At the end of the long cannabis growing cycle — or short, depending on your plant's genetics — harvest time arrives and yields frosty fragrant flowers. Even though that may feel like the finish line, your bud isn't ready for consumption just yet. Raw flower needs to cure and dry before it can be smoked, and if you do these steps correctly, your patience will be rewarded with a much higher quality product.
What is curing weed?
Curing cannabis is the weeks-long process of slowly removing moisture from buds under controlled environmental conditions.
Curing is a preservation technique that humans have used for millennia to store meats and other degradable items, typically with the help of salts and sugars. Though you won't need to add anything to your weed. Curing cannabis requires nothing more than patience and proper technique.
Why is curing weed important?
Curing can take anywhere from two weeks to six months, and while it may seem like a hassle, curing turns harsh buds into cream-of-the-crop cannabis experiences.
The curing process encourages the degradation of plant byproducts such as sugars and chlorophyll. Freshly harvested cannabis contains starches that serve as a breeding ground for mold, mildew, and other airborne bacteria. When smoked, these molecules leave harsh, unpleasant tastes in your mouth. Curing eliminates the byproducts from your nugs, protecting your plants from bacteria and producing a much smoother smoke.
Curing also enhances the flavors of your weed by preserving the delicate bouquet of terpenes. Terpenes provide cannabis its delicious smell and palate, but these molecules are fragile; they can degrade and evaporate in heat as mild as 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A low, slow cure preserves the terpenes much more successfully than a faster drying process.
A proper cannabis cure also preserves the heavy-hitting potency of your buds, which is essential if you've invested time and money to cultivate a great set of genetics. Through exposure to light and oxygen, THC slowly degrades into a cannabinoid known as CBN, which, while mildly psychoactive, produces a very different experience. Curing at low temperatures maintains the integrity of your buds' THC levels, which means a more potent smoke when your efforts pay off.
Finally, curing your cannabis dramatically enhances the shelf life of your harvest. When correctly cured and stored, your buds are protected from mold and can last for nearly two years with imperceptible changes in flavor and potency.
How to cure weed
There are a few concepts to bear in mind before you begin the curing process of your cannabis.
- Avoid light exposure: light is one of the top culprits of weed degradation, as light waves and UV rays degrade the integrity of both the THC and terpenes in your bud.
- Protect your stash from heat: Heat, like light, is responsible for the degradation of the desirable terpenes and THC potency of your weed, so lower temperatures will go a long way to maintain your buds' quality.
- Maintain proper humidity: too low, and your buds will become brittle and crispy; too much, and you encourage the development of mold. Keep your buds at a Goldilocks zone of 60-65% humidity during curing.
With these concepts down, it's time to assemble your materials to cure your cannabis correctly. You'll need:
- Disposable gloves
- Mason jars, enough to store your cannabis at 75% capacity per jar
- Humidipaks to help maintain a 62% humidity range (optional)
- Hygrometer or another way to measure humidity inside your jars (optional)
First, make sure your buds are adequately dried. If you individually dried your buds, place them in jars and fill each jar to about 75% capacity to allow room for airflow. Buds still on the branches need to be trimmed and manicured before being placed in the jars.
This is an excellent time to test whether you dried your nugs properly. Give your jars a gentle shake. If the buds are still too wet, they will clump together in the jars, and mold and bacteria are likely to develop. If they shake around and don't stick to one another, you're ready to cure.
Apply lids to the jars and place them in a cool, dark location. A cupboard or other storage room will do nicely, so long as temperatures stay below 69 degrees Fahrenheit.
Over the first few days, check on your buds twice daily. Inspect them through the glass and keep an eye out for any mold. Open the lids for a couple of minutes every time to allow fresh air to flow into the jars, all while keeping an eye on the humidity levels. If things are too wet, leave the lids off for 2-4 hours to allow excess moisture to escape or even remove the buds for up to 12 hours. With lower humidity levels, let more extended periods go by without “breathing” sessions or add a humidity pack as needed.
If you notice the smell of ammonia when opening a jar, it means your buds aren't dry enough to cure and bacteria have infested, leading to rotten, moldy cannabis.
Keep checking your buds every day over the next two weeks and adjust humidity levels as needed. After about three weeks, your buds will be well-cured and ready to smoke. More extended curing periods (up to six months) will further improve flavor and potency with noticeable changes in quality. It's entirely up to you, but in the case of curing, patience is a virtue.