Are you looking to compete in the cannabis industry on a shoe string budget? The secret is, you don’t have to have expensive technology to produce premium cannabis products. Instead of following the latest trends, think outside the box and keep the money in your pocket. Running a successful cannabis business is about getting a return on investment, and the faster this happens the better. In this series we will look at several tips on how to compete successfully in cannabis with as little investment as possible. In the first installment we looked at how to winterize without a chiller or cryogenic freezer.

Tip #2 – How to prep your starting material for optimum results

Where you obtain the material along the chain of custody is important and all part of the material prep. The second a plant is cut from its life source degradation begins. How the plant is handled from this point is crucial to the quality of the product.

Disclaimer: Market conditions can significantly influence the care a farmer takes in handling degradation. This is a whole other subject for another time and I can’t judge how someone handles the material without knowing the financials behind it. Because someone allows degradation does not make it wrong for their situation.

When purchasing, all we can do is understand what level it is at and we are willing to tolerate. What your willing to tolerate can also be a financial decision as well as your method of extraction and end use. Once in your possession, slowing the degradation is within your control and should be done.

This article is meant to be a guide for beginners to point them in the right direction. It is also meant to show there are efficient methods to get the job done and produce quality without spending money. So lets get into it!

What causes degradation?

While there are many variables that contribute to degradation the primary ones are:

  1. Light
  2. Moisture
  3. Air or oxygen
  4. Heat

In a perfect world we remove all four and life is good. This can be very expensive and time consuming so what should a beginner do?

Moisture should be the first focus for a beginner for multiple reasons.

  1. It is easy to achieve with reasonably minimal effort.
  2. It will dilute your ethanol
  3. It can reduce yields in a winterized extraction
  4. When combined with the other degradation factors it will cause oxidation and mold

Before we remove moisture we should discuss particle size

Particle size:      For thorough and efficient extraction it is necessary that each oil-bearing cell of the material be brought in contact with the solvent. Therefore, proper preparation of materials prior to extraction is important to ensure this contact. The smaller the material size the better the penetration of the solvent into the cells. Too fine however will prevent the solvent from percolating through the mass. Milling to approximately from 4mm to 6mm is ideal.

If you have fresh material with high moisture content above 15% or 20%  and have the proper equipment this would be the time to mill or grind. Smaller particles will dry faster and more thorough.

For those of you who don’t own a mill keep reading . This article is for you.

How do you dry affordably?

Good old heat lamps. Lay out some black plastic. Spread your material in a thin layer and place halogen lights or other type of heat lamps directly over the material. A small fan blowing across the material will help remove the evaporating water. This is best done in a room with an exhaust fan. Think about how a bathroom fan removes moisture after a shower. If you’re a grower and can spare a couple days placing the material under the grow lights works fantastic. You should expect this to take a couple days at least but quite possibly longer.

What is an acceptable moisture content?

The lower the better but much over 4% is pushing it. Typically using the above described method you can expect around 4%. Just because the material crumbles does not mean its dry though. The difference between 4% and 8% is almost undetectable by touch but significant in extraction. Invest in a quality moisture meter or detector. If your going to spend money make it on this. Accuracy matters. Find an instrument that weighs the sample. RADWAG is a good manufacturer to look into.

What about freeze dryers?

Save the freeze dryers for when your rich and want to impress your friends. They absolutely work and will get you closer to the 1-3% range but will not impact your quality in a way that translates to a return on investment

So now its dry, how do you mill?

What’s the poor mans mill? His hands and feet. If its trim without flower, don’t bother. If its flower or has flower mixed in, its time to walk it. You will want to see the milling in action so wear a pair of boot covers or clean dedicated shoes and get to it. The dry material will break apart under your feet and the chunks that don’t can be easily broken with your hands.

How do you store it?

Once you have your material dry and milled you need to store it. This is where we remove the other  degradation factors. Heat, light and air. Pack your material in a large zip lock type bag which you can find at places like Uline. Seal the bag all but about an inch. Squeeze as much air out as possible by kneeling on it and finish the seal. Place the material in a freezer until use. You can invest in vacuum bags but the larger sizes can get expensive. Uline is good for those as well though.

So now your material is prepped and ready to go but that doesn’t guarantee you a perfect batch. You will need to winterize your extraction to prevent that remaining moisture from affecting your extraction. Check out the previous installment, “how to winterize without a chiller or cryogenic freezer.  or if your into videos check out the video link  Here , for tips on efficient winterization techniques on a budget.

Pure ethanol is a critical component in the process and we still have that residual moisture to deal with. And what happens when the material is already degraded and your extraction turns out bad? Don’t worry!  Stay tuned for my next article on how to remove water from your ethanol as well as fixing a bad batch.

Stay tuned for more money saving tips for beginners and start-ups

Written by Arthur Paul – 4/2021