The post-harvest process of removing extraneous plant matter from the cannabis flower that may also be referred to as manicuring. Proper trimming techniques are associated with higher quality and more aesthetically pleasing final product.
As a noun, trim refers to the leaves removed during the process of trimming, which may also be called trimmings.
More about 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 into edibles, extracts, or concentrates. For millennia, this has been done by physically agitating the leaves to remove trichomes by sifting through sieves to make hashish, also called hash. Chemical extraction using solvents such as butane or supercritical carbon dioxide (the same solvent used to decaffeinate coffee) are used by modern 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. There are advantages and drawbacks to both techniques.
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. Trimming 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. The fruits of this labor are beyond the harvest of carefully cured cannabis.
Trimmers with foresight arrange their workstations to collect any trichomes that are shaken off during the hashish-making process, a gratuity for their meticulous labor. Latex gloves are saved for scraping off the resin that collects on the fingertips. They work over a fine screen to collect kief underneath. After use, shears are scraped with a razor, as these can collect grams of residual cannabis resin in the process.
Machine-trimming removes the human element of this process. Automatic trimming devices are instead used to separate superfluous plant matter that surrounds the buds.
Just as with wet and dry trimming, trimming by machine or hand provides their own pros and cons. Hand-trimming is more precise, better protects trichomes from unintentional removal and provides employment, but 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 leave in byproducts that contain unwanted plant matter, such as leaves and stems. Most machine-trimming devices are only amenable to 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 a standard, trimmers can move onto the next one.
Dry and drying cannabis are rather susceptible to pathogen and mold formation. It is crucial that the scissors used in the manicure 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. In the case of pathogens, 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-aerated should prevent the formation of harmful anaerobic pathogens.
Trimming is the essential segue between the cultivation of cannabis production and the saleable product. Trim finds its way to the consumer indirectly as it is the starting material in the manufacture of extract products such as BHO, CO2 oil, or distillate.