Rosin Presses: Hydraulic vs. Pneumatic

When shopping for a rosin press, you’ll need to choose between hydraulic, pneumatic, electric, and manual options. Pneumatic and hydraulic are the classic choices, and they’re among the best. But what sets them apart? And more importantly, which is a better investment?

How a Rosin Press Works

Before you can understand the virtues of a hydraulic vs. pneumatic rosin press, it’s important to recognize how a rosin press functions in the first place.

Rosin being pressed on the Longs Peak pneumatic press

Rosin being extracted on the PurePressure Longs Peak pneumatic rosin press

A rosin press uses a combination of heat and pressure to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from your starting material (most types of rosin are made from dry flower or hash) without the need for solvents. A typical rosin press contains two heated plates that press firmly against each other to achieve the required heat and pressure. The sticky, resinous extract is squeezed out of the plant, filtered through micron bags to eliminate excess plant matter, and collected onto parchment paper.

What Makes a Good Rosin Press?

Certain qualities are essential when shopping for a rosin press: 
  • Rectangular plate shapes. A lot of cheap rosin presses contain square or even horseshoe-shaped plates. Some contain oversized plates with excess surface area. A rectangular plate shape is important because it maximizes the perimeter-to-area ratio. A large perimeter ensures the largest escape route for rosin, allowing the extract to be released quickly and smoothly, and ensuring that your terpenes don’t get burned off in the process. As an example, the Pikes Peak V2 rosin press is designed with 10” (L) x 2.5” (W) heat plates to ensure that pressurized rosin never has far to travel.
  • Uniform heat distribution. Heat reduces the viscosity of rosin by melting the trichome heads and stalks. If the heat isn’t evenly distributed across the plates, you won’t have that smooth, consistent texture that’s so important for high-quality rosin. Accurate and consistent heat distribution is also important for achieving different consistencies and viscosities, as you can manipulate the texture of your rosin extraction by applying different temperatures to your plates. Aluminum plates work particularly well because they have excellent heat distribution when compared to stainless steel. Our rosin presses are designed with premium 6061 aluminum heat plate assemblies with independent thermocouples and accurate temperature controls within 1 degree.
  • Fewer tons of force output. Pressure is a widely misunderstood aspect of solventless extraction, and more isn’t necessarily better. While it can be tempting to opt for a 20-ton press and squeeze the life out of your plant material at 7,500 PSI+, we have found that applying the maximum pressure can actually push excess fats, lipids and chlorophyll into your rosin. So while you’ll have a higher yield, you could wind up with a lower-quality product. Based on our own research and customer testimonials, we have found that the optimal pressure range for pressing rosin is between 300 and 1,000 PSI. A 3-ton to 8-ton rosin press is typically all you need for this kind of adjustable pressure range.
  • Pneumatic machine power. When we talk about pneumatic vs. hydraulic pressure, we’re talking about the mechanism that actually pushes the plates together—or the means of force. While there are many options available (including manual and electric), most higher-end presses are either hydraulic or pneumatic. Hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders both have their merits, but pneumatic is still top of the line.

Hydraulic vs. Pneumatic Rosin Presses

Pneumatic and hydraulic rosin presses both have their devotees, and both can produce high-quality rosin. But there are some very important distinctions to note. The main difference between a hydraulic and pneumatic rosin press is the method of delivering pressure.

Hydraulic rosin presses use compressed fluids to produce pressure. Like manual presses, hydraulic presses use manual pumps to generate pressure. Hydraulic models are traditionally easier to use than manual presses because the hydraulic cylinders do most of the work for you, but there are some notable exceptions to this rule. For instance, the Helix manual presses from PurePressure are actually easier and more precise than pump-driven hydraulic models thanks to the pitch of the lead screw they use. Literally your grandma can make flower rosin (which demands more force than bubble hash, for example) on a Helix.

Pneumatic rosin presses are sometimes referred to as air press machines because they work by manipulating pressurized air. Air is forced into a tube, creating pressure that moves the cylinder. Then the air is released through the valves, and the cylinder returns to its original position. This type of press requires no cranking or manual operation; just press a button and go. Because pneumatic presses are less labor-intensive, they’re the preferred choice of professional and commercial extraction operations. Models like the Pikes Peak and Longs Peak can even be upgraded with an Automated Pressure Control system that almost fully automates your rosin-pressing process.

Benefits of Pneumatic Rosin Presses

Pneumatic rosin presses are more consistent and reliable than hydraulic presses. Because they require very little effort, they can efficiently and consistently process large volumes of high-quality rosin every day.

They also require less maintenance and upkeep than hydraulic presses thanks to their oil-less operation. Because hydraulic models are fluid-driven, their cylinders must be oiled and maintained constantly, and hydraulic oil can sometimes leak from the press and the hand pump, creating messes and contaminating products. Pneumatic cylinders, on the other hand, require no oil and are maintenance-free. Models like the Pikes Peak V2 and the Longs Peak are perfect examples of how pneumatic technologies have raised the bar for solventless extraction.

Disadvantages of Pneumatic Rosin Presses

Because pneumatic presses require an air compressor, they are often louder than their hydraulic alternatives. They also tend to be larger and heavier than hydraulic presses. These are small inconveniences, though, when you consider how much easier and more efficient they are to use. And if noise is a concern, note that many labs will place their air compressor in a separate room and route a house to the press, thereby mitigating any noise pollution.

Benefits of Hydraulic Rosin Presses

Aside from the quieter operation, the major benefit of hydraulic presses is that they can often be purchased at a lower cost. This makes them great for beginners and hobbyists, but serious professionals will want something with greater consistency and larger yields. That’s why businesses tend to prefer pneumatic options.

Disadvantages of Hydraulic Rosin Presses

The biggest drawback of hydraulic presses is that they require manual operation. This will cost you in terms of quality, consistency, and return on investment—not to mention the increased labor requirement. Hydraulic presses require more attention, more maintenance, and greater precision on the part of the user. And in many cases, you’ll also need to invest in a separate hand or foot pump.

Cost of a Hydraulic vs Pneumatic Rosin Press

The cost difference between a hydraulic and pneumatic rosin press can be considerable. A commercial-grade, 5-ton pneumatic press can run you $6,500 or more. You can get a 15-ton hydraulic press for about half that cost.

Remember, though, that more tonnage doesn’t necessarily result in a better product (at a certain point, the opposite is true). To get the most value for your money, you need to consider quality and total output.  

A 5-ton pneumatic press like the Pikes Peak V2 may cost more than a standard hydraulic model up front, but you have to consider that it can process up to 3.75 pounds of flower per day with very little manual intervention. And the top-of-the-line Longs Peak can achieve double that amount.

Other Types of Home & Commercial Rosin Presses

As previously noted, you do have options aside from hydraulic and pneumatic rosin press machines.

Electric rosin presses: These are the newest options to hit the rosin press market, and there are only a few models on the market. Like pneumatic presses, they’re incredibly easy to use; just press a button to start the extraction process. The difference is that an electric rosin press uses an electric pump and doesn’t require an air compressor or any other specialty components; it’s ready to use right out of the box. The downside is that electric presses don’t produce as much power as pneumatic presses. They also use gearboxes and have small plates, so they’re not as good for commercial operations. This technology has not been widely adopted by rosin press manufacturers because of its force limitations. 

Hybrid rosin presses: The term “hybrid rosin press” generally refers to a hydraulic press that can be customized or upgraded with the installation of an external pump like a hand pump, foot pump, electric pump, or pneumatic pump. This type of press is sometimes preferred by smaller operations looking to scale up over time. The problem is that hybrid presses tend to be very large and heavy, and when you factor in the cost of the press plus a pneumatic pump, it generally makes more financial sense to just invest in a quality pneumatic rosin press to begin with.

Manual rosin presses: A manual rosin press is completely user-operated. A hand crank or other twisting mechanism is used to press the heated plates together and extract rosin from hash or whole-plant cannabis. These machines function similarly to hydraulic presses, but they have no compressed fluids to assist with the manual operation. Though these presses don’t offer the power or convenience of a pneumatic, they can make an excellent budget option for serious home growers and for labs looking to increase the precision of their rosin output. Some artisan hash makers even prefer a manual press because it allows them to literally feel the hash they press, which can be very satisfying. In some cases, you can purchase a quality manual press like the Helix or Helix Pro for half of what you’d pay for a pneumatic press.

The Best Pneumatic Rosin Presses on the Market

Pneumatic rosin presses are the gold standard for solventless extraction, but not all devices are created equal. Two devices stand out above the rest: The Pikes Peak V2 and the Longs Peak. Both models share the same basic design and operation, but each is designed for different output requirements.

 Pikes Peak V2 Rosin Press Longs Peak Rosin Press
5 tons of pressure (9,876 pounds of pressure @ 120 PSI) 8 tons of pressure (15,300 lbf @ 140 PSI)
Process up to 3.75 lb of flower (or 7 lb of dry sift or hash) per day Process up to 7 lb of flower (or 12 lb of dry sift or hash) per day
Press 20+ grams of flower (or 40 grams of dry sift or hash) at a time Press 40+ grams of flower (or 80 grams of dry sift or hash) at a time
Made with 10” x 2.5” heated aluminum plates Made with 10” x 3” heated aluminum plates
Longs Peak left and Pikes Peak right pneumatic Rosin Presses

Longs Peak (L) and Pikes Peak V2 (R) pneumatic rosin presses

In addition, both models offer the following specs:

  • Made with intuitive Pressware™ technology, complete with a full-color LCD touch screen and custom software to ensure absolute consistency and control.
  • Independent thermocouples for each heat plate assembly, ensuring accurate and consistent temperatures every time.
  • The option of both 120v and 240v electrical versions.
  • A rugged frame and enclosure made from A36 steel.
  • Can be upgraded with PurePressure’s Automated Pressure Control system, resulting in almost completely hands-off operation.

Each model comes with a 1-year limited warranty for the entire press and a 2-year limited warranty against manufacturing defects for structural components and the pneumatic cylinder. Extended warranties are also available for purchase.

If you want the best of the best, though, the Longs Peak is the best rosin press currently available on the market. It boasts double the output of the Pikes Peak, it’s capable of over 60% more pressure, and it’s completely automated when you equip it with the Automated Pressure Control system. No other system can compete.

Hydraulic vs Pneumatic Rosin Press - Which Is Right for You?

A hydraulic rosin press may be a good choice if you’re running a small home-based operation or looking to get started with solventless extraction on a budget. However, if you’re producing higher volumes of rosin for commercial purposes, pneumatic is your best rosin press technology. With a pneumatic rosin press, you get the benefit of:

  • Higher yields for hash rosin and flower rosin
  • Faster output
  • Less maintenance
  • Reduced labor requirements
  • A more consistent product
  • A much better return on investment

When you upgrade to pneumatic, you notice the difference immediately. No other type of rosin press compares, and that’s why pneumatic devices receive our highest recommendation. Try one of these high-quality rosin presses for yourself if you haven’t already, and see the difference that it makes for your operation.