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What’s the Difference Between a Pneumatic vs. Manual Rosin Press?

Pneumatic and manual rosin presses are among the best types of solventless presses on the market—but for very different reasons. When you know what you need in a rosin press, choosing the right type becomes easy.

Pneumatic Rosin Press vs Manual Rosin Press: The Pressing Process

The main difference between a pneumatic and manual rosin press lies in the cylinder type.

Manual

Manual rosin presses, as the name suggests, are operated by hand. Each device is equipped with a hand crank or twist mechanism that presses the heated plates together.

Helix 3 ton manual rosin press
 
Hand twist lead-screw on the Helix 3-ton rosin press.

Pneumatic

Pneumatic rosin presses, sometimes called air press machines, use pressurized air to deliver the necessary force. An air compressor is used to push air into the machine, creating sufficient pressure to move the cylinder. The air is then released through the valves, and the cylinder returns to its normal position.

Longs Peak Pneumatic Rosin Press

Pneumatic cylinder on the Longs Peak rosin press.

Which Is Better?

Both methods of operation have their merits. If you want total hands-on control, manual is an excellent way to go. If throughput and automation are the bigger priorities, go with a pneumatic press.

Pneumatic Rosin Press vs Manual Rosin Press: Pressure & Heat Delivery

Heat and pressure are the two core elements of any rosin press. Both manual and pneumatic presses are capable of delivering on both of these elements.

Pressure

Your typical rosin press is capable of delivering between 3 and 20 tons of force output. Some hydraulic rosin press models are even capable of up to 250 tons of pressure, but this is overkill; that much pressure can degrade your product. Our research has found that the optimal pressure range for pressing rosin (especially hash rosin) falls between 300 and 1,000 PSI, though everyone has their own preference. With a 3-, 5-, or 8-ton press, you can get the job done to perfection. You can easily find both manual and pneumatic presses within this pressure range.

Heat

Both manual and pneumatic presses are generally capable of temperatures up to 300°F or higher. When using a rosin press, you’ll typically be striving for temperatures between 130°F and 220°F. Cold pressing generally occurs between 130°F and 170°F, and hot pressing generally occurs between 170°F and 220°F. For late-stage THCA separations, you might go as high as 300°F, but in most cases, you should never need higher temperatures than that.

Which Is Better?

When it comes to heat and pressure, both manual and pneumatic options are suitable. You’ll mostly want to pay attention to the pressure delivery, as this can vary significantly from one machine to the next.

Longs Peak Pneumatic Rosin Control Screen

Pressware LCD touchscreen technology equipped on all PurePressure manual and pneumatic rosin presses.

Pneumatic Rosin Press vs Manual Rosin Press: Yields

When it comes to yields, the major difference between pneumatic and manual rosin presses becomes much more apparent.

Consider that a manual press like the Helix Pro can press up to 12 grams of flower or about 20 grams of sift or hash rosin per cycle.

By contrast, a professional-grade pneumatic press like the Longs Peak can press 40 or more grams of flower or 80 grams of sift or hash rosin at a time. Over the course of a day, that same pneumatic machine can produce about 7 pounds of flower or 12 pounds of sift or hash. A manual doesn’t come close to that many grams of material.

Some pneumatics can even be automated to the point where they run almost entirely without manual intervention.

For instance, the Longs Peak and Pikes Peak V2 can be upgraded with PurePressure’s Automated Pressure Control system, resulting in largely hands-off operation. Just set your material size and bag time, and then load up your bag. It’s a great way to maximize your efficiency since a single operator can control two presses simultaneously, resulting in continuous rosin production.

Longs Peak Pneumatic Rosin Presses in commercial setting

One operator running two Longs Peak pneumatic rosin presses at Papa's Select.

Which Is Better?

If volume is the top consideration, pneumatic is the way to go. That’s why many professional labs rely heavily on pneumatic devices. Some discerning labs, however, prefer to work with smaller heat plates, in which case a manual device can be perfect. It ultimately comes down to user preference. If you do favor small plates, you’ll want to go with either the Helix or Helix Pro. These industry-leading devices offer the same types of compact plates you get with other manual models, but with a better user interface, significantly better control, and no pneumatics.

Pneumatic Rosin Press vs Manual Rosin Press: Cost

Because pneumatic rosin presses are the most professional-grade option, you can expect to pay more. An entry-level manual press can be purchased for as little as $300 (though high-quality manual presses start around $3,000). A professional-quality pneumatic device, on the other hand, can run you around $6,500 on the low end.

When shopping for a professional rosin press, you have to consider the potential return on investment rather than the cost itself. With a model that can produce a dozen pounds of product a day, you can achieve a return on your investment in a matter of weeks. The device may cost more up front, but it pays for itself in record time.

Which Is Better?

If you’re on a budget, manual is the cost-effective option. If you’re looking for long-term value and profit potential, a pneumatic is always worth the added upfront cost.

Pneumatic Rosin Press vs Manual Rosin Press: Ease of Use

Both manual and pneumatic rosin presses are easy to operate. It’s just a matter of preparing your starting material and pressing the heat plates together. Pneumatic devices do have an edge, though.

Manual

Manual presses are generally easy to operate as long as they’re well-designed. For example, the Helix and Helix Pro are expertly designed with a lead screw mechanism that twists almost effortlessly. Anyone can easily apply the necessary force without the need for an air compressor or hydraulic pump.

Helix Manual Rosin Press Handle

Custom engineered hand twist lead-screw on the Helix manual rosin presses.

Pneumatic

Pneumatic presses work at the touch of a button. You do have to prepare your starting material and configure your preferred settings, but then it’s as simple as pressing the button to activate the cylinder. And with an automated pressure system, the operation becomes even easier. The machine does virtually all of the work for you.

Which Is Better?

Pneumatic rosin presses offer unparalleled ease of use. You do get a lot more tactile feedback with a manual press like the Helix or Helix Pro, though, which is a feature that many hash makers love. It’s ultimately a matter of personal preference.

Pneumatic Rosin Press vs Manual Rosin Press: Maintenance Requirements

Pneumatic and manual presses both require little to no maintenance. That’s one key advantage that both types offer over hydraulic presses, which are fluid-driven and therefore require constant upkeep.

It can be argued that manual presses are slightly lower-maintenance than pneumatic presses only because there are fewer moving parts that can cause a problem. After all, they’re entirely user-operated. The difference is negligible, though, as both pneumatic and manual devices can run flawlessly for years without any sort of servicing required.

Which Is Better?

It’s a toss-up. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance device, both pneumatics and manuals will serve you well. Just steer clear of hydraulic rosin presses, as those can be a maintenance nightmare.

Pneumatic Rosin Press vs Manual Rosin Press: Noise

Manual rosin presses are virtually silent in most cases. You can hear the crunch of the plant material between the dual heated plates because the device itself is so quiet. This is one of the reasons why artisan extraction techs love manual presses.

Pneumatic rosin presses are known for being on the louder side. Most of the noise comes from the air compressor.

If you want the power of a pneumatic device but you’re concerned about excess noise, you have a couple of easy solutions. Some labs will place the air compressor in a separate room and route a hose to the rosin press, thereby mitigating the excess noise. Alternately, you can opt for a quieter air compressor.

Which Is Better?

Manual rosin presses are quieter, but noise mitigation options are available for pneumatic presses.

Pneumatic Rosin Press vs Manual Rosin Press: Size

The size of a rosin press ultimately comes down to the design. Although pneumatics tend to be larger and manuals tend to be smaller, you can find compact pneumatic presses and large manual presses.

Longs Peak pneumatic rosin press and Helix Pro manual rosin presses side by side

Longs Peak pneumatic rosin press (L) and the Helix Pro manual rosin press (R).

In the vast majority of cases, though, manuals take up less space—often half the amount of space. This is due in part to practicality; manufacturers understand that manual presses are preferred by home operators and small-scale producers, and so they design manual devices with space economy in mind.

The size difference is also due to the greater complexity of a pneumatic build. Remember, a pneumatic device must be able to support a full-sized air compressor.

Which Is Better?

If you’re looking for the smallest option without sacrificing quality, a manual press is a good place to start. Just understand that there are downsides to having too small of a device, especially if you want higher production volume. If your heat plates are too small, you won’t be able to produce nearly as much rosin.

Pneumatic Rosin Press vs Manual Rosin Press: Product Quality

Pneumatic and manual rosin presses will both yield excellent-quality rosin (assuming you have excellent-quality starting material), but the difference ultimately boils down to control vs. consistency.

Manual rosin presses are ideal for pressing artisan-style rosin. You’re in full control of the pressing experience, and you can literally feel the hash or flower between the plates. This can result in the kind of craft cannabis extraction that discerning connoisseurs will pay top dollar for, but only if it’s created by the hand of a skilled extractor.

Live Rosin Extraction manual rosin press

Pressing Diablo OG live rosin on the Helix Pro 5-ton manual rosin press

A pneumatic press, though more tightly automated, delivers unparalleled consistency. Once you input your pressure and temperature preferences, you can count on the same result with every press. For large-volume producers, this kind of dependability can be invaluable, as it affords you the assurance that customers can count on the same premium quality with every subsequent purchase they make.

Which Is Better?

For artisan rosin, a manual press is an excellent choice. For long-term precision, a pneumatic is essential.

Pneumatic vs Manual: Which Is the Best Rosin Press?

Still trying to choose the best rosin press for your needs?
  • Go with a pneumatic press if you’re running a commercial or large-scale operation.
  • Go with a manual press if you’re running a home operation, you’re on a budget, or you want total control over every extraction. The best manual rosin press options include the Helix and the Helix Pro.
When comparing the best rosin presses, there are other factors to look out for as well. For example, rectangular heat plates are a must, and the plates should be made of aluminum (not stainless steel). You want a model with programmable features, and one that comes with a generous warranty. When you choose a premium model like the Pikes Peak V2 or Longs Peak, it’s possible to have it all.

So don’t settle for second-best when it comes to choosing a rosin press. Take an inventory of your most important needs in a device, and shop for a model that meets those needs without compromise.