Harvest time arrives, and your beautiful buds are enormous, frosty with trichomes, and practically begging to be smoked. While harvesting seems like the final step in the cultivation process, one more crucial process must occur to not only finish your flowers but take their flavor, potency, and smoothness to the next level. To achieve the best quality in your harvested buds, you must dry and cure them properly.
Drying cannabis removes the majority of water content from your flower. This reduces the likelihood of mold formation, makes it easier to handle and much more pleasant to smoke. Drying is the first part of the curing process, a process that elevates the flavor and potency of your homegrown buds.
What's the difference between drying and curing?
As its name suggests, drying involves removing moisture from buds to ensure they burn or vaporize properly. Curing involves storing your buds anywhere from two weeks to six months in closed containers, allowing time to develop the terpene palate, flavor, and potency of your flower.
Why is drying weed important?
Many expert cultivators who produce high-potency cannabis point to the drying and curing process as their secret sauce. Even with great genetics and proper cultivation, drying and curing often make the difference between “meh” and award-winning buds.
Curing helps to preserve weed so it can be stored for extended periods, up to two years in proper environmental conditions. At harvest your buds contain excess starches and sugars, such as chlorophyll, that are easy pickings for airborne bacteria and enzymes. Curing your buds encourages the degradation of the starches and sugars, which provides a smoother smoke and reduces the chance of moldy weed.
Slow drying and curing also preserve the terpene composition of your buds. Terpenes, the compounds responsible for the bud's flavor and aroma, are fragile and degrade at temperatures as low as 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Drying and curing buds slowly, rather than in an oven or microwave, retains these terpenes and provides a much more pleasant bouquet and flavor.
Proper drying and curing also boost the potency of your weed. THC, when exposed to light and air, slowly degrades into cannabinol, a cannabinoid with one-quarter the potency of THC. Lower temperatures and less exposure to light and air prevent the degradation of THC, making for a more potent experience when it's finally time to smoke.
Although you can freeze dry, oven-bake, dehydrate, dry-ice cure or even water cure your cannabis, the best method requires patience and a watchful eye.
How to dry weed
Drying weed varies slightly depending on your preferred harvesting method. Assemble the following items before you get started.
- Disposable gloves.
- A drying rack, should you remove buds from stems entirely.
- A hanger shelf, hangers, and string or a cardboard box
The drying process begins as soon as you cut down your plants. Some growers prefer to dry their plants “wet,” meaning not trimming at all and hanging the entire stem. While this method works, it may take longer to dry as stems retain the most amount of water in cannabis plants.
Begin the process by cutting down 12- to16-inch branches from your plants and trimming the leaves, sugar leaves, and smaller branches. If you live in a dryer environment, leaving some fan leaves may help your plants retain moisture and not dry too quickly. A more humid climate, however, is more likely to attract contaminants, so it's best to trim away everything but the buds. Some cultivators even choose to snip the buds and leave them on a drying rack or cardboard box.
Make sure to wear disposable gloves while you trim, to avoid covering your hands in sticky trichomes. It's also a great idea to store your trim and use it to make your cannabis edibles or extracts.
Store your drying rack or hanging branches in a dark room with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity of 45% to 55%. Use a small fan to circulate the air, and make sure to have an A/C unit or dehumidifier on hand to maintain optimal environmental conditions.
Ensure the buds dry evenly by allowing enough room for airflow around each bud. If you're using racks or cardboard, regularly flip the buds to ensure they don't flatten or retain moisture.
How long does it take to dry weed?
Many factors affect the cannabis drying process. Large, dense buds will obviously take longer to dry than small ones. How you choose to trim the plants can also lengthen the process, as larger stems retain water and take longer to dry out than branches or individual nugs. Proper temperature, humidity, and airflow in the drying environment all impact the process, so making sure they stay at optimal levels is crucial.
Overall, drying takes approximately seven to 10 days. As buds lose water, they will shrink in size and weight. Check on the buds every day to make sure things are going well.
To know if the buds are ready take a small branch and bend it. If the branch snaps, the buds are dry and ready to cure. If the branch bends or leaves stringy plant residue behind, leave the buds where they are. Buds separated from their stems are ready when they feel dry to the touch.