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, there's one more thing your bud needs to achieve maximum flavor, potency, and smoothness. To produce the best quality harvested buds, you must dry and cure them properly.
Why is drying weed important?
Many expert growers 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 mediocre and award-winning buds.
Curing helps preserve weed so it can be stored for extended periods, up to two years in proper environmental conditions. At harvest, your buds contain excess moisture that creates the perfect environment for mold to grow. Curing your buds eliminates excess moisture, which provides a smoother smoke and reduces the chance of moldy weed while allowing your stored bud to last a lot longer.
Being patient while drying and curing also preserves the terpene composition of your flower. Terpenes, the compounds responsible for the bud's flavor and aroma, are fragile and degrade at temperatures as low as 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius). Taking the time to dry and cure your buds slowly, rather than in an oven or microwave, retains these terpenes and delivers the best result in terms of aroma and flavor.
Proper drying and curing also boost the potency of your weed. THC, when exposed to light and air, slowly degrades into cannabinol (CBN), 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 product comes from patience and a watchful eye.
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 buds anywhere from two weeks to six months in closed containers, allowing time to develop the terpene profile and potency of the flower.
How to dry weed
Drying weed varies slightly depending on your preferred harvesting method. trimming at all and hanging the entire stem. While this method works, it may take longer to dry since stems retain most of the water in cannabis plants.
Time needed: 14 days.
Drying weed varies slightly depending on your preferred harvesting method. Assemble the following items before you get started.
- Assemble your supplies
Weed drying supplies include: disposable gloves, trimming shears or scissors, a drying rack (if you remove buds from stems entirely), rubbing alcohol, a hanger shelf, hangers, and string or a cardboard box
- Put on your disposable gloves
Put on your disposable gloves before starting the trimming process. Once you get started, things get sticky quickly. 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 cannabis edibles or extracts.
- Set out a bowl of rubbing alcohol
Throughout the trimming process, your shears or scissors will become extremely stickly. Setting a bowl of rubbing alcohol out in advance will save you from a sticky mess.
- Cut away branches and trim
Begin the harvest process by cutting away any 12- to 16-inch branches from your plants and trimming the leaves, sugar leaves, and smaller branches. If you live in a dry environment, leaving some fan leaves may help your plants retain moisture and not dry too quickly. The ambient moisture present in a more humid climate, however, is 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.
- Dry the weed
Store your drying rack or hang your branches in a cool, dark room with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15 and 21 Celsius) 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 ten 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, continue the drying process. Buds separated from their stems are dry enough when they feel dry to the touch.