Pineworx – The Design and Science Behind the Best Pre-Rolls in California
For the first few years we were in business, we rolled our own “Big Fatties”, “Stupifiers” and “Basic Prerolls”. As we grew, it became almost a full time task to keep up with rolling the quantities our patients demanded. Because our prerolls were made with our own top shelf flower, they sold well. When our patient base finally outgrew our ability to keep up with the rolling process, we began our quest for a preroll that kept the same quality as our in house hand rolls. (If you think that “joint tester” is a dream job, you haven’t tried some of the crap out there masquerading as doobies). When we first tried Pineworx, we knew we had found our perfect match, and are proud to partner with them to provide our $5 Cones, Pineworx Cone and Snowcone prerolls.
This month, we got to interview Scott Bryant CEO and Founder of Pineworx to learn all about how to make the perfect personal joint, and the engineering and research that go into doing that on a mass-market scale. He worried that he was long winded, but if you are a fan of fatties, it is both an eye opening and surprisingly informative talk.
Who are you, and what is your role at Pineworx?
Scott Bryant. CEO, Co-Founder and Executive Janitor.
Pineworx has been around for about five years now, how did you get started?
Back when Pineworx was just in its planning phases, the entire goal was to produce the finest packed, best smoking pre-rolled joints on the market. At the time (and largely still the case), pre-rolled joints sold in dispensaries had a reputation of being packed with ‘mystery weed’ and finding one that burned evenly was next to impossible. There was virtually no equipment on the market to produce a consistent pre-roll, especially not on a large scale. We saw the opportunity to create a brand-new type of company, specializing solely in pre-roll production. After putting together a top-tier team of engineers and professionals, the prototyping began, utilizing cutting edge 3D Printers, laser cutting, CNC machining, etc. Because of the sticky resin content and inconsistencies of the plant, creating equipment that wouldn’t seize or need to be cleaned every 5 minutes was extremely difficult.
Instead of revamping an existing process, we decided to start from the ground up. Our mindset was that there is much more to perfect a joint than just the packing process. Through extensive research and experiments, we’ve built a database with information on everything from how the cannabis is grown, to moisture content, atmospheric conditions, grinding techniques, cannabis particle size, packing density and more.
During the development of our production equipment, our first branded pre-roll project was called Jay’s Pre-Rolls. With about 6 months of design work and changes on the packaging, Jay’s was one of the first branded multi-packs of pre-rolled products in the country and held the top spot on Google for the search term “Pre-Rolls”. After operating for a couple of years, the brand ran into a trademark issue with a large tobacco company and we were forced to cease sales. Although heartbreaking for our team, this acted as a blessing in disguise and led us to numerous large projects that never would have happened otherwise.
Going through the painstaking processes of everything from the pre-roll production, to graphic design work and creating high quality packing, we wanted to make the process easier for brands, farms, dispensaries and newcomers looking to create their own pre-roll products. To date, we’ve packed upwards of one million pre-rolled joints and have proudly helped numerous clients develop and launch unique pre-roll brands of their own.
What has been the biggest challenge in growing the company so far?
Any medical cannabis consumer purchasing pre-rolls for the first time from a dispensary can vouch that the purchase is typically a gamble. You never know how well the pre-roll will burn, what’s inside (even if the source claims it’s flower) and how much cannabis is actually in the pre-roll.
When we first started operating about 5 years ago, the stigma of pre-rolled joints being generally low quality nearly put us out of business before we even started. We were walking into dispensaries with what we knew to be the highest quality pre-rolls on the market, yet many dispensaries wouldn’t even give us a chance to present our products.
Although the pre-roll market has drastically increased in quality over the past 5 years, there’s still a very high level of inconsistency between suppliers. Even today, new pre-rolled joint brands are popping up weekly and shutting their doors within the first few months. Consumers are becoming more educated and the range of products has given them the opportunity to be selective with the products they purchase.
Our mission has been to create the quality standard for the pre-roll industry, offering our production services to cannabis brands that are in it for the long term. The “Crafted by Pineworx” badge has become a symbol of quality on our clients’ packaging, used to give the consumer peace of mind that they are receiving a premium product.
On a separate note, we’ve noticed one specific thing that is helping pre-roll brands gain more shelf space in dispensaries and move higher volume: selling their branded whole-flower alongside their pre-roll products. Because purchasing cannabis is a very sensory-based experience for the consumer, being able to see that cannabis that goes into the pre-rolls gives the consumer a greater peace-of-mind and sense of confidence in their purchase.
Most people have a lot of assumptions about pre-rolls. What part of the rolling process would surprise our readers the most?
Rolling a joint is undoubtedly one of the most tedious tasks in the entire cannabis consumer lifestyle. The lucky ones who can properly roll a joint are few and far in-between. Some people have it, most people don’t. Truth is, there is much more that goes into a premium quality joint than just how pretty it looks.
When we first set out on our journey to create the perfect joint, we figured all our focus should be on how consistently the joint is packed. We found out very quickly that there are many, many more components that synergize to deliver the optimal burn, flavor and experience. These elements include how the cannabis is cured, moisture content, how stems are removed, correct grinding techniques that won’t destroy the trichomes, cannabis particle size and homogenization, packing densities for smooth air flow, paper material and thickness, etc. etc.
Too high of a moisture content, an inconsistent grind, air gaps and packing density are just a few of the things that can lead to an uneven burn.
One specific example: tobacco is typically loaded with moisturizers (like ones used in hand lotion) to keep the material at a 20% – 30% moisture range. Once the tobacco is compressed and injected into a cigarette tube, this high moisture content helps the tobacco expand to fit the cigarette tube and stay contained in the paper. Because we never add anything to the cannabis we use, we’re faced with the challenge of producing a similar product at closer to the 5 – 7% moisture range.
Pineworx is one of the most well-known pre-roll providers in California, so you probably know more about joints than anyone. In your opinion what factors are most important when trying to create a perfect joint?
Thank you for the kind words! We’re very excited to have had the opportunity to learn as much about pre-rolls as we have over the past handful of years. There’s an extensive list of factors that we consider during our pre-roll production, but here are some of the main ones:
Cannabis must be properly dried and cured for a variety of important reasons, but when it comes to joints, the moisture content must be in a specific range. Too high of moisture will cause the pre-roll to run/canoe (burn unevenly) and also give off a harsher, more astringent taste and yellower smoke. Too low of moisture will degrade the plant, losing flavor from the terpenes and potency from the cannabinoids. Moisture content is also a big factor in the size of a finished pre-roll and its packing density.
Cannabis must not only be stored in proper conditions (humidity and temperature), but it should also be packed into pre-rolls and consumed at similar conditions. Regardless of the cannabis moisture content, we’ve found that too high of humidity can be a big factor in the quality of the burn.
When removing stems and grinding cannabis, there are a few factors that can make or break a perfect joint. You need to remove as much stem as possible, as these can not only rip the rolling paper, but also affect the overall experience of consumption (flavor, effects, headaches, etc.)
The grinding process is a huge component to a properly constructed pre-roll. If the grind is inconsistent (big chunks mixed will smaller particles or powder), there will be inconsistencies within the joint – hence causing it to burn unevenly. Think of it as starting a campfire; the smaller [kindling] particles burn very quickly, while the main logs take quite some time to get going.
Also, be sure not to introduce heat or friction during the grinding process, as this can burn off terpenes and negatively affect flavor. This will happen if you’re using a blender (small scale) or an electric mill (for large scale production).
Pre-Roll Packing Density
A proper packing density starts with a properly done grind. The joint needs to be evenly packed throughout, or it will create areas of suction. Too tight of a pack will make the joint will limit airflow, while too loose of a pack is ingredients for and uneven burn.
You have obviously grown beyond handrolls, What kind of technology makes Pineworx work?
When we entered the pre-roll industry years ago, there was absolutely zero pre-roll manufacturing equipment on the market. We attempted to retrofit cigarette machines, improve and expand on existing technology (cone filling devices) and create our own prototypes. Even the grinding process was extremely limited. Blenders and mills were not an option, as they introduce too much heat, so at one point we were even making prototypes by automating small 4-inch hand grinders (the largest size on the market). It wasn’t until about 2 years after we started that we had a prototype machine that gave us a solid foundation. But, as discussed previously, packing the pre-roll is only one of the many important factors in production.
Unfortunately, our equipment is proprietary and we’re unable to release any pictures, but I can tell you that our equipment is not just for rolling, but is also fine-tuned for each part of the process.
Here is a quick run through of our process: Once cannabis is received, it’s inventoried by lot, run through quality control and measured for moisture content. After the cannabis is cured to the correct moisture content, we run it through our stem removal equipment to remove the large stems, then through another process to separate the smaller stems. After the cannabis is ground, it is then homogenized to mix up the blend and make sure all the particles are consistently sized.
Once the blend is prepared, it makes its way through our pre-roll production equipment that has been developed to pack any cannabis at any density. Each batch is different based on strain, grower, farming conditions and material type (trim vs. flower vs. small ‘popcorn’ nugs), so we’ve engineered our equipment to adjust to the optimal density for whatever the input. Our equipment is also able to control weight consistency between 96% – 99% accuracy with only a small variance between pre-rolls.
Your team started with hand rolls. Mine sometimes tend to run and burn faster on one side. What causes this, and what is the best way to fix it?
When I used to roll joints by hand (back when it still made sense) I would take whatever bud was in front of me, break it down, remove the stems, use a hand-grinder, and twist it up in a zig-zag or raw paper. That was basically the entire process. Sometimes even the best-looking joints would run, and I could never figure out why. Since then, one thing that our R&D at Pineworx has pounded into our heads is that there’s much more to a joint than meets the eye.
- When rolling by hand, here are a few things that may help out:
- Make sure your cannabis is dry enough. The stems should have a nice crisp snap when they break.
- USE A GRINDER. There’re plenty of different grinder options on the market, so make sure you’re using one with the right size holes. Typically the smaller the holes the better, without turning your cannabis into a powder.
- When hand rolling, the rolling paper is very important. Although a healthier choice, thinner papers like Raw and Futurola are easier to rip and tend to be less forgiving with the burn. As an example, cigarettes are rolled in much thicker papers and I’ve never heard of a cigarette running.
- How you light the pre-roll is very important. Make sure to burn off the extra paper from the end of the joint prior to inhaling and spin the joint while you’re lighting it. If a joint is burning unevenly from the get-go, it’s usually doomed. Also, don’t pull too hard when you’re getting it started and make sure to stay away from wind!
- Using a hemp wick coated in bees wax to light your joint will also help, as the flame typically burns at lower temperatures and won’t scorch the cannabis.
Does the Pineworx team ever indulge in creating origami joints like you see on Instagram? How could we get our teams together to share an M shaped joint?
This is actually becoming a very popular part of the culture! Although most people have a tough time rolling a regular joint, there are quite a few industry celebrities crafting some unique and intricate shapes.
Pineworx doesn’t currently have any unconventionally shaped joints on the menu (since our equipment isn’t setup for it), but we have a few concepts in the hopper! Our employees have made some cool one-offs for “product research”, but nothing that is in mass production.
We have a couple of partnerships we’re working on to create some branded pre-roll shapes, but until we find a viable shape that smokes well enough to put our name on it, these will remain unique and hand-rolled.
Pineworx obviously puts a lot of thought and effort into your roll. If one of our patients had big ambitions, how could they become a beta tester? (Do you guys have an email list?)
We’re absolutely interested in working with beta testers! We’d like to work with serious cannabis consumers and joint ‘enthusiasts’ who have a general knowledge of the pre-roll experience (taste, burn quality, potency, etc.).
Working with M Delivers would be a great opportunity to get our new, prototype-phase pre-rolls into the hands of your top customers. We currently have over 100 different pre-roll products and plenty more in prototype phase. Let’s work together to make sure that Pineworx and M Delivers stay ahead of the pre-roll curve!
There are a thousand new regulations about to be released regarding recreational sales. Which ones are going to have the biggest effect on the sale of pre-rolls?
The biggest challenge with the new California recreational market is going to be that the laws and regulations still aren’t completely clear. Not to mention they are changing regularly. Because there isn’t a specific license type for pre-rolled joint producers, we’ve been working with our attorneys to figure out which route will be the best for us to take. Technically we aren’t changing the composition of the cannabis, so we could fall under a cultivation license. At the same time, a large part of our business is pre-rolls that are infused with concentrates, so we will also need a manufacturing license to produce the extracts and infuse the pre-rolls.
After January 1, the industry is going to change drastically. Newly implemented taxes, lab testing and distribution requirements will cause cannabis prices to spike and supply is going to be much more limited. With so few licenses being handed out, there will be less farms able to legally distribute their products and far less storefronts to retail the products. High demand, low supply, huge tax rates and high cost of goods sold for suppliers is going to drive prices through the roof, which will most likely take a couple of years to settle back down (as with Washington and Colorado). Due to labor time, margins on pre-rolls are already relatively low compared to other market segments, so pre-roll brands who aren’t fitted with industrial equipment or using a pre-roll manufacturer may not be seeing much in the line of profits.
There is a growing trend of blended joints, combining different flower, concentrates and hashes to create the perfect smoking experience. If you were trapped on a desert island with an unlimited amount of just one such pre-roll, what would it be?
The market has definitely expanded away from just the plain-ol’ pre-roll. Cannabis enthusiasts and connoisseurs are always looking for the newest products and ones with a high enough potency to fit their needs. With concentrates making waves through the cannabis industry, pre-rolls are a great way to mix both flower and extracts into one experience. There are numerous options, including oil, wax, kief, hash, etc. that can add additional potency and flavors to the smoke.
My personal favorite is still the old-fashioned 100% flower doob. This allows me to experience the different flavors and effects of various strains and sometimes can be as potent as a concentrate pre-roll hybrid.
One thing we’ve noticed is that hash, solvent free with a fairly earthy flavor, can make a joint burn for much longer and add quite a bit of potency. One of our Infused and Coated pre-roll products contains both flower and pressed hash on the inside, while the outside is coated with clear oil and covered in a layer of fresh golden kief. Not meant for the timid.
We’ve been incredibly pleased with the freshness and quality of our Pineworx pre-rolls, what does the team have coming up in the future for us to look forward to?
That is great to hear! We’re always excited to hear positive reviews!
Pineworx is constantly innovating and developing new products, while also working to perfect our existing ones. We’re working on new pre-roll sizes and shapes to expand on our current product lines, but you can also expect to see a few completely new products in the near future. We’re working on ways to mass produce joints that are 100% kief, 100% hash and also other hybrids of various extracts.
As new paper materials enter the market, we’re creating additional product lines around them. We’ve worked with materials including palm leaf, cocoa leaf, hemp blunt papers, flavored papers and more.
Our underlying goal is to introduce and offer as many premium quality, innovative pre-rolled products as we can to meet the needs of ever-changing cannabis market. Although the regular 100% flower pre-roll will never disappear from the industry, consumers are always looking for new experiences and the next big thing.
On another note, we’re partnering up with a variety of new farms and brands to deliver what we’re sure to be the highest quality branded pre-roll products on the market. One example, launching next month, is a brand called Tree-Rolls, which is a collaboration between Tree-Rolls Brand, Pineworx and Leaf California. Tree-Rolls branded products are produced with organically grown, pesticide free, indoor farmed cannabis from Leaf California and packed in the finest rolled pre-rolls on the market from yours truly. The brand offers strain specific packs in both a “100% Flower” and a “Light” version. Through their partnership with Trees for the Future (www.Trees.org), Tree-Rolls will be planting one tree for every pack sold.