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So you purchased a Mesclatore (or are thinking of buying one)… Now what? User manual aside, read on to learn more about the successful implementation of any solventless system.
Cult lingo states “Fire in, Fire out,” but few truly know what that means. The basis is that you need good quality biomass to yield a good quality product. This doesn’t mean you need Fresh Frozen flower exclusively, as Fire can be produced from trim as well as dry cured material. “Fire” isn’t exclusive of transparent or lighter colored hash (e.g. dry cured) and not all hash needs to be full melt (e.g. food grade).
The following is obvious to us but may not be so to many others. Take these to heart to make that Fire:
“Fire” cannot be produced in a machine, but a machine can surely diminish quality. Thus, care must be taken to develop an SOP for your product. In our tank, the quantity of biomass processed depends… If your end product is Full Melt and are working with expensive biomass, we recommend starting with 20 gallons worth of biomass (10kg Fresh Frozen or 2kg of Dry Cured). Once you understand how your product washes, adjust as necessary. If you are shooting for yields because your final product is edibles, you may find 70 gallons (35kg fresh frozen) of biomass achievable.
Buds vs Trim
When washing, fluid dynamics, and shear stress are critical to dislodge trichome heads at the abscission point. Trim would of course be free-flowing and move around the tank better and more homogenously than buds. For this reason, trim will release trichomes faster than flowers. This means the SOP must be adjusted to take this into account, by reducing processing time, wash cycles, and power requirements. Buds on the other hand tend to clump up and float. More power is required to get buds to circulate properly within the system. Also, more power is required to dislodge trichomes from inside buds that aren’t easily exposed to shear stress. Too much power of course yields contaminants.
Soak time is critical since biomass must be supple and not brittle. Brittle biomass creates contaminants easily. Trim soaks faster than buds, and fresh frozen soaks faster than dry-cured.
Power is needed to create the necessary fluid dynamics to generate the necessary shear stress to dislodge trichomes. Too much shear stress and we also rupture cell walls and grind biomass creating contaminants. Keep in mind the goal is to keep solids under suspension and not create a homogenous mixture. The goal is not to perfectly mix but to keep particles moving.
Power requirements will depend on viscosity. This is the relationship between water, temperature and solids. The more flower or less water in the system, the more power is required. If your soak time is short, you may also find the need for extra power, in fact it is typical that the beginning of the first cycle either be at high RPM or assisted to break up clump of material frozen together.
Number of Washes
We find the first and especially the second wash are the money makers. But we also find that the first wash does have dirt and debris. We advocate a short first wash to dislodge dirt, and a longer second was to get that yield. The first wash is your low-lying fruit and ripe trichomes that already fell of or are about to. Your second wash is your best quality. The rest of the washes depend on your product and some processors may wash as much as 6 times. Keep in mind that eventually shear stress and soaking catches up to you and contaminants become a problem. You quickly find that the yields are on a diminishing return curve. You may decide to schedule your first washes as higher quality products and your final washes dedicated to edibles or others.
Water is most dense at 4C and the colder it gets the less soluble it becomes. This means water need not be -20F to wash better. Some vendors make wild unsubstantiated claims that water needs to be below its freezing point to wash better hash. This is asinine, period. The science says otherwise. There is no need to chill water below 4C as there is no benefit. At 4C, water will dissolve fewer terpenes, some of which are strong solvents. These terpenes will have unintended consequences in your wash.
Changing the water frequently, especially when washing for prolonged periods can have its benefits due to the accumulation of contaminants (such as terpenes, chlorophyll, chloroplasts, and glycerin) in the water. When water is fully saturated with contaminants, an endpoint is reached. Unfortunately changing water also promotes the further saturation of subsequent batches where more terpenes and cannabinoids become water-soluble.
Research is required on how best to recapture (or prevent) lost cannabinoids (and terpenes and flavonoids) in water. Our team is hard at work tackling this problem, stay tuned.
Fresh Frozen flowers must be frozen to preserve terpenes. Anecdotally, the flower must be frozen two hours from the time of harvest. Hard data must be collected to confirm this but there may be some truth. The lesson here is that time is of the essence.
The rate of freezing is also critical to get that “fire.” Obviously, you’ve read our Crystallography Blog and understand that slow cooling promotes the formation of large crystals. These large crystals rupture plant cell walls that in turn bleed chemicals (chloroplasts, cannabinoids, etc…) into the water. Quick cooling of biomass is a necessary step in producing higher-quality hash and promoting higher yields. Though a -86C “So-Lo” freezer is overkill and counterproductive, a regular freezer (especially one that is overpacked) will also likely not suffice.
Ice has its place in the process, but mostly to moderate process temperature. Ice in your wash greatly increases shear stress and promotes contaminants. Ice can be used sparingly when that extra shear is needed, but we have not found it useful in our system.
Small Cube Bags
Small bags disrupt the fluid dynamics of the system and should be used only when cleaning your system quickly is important. The Mesclatore does not have this problem so there is no need to use small bags in the system. These bags are sometimes overpacked and will yield less than washing biomass loose.