What is a Pneumatic Rosin Press?
If you’re thinking of investing in a rosin press, pneumatic may be the way to go. A pneumatic rosin press offers a wealth of benefits that you won’t find in other presses, and it’s the preferred choice of professional extraction techs. If you want the best of the best, there are several important reasons to consider going pneumatic.
What is a Pneumatic Rosin Press?
A pneumatic rosin press is an air-powered machine that produces solventless cannabis extracts (rosin). The cannabis material (typically flower, dry sift, or ice water hash) is placed between two heated plates and then pressed with several tons of force. The combination of heat and pressure separates the resinous trichomes from the starting material, leaving you with a pure extract that’s similar to the types traditionally achieved using solvents (like wax, shatter, etc…).
A pneumatic rosin press isn’t the only type of rosin press, but it is the most efficient. Sometimes called an air press machine, it uses pressurized air to move the cylinder and achieve the desired force. This requires the use of an air compressor, usually sold separately. The compressor pushes air into a tube to create pressure, which moves the cylinder. After the pressing is complete, the air is removed from the tube through release valves and the cylinder returns to its original position.
The air-powered operation is the main feature that sets pneumatic presses apart from hydraulic rosin presses (which use hydraulic fluid combined with manual hand operation) and manual presses (which are entirely hand-operated). Learn about the difference between pneumatic and manual rosin presses here.
How to Operate a Pneumatic Rosin Press
A pneumatic rosin press works similarly to other presses, but the pressure delivery is largely automated.
In general, the process looks like this:
- Each metal plate is covered in parchment paper, which collects the rosin during pressing. Make sure to use food-grade parchment paper with no dyes. You can also use food-grade PTFE sheets, which make the job even easier and are reusable.
- The starting material (usually cannabis flower, sift, or bubble hash) is sorted into rosin filter bags and placed between the metal plates. Raw flowers can be pressed without the rosin bags, but bags are highly recommended for all types of rosin.
- The operator sets the desired force output on the machine. Most pneumatic rosin presses contain one to two adjustable air regulators that are connected to the compressor. The pressure can be adjusted by twisting a cap or pulling a toggle switch on the regulator. The current psi should appear on a gauge on the regulator itself and/or on a digital menu on the rosin press. To make things even easier, the Pikes Peak V2 and Longs Peak pneumatic rosin presses are compatible with an optional Automated Pressure Control system, which allows operators to adjust pressure almost instantly and create pressure ramping over time so that the machine virtually runs itself.
- The operator sets the pressing time, usually between 45 seconds and 5 minutes depending on the type of rosin and the desired result. The time can exceed 20 minutes for mechanical fractioning of terpenes, but that’s less common.
- The operator sets their desired temperature. This is usually done on a digital screen. In most cases, a temperature must be selected for both heat plates individually. The optimal temperature settings will depend on the type of material being pressed and the desired outcome (in terms of texture, consistency, and terpene preservation).
- The operator selects a “Heat” or “Heaters On” menu option to start heating the plates. You’ll need to wait briefly while the plates pre-heat. Your digital display should confirm when the machine is ready to start pressing rosin.
- The operator presses a button to activate the press. Some of the more sophisticated machines will require you to press two buttons simultaneously as an added safety feature. As soon as the machine is activated, the material is pressed between the two heated plates, filtered through the rosin bags, and collected onto the parchment paper.
After the pressing is complete, the rosin can be collected into jars for curing or storing, or it can be used immediately. Check out this video to see a live demonstration of a leading-edge pneumatic rosin press in action.
Pros & Cons of Pneumatic Rosin Presses
As with any type of equipment, pneumatic presses have certain benefits and drawbacks.
Because pneumatic presses work at the touch of a button and require no manual intervention (aside from the initial setup), they can process much more rosin in much less time. Consider a professional model like the Longs Peak; this industry leading press can process 40 or more grams of flower or 80 grams of sift or hash rosin at a time. Over the course of a day, it can process about 7 pounds of flower or about 12 pounds of sift or hash. And if you have multiple pneumatic presses working side by side, you can press rosin continuously with no downtime. No other type of press can compete.
Pneumatic rosin presses require no ongoing maintenance thanks to their oil-less operation. Compare that to hydraulic presses, which have to be cleaned and oiled on a regular basis.
Maximum ease of use
Pneumatic rosin presses are incredibly easy to use. There’s no hand pump, foot pump, or twist mechanism required. Just enter your desired settings and press the start button(s). The lack of manual input also means that pneumatic presses offer unparalleled consistency. Each press contains precisely the right amount of force, so you can count on the same quality every time.
Huge cost savings over time
Because pneumatics are professional-grade presses, you can expect to pay a higher price up front. It’s not uncommon to find high-quality pneumatic presses in the $6,000 to $10,000 range, but the initial cost represents an extremely valuable long-term investment. Given the amount of product you can produce combined with the vastly reduced labor requirements, it’s possible to achieve a return on your investment in a matter of weeks, not months. Your machine will continue to pay for itself again and again.
When we’re talking about raw tonnage, pneumatic forces top out at 8 tons. This may be an issue if sky-high pressure is a major priority for you, but as we’ve previously noted, pressure in excess of 8 tons is seldom necessary for high-quality extractions.
Pneumatic rosin presses can be a bit louder than the alternatives because of the air compressor. There are multiple ways around this, though. The simplest solution is to opt for a comparatively quiet air compressor. Some labs will also place the compressor in a separate room and connect it to the rosin press via a hose, thereby mitigating unwanted noise.
How to Choose a Pneumatic Rosin Press
When shopping for a pneumatic rosin press, the most important factors are the processing output capacity and the force capabilities.
The Pikes Peak V2 (5 ton) and Longs Peak (8 ton) are unrivaled in these regards. Both models are powerful, simple to use, and designed for commercial capabilities. They can also be upgraded with PurePressure’s Automated Pressure Control system, resulting in almost completely hands-off operation.
When shopping for a rosin press, you’ll notice that most options fall between 5 and 25 tons of force. It’s important to emphasize that you don’t need 25 or even 20 tons of force. This much power can actually yield a lower-quality product as unwanted lipids, chlorophyll, and non-organic cannabinoids are forced out of the material along with your desired compounds. Five to eight tons is usually ideal.
The optimal pressure range for pressing rosin is generally between 300 and 1,000 psi. Kief and hash work well at 400 to 800 psi, and flower works well at 600 to 1,000 psi. This is a general guideline and not an exact science, so you’ll want to follow your own results and adjust accordingly.
A 5-to-8-ton press is more than capable of hitting these pressure ranges, so don’t be seduced by rosin presses that promise 25 or even 250 tons of force. You’re not getting any extra benefits there.
In addition, a quality pneumatic rosin press should offer the following features:
- Rectangular aluminum plates with uniform heat distribution and precise temperature control (all four of these qualities –– shape, material, distribution, and control — are essential for ensuring optimal product quality).
- The ability to program and save customized recipes, thereby allowing for consistent quality every time.
- An excellent warranty and reliable end-user support from the manufacturer. Look for options that include at least a 1-year to 2-year warranty with optional extended warranties.
If you require a lot of output and consistently excellent quality, a pneumatic rosin press is the only way to go. Invest in one of these premium machines, and you’ll see for yourself why pneumatic is #1 in professional labs.