Anyone who has been smoking cannabis for long enough knows that before shatter, wax, and other modern concentrates took over the scene, it was hash that commanded a preeminent status. By sprinkling a little hash on your bowl, you could dramatically elevate potency and enjoy incredibly rich cannabis flavors. The first hash makers date back over 1,000 years with hash itself possessing a deep, global history. Although terminology has changed over time, the original name for hash comes from the Arabic word ( حشيش ), which means grass. Hashish making is an art form that has been passed from artisan to apprentice for centuries, originating from Asia and the Middle East. Many smokers from the 60’s and 70’s will fondly remember authentic Turkish hash, Thai sticks, and all other manner of old school hash products that are either non existent or comprise only a tiny portion of the market today. With BHO dominating the cannabis market, the art of hash making had taken a backseat until recently. That is changing quickly however, thanks to two new major developments: rosin presses and freeze dryers.
Traditionally hash had been made either by hand with pressure and heat, or more recently, with the advent of specialized hash washing machines. It’s speculated that many ancient hash making techniques have been lost to the sands of time, however the vast majority of hash artisans today employ methods that are completely different than the ways of old. Modern hash making machines closely resemble clothes washers, except they work by using a slurry of ice and water to separate the trichome heads from the cannabis flowers or trim, which are then filtered through various micron-width mesh bags. This type of hash is specifically known as bubble hash. After the soaked trichomes are collected, they are graded, separated, and dried. An air drying process, similar to how cannabis itself is dried, has been the primary method used to remove moisture from hash. Properly drying bubble hash has typically been the most difficult and time consuming part of the process, requiring precise temperature and humidity control. When the hash is finally dry, it ends up in a variety of different qualities based on the individual micron bag it was collected from. The most prized and sought after of these grades is known as “full melt” which means that those trichomes literally melt on a dab rig the exact same way shatter or wax would. Full melt is highly desirable because it is the original cannabis concentrate. When oldschool tokers wanted something special they reached for the hash. Pressing that hash into rosin is just the next step that people have begun taking.
Two key advances in hash making have come to the fore recently and have breathed new life into the practice. First, utilizing modern freeze dryers, the hash drying process is as simple as pressing a few buttons and waiting 24 to 36 hours, whereas with air drying it can take 5 to 7 days or longer in a highly controlled environment, requiring immense skill and care.
Secondly, with the invention of rosin presses, all of the non-full melt grades of hash can now be easily made into full melt extracts of a variety of textures (including shatter, budder, wax, and so on). Whereas commercial rosin presses are a recent development, freeze dryers have been around for much longer. Historically freeze dryers have been a key piece of equipment in many pharmaceutical laboratories and also have been frequently used for dehydrating food items for longterm storage. With the ease of use a freeze dryer offers, the hardest part of making great, terpene-rich hash (drying it) is now considerably less labor intensive. A few clever hash makers figured out that they are the perfect machines to dry hash with, and now with the addition of both machines used in conjunction, a revolution is taking place.
While the demand for rosin has grown dramatically over the past year, hash rosin’s reputation in particular as the ultra premium concentrate is also making major headway among true connoisseurs. Due its truly solvent-less profile, hash rosin is frequently regarded as the purest full melt concentrate right alongside full melt hash itself. With BHO and solvent-based extraction, you can blast low quality material into golden shatter, however with rosin, there’s no way to remove impurities — so what you see is what you get. Terpene content is also consistently excellent with hash rosin, which many cannabis aficionados consider to be the cardinal quality concentrates. With proper equipment and techniques, the terpene content of hash rosin can naturally reach and exceed 10% weight by volume. This is evidenced by modern testing results, such as a sample of some “Banana Split” hash rosin, made by Denver’s own The Proper Extracts. This banana split hash rosin won highest terpene content at Chalice’s 2017 competition and was dried using a scientific freeze dryer. We got a chance to catch up with Manny, the owner of Fox Cannabis and The Proper Extracts, to get his opinions on how freeze drying makes a difference. He said,
“Freeze dryers are a game changer, you can decrease dry time and processing from days to hours, while preserving the peak trichome and terpene profile of the hash.”
It’s important to note that your standard food dehydrator won’t cut it for drying hash. Freeze dryers work by a process called “Lyophilization” which, through various cycles of extremely cold temperatures and subsequent warming in a vacuum environment, remove moisture from the hash, thus drying it to be ready for consumption. More technically, this process is known as sublimation, where water in the form of ice goes directly to a gas, skipping the liquid stage. A variety of freeze dryers are available to the public that anyone can use, even at home. Most serious hash makers demand the elevated control that only a scientific-grade freeze dryer can offer through its customizable freezing and warming cycles.
Freeze dryers, when combined with a high quality rosin press, can help a hash maker produce some of the best rosin available, especially given that hash rosin is derived without the use of any harsh solvents. The best of the best rosin is known as “live rosin”, which means that fresh frozen plant material is first washed into hash and then pressed into rosin to produce a product on par with live resin, sans butane. It’s typically known as “full spectrum” because when hash is derived from freshly frozen cannabis it offers a full complement of cannabinoids and terpenes. As a result, many solvent-based extractions can’t claim “full spectrum” because so many terpenes and cannabinoids can be lost in the process. Virtually anyone can now start washing hash, quickly dry it in a freeze dryer, and then profitably sell both the full melt grade while pressing the remaining grades into rosin. Top quality, fresh frozen rosin can retail as much as $100 per gram given its often unmatched terpene profile. Given that making hash and hash rosin are both solvent-free, a number of business have started up due to the low startup costs of making hash and pressing rosin together. Without the burden of a tightly-controlled laboratory that BHO or other closed-loop solvent-based extraction systems demand, it’s now more straightforward than ever to make incredible solvent-less hash and hash rosin.
As with all things cannabis, it truly starts in the garden. A movement in the industry paralleling the farm-to-table food ethos has already begun; with each passing day demand is growing for boutique genetics and rare terpene profiles. More and more consumers are demanding not only potent cannabis products, but ultra high quality, contaminant free ones too, right alongside truly solvent-less concentrates. This is where rosin fits in long term, and especially hash rosin for its unmatched quality. Against a flooded market of low quality BHO and questionable vape pens, rosin’s popularity is expected to increase sharply given its small batch, labor-of-love style of production. If you ask any true cannabis lover what they’re always on the lookout for, chances are they’ll rank hash rosin right next to or above live resin.
Despite consumption of hash having been in a mild decline for a number of years, these evolutions in consumer tastes are once again bringing hash making to the forefront of cannabis. Famous hash makers such as Bubbleman, Nikka T, KennnWall, Matt Rize, among many others first staked their claim as celebrities in the cannabis world by producing incredible solvent-less hash, long before shatter was in everyone’s dab rig. There are now even growers who consider themselves “resin farmers” — meaning that they aren’t just growing for the flowers themselves, but for the trichomes and resins, which are the true fruits of the cannabis plant. It’s always been a labor of love for these elite hash makers, making their products in small batches for true connoisseurs. Now virtually all hash makers are also pressing rosin and many of the best commercial hash labs have learned that freeze dryers provide superior terpene preservation along with dramatically reduced drying times. It’s now more straightforward than ever for individuals to get involved in the concentrate-production business by acquiring a rosin press, hash making equipment, and a freeze dryer, thereby skipping the $50,000+ closed-loop methods entirely. Of course starting a business is certainly a tall task, so if your local dispensary isn’t stocking hash rosin or full melt hash, it’s high time you asked them to!
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