Why Solventless Vape Cartridges Are the Holy Grail for Processors

Most experienced cannabis consumers agree that solventless products, especially live rosin, are the best-tasting and highest quality concentrate products available. As their popularity grows, solventless concentrates will continue to pique the curiosity of more (and more varied) cannabis consumers.

Most cannabis concentrates are consumed through dabbing, which requires additional equipment, and for years, this meant concentrates were relatively inaccessible for rookie cannabis consumers. But with the proliferation of portable vaporizers, particularly vape pens, cannabis concentrates have never been easier to consume and enjoy — and through solventless vape pens, even cannabis newcomers can now experience the highest quality and most flavorful products on the market!

However, while solventless vape pens are the best way to bring the pinnacle of vape flavors to inexperienced consumers, the cannabis processors who pursue this route will only find success through careful planning and skill acquisition. If a cannabis operator is planning out their solventless division, then solventless vape cartridges are very likely their ideal end-goal, but getting there requires hard work.

Requirements: premium product, expert extractors

First, one requires access to high-quality cannabis and a team of dedicated professionals who are able to produce — and, critically, reproduce — high-quality rosin extracts with consistent flavor, appearance, and viscosity between batches.

High-quality, resinous Cake Crasher cannabis flower. Image shot by Erik Christiansen (Instagram: @erik.nugshots)

Second, in-house solventless vape carts tend to require a significant amount of R&D work and by their very nature of being a solventless product, operators are going to have to use up a lot of high-quality cannabis in the name of fine-tuning a consistent product. Additionally, most standard vape cartridges are not suited for the viscosities and terpene complexities afforded by solventless concentrates, which either means more in-house R&D or working directly with a specialized vape hardware manufacturer — and often both, as you may find that not everything that is advertised as solventless-friendly will churn out a satisfactory product, so expect to do some shopping around.

How are solventless vape cartridges made?

As we hinted above, solventless vape cartridges — like any solventless product — must start with high-quality cannabis flower. Note, however, that flower rosin itself doesn’t tend to work in vape cartridges without a cutting agent (and then what’s the point of going solventless?) so the source material needs to be extracted either as a high-quality ice water hash or dry sift.

510 cartridge with viscous solventless hash oil processed at the Kush Masters lab in Boulder, CO (Instagram: @kmlabs.co)

The biggest issue facing operators in the path toward solventless vape carts is likely going to be nailing the viscosity of one’s product. Therefore, once the source material has been prepared and pressed into rosin, the final step involves removing the THCA — a compound found in fresh cannabis trichomes which does not translate well to vape cartridges — and then recombining until the desired viscosity is achieved.

Typically, this final step of mechanical separation is achieved through what’s known colloquially as “jar tech,” the strategies for which can vary wildly from extractor to extractor, or by pressing the product through a very fine filter at low temperatures, which siphons off some of the raw solventless terpenes, then pressing the material again at high temps and recombining. The resulting material can then be loaded into your solventless-appropriate vape carts for consumption.

Solventless hash oil for cartridges made by Collin Palmer (Instagram: @vessellifescience) via jar tech

Roadmapping a successful solventless cartridge launch

Solventless vape carts have created a unique niche for the cannabis industry because while they can be more demanding for a processor to get set up, they also lend a certain prestige to one’s brand.

These are the primary steps and issues to watch out for when building toward rosin vape carts:

  • You will need the specs to make high-quality solventless concentrates like ice water hash and cannabis rosin — and the ability to create both will afford you the most and best options. This means having the proper equipment, employing well-trained staff and, of course, having access to high-quality source material.
  • Once you have the means and talent to make the product, the hard part begins. Even expert extractors can have difficulty producing a vape-friendly solventless product. According to most processors, getting the viscosity for a vape cartridge is the primary issue in the research and development process — your team should expect frustration and setbacks, but that is the price to pay for having such refined wares! Solventless experts like the team at PureCannalabs can offer guidance during this and the following processes.
  • You must be diligent when selecting hardware: not all vape cartridges are made equal, and not all standard vape cartridges will work for a solventless product (even if the manufacturers say that they do). Expect to spend some time and money searching for the perfect hardware.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, you and your team must master this process! That means everything from scratch to finished product must be 100% reproducible and consistent.

Are solventless vape cartridges worth the extra effort?

If you already have or are pursuing a solventless division, rosin vape cartridges are very likely your best end-game move for expanding your brand’s footprint into a larger customer segment. Recent market data suggests that solventless concentrate sales are one of the industry’s fastest-growing segments, and rosin vape carts represent the most accessible form of this luxury cannabis offering.

Price-wise, solventless vape carts inherently cost more than other cartridge-based concentrates as the production process is more involved and demand is only growing. Additionally, while the flavors of solventless concentrates are more pronounced than other products, they are also more delicate and may not keep as well. This means that each solventless cartridge typically contains less product than their solvent-based counterparts so they are less likely to spoil before being consumed. This creates another advantage for cannabis operators with a successful solventless division, as not only do rosin carts drive the highest price points but they also tend to be sold in smaller quantities.

Ultimately, only the most dedicated cannabis companies may attempt to offer solventless vape carts, and only adept operators will succeed. But if you can successfully launch such a product line, it demonstrates real dedication and passion for the cannabis industry and its widely varied and rapidly growing consumer base.

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