The post-harvest process of removing extraneous plant matter from the cannabis flower. Trimming may also be referred to as manicuring. 

cannabis plant trim Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

What is trim weed?

Trim weed refers to cannabis which has had its leaves removed. Proper trimming techniques are associated with a higher quality and a more aesthetically pleasing final product. 

Can you smoke trim?

Smoking trim is generally avoided as it is harsh, can irritate the throat and lungs, and cause headaches. In addition, weed trimmings lack the potency of buds. 

What to do with trim

Trimmed leaves that are close to the buds, otherwise known as sugar leaves, may be coated with trichomes and are a viable source of material for concentrates and other purposes, if processed correctly. These leaves may have a lower THC content by mass, but physical and chemical extraction techniques can harness the active resin from the sugar trim into edibles, extracts, or concentrates. 

trimmed cannabis leaves Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

For millennia, this has been achieved by physically agitating the leaves through sieves, removing the trichomes, which are used to make hashish, or hash. Chemical extraction using solvents such as butane or liquid carbon dioxide (the same solvent used to decaffeinate coffee) is a modern method used by extraction labs to make butane hash oil (BHO) or CO2 oil. Concentrates created using trim are referred to as “trim-run.”

Types of trimming

Two main approaches to the trimming process are wet or dry. Dry trimming requires branches to fully dry out over a period of time before any trimming can take place. Wet trimming skips this drying process and allows for manicuring to begin immediately after harvest. There are advantages and drawbacks to both techniques.

cannabis flower nug Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Wet trimming is faster and easier because the sugar leaves stick straight out. If handlers wait to trim until the buds are dry, these leaves curl in on the bud and are harder to access. However, a drawback to wet trimming is a reduction in flavor, as the cannabis cures faster and has a higher chlorophyll content, lending it a grassy taste. 

Dry trimming, on the other hand, decreases the potential for the grassy flavor as the flowers dry out uniformly for a slow cure. The decrease in chlorophyll is attributed to a decline in the plant's metabolic processes, which includes chlorophyll and starch production, during the drying period. The downside for dry trimming is the care required to carefully remove unsightly leaves and stems from dry buds without breaking them and dislodging any resin-loaded trichomes. Both techniques run the risk of mold formation, but the risk is greater for the dry method, as humidity must be closely monitored. 

Methods of trimming

Regardless of preference for wet or dry trimming, the act of removing unnecessary plant material from the buds can be done either by hand or machine. Hand-trimming involves the use of clean, sharp scissors or shears, and must be done carefully while being mindful of how each cut will influence the final product. Cannabis trimming performed by hand allows growers to express the perfectionism in their craft as they sculpt each bud to bring out its full potential. Sugar leaves and stems are removed to expose the swollen bracts beneath. 

Trimmers can arrange their workstations to collect any trichomes that are shaken off during the trimming process . The latex gloves that are worn during trimming are often saved to collect the residual cannabis resin that sticks to the fingertips of the gloves. Trimming can take place over a fine screen to collect kief underneath. After use, shears are scraped with a razor, to collect any residual cannabis resin.

Machine-trimming removes the human element from this process. Automatic trimming devices are used to separate superfluous plant matter that surrounds the buds.

Just as with wet and dry trimming, trimming by machine or by hand has pros and cons. Hand-trimming is more precise, better protects trichomes from unintentional removal, and provides employment. It is also more expensive and time-consuming. Machine trimming is fast and reduces labor costs, but is less precise and can result in loss of trichomes and missed by-products that contain unwanted plant matter, such as leaves and stems. Most machine-trimming devices are only useful for wet trimming, though some claim they can work with dry trimming as well.

How to hand trim

Removal of large colas from the main stems of one's plants should be the first task when trimming by hand. The process of removing colas is also known as “bucking” the plant. Once the colas have been separated, fan leaves are the next target for removal, as these broad leaves do not contain substantial trichomes. Following the elimination of the fan leaves, the buds are ready for a deeper manicure. Buds at this stage are trimmed into their desired shapes, and “crows feet,” or remnants of fan leaves, are removed. When an individual bud meets the agreed on standard, trimmers move on to the next one.

Dry and drying cannabis are rather susceptible to pathogen and mold formation. It is crucial that the scissors used in the trimming process are well-sterilized between harvests. To reduce the chance of mold formation, relative humidity must be carefully monitored and maintained at 50%. If the humidity is higher than this, moisture will begin to collect and mold has a higher likelihood of growing. But should humidity drop below 50%, plants will dry out too quickly, resulting in an unpalatable final product that burns inconsistently. The odor of ammonia during the drying process can indicate the presence of anaerobic bacteria due to lack of air circulation. Taking care to keep the room well-ventilated should prevent the formation of harmful anaerobic pathogens. 

Trimming is the essential segue between the cultivation of cannabis and the final product. Cannabis trim finds its way to the consumer indirectly as it is the starting ingredient for manufacturing extract products such as BHO, CO2 oil, or distillate.

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on July 14, 2021.