Cannabis enthusiast and student of the art of solventless extraction
In the past few years, using freeze dryers to dry bubble hash has become commonplace for commercial extractors and even in-home hobbyists. Freeze drying hash not only speeds up the drying process, it also ensures a consistent and thorough removal of moisture, preventing mold growth and preserving terpenes. Freeze dryers may currently be associated mostly with bubble hash, but the technology can also be applied to drying and curing cannabis flowers.
So what is freeze drying? Freeze drying involves removing water moisture through sublimation, not evaporation as with regular drying. Freeze dryers bring material to subzero temperatures and utilize a vacuum to pull moisture from the material as it thaws. In this way, water is transferred from a solid into a water vapor. This process is more efficient than evaporation that happens when hash or cannabis flowers are left in the open air to dry.
When cannabis flowers are hung to dry in the traditional way, moisture contained within the plant material evaporates from a liquid into a water vapor over the course of many days. With exposure to the air for a week or more, oxidation and terpene loss also takes place. Both are natural processes that will occur in even the most meticulously-controlled drying rooms, as terpenes are exceptionally volatile and oxidation happens by virtue of air exposure. But freeze drying flowers can minimize the downside to drying, leveraging the power of sublimation and a vacuum.
Advantages to Freeze Drying Cannabis Flowers
Let’s look at some of the advantages of freeze drying cannabis flowers over the traditional hang dry and curing method.
Trichome preservation - stabilizes the compounds found in cannabis, allowing for a high-potency and terpene-rich product.
Protection - helps to minimize oxidation and eliminates risk of mold/mildew growth while flowers are drying. Mold growth in the drying room is one of the risks of hang drying flowers in the traditional way.
Aesthetic Appeal / No shrinkage - flowers that come out of the freeze dryer retain their bright and robust look and feel, just like when they were alive.
Production Speed and Consistency - finished in 16 to 24 hours.
Achieve Drying and Curing at the Same Time - traditional drying requires a follow up cure time in sealed jars for at least a couple weeks. With freeze drying, you get the dry and the cure at the same time.
Requires Less Space Than Traditional Hang Drying Method - flowers are cut away from the branches and placed flat onto trays which slide into the freeze dryer. Traditional drying calls for whole plants to be hung upside down in temperature and humidity-controlled rooms. Freeze dryers take up less of a footprint than full drying rooms.
Want to know more about how to use a freeze dryer? Check out our article How Does a Freeze Dryer Work?
Using a Commercial Freeze Dryer to Dry Cannabis Flowers?
Standard commercial freeze dryers are well-suited for drying bubble hash. The same technology is effective for cannabis flowers, but regular commercial freeze dryers aren’t ideal for drying and curing cannabis flowers. They lack some of the customized programming that’s available in other solutions.
While you can use regular freeze dryers such as a Harvest Right to dry and cure cannabis flowers, there are some potential disadvantages. It is doable, but you may get suboptimal results. Here are some of the risks with using regular commercial freeze dryers for your cannabis flowers:
Not programmable specifically for cannabis flowers - flowers will be quickly and thoroughly dried, but overall quality can be compromised.
Lacks moisture controls which causes over drying - traditional freeze dryers reduce flower moisture down to 1%, which is very low.
Flowers can become too brittle - freeze dried flowers that come out of a commercial freeze dryer can crumble to dust in your hands because they are so dry.
Trichomes easily fall away from the flowers - in this overly-dried state, trichomes are prone to fall away from the flowers more easily.
Shelf space is limited, making it hard to fit larger flowers onto the trays - there’s not a lot of space between shelves in a regular freeze dryer, meaning you may have a hard time squeezing larger flowers into the small space.
New Developments in Freeze Drying Technology for Cannabis Flowers
Some of the most exciting innovations in cannabis are coming out of the need for more efficient and effective drying methods. Case in point, the Cyro Cure machines.
These customized freeze dryers are made specifically for cannabis flowers, utilizing a patent-pending process fine-tuned specifically for cannabis. Regular freeze-drying machines don’t have these settings, therefore it’s hard to optimize them for drying cannabis flowers.
Cryo Cured flower retains anywhere between 8% and 12% moisture content, which is ideal for smoked cannabis. These machines have been engineered to quickly and thoroughly dry cannabis flowers without compromising their quality. They are the closest thing to maintaining flowers in their “live” state.
Expect more innovation in drying technology in the years to come. It’s one of the most critical phases of cannabis cultivation and also tends to be resource-intensive, requiring a lot of time, space, and environmental controls to manage properly. Freeze drying cannabis flowers is the future of commercial cannabis production.
If you already have a freeze dryer for drying bubble hash, test it out with a small batch of just-harvested cannabis flowers and see what benefits this approach can bring to your operation.
Have you ever freeze dried your cannabis flowers? Let us know in the comments!
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can you use a freeze dryer to dry cannabis flowers?
Yes, you can use a freeze dryer to dry cannabis flowers. Regular commercial freeze dryers may lead to excessive dryness, but freeze dryers made specifically for drying cannabis flowers are also available.
How does a freeze dryer dry cannabis flowers?
Freeze dryers bring cannabis flowers to subzero temperatures, then utilize a vacuum chamber to pull out moisture as the cannabis thaws in a process called sublimation.
How long does it take to dry cannabis flowers with a freeze dryer?
It only take around 24 hours to dry cannabis flowers in a freeze dryer.
Do you have to cure cannabis flowers after you dry them with a freeze dryer?
No, a freeze dryer will both dry and cure cannabis flowers at the same time, so you can skip the glass jar curing process that's standard after traditional drying methods.
Can you use a regular commercial freeze dryer to dry cannabis flowers?
Yes, you can use a regular commercial freeze dryer to dry cannabis flowers, however a system like Cryo Cure is designed specifically for drying flowers and will deliver better results.