Wet trimming vs. dry trimming: What's the difference?

When cannabis is harvested, and before it's ready to smoke, its decadent buds are carefully trimmed, cured, and then sold. Trimming, or manicuring, refers to the critical post-harvest process of removing extraneous plant matter from the cannabis flower.

The two main types of trimming esteemed by cannabis growers include wet trimming and dry trimming. What's the difference, and which technique is right for you?

Read on to learn everything you need to know about wet versus dry trimming.

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What is wet trimming?

Wet trimming involves the process of chopping cannabis plants down and then trimming all of the sugar and fan leaves while they're still moist, leaving the cannabis buds to dry afterward. The trimming process, which is different than pruning, is completed after harvest before the buds are able to dry. Wet trimming must begin immediately after harvest, before the buds dry, and all at one time.

Some growers prefer wet trimming because it's considered easier and generally less time-consuming. It takes up less space, preserves cannabis trichomes, and produces visibly attractive buds.

Fan and sugar leaves are more easily removed from cannabis buds when wet because they stick straight out, and it's possible to get a closer trim. Sugar leaves are what hold cannabis buds together — they're covered in a high concentration of precious trichomes that house potent cannabinoids, flavorful terpenes, and flavonoids. Some cultivators argue that the stickiness during the wet trimming process helps protect trichomes, thus preserving more terpenes in the final product.

Pros of wet trimming

Consider the pros of wet trimming.

  • Good for novices: Since the process is easy, wet trimming is ideal for novices, and it doesn't take much time. Keep in mind, though, that it's notoriously sticky and messy.
  • Saves space: Because all of the foliage has been removed from the plants, wet trimming does not require a large amount of space to store for drying.
  • Dries faster: Wet trims also dry faster, which can be viewed as a pro or con depending on who you ask.
  • Less risk of mold: Quicker drying times mean less of an opportunity for mold to grow, which is great because mold can ruin a harvest.
  • Fluffs the buds: Wet trims also “puff up" the flower as it cures, fluffing up the buds to be more aesthetically appealing to the consumer.
  • Machine compatible: Wet trimming is additionally considered compatible with most machine trimmers.

Cons of wet trimming

Consider the cons of wet trimming.

  • May reduce quality: Wet trimming may reduce the quality of the final product if it dries up too quickly. The removal of sugar and fan leaves from the plant only speeds up the plant's drying time.
  • Potentially grassy taste: Some growers believe that wet trimming leads to a grassy taste by exposing the plant's chlorophyll and not allowing the bacteria to naturally break it down, and the more chlorophyll, the harsher the smoke. Fortunately, when it does dry to an ideal moisture level, it's ready to go straight into a jar.

For these reasons — as well as promptness —wet trimming might be better suited for large crops or commercial growers.

What is dry trimming?

Dry trimming involves the process of chopping cannabis plants down and then waiting for them to dry before manicuring them. Dry trimming requires branches to dry out fully over a period of time, sometimes weeks, before any trimming can take place. And as the buds dry out uniformly for a slow cure, the natural bacteria on the surface of the plant can break down its chlorophyll. This allows for a smoother smoking experience and as chlorophyll decreases, so does the potential for an unpleasant grassy flavor.

Dry trimming gives cultivators more control over the drying speed of their plants, ensuring they won't dry out. As buds are dried at a slower speed, and excess leaves protect the buds if cured before trimmed, growers who prefer dry trimming would argue that potent cannabinoids and delectable terpenes are more easily preserved. Additionally, dry trimming yields a quicker initial harvest.

Pros of dry trimming

Consider the pros of dry trimming.

  • Less messy: It's more time-consuming than wet trimming but doesn't have to be done all at once. Because the buds aren't as sticky, dry trimming is generally less messy as well, which makes for a less stressful trimming process overall.
  • Better quality: Many cultivators prefer dry trimming because it slows down the drying process of the buds, which produces arguably better quality products. It's also ideal for more experienced cultivators who have adequate space for large-scale drying.

Cons of dry trimming

Consider the cons of dry trimming.

  • Requires space: Since whole plants are hung out to dry before they are trimmed, dry trimming generally requires a significant amount of space to complete.
  • Not as easy: Dry trimming isn't as easy as wet trimming because it requires more precision, time, and care. You need to carefully remove leaves and stems from dry buds without breaking them and dislodging any resin-loaded trichomes. Dry buds are more brittle and must be handled with care so as to avoid damaging delicate trichomes. Preservation of trichomes may be harder when dry trimming; however, it's not impossible with the right equipment. Dry sugar and fan leaves are more difficult to trim because they curl in on the buds, restricting access to them.
  • Dense buds (but not necessarily a bad thing): Dry trim buds are typically dense and have shrunken to their final form, so they may not look as pretty as wet trim buds but can be of superior quality.
  • Greater risk of mold: While both techniques run the risk of mold formation, the risk is greater for the dry method, as there is generally more humidity in the drying room that must be closely monitored.

Bottom line

Both wet and dry trimming offers a number of advantages and drawbacks. One method is not necessarily superior to another, and while some cultivators swear by wet and others dry, it really all comes down to personal preference, experience, and expendable time and energy.

Keep in mind that the method used to trim cannabis can ultimately impact its quality, potency, and appearance.

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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 September 20, 2022.