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Freeze Drying vs. Cold Curing Cannabis: Revolutionizing Drying Methods

Mary Ekundayo

by Mary Ekundayo

August 31, 2023 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
Freeze Drying vs. Cold Curing Cannabis: Revolutionizing Drying Methods

Drying your cannabis after harvest does not have to take weeks anymore. With technologies like freeze drying, getting cured bud within 24 hours is possible. The traditional approach to drying cannabis involves hanging the flowers in the air for their moisture content to evaporate. But what are the differences between freeze-drying vs. cold-curing cannabis?

Exposure to air usually lasts for a minimum of one week. Afterward, they are cured for weeks to remove more moisture, which preserves their flavor and potency. Although freeze-drying is unorthodox, it has proven to yield better results while saving time.

Freeze-Drying vs. Cold-Curing Cannabis: The Difference

There are fundamental differences between freeze-drying vs. cold-curing cannabis, including quality of the flower, yield, and protection against contaminants. In cannabis processing, freeze-drying involves removing moisture from cannabis through sublimation, and it is done in three stages. The first step includes rapidly freezing the cannabis flowers to below -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, heat is applied to sublimate the ice, removing up to 95% of its moisture. Finally, the buds are exposed to higher temperatures to dry them properly.

Cold curing, on the other hand, involves freezing your bud to retain its shape and quality. Freeze-dryer machines can be used for both the drying and curing processes. Many companies want to adopt patent-pending techniques to develop more efficient machines for even faster drying and curing.

Shortcomings of Regular Freeze-Drying vs. Cold-Curing Cannabis 

To fully understand the freeze-drying vs. cold-curing cannabis debate, we must first recognize the shortcomings of these methods. Before the adoption of freeze-drying technology in the cannabis space, freeze dryers have been generally used in the food industry. However, regular commercial freeze dryers may not be adequate for cold-curing cannabis because of the following reasons:

  1. Excessive drying can make the flowers too brittle, thus compromising the quality of the cannabis.
  2. Regular freeze dryers do not have cannabis-friendly moisture control.
  3. Overdrying can destroy the trichomes in the flower.
  4. The space of regular freeze dryers may not fit larger cannabis flowers.

These shortcomings necessitate innovation in the freeze-drying technology to specifically suit commercial weed production.

More on the Technology

WAVE is one of the companies maximizing the value of freeze-drying technology in the cannabis space. Its CEO, Dan Berlin, explains how its innovative process works.

He said, “You basically start with your material and then that’s slightly frozen and then put under a vacuum, and basically sublimation occurs,” He further explained, “The ice goes straight to vapor. It skims over the water phase. And we slowly raise the temperature through the process and gently remove water. And we’re trying to leave the flower at about 11-12% [moisture] when we pull it out—unlike traditional freeze drying when you go and take all the water out for when you have freeze-dried berries or things like that. With cannabis, we’re trying to effectively cure it so that you don’t have to go through the whole drying and curing phase.”

Keirton Inc. and Trichome Technologies also launched a patent-pending process called Velo Essence. Jay Evans, the CEO of Keirton Inc., mentioned that ‘Velos Essence is a patent-pending process that we have on extracting terpenes–the full terpene profile, so monoterpenes and everything from fresh cannabis.’

Keep in mind that terpenes are the compounds in cannabis responsible for its smell and taste.

Speaking on the efficiency of their improvement on the technology to preserve terpenes, Greg Baughman, the co-founder of Cryo Cure said, “ Traditional freeze-drying methods, even by using freeze dryers, work as long as they can be controlled—if you know the right parameters, so it preserves the terpenes,”

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He also stated that “So in a nutshell, what we do is we can skip the hanging phase of drying and you go right into a final cure. So our machine replaces that seven to two weeks of hanging, drying in a room and takes that down to between 12 and 16 hours, depending on the density of the cultivar.”

He further explained, “So that’s where our secret sauce lies, is that we’ve dialed in the perfect recipe to make sure that you don’t remove all any of the terpenes and all of the moisture,” Baughman says. “We started realizing that there’s not that many people who manufacture refrigerators out there in the selection. You know, we went through every single manufacturer and they’re all made for different things and they specialize in different industries.”

Therefore, in the freeze-drying vs. cold-curing cannabis debate, new freeze-drying technology may reign supreme.

Benefits of Freeze-Drying vs. Cold-Curing Cannabis

Faster Drying And Curing

Freeze-drying reduces your cannabis processing time from weeks to as little as a day. However, the time used would eventually depend on the freeze-dryer and its settings.

Energy Efficiency

Freeze drying is generally more energy efficient because you use less energy to process large quantities of cannabis. Furthermore, freeze dryers operate at lower temperatures compared with other drying methods that might require high temperatures.

Better Protection From Contaminants

With a freeze dryer, you don’t need to set up a drying or a curing room. Aside from saving your space, this fact implies that your cannabis flowers are less prone to molds or pest contamination

Preservation of Terpenes and Cannabinoids

Freeze-dried weed retains more of its terpenes and cannabinoids compared with those that are processed using traditional methods. Freeze drying involves controlled moisture removal, which prevents the oxidation of compounds like THC and CBD.

Better Cannabis Quality

Freeze-dried flowers are typically superior in quality to their traditionally dried counterparts. Alongside the preservation of its potency, you get your full flowers without any shrinking or deformation. Ultimately, better weed quality leads to more market value, which ensures the industry’s growth.

Longer Storage Time

When freeze-dried, your flowers last longer in storage. However, they must be stored properly in either polybags or cans for an even longer shelf life.

Final Words

Freeze-drying technology is gradually changing the tide of commercial weed production. Although many cannabis experts agree that the texture of traditionally dried cannabis is not exactly the same as that of freeze-dried ones, the potency remains the same. Many weed companies are looking for more efficient ways to use freeze-drying technology in the cannabis space. And there is hope that many more will join in the adoption down the years.

Interested in growing your own medical cannabis? Book an appointment to talk to an MMJ doctor today!

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