozen buds to about 1,000 grams per 3-gallon bag and don’t cram the bags too tightly together inside the freezer. And don’t vacuum seal the bags, it’s going to lead to frozen bricks. Remove excess air, but leave a cushion like you’ll notice in an unopened bag of chips.
Avoid stacking the bags until the material is frozen if possible. And if you have access to dry ice, a flash freeze is ideal.
Also check out our article Equipment for Preparing Fresh Frozen Cannabis.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Should you vacuum seal the bags for packing fresh frozen cannabis?
No, do not vacuum seal the bags when packaging fresh frozen cannabis. This will squeeze the buds together and damage the trichomes.
How much should you put into every bag for fresh frozen cannabis?
Aim to pack 1,000 grams of fresh frozen material into 2.5 to 3-gallon Ziplock bags. Try to keep the buds into one single layer and don’t cram them together. The bags should be like fluffy pillows.
What kind of freezer should you use for fresh frozen cannabis?
Regular residential chest freezers work great, with 5 cubic feet of storage being a good choice for many processors.
What is flash freezing fresh frozen cannabis?
Flash freezing involves harvesting and packaging the material, then putting the bags into a container with the dry ice, which will cause the resin to freeze rapidly. Then you can move the frozen buds into the chest freeze for storage.
How much material can you fit into the freezer for fresh frozen cannabis?
A good rule of thumb is that a 5 cubic foot freezer will hold about 15,000 grams of fresh frozen material, allowing for some extra room to prevent the flowers from smashing into bricks.