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Ben Britton: Squeezing the Juice

Why clean and simple solventless extraction will always have a place in the cannabis industry.

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Ben Britton has been an avid cannabis user for most of his life. He was pursuing an engineering degree at the University of Colorado when he ran into an old friend doing some cultivation and consulting work in the cannabis industry. 

The friend wanted to develop a rosin press specifically designed for the cannabis industry. At the time, most cannabis technologies were repurposed from other industries, including solventless extractors made from T-shirt presses. The T-shirt presses had appropriate heat plate sizes and were serviceable, but were built to put logos on merch, not squeeze rosin out of bags.

The T-shirt press was working, but Britton set out to build a prototype rosin press. He started with what he calls his "Frankenstein" ugly proof of concept to see if his design would work. Out of the gate, his prototype was experiencing six times the yield from T-shirt presses, and Britton and his friend knew they were on to something. 

Britton finished building the press for his friend and realized he should probably make more, but he needed capital. So he created 3D renderings of a machine and put the images on Instagram. The posts alone netted ten orders for Britton's new presses, and Pure Pressure was born. Britton built the presses by hand, from the welding to the wiring, and the line became known as the Pikes Peak Rosin Press. 

During the prototype phase, Britton expected, at best, a two-times performance from Frankenstein. The results exceeded his expectations and also validated his work. Throughout the development, he was careful not to over-engineer the new press – he didn't want to price people out. He also opted for pneumatic control because it offers precision without requiring hydraulic oil, which could potentially spill and contaminate a lot of product. 

Pure Pressure was officially founded at the end of 2015. At first, the company offered the Pikes Peak pneumatic press and rosin bags. Britton then turned his attention to a larger capacity machine, the Longs Peak Rosin Press, which boosted processing output and provided 60% more force. 

Next, he went smaller with simple manual screw presses known as the Helix models. The manual presses were designed for operators who don't require much volume throughput at a more economical price point. The Helix also happens to be Britton's favorite. He says the manual process makes you feel much more connected to the extraction process and makes it easier to prevent overpressing or blowing out a bag. 

Britton next turned his attention to ice water extraction. He developed the Bruteless Commercial Hash Washing System to replace the old method that tapped plastic trashcans. He designed insulated stainless steel vessels, welded with sanitary fittings, that provide a better environment for ice water hash that is easy to clean and repeat.

Last year, Britton was approached by Agrify at MJBizCon 2021 and was acquired later that year. The deal gave Pure Pressure access to more resources and the international market. Britton felt it was time to step up and make the next move, and while things have changed in a managerial sense, he retained his product development staff, who are eager to continue launching new products. 

Britton was drawn to rosin because solventless extraction is a simple and elegant solution. He says with a little heat and pressure, "we're squeezing the juice out of something." 

Britton believes solventless technology will always have a home in the industry, especially with the emergence of eating clean on other consumer wellness trends. Cannabis consumers are becoming more conscious of what is going into their bodies and are willing to pay more for something made organically without hydrocarbons. Britton forecasts a significant shift to solventless as well as the emergence of bulk solventless extraction. Another benefit? Startup costs are more manageable, and operators can ramp up faster if they don't need explosion-proof rooms. Still, Britton contends that the best labs are the ones that use multiple kinds of extraction equipment, which provides the ability to keep up with fluctuating demand and product quality. 

Despite its rudimentary roots, solventless extraction has evolved, and Britton has been a key player behind some of the industry's most successful equipment. 

While Britton's Frankenstein press now sits idle in his shop's museum, the machine designer continues to develop innovative new products that we could see very soon. Who knows, maybe he'll even have a few surprises for the industry in two weeks at MJBizCon in Vegas.

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