What started as a journey to preserve cannabis flower’s natural beauty turned into a technology poised to transform how the cannabis industry processes its bud.
“Before a harvest a few years back, I remarked to my partner Greg [Baughman, Head of Cultivation] that the flowers on his plants were beautiful, and wondered out loud if there was a way for them to stay that beautiful even after harvest,” said Tracee McAfee, CEO of cannabis drying and curing technology company Cryo Cure. “Was there a way to make it smokable without losing not just its beauty, but the integrity of the buds?”
That initial thought evolved into a patent-pending process that perfected freeze-drying cannabis. The result is what Baughman calls “live resin flower,” preserving freshness at its peak.
According to McAfee, this method identified and resolved the biggest issues with traditional freeze-drying of cannabis, including overly dry and brittle flower, fragile trichomes, terpene loss, and THC degradation in high-THC cannabis flower. With Cryo Cure, the moisture content of each batch is brought down to between 8 percent and 12 percent, with settings that support moisture content as low as 0 percent to 1 percent for extraction purposes. Lab tests run on Cryo Cure flower regularly show elevated THC levels. Perhaps the biggest impact, though, is the time saved: Cryo Cure takes only 24 hours from harvest to completion, shaving an average of three weeks off the production process. The drying process can be as short as 12 hours with Cryo Cure.
“With a Cryo Cure machine, you can either freeze and cure in one step, or pre-freeze the material, which doubles the machine’s capacity,” McAfee said. “Cultivators of either cannabis or hemp can get their product to market in record time thanks to our process.”
Cryo Cure offers two models for cannabis or hemp drying and curing. The smaller holds 50 and 100 pounds wet weigh-in and the larger holds 600 and 1,200 pounds wet weigh-in. The smaller unit includes a built-in deep freeze feature, which freezes the cannabis between -20 and -30 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately -29 to -34 Celsius).
Additional machine settings for terpene extraction allow cultivators to collect terpenes and add them back into manufactured products, or sell them separately as another line of revenue. This can be accomplished in one of three ways with Cryo Cure machines:
- Live resin extraction: The Cryo Cure process stabilizes terpene content, resulting in live resin extract that captures higher levels of terpenes, including monoterpenes and rare terpenes, that are lost during the traditional drying and curing process.
- Recapturing terpenes: The Cryo Cure machine’s ice bank captures terpenes typically lost during drying and curing. Approximately 95 percent of terpene content can be saved with this process, a yield that could quite literally be worth millions.
- Terpene extraction settings: Specific settings on Cryo Cure machines prepare flower solely for terpene extraction, so 95 percent of terpene content is stripped from the flower before phytocannabinoids are harvested.
“Strains are being judged by their terpenes, so preserving them has become more important than ever,” Baughman said.
McAfee shared that she and Baughman spent a year tinkering with the process, settings, and equipment before Cryo Cure was ready to take the cannabis world by storm. Initial experiments with regular freeze-drying machines didn’t work as hoped: the flower came out brittle and too dry, and it had lost the glisten of its trichomes, which snapped off during the handling process. When smoked, Baughman and McAfee found that the potency wasn’t there. Plus, regular home and laboratory freeze-drying machines weren’t large enough to accommodate cannabis, and buds came out squished and flattened.
“A lot of people are hearing that cannabis can be freeze-dried, but they’re trying it out with a home or laboratory freeze drying unit,” McAfee said. “They’re learning the hard way that these machines aren’t made for cannabis or hemp. You can’t expect a machine built to freeze-dry food and dog treats to work for fragile cannabis and hemp flower. We knew there had to be a better way, and Greg didn’t stop until he discovered the perfect formulas and methods.”
The result is the perfect combination of pressure, temperature, and time to remove the flower’s water content and leave everything else behind, preserving phytocannabinoids int heir acid state and not boiling off the precious terpenes.
McAfee said that the visual differences between “Cryo Cured” flower and typical cannabis flower are first to capture the attention of growers, processors, and consumers alike. Cannabis and hemp that’s gone through the Cryo Cure process has no flower shrinkage and is vibrant green. The typical bud is at least double the size of flower that’s been traditionally dried and cured.
“The visual appeal blows people’s minds when they see it for the first time,” McAfee said. “To touch it is a whole other level – it feels unique, like nothing they’ve ever felt. Their first reaction is, ‘I can’t wait to try that!’”
McAfee describes the high as “sparkly,” as the Cryo Cure process prevents THC from degrading into CBN, which causes the couchlock effect.
“The high is engaging, creative, and energetic,” McAfee said. “We hear nothing but positive responses from everyone who has tried Cryo Cure.”
Baughman, who is a medical cannabis caregiver in Michigan, brought Cryo Cured flower to his patients to try. The feedback, he said, was astounding.
“We love helping our patients who have physical problems – we’re helping them in ways we never dreamed of,” Baughman said. “What was the most amazing was to watch our patient with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) inhale his medicine and not cough – Cryo Cured cannabis was that gentle on their lungs.”
The experts agree. Cryo Cure has been endorsed by an all-star list of cannabis experts, including former High Times senior cultivation editor Danny Danko, who was so impressed with the results that he introduced McAfee and Baughman to cultivation expert Ed Rosenthal and cannabis breeder and advocate Rick Naya.
“It’s surreal to know that we were inspired by Ed Rosenthal, and now he is our biggest advocate and friend,” McAfee said, noting that Rosenthal’s book, “Marijuana Grower’s Handbook,” kick-started the couple’s “eureka moment” and journey to perfect the cannabis freeze-drying process. “He doesn’t endorse just anything or anyone – he has to truly believe in a product or new process. It has to be better than great. To know he believes in Cryo Cure is humbling.”
For more information about Cryo Cure, including machine specifics and lab test results, visit www.CryoCure.com.
Stella Morrison is an award-winning former journalist turned content writer. She is the founder and lead content strategist at CannaContent, a marketing firm that specializes in the cannabis and hemp industries.