What Is Fresh Frozen in Cannabis?

batch of fresh frozen cannabis in a bag

Fresh frozen cannabis has become a hot topic in the extraction industry thanks to the accessibility of freezers and an interest in "live" cannabis concentrates like live resin and live rosin. While simple to do, freezing fresh cannabis buds at the time of harvest opens up a host of possibilities relating to both terpene conservation and greater flexibility in your postharvest workflow.

What Is Fresh Frozen Cannabis?

"Fresh frozen cannabis" refers to cannabis buds that are frozen almost immediately after harvest. The buds are typically placed in turkey bags in a freezer for later processing into live bubble hash, live rosin, or live resin.

As the plant material is frozen soon after harvest, the terpenes and cannabinoids aren't given time to degrade. Buds that are frozen fresh make for more terpene-rich, fragrant extracts than could be achieved by processing dried and cured buds.

What Are the Benefits of Fresh Frozen Cannabis?

The fresh frozen method offers several benefits to growers, extractors, and consumers:

Benefits to Growers

Freezing fresh buds results in a faster processing timeline for growers as they don't need to hang or trim the buds after harvesting them. Rather, they simply remove the fan leaves, freeze the plant material, and send it straight to the extractor. Once the frozen buds have been shipped off, the grower has space to process the next batch of buds. This leads to significant cost and space savings.

Benefits to Extractors

Fresh frozen material offers several important advantages for extractors:

  • The higher yield and richer flavors of live extracts translate to a higher profit.
  • Frozen buds can be stored for up to one year with minimal terpene loss. In contrast, around 31% of terpenes are lost after one week of air drying and 55.2% of terpenes are lost after three months of air drying.
  • Modern extraction methods, including ice water extraction, freeze drying, and rosin pressing, allow extractors to create a wide range of live SKUs from fresh frozen buds.

Benefits to Consumers

  • The high-quality extracts that can be made from fresh frozen cannabis buds offer richer flavors and a terpene and cannabinoid profile that resembles that of the live plant. Live extracts are considered premium products and are popular with cannabis connoisseurs.

Choose the Right Cultivars for Fresh Frozen

Fresh Frozen Material

To get the most out of the fresh frozen method, it's essential to choose the right cultivars. As frozen buds are typically processed using ice water extraction, prioritize strains with trichome heads in the 72µm to 120µm range and ensure that the trichome glands are fully developed.

Doing a test wash is a good way of determining whether a given cultivar will wash well before processing it at scale with commercial hash washing equipment

  1. Place 1 oz of fresh plant matter inside a mason or ball jar.
  2. Cover the fresh plant matter with ice-cold water and ice.
  3. Shake it vigorously for 10 to 15 minutes, and allow the trichomes to settle. 
  4. Pour all of the hash into a 25µm rosin bag.
  5. Let it dry.
  6. Weigh the contents. This will tell you the approximate bubble hash yield of the strain vis-a-vis the weight of the starting material.

How to Harvest Cannabis for Fresh Frozen

Harvesting cannabis for fresh frozen involves a few specific techniques that will help you reap the benefits of ice water extraction to the fullest:

  1. Only harvest as much as you can trim: Time is of the essence when harvesting and freezing cannabis buds. Cut only a few branches at a time, trim off only the leaves that don't have trichomes (over a clean food-grade bin in case any trichomes fall off), and get the buds into turkey bags and into the freezer. If the plant material starts to wilt or go limp, it has been sitting around for too long and degradation may have already started to occur.
  2. Hold the buds by the stem: When handling live cannabis buds, always hold them by the stem to avoid damaging the trichome glands.
    Frozen Nug
  3. Don't freeze poor-quality buds: Moldy and diseased cannabis buds should be discarded and never frozen and washed for bubble hash. Poor-quality buds lead to poor-quality solventless extracts—always—so it's better to cut your losses and ensure a premium result.
  4. Package the buds loosely but securely: Your fresh buds should be placed carefully into the bags with enough space that they don't become smashed or damaged. That said, it's essential to close the bag tightly enough to prevent any air exchange with the surrounding environment. You also need to pack the bags into the freezer carefully to avoid damaging the flowers. When the flowers are damaged, there is a higher risk of chlorophyll contaminating your concentrate when it comes time to wash the buds.
  5. Keep dry ice off the buds: Dry ice is frequently used to keep frozen cannabis buds cold during transportation. It's critical that the dry ice is used only in the container and is not allowed to touch the buds directly, as dry ice will bruise the trichomes and break them apart.
  6. Label everything: Label all of your storage bins as you go with the date, strain, and weight of the contents. This will prevent different harvests and strains from getting mixed up.
  7. Leave the buds to freeze for one or two days before extraction: Cannabis buds need to be completely frozen for a successful extraction process. Allow them to freeze for 24-48 hours before using them to make bubble hash.

Unlock the Power of "Live" with Fresh Frozen Buds

Cannabis Going Into Freezer

Fresh frozen cannabis buds open up a wealth of new opportunities in the cannabis cultivation and extraction sectors.

Freezing the freshly harvested buds not only saves growers a significant amount of space (as a drying room is not needed) but it also increases yields for extractors.

Getting started with fresh frozen is as simple as buying some food-grade storage bins, turkey bags, labels, and a spacious freezer.

Try it and discover the fresh frozen difference!

Article written by

Levi Lanzrath

Levi Lanzrath is a cannabis extraction expert and founder of Lowtemp Industries.