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Live Resin vs. Distillate: What’s the Difference?

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Budding connoisseurs of cannabis are confronted by a wide array of choices in how to consume our favorite plant. We hear about wax, shatter, concentrate, extract – what’s it all mean? Today we’re going to look at the difference between two options: live resin and distillate. The difference is literally between hot and cold.

Live resin compared to distillate

  • Cold extraction vs heated extraction
  • Full terpene profile vs no terpenes
  • Still needs to be activated vs can even be used in edibles
  • Inclusive vs exclusive

Live Resin is extracted from frozen flower

You read right, you harvest the plant and flash-freeze it immediately. You keep it frozen and extract the liquid straight from the plant that way.

Live resin is a relatively recent invention in cannabis extraction methods, credited to EmoTek Labs in Colorado circa ~2013. It is a process designed to get 100% of the terpenes intact into the concentrate. Since terpenes typically burn off / evaporate at even moderate temperatures, keeping the plant frozen preserves the entire chemical profile.

The bare bones of this process (for one method):


  • Freeze the bud
  • Run butane through it
  • Purge the butane using warm water (no higher than 45℉)
  • Purge the rest of the butane using a vacuum chamber

The result is a thick, wax-like extract which tastes exactly like the weed you extracted it from, terpenes and all. The result is used in dabbing and other high-temperature consumption, since, remember, the THC hasn’t been activated yet because it was done cold.

Extractors at Elev8 explain how it’s done:

While you’re here, if you’re interested in sampling live resin, check out our recommendations for the best live resin cartridges

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Distillate is made with high heat extraction

Distillate is the complete opposite of live resin. Instead of freezing the plant and delicately preserving every terpene, we’re going to burn off all the terpenes and get down to business: the pure THC. As opposed to live resin, distillate should come out odorless and tasteless.

As the name suggests, the extract will be distilled in the same sense of the word as you would use with moonshine, leaving behind as many impurities as possible while saving only the purest liquid. There are many methods of getting that extract, but the basic steps go:

  • Start with room temperature weed and an extraction medium such as ethanol, BHO, or CO2.
  • Soak the cannabis in the ethanol
  • Break the cannabis up, keep the ethanol really cold
  • Filter the plant matter out of the mixture
  • Heat the mixture to burn off the ethanol
  • Distill it down to pure oil

The above leaves out a lot of detail, and the details are some of the differences of safety, and also about how individual parts like terpenes, flavenoids, and CBD are also extracted. Here’s a video which sums up the process:

Distillate is different from other THC extracts and concentrates as well, since the goal here is to isolate just the chemicals you want. The average dab or oilpen isn’t purified nearly as much.

Does anybody make their own concentrates or extracts from home?

How do you do it? Why do you prefer one method over the other? Help enrich our community by sharing here in the comments or in our forum.

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