There are probably a dozen different ways to pack a column. While as a Sergeant in the Marines, I was sometimes amazed by the different interpretations my Marines would take on what I thought to be a clear set of instructions… So it goes. Everyone has their own interpretation on how to do things.
The process of packing a column is no different – everyone can have their own interpretation. In my view, there are two “best practices” in order to pack a column. I’ll explain the two and you can choose what works best for you.
Either way, your goal is to reduce the amount of condensation on the buds and the inside of the column. Condensation is the enemy because it reduces the ability of butane to solvate the lipid/waxy bilayer of the trichome – in botany, that layer is called the cuticle. If the cuticle is surrounded by frozen water, the butane can’t penetrate and the extraction efficiency decreases along with your yields.
Temperature and time.
You’ll likely have two options for freezing your buds and column. I will assume that everyone who is doing extractions has, at a minimum, a freezer capable of maintaining 0C temperatures. In this case, you will need 36-48 hours to ensure that all water has been locked up in its solid phase as ice.
If you have dry ice on hand, which most live resin extractors do, you can pack your freezer with a bed of dry ice. When you freeze your buds and/or bud packed column on dry ice, you drastically speed up the freezing process. A thin layer of freshly picked buds packed into a vacuum sealing bag will be frozen in 30 minutes. If you’ve pack it into a column, give it 2 hours to ensure a full freeze.
Method 1: pack freshly cut buds into the column and freeze.
This is probably the easiest method. Simply cut the room temperature buds up into 1/2”-1” diameter. The column should also be at room temperature. Loosely pack the column with the buds. You’re now ready to freeze the column and buds. Once fully frozen, you can begin your extraction process by vacuuming out the extractor and column.
You should vacuum out your column only after you have frozen the buds. The reasoning is that vacuuming unfrozen buds will cause the plant cell walls to rupture, releasing the water and phytochemicals that you are trying to avoid extracting in the first place.
Method 2: freeze freshly cut buds and column separately, then pack the column.
This method is just as sound as the first. Again, this is a matter of preference, but has its own merits. Cut your buds down to 1/2”-1”. Pack them into a vacuum sealed bag and evacuate the bag – as in method 1, pulling full vacuum may rupture plant cell walls. In this case, a vacuum sealer will not develop the same pressure as the vacuum pump used to evacuate your extractor. That said, the biggest benefit of this method is being able to freeze larger quantities and store them in the freezer until you’re ready to extract them.
In the meantime, you will freeze your empty column until its temperature is the same as the frozen buds. In this situation, you want to pack your column quickly to prevent condensation to form on both the buds and the interior of the column wall. Ideally, you will have a room that has a very low relative humidity. Once packed, you’re on your way to assembling the column to the extractor and start to pull a vacuum.
If you have the tools of the trade on hand – ie a vacuum sealer and dry ice – I prefer method 2. If not, you will not be at a total loss to use method 1 and just freeze the plant matter in the column. If you have several columns on hand, you’re not at much of a loss. If you have one column on hand and no vacuum sealer, you can still get by with a modified version of method 2.
As always, if you have any questions please post them in the comments section. Your questions and time are valuable and we will make every attempt to help you through your process.