In order to bring out the best from your harvest, cannabis flowers or buds, need to be properly dried and cured. Drying and curing can make your harvest great or make it lose on it’s overall quality or even render it non smokable.
Drying process is simple and easy to understand, it just means drying the plants and removing the extra moisture that’s been trapped inside our buds making them smokable.
Curing is a simple process too and it involves putting the flowers into a controlled environment with optimal light, temperature and humidity until the chlorophyll breaks down while keeping the cannabinoids and terpenes at their peak without degrading or disappearing.
The difference between a top shelf bud and an average bud is in the drying and curing process. Properly cured buds will give you more taste, more potency and they will be more enjoyable and smoother to smoke. Properly cured buds won’t have any left over minerals or unwanted sugar or chlorophyll and will burn evenly leaving you with nothing but the taste and the aroma of that cannabis plant without the harsh, throat burning feeling of fast dried, improperly cured buds.
Why do growers dry and cure cannabis buds?
Simplified, you dry your buds in order for you to be able to smoke them and you cure the buds in order to preserve them at their optimal quality. Properly drying and curing your buds will ensure that you make the most out of your buds, both in potency and in flavor.
As cannabis plants grow and mature, through a process called biosynthesis they produce cannabinoids which in time, gradually change their composition. If the temperature and the humidity are at right levels – 15 to 21 degrees Celsius and 45-55% humidity, the process of biosynthesis will continue even after you’ve cut your plant, allowing other, non psychoactive cannabinoids to be converted to THCA which will increase your final potency. Keeping your buds in the wrong environment and especially exposed to (Sun) light will make THC(A) degrade and convert into other compounds and you’ll end up with less potent buds. Similar processes happen to other cannabinoids too but they aren’t directly linked to the potency like THC(A).
Just like potency, flavor is one of the most important factors that determine the quality of your buds. Flavor comes from compounds called terpenes which with cannabinoids make the most important compounds in the cannabis plant. Most terpenes are quite volatile and can evaporate at temperatures as low as 21 degrees Celsius so a slow dry with lower temperatures helps to keep the terpenes intact.
Harsh flavor that you get from buds that have been improperly dried and cured is the leftover chlorophyll. In optimal drying and curing conditions enzymes and aerobic bacteria continue to break down leftover minerals and sugars that are a product of decomposition of chlorophyll, making your buds more tasteful and flavorful.
Properly dried and cured buds, will be bacteria free without leftover minerals, sugars or chlorophyll with maximized percentages of both cannabinoids and terpenes. That allows them to be stored without risking mold or mildew appearing and stops the degradation process of cannabinoids and terpenes leaving your buds in the optimal state and quality.
How to dry and cure cannabis?
There are a few variations to the drying process but essentially it’s more or less the same with the same results at the end. To ensure that you have the most potent and flavorful buds, you want the drying process to be as slow as possible, so that less desirable cannabinoids have time to convert into psychoactive ones giving you better potency.
Most popular ways to dry your cannabis buds include hanging the whole plants upside down, chopping the branches to smaller pieces and hanging them and removing the buds and drying just them. The more plant matter is connected and drying, the longer will it take for it to dry, so drying the whole plants will take the longest while drying the individual buds will take the shortest.
No matter how you dry your buds, it’s best to remove the bigger fan leaves and to check and remove any diseased or mold, mildew or pests infected areas to stop them from spreading on the entire harvest. You may want to trim your buds before you dry them, which is called “wet trim” and then put them to dry but letting them dry with intact flowers and leaves protecting the trichomes will make sure you have even better quality buds in the end.
If you’ve chosen to cut your cannabis into individual buds, make sure that they are properly spaced and have enough space for air to go around them, allowing them to be properly dried and all excess humidity aired out. Having good air circulation makes it harder for mold or mildew or other diseases to appear too. You want to space them on drying racks or nets or screens allowing for air to pass from the bottom and the top too. If you’ve chosen to dry your cannabis cut on smaller branches, just hang them and space them evenly not touching each other.
Optimal drying conditions include dark, well aerated rooms or areas with temperatures between 19 and 21 degrees Celsius and humidity from 40 to 60 percent. Some growers like to have the temperature at 20-21 Celsius for the first day or two then bring it down to 18-19 Celsius and let it dry out slower for the rest of the days. Good airflow and air circulation is crucial, so putting a vent or a fan is well advised. To keep the environment in the optimal conditions you may need to use heaters or the AC to keep the temperatures in check and humidifier or dehumidifier to keep the humidity in check.
After about 5-15 days of drying, depending on your prefered method of cutting, buds will be dry. Simple and easy way to check that – is to try and snap a bud from it’s branch – if it snaps clean, it’s dry, if it doesn’t, it still has more moisture in it and needs a day or two more. Another, fun way to try if the buds are dried – is to smoke a joint, if it remains light and burns well, it’s dry.
If you’ve chosen to dry trim, this is when you trim your buds. After they have been trimmed, some growers like to put them back in the drying room, on the drying racks for an extra day or two before putting them in jars or buckets for the final cure. If you’ve chosen to wet trim, at this point you would remove the buds from the branches, if you haven’t already done that.
After your buds have been properly dried, you need to put them in an controlled environment for them to cure. Growers often use mason jars or buckets that can be tightly sealed and an environment with around 20-21 degrees Celsius with humidity between 60 and 65 percent. Fill your containers about ¾ or ⅔ full, leaving room for some additional air on top. Placing humidity packs in the jars is also advisable as they will help keep the RH at the right levels and work both ways, both reducing and increasing the humidity when needed.
For the first couple of days, you need to open the containers to allow for the stale air to escape and fresh air with oxygen to replace it and for the excessive moisture to get out. Some growers like to get the buds out of the jars for the first few days, to check them additionally for mold or mildew and then put them back, allowing all the buds and bud parts to cure evenly. After 7-15 days you don’t need to open up the containers daily as the humidity and moisture levels have been normalized.
If kept in optimal conditions – the longer the cure, the better and more enjoyable to smoke your buds will become. Smooth, tasty and potent smoke is a clear sign of well cured buds while harsh, uneven and hard burning, smelling like dried hay buds are a sign of a bad and too fast dry and cure.
Generally, if stored properly, buds could last up to 2-3 years without loosing their potency or flavor and degrading quality. Storing buds longer than that risks degreading of THC and other cannabinoids into other, maybe less preferable ones. Usually after two months, if kept in optimal conditions, buds are well cured and ready for consumption and if cured properly should be at their peak potency and flavor.
Buds contain a lot of water weight, so they might lose about 70 to 80 percent of what’s called “wet weight” which they had prior to the drying and curing process leaving you with what’s called “dry weight”.
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