If you're unfamiliar with the rosin-making process, get ready for a cannabis DIY experience that could change your consumption life forever. Rosin is a concentrate made by exposing cannabis to heat and pressure in order to force out the terpenes and cannabinoids found in the plant's trichome glands. It's easy to make rosin out of flower, dry sift (kief), or subpar hash using just a few tools you likely have around the house.
While cannabis concentrates made without chemical solvents have been around for centuries, some enterprising cannabis connoisseurs in the 1970s discovered how to separate cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis using butane. When done properly, this process can yield significantly larger quantities simply because more material can be processed at once. When done improperly using DIY systems and homemade equipment, explosions, residual solvents in the end product, and even death can result. Consumers who don't want to risk any of that, or consuming residual chemicals in their concentrates, prefer rosin since it is, by definition, solventless.
Other industries have used this simple extraction technique for thousands of years. Imagine squeezing the oil out of an olive or the juice from a grape. The rosin process literally presses the starting material until it oozes a sticky, cannabinoid- and terpene-rich goo. It can even turn hash that just won't melt into a dabbable product.
Rosin technology has been around for decades, but it didn't really take off until Phil “Soilgrown” Salazar began sharing photos of his rosin experiments on social media and discussing his techniques with the cannabis community. While Salazar didn't invent the process, he did play a huge role in creating the hype that has spurred many solventless enthusiasts to begin experimenting on their own.
Supplies for making rosin
Before you make your first batch of rosin, you'll need a few things.
- Hair straightener
- Parchment paper (not wax paper)
- Cannabis (flower, kief, or hash)
- Dabber or other tool to collect the finished rosin
- Container for the finished rosin (if you make more than a dab or two at a time)
- Rosin bag (optional)
- Heat-resistant gloves (optional, but recommended)
A hair straightener with 2-inch plates and customizable temperature controls work best, but the process will still work with a straightener that has low, medium, and high settings. It may just take a little more trial and error.
Temperature plays a big role in determining the quality and overall yield of your rosin-making efforts. And the ideal temperature is heavily dependent on the chemical makeup of the cannabis used. If your flower, dry sift, or hash is terpene-rich, a lower temperature is needed. This is because the terpenes squeezed out of the trichome glands during the initial press act as a natural solvent to facilitate the process. In strains with fewer terpenes to play that role, you'll need more pressure and heat to coax out the cannabinoids.
Nugs can be pressed directly in parchment paper but kief or hash should be placed in a rosin screen or mesh bag first. While typically used by more experienced rosin makers, these screens and bags filter out plant particulates that can make their way into your finished product. The smaller the screen size, the more particulates it will hold back, but it will also restrict the flow of your rosin and possibly reduce your overall yield.
Choosing the correct screen size is a delicate balance. Finer mesh screens (25-45 microns) are ideal for any form of dry sift or hash. Larger mesh screens (70-120 microns) can be used for either lightly ground nugs or trim.
We recommend using heat resistant gloves to avoid burning your fingertips. Some hair straighteners come with a pair or they can easily be found online or at a beauty supply store. When using the hair straightener, you will need to apply pressure by squeezing the tip of the flat iron with your hands. Do this at your own risk and with caution.
It's important not to overfill screens, bags, or even parchment paper with loose bud — or to apply too much pressure or heat. A rosin bag or screen that's too full can burst or overflow and overflowing buds can take away from the efficiency of the process. Bud that stays inside the parchment but outside the surface of the iron can wind up sucking in the rosin pressed from the other part of the bud. Start with low pressure and increase slowly for the best results, and don't overload your bag or flatiron.
Steps for making rosin
Step 1: It's not necessary to grind your bud but just gently flatten it a bit with your hands to make the press easier. Check to make sure the nug you've chosen will fit inside the parchment and the flat surface of the straightener. Make sure to use buds that are properly cured and not too wet or too dry.
Step 2: If using a rosin bag, place the plant material into it. We recommend nylon food-grade screens or a mesh bag. (This step is optional for flower, but necessary for hash or dry sift.)
Step 3: Set the temperature on your hair straightener or press. Start with low temperatures and work your way up. High temps are quick but can scorch your material and result in dark, runny rosin.
Step 4: Place your bag or loose flower between two pieces of parchment paper. Use only as much material as will fit under the heating element. Leave a couple of inches of extra parchment paper on all sides to catch the rosin. You don't want it to spill over onto the plates.
Step 5: Press the parchment paper with the preheated straightener for four to 30 seconds. The time you need to press depends on the quality of your flower but release when you hear a sizzle. Pressing firmly with the straightener laying flat like a stapler will generally yield better results. This may take a few attempts to get the hang of it.
Step 6: After removing the flower from the parchment paper, check the amount of oil.
You can reposition the nug on a clean spot on the paper or use fresh paper to press again. Repeat until there's no more new rosin coming out.
Step 7: Once you have finished pressing your product, use a dabber to collect the rosin.
Step 8: Package or store the rosin for later use (between parchment is fine if you plan to use it soon). You can also turn it into rosin taffy by stretching, pulling, and twisting it with the dabber until it's a taffy-like consistency.
What's a "good" yield?
The goal of pressing rosin is to get all the cannabinoids and terpenes out of the trichome glands. Theoretically, if your cannabis has 18% cannabinoids and 2% terpenes, the yield you'd get from pressing 1 gram of flower would be 0.2 grams of rosin. Of course, a lot of factors contribute to the overall output as well as the quality of your rosin.
If you don't feel like you got everything out of your first run, you can always grab new parchment paper and press the cannabis again. Increasing the temperature or pressure on your second run will ensure you get every last bit of oil out of your product.
Keep in mind that when you're pressing nugs to make rosin, you're squeezing the plant matter. That plant matter can make its way into your final product, but that doesn't mean your product is bad. Practice makes perfect, and the more you get your set-up and filtering processes down, the higher quality rosin you'll be able to produce.
How do the pros press rosin?
Professional rosin manufacturers and at-home enthusiasts may opt to purchase press kits that contain hydraulic presses, heat controllers, and more in order to process larger quantities of rosin and have better control over all the parameters involved. Rosin press prices range from $120 to more than $4,000, with an array of accessories to customize your setup.
Whether you're interested in trying your hand at pressing rosin with a hair straightener or looking to invest in a more high-tech setup, pressing rosin is a tinkerer's playground, with a plethora of temperature and pressure options to yield the heady results you seek.