What is Rosin?
In just a few short years, rosin has become one of the cannabis industry's most talked-about products. With customers clamoring for cleaner, purer extracts that produce better highs, rosin caters to the needs of the savviest, most discriminating connoisseurs. Since 2019, in light of the vape industry health scare, rosin has become an especially desirable option among consumers looking to avoid chemical-rich cannabis extracts.
For extraction companies, this emerging cannabis concentrate presents valuable opportunities. But before you can consume or produce it on your own, it’s important to understand what rosin is and what sets it apart from your garden-variety wax, shatter, and budder.
What is Rosin? An Overview
Rosin, sometimes referred to as solventless hash oil (SHO), is a cannabis extract made without solvents. It is the result of solventless extraction using a combination of heat and pressure. When a rosin press is used for the extraction, the resinous sap is mechanically separated from the plant and collected onto parchment paper. Consumers can then use rosin just as they would any other extract: via vaping, dabbing, or twaxing, for instance.
Flower rosin on parchment paper pressed from whole cannabis flower using no filtration.
While the machinery has become very sophisticated in recent years, the rosin trend actually began much more simply in the DIY space. Early on, enthusiasts would use T-shirt presses, hair straighteners, and even heated gloves to create rosin at home. The results usually weren’t top-notch, but the trend paved the way for what would ultimately become a connoisseur-grade sub-sector of the concentrates market.
Extraction professionals took notice and started developing more precise equipment that allowed users to control the pressure, temperature, and heat distribution. The most sophisticated early presses, like the original Pikes Peak V2 rosin press, even allowed users to create and save “recipes” consisting of their preferred pressure and temperature settings, thus ensuring a consistent product each time.
As the trend took off and the products became better, rosin started to earn distinctions like “Trend of the Year,” and the industry took notice. Now, rosin products are in high demand in dispensaries nationwide, and new technologies are constantly making the products and yields even better.
How Rosin is Made
Rosin is the result of heat and pressure applied simultaneously. If you’re using a rosin press, you would generally start by placing your flower, sift, or hash into filter bags (though many DIYers skip the bags). Then you would place the material between the two metal plates.
Cannabis flower without filtration being pressed between the heat plates of the Helix 3-ton manual rosin press.
The plates are then heated and pressed together with several tons of force. The resin separates from the plant material and is squeezed out from between the plates, after which it’s collected onto parchment paper in most cases.
The basic physics are the same no matter what type of rosin press you use. However, the amount of necessary human intervention will depend on the machine.
Pneumatic Rosin Presses
Pneumatic rosin presses (which use compressed air) are commonly the least labor-intensive. Just place your material on the plate, customize your pressure, and press a button to activate the pneumatic cylinder.
Hydraulic Rosin PressesHydraulic rosin presses (which use compressed fluids) require a bit more human intervention. Though the hydraulic cylinder does most of the heavy lifting, you need to control the cylinder using a hand pump, foot pump, or similar mechanism.
Manual Rosin Presses
Manual rosin presses are entirely user-operated. You would generally use a pump or twisting mechanism to apply the necessary force to your plant material. Though manual pumps are the most labor-intensive, they also afford you the most control over your extractions.
Other types of presses, like electric and hybrid presses, are also gaining popularity.
Which Type of Rosin Press Is Best?Every type of rosin press has its merits. Serious commercial operations typically prefer pneumatic machines because they can achieve much more with less effort. For more information, refer to our guide on How to Pick the Best Rosin Press.
Flower Rosin vs Hash Rosin vs Sift Rosin
As previously noted, rosin is typically pressed from one of three starter materials: cannabis flower, ice water hash (bubble hash), or dry sift hash. So what sets these three products apart?
Flower RosinFlower rosin is rosin made from fresh cannabis flower. In order to ensure optimal quality, the flower should always be dried and cured to remove excess moisture prior to pressing. If you try to press uncured or fresh frozen flower, you’ll generally achieve an unusable extraction with a soup-like consistency.
Hash RosinHash rosin is made from ice water hash. Because the starting material has already been concentrated to remove the plant matter, the transition from ice water hash to rosin can result in an especially pure and potent product—the gold standard for solventless extraction.
In some cases, a pure hash rosin product can reach north of 90% THC (or even 98% or more if you’re doing a THCA separation), though 60-80% is more common. But THC isn’t everything. Some of the best and most flavorful hash rosins can be in the high 50% to low 60% THC range as long as they have excellent terpene results.
Note that the term “hash rosin” almost exclusively refers to rosin pressed from ice water hash and not dry sift hash.
Sift RosinSift rosin is made from dry sift hashish. It’s generally less potent than hash rosin but more potent than flower rosin. Though dry sift isn’t as pure as bubble hash, it can be produced in less time and with less equipment.
What Is Live Rosin?There is another type of hash rosin that we haven’t discussed yet: live rosin. If you’re looking to create the ultimate connoisseur-grade solventless extraction, live rosin is the way to go.
Live rosin is created using fresh frozen cannabis. After harvest, the buds are collected and frozen until they’re ready to be processed. This results in a much better aroma and flavor profile because there is no drying or curing; this is key because the final curing process can eliminate up to 95% of the plant’s terpenes.
When the fresh frozen cannabis is ready to be processed, it must first go through an ice water hash extraction to isolate the trichomes. The ice water hash can then be further processed using a rosin press. The result is live rosin, a truly live cannabis extract that offers an unparalleled flavor and experience.
Live Rosin vs Live Resin
Live rosin is simply the solventless version of live resin. Whereas live rosin is extracted via hash washing and rosin pressing, live resin is extracted using hydrocarbon solvents, typically in a closed-loop extraction system. The extract must then be purged to remove residual solvent, and it may undergo additional processing such as dewaxing or winterization.
Live resin (L) from Kush Masters and live rosin (R) from Olio.
Live resin and live rosin will both give you a rich terpene profile for enhanced flavor and aroma, but live rosin is the purer option because there are no solvents or other chemicals involved in the extraction process. The entire process is executed using gravity, heat, and pressure.
The Benefits of Rosin
Rosin has only been produced commercially for a few years, but it has already gained a lot of converts because it offers some distinct advantages over traditional BHO extracts like shatter and wax. Benefits include the following.
A Lower Production Cost
Hydrocarbon and ethanol extraction labs can cost millions of dollars to set up and run when you consider the equipment, the solvents, and all of the complex regulatory compliance. Rosin is much more affordable. Most labs can get started for around $50,000 or less. And with the right pneumatic equipment, it’s possible to achieve an ROI in weeks—not months.
A Safer Production Process
With solventless, you don’t have to store or use ignitable chemicals. While lab fires and explosions are rare in the extraction world, they can happen as a result of user negligence or insufficient ventilation in the lab. Solvents also carry a significant environmental footprint.
With rosin, you can achieve the desired texture and consistency by manipulating the temperature and time of your extraction. With just a few minor setting adjustments (and the right starting material), you can achieve rosin that looks and functions like wax, shatter, crumble, badder, budder, syrup, or any other popular extract you can think of. With hydrocarbon, it can require a lot of complex post-processing to achieve these different consistencies.
Different solventless SKUs made from rosin (excluding the bubble hash and the pressed bubble hash on the right. The rosin is a product of squishing the bubble hash, dry sift, or flower.) Image from Eric Simpson @simpsonsolventless.
Greater Product Purity
Even the highest-quality solvent-based extraction can’t compete with solventless. Because no foreign agents are combined with the cannabis, rosin offers unparalleled purity. This is a major selling point that you can use to distinguish your product from the other extracts flooding the market.
In addition, the solventless process virtually requires you to use quality flower. If you want to pass microbial and contamination testing, you have to use a top-notch product. In a BHO process, you can make due with a subpar starting material. By allowing chemicals to be pumped into the process, you can get away with unappealing assets like moldy flower, cheap trim, and other unwanted entities. This doesn’t fly with solventless, and savvy connoisseurs know this.
A Higher Price Point
High-quality rosin commands a higher price because it’s a cleaner, higher-quality product. Of course, the premium that consumers are willing to pay will depend on how your rosin is created. If you create rosin from ice water hash, you essentially have the extract equivalent of a fine wine. If you create live rosin from ice water hash, you have the equivalent of an aged wine from a world-famous vineyard. It just doesn’t get any better.
What Is the Value of Rosin?
The value of rosin will depend on the starting material, the production process, and the overall purity and potency of the product. On average, though, rosin wholesales for a cost between $20 and $30 a gram, sometimes more. The retail cost can be significantly higher.
As long as you maintain an emphasis on quality and know how to market your product, discriminating consumers will pay the higher price tag. They’re looking for something special, the kind of thing that usually doesn’t come along, and you can give them that.
You just have to ensure that you do an excellent job of educating customers on why your product is better—and also building your brand on that commitment to quality and purity.
Is Making Rosin Legal?
The legality of making rosin varies by state. If cannabis use is forbidden in your state, then so are all types of cannabis processing. You can own a rosin press, but you can’t use it to process illegal substances.
In states where cannabis is legal for recreational and/or medicinal use, the question is actually twofold: Is it legal to make rosin for personal use? And is it legal to make rosin for commercial use?
If you’re thinking of making rosin commercially, you’ll need to acquire any relevant licenses required by your state. This is usually an extraction license and/or manufacturing license. Some states, like California, have different types of licenses depending on whether or not you use volatile solvents for your extractions. It’s easier to obtain a license if you’re not using solvents, which is another good reason to consider rosin over BHO.
If you’re looking to make rosin at home with no intention to sell it, you’re free to do so as long as you respect all possession and usage laws within the state where you reside.
The Future of RosinThe future of rosin looks bright, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. The unmatched quality makes it an obvious choice for entrepreneurs and savvy consumers alike, and you need every advantage you can get in the increasingly competitive extracts market.
Gauging the next wave of the cannabis market is a risky move. That’s why the majority of businesses are penny stocks at the moment. However, if you want to make one bet, make it rosin. It’s sure to be part of the industry’s future for some time to come.