Cultivators, processors, and extractors have long dedicated their time, effort and ingenuity to maximizing phytocannabinoid levels in their harvests. Now, their attention is turning to terpenes.

Terpenes are the volatile compounds responsible for giving fruit, herbs and plants – including cannabis – their unique flavor and scent profiles. Demand for cultivars (also known as strains) and manufactured products rich in terpenes is rising as more is learned about how these compounds influence the total cannabis consumption experience. Naturally, as more consumers seek them out, industry professionals are looking for ways to meet the demand.

However, terpene preservation and terpene harvesting are no easy feats. More sensitive and fragile than phytocannabinoids, terpenes require extra special care and attention if they are to make it into the final product. Here, we’ll get into the nitty gritty of terpene preservation and cannabis terpene harvesting, why terpene preservation is such a hot topic in the first place, and the role freeze drying cannabis plays in the cannabis terpene preservation process.

What is terpene preservation?

Terpene preservation refers to the steps taken to retain as many terpenes as possible during the cannabis drying and curing process. As terpenes are ultra-sensitive to heat and light, cannabis and hemp terpenes are typically diminished after harvest. Terpene preservation alters these processes to ensure that as few terpenes are lost during the process as possible.

What is cannabis terpene harvesting?

Cannabis terpene harvesting is the process of separating pure cannabis terpenes from the plant. While terpenes can be extracted from many fruits, flowers, and herbs, there is growing interest in collecting the valuable terpenes often lost during the cannabis drying and curing process

Consumer demand for terpenes has risen as researchers continue to uncover their purported benefits. As the market demand grows, this creates opportunity for extractors who can sell both cannabinoids and terpenes taken from the plant. As of 2020, a milliliter of pure cannabis terpenes sells for as much as $80 to $100. This value add can drastically increase how much profit a processor or extractor can make from a harvest.

Why is it important to preserve terpenes?

Consumers want terpenes. These compounds – of which there are around 20,000 in nature, a fraction of which are found in cannabis — are playing an ever-growing role in the consumer educational experience. Researchers are exploring how terpenes may enhance and complement the effects of phytocannabinoids like THC and CBD, a theory called the entourage effect.

Many of the most frequent terpenes in cannabis are believed to shape the consumption experience. Customers who want to relax after a long day may reach for a myrcene-heavy strain or a cannabis product with this added terpene, while those seeking an uplifting boost may reach for a product that boasts high levels of limonene.

What do trichomes have to do with terpenes?

To talk about terpene preservation, we first need to talk about trichome preservation. Trichomes are the ultra-small structures that line the outside of your bud. When your cannabis or hemp flower looks “frosty” or like it’s glistening, that’s due to the trichomes.

Trichomes contain most of your flower’s phytocannabinoids and terpenes, and they are very fragile. When they fall off or break off cannabis or hemp flower, most of your flower’s potency, aroma, and flavor disappears right along with it. This is particularly challenging for freeze-dried cannabis or hemp flower, which can remove too much moisture and make the trichomes too brittle to make it to the dispensary shelf.

Additionally, terpenes are very sensitive to heat and light. Many naturally evaporate during the traditional cannabis drying process, even at room temperature, making preservation a unique challenge for processors.

Do food freeze dryers preserve terpenes?

While freeze drying cannabis and hemp is an often-used technique, a traditional freeze dryer is not built for the job. The biggest reason for this is how much moisture traditional freeze dryers remove from their products. While a 1% moisture content is great for the long-term preservation of bananas or beef, it can be too drying for cannabis and hemp flower. As a result, when a consumer goes to grind and smoke it, freeze dried cannabis can literally turn to dust, ruining the flower’s potency along with it.

It seems like contradicting priorities: too much moisture is the enemy of a cannabis or hemp harvest, but too little moisture can ruin the smoking experience. The solution, then, is to find the right moisture levels which preserve the precious terpene-rich trichomes in cannabis and hemp. That invention comes from Cryo Cure.

How Cryo Cure preserves terpenes

Cryo Cure’s patent-pending process brings moisture levels in cannabis and hemp flower down to its ideal levels. Instead of drying out flower to the point where trichomes break off, Cryo Cure eliminates just enough moisture to preserve the flower’s aroma and flavor while ensuring that mold, mildew, and bud rot never have the chance to flourish in the process.

Cryo Cure skips the lengthy hanging process during which many volatile terpenes evaporate. Instead of hanging to dry for an average of 5 to 15 days in carefully controlled conditions, dry time takes 12 hours after spending one hour in a -20°F freezer. Not only is this a game-changer for a burdensome process, but this shortened timeframe literally does not give terpenes a chance to evaporate from the cannabis or hemp flower. The result is a fragrant, terpene-rich experience unmatched by any traditionally dried and cured cannabis or hemp flower. We’ve even discovered rare and never-before-seen pure cannabis terpenes in our flower, a testament to how successful our process is for terpene preservation.

Total terpene harvesting is a separate setting on Cryo Cure machines. Terpenes aren’t affected by below freezing temperatures like they are affected by warmer temperatures. That means no terpenes are lost during the freezing process. Once your flower is frozen, Cryo Cure machines come with specially designed settings that gently pull off 95 percent of terpenes, simplifying an extremely difficult task for processors and extractors. The result is terpene collection that closely mimics the plant in its natural state.

Cryo Cure makes terpene preservation a breeze

Thanks to Cryo Cure’s patent-pending cannabis drying and curing process, terpene preservation and terpene extraction are easier than they have ever been. By minimizing time spent drying, Cryo Cure reduces the chances that terpenes evaporate off naturally or in undesirable room temperatures. Plus, cannabis and hemp flower are dried and cured at ideal moisture content levels to keep the delicate trichomes that house terpenes intact and vibrant.

When Cryo Curing your flower, the result is a smoking experience that’s not only flavorful and aromatic, but potent: our process stabilizes THC content, too, and prevents it from degrading into CBN, known for the “couch lock” effect. If you’re using Cryo Cure’s terpene extraction settings, you can collect up to 95% of the flower content’s valuable terpenes for use in other products or for resale.

Explore how Cryo Cure can maximize the value of your yield! Learn more about Cryo Cure by exploring our FAQ page and see more information about our offerings on our Models page. For more information, contact Cryo Cure or apply for financing.