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The Key Factors that Impact the Flavor of a Pre-Roll

The Key Factors that Impact the Flavor of a Pre-Roll

Posted by Custom Cones USA on Mar 28th 2023

Most of the flavor in pre-rolls come from the flower, and the flavor in flower comes from terpenes. Each cultivar has its own unique cocktail that makes up its one-of-a-kind scent and flavor, and it's this unique combination of terpenes that is also responsible for the direction of the experience. This also means that the most important thing you can do to create a tasty pre-roll is to make sure the terpenes make their way to the consumer. Here’s how you do it!

Grow, Dry, and Cure

Growing quality flower with a tasty flavor profile is the goal of every cannabis producer, but simply growing amazing flower doesn’t guarantee that it’ll get to the consumer. After the flower is grown, it needs to be dried. Drying the flower not only removes unwanted moisture, but it also gives time for the chlorophyll in the plant material to decompose. If the flower dries too quickly, you end up with more chlorophyll than you’d want, and that results in a harsh smoking experience for the consumer. So, make sure you have the temperature and humidity in your drying room locked in.

After drying, the flower needs to be cured. The reason flower needs to be cured is because terpenes are volatile compounds that evaporate at room temperature. Flower that is not cured will lose its aroma and flavor quickly (even when stored properly). It’s the curing process that stabilizes the terpenes so the flower can hold onto them longer. Unfortunately, whereas drying can be finished in a few days, curing can take weeks, and that is the main reason that some producers choose to take less time than they need or skip it entirely. But make no mistake. Cured flower makes for tastier pre-rolls.

A Consistent Grind

After the flower has been dried and cured, you’ll have to start thinking about getting it into a pre-roll, and the first thing you need to do is grind the flower. This is another step that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves, and the result is a lackluster pre-roll. Here’s how to do it properly!

A solid piece of advice for grinding cannabis is to avoid kitchen appliances. This may sound weird, but it is still common for many producers to use blenders or food processors to grind their weed. Blenders use a high rpm motor that absolutely destroys terpenes. Not only are the extremely fast blades hard on the plant material, but they also generate quite a bit of heat, which also degrades terpenes.

A blender also has no way to make sure you get a consistent particle size with your grind, so you end up with a mixture that is difficult to handle through production and will burn poorly for the consumer. Imagine spending all that time properly growing, drying, and curing some beautiful cannabis only to have it pulverized in a blender, slow down your production, and give the consumer a bad experience. To avoid this issue, we recommend using a grinder with a low rpm, high torque motor. Our industrial grinders do a wonderful job of retaining terpenes and come with a variety of screens that are designed to give you a consistent particle size throughout the grinding process.

The Importance of Sifting

After grinding the flower material, you want to make sure it gets sifted. It’s common for things like stems, leaves, and seeds to find their way into the ground cannabis. Not only are these parts of the plant that will not taste good, but they are also things that can slow down production by making it difficult to fill pre-rolls and negatively impact the smoking experience.

To demonstrate the impact of sifting on pre-roll production, we ran an experiment between pre-rolls made with sifted material vs un-sifted material, and the results were a little shocking. The pre-rolls made from un-sifted material had a weight variance that was 65% higher, they were 488% more likely to have a hole from a stem, and they produced almost twice as many pre-rolls with an unsatisfactory pack. To make things worse, un-sifted material also negatively impacts the THC percentage, because stems, leaves, and seeds are not rich in THC.

Density of Packing

The time has finally come to fill your cones, and your primary concern is going to be correctly packing them. If you pack a pre-roll too loose, the material will burn too fast, and you will get a floppy cone that easily breaks. A loosely packed pre-roll will also burn much quicker and more harshly than a nicely packed pre-roll. If you pack it too tight, the consumer won’t be able to get a good pull, and it will not stay lit very well because of limited airflow and clogs. This will produce a light and airy smoke that many consumers find unsatisfactory.

Filters & Draw

Yes, even the filter can have an impact on the flavor. By adding a filter tip (glass, ceramic, or wood), you can cool down the temperature of the smoke before it gets to the consumer so they can appreciate the flavor more. Speaking of cooling down smoke, it makes sense that the longer the smoke must travel, the cooler it will be for the consumer. So, it makes sense that shorter pre-rolls will produce hotter smoke. Thicker pre-rolls will also burn more material at once; therefore, increasing the amount of smoke that makes it to the consumer. So, be sure to spend some time thinking about the structure of your pre-roll when evaluating flavor.

Paper Type

The paper of a pre-roll can also have an impact on flavor. We say “can” because a lot of papers are designed to limit their impact on flavor so the flower can shine. Even a thicker hemp blunt wrap will have trouble standing up to the loud flavor of cannabis products. The biggest difference between paper types is in how they look and function, but just like oil, flavors can be added to papers to increase their impact. These flavors are most often added to thicker wraps and natural leaf products, so the flavor can easily be absorbed into the paper.

Blending Flower

Because flavor is such an important part of the pre-roll experience, many producers are starting to find different ways to add flavor to their pre-rolls besides just growing really tasty flower. The easiest way to produce new and exciting flavors in your pre-rolls is by mixing different flower material together. Just like whisky and wine makers creating blended offerings for their customers, cannabis producers are combining different cultivars to create unique terpene profile that do not exist on their own. These blended pre-rolls are also fun for consumers because the unique terpene profiles provide unique experiences. It’s an opportunity to give them something they’ve never tasted or experienced before!

Adding Concentrate

Pre-rolls are one of the fastest growing cannabis products in the world, and infused pre-rolls are the category that is growing the most! Not only do they increase the potency of a pre-roll, they also drastically alter the flavor. Concentrates come in a variety of forms, and each can have a distinct flavor associated with them. Unlike blending flower, you aren’t adding plant material, so the flavor will be cleaner and easier to appreciate.

Concentrates can be altered in flavor though. Distillates are the concentrate that is most often flavored, because it is essentially a THC isolate and a blank canvas for flavor. A lot of companies choose to infuse their distillate with botanical terpenes to mimic a cultivar, but other companies choose to infuse their distillate to taste more like fruit or candy.

How to Test the Flavors

If you plan on starting a flavored pre-roll line, you have to make sure they taste good. So, setting up a good R&D process to test your products is a must. Here’s some advice on how you can do that!

First thing, don’t test more than two products at once. Comparing 3 or more products at the same time adds an extra level of complexity that will only make the tasting more difficult. You also want to make sure the variables are even between the two joints. The moisture content, particle size, density of pack, and strain. The goal is to have both products exactly the same except for the parts you are comparing.

You also want to make sure that you are setting yourself up for success. Eating sugars before you taste test something will mess up the flavor and make sure it is a blind taste test to avoid bias. Also, to give yourself a solid pool of data, you need to test each product multiple times over the course of a few days. Who knows, maybe there was a mistake in the joints on day 1 that affected the flavor. Having multiple rounds of testing allows you to identify outliers that will not be helpful.

Lastly, you want to make sure you have a rubric in place. This means you have a list of things you are looking for and a standardized set of questions that will remain constant throughout your tests. This is going to be where you put your notes during the test, and these are the notes you’ll refer to when deciding on a winner.

The Evolution of Flavor in Pre-Rolls

The cool thing about pre-rolls is that the flavor evolves as it is smoked. Before the ember even gets to the plant material further down the joint, the heat from the smoke and nearby fire will start to vaporize the terpenes and give you flavor. The flow of heated smoke also impacts the flower at the bottom of the joint. By the time the ember gets to it, it’s going to offer a different flavor than the first puffs.

It’s also important to consider the packaging for your pre-rolls. Light, oxygen, and moisture will degrade cannabis—even after it's been made into a pre-roll. Too much light and oxygen can dry out the flower and evaporate the terpenes (flavor), and too much moisture can result in mold issues. This is why top-tier producers invest in air-tight packaging and humidity packs to ensure a quality experience for the consumers. Quality packaging is also a way to convey value to consumers.

Regardless of what type of pre-roll you are making, the goal of every producer is to make a quality pre-roll that has multiple levels of flavor, each more delicious than the last. This takes a lot of planning and work, but it’s worth the effort! And, if you have any questions or run into a problem along the way, the Pre-Roll Experts at Custom Cones USA are always here to help.

The most important thing you can do to create a tasty pre-roll is to make sure the terpenes make their way to the consumer. Here’s how you do it!