It’s been months since seed stock was selected. Tons of effort has been put into caring for 1, or maybe 100, cannabis plants all through the vegetative stage and into the flowering stage, and the work isn’t done yet because today, it’s harvest time!
Let’s take a look at the difference between Drying and Curing cannabis and some of the ideal parameters suggested for doing it just right – preserving potency as well as terpene and terpendoid content.
Fresh, un-dried flowers from the cannabis plant are sometimes used as material for extractions to make some of the most prefered concentrates on the market. This is because they contain certain terpenes and terpenoids with such volatility that it is nearly impossible to preserve them during a drying and curing process. These concentrates are often considered the most flavorful way of consuming cannabis.
However, in order to smoke flowers in a joint, or in a bong or pipe – they have to be dried! Drying the cannabis at a specific rate and considering specific environmental conditions will preserve the highest diversity and quantity of tasty and delicious smelling terpenes and terpenoids. After drying, the cannabis flowers are cured in a way that preserves these aromas and flavours and even allows them to ripen and develop while also resulting in a less harsh smoking experience.
Harvesting, and subsequently drying and curing cannabis has the potential to preserve the very highest potency and best aromas and tastes of the cannabis you’ve grown. If done incorrectly, that is to say – too quickly, too slowly, or using improper technique – it can totally ruin the fruits of all of your labor, quickly.
Many cultivators use the words Drying cannabis and Curing cannabis interchangeably but that’s actually a mistake, because they are in fact two different processes that are different.
Drying cannabis is the process of slowly removing the water content and greenhouse gases from residual plant processes, breakdown sugars, and chlorophylls from the buds, while preserving cannabinoid, terpene and terpenoid content. This usually takes place over the course of 10-18 days. Most cultivators will shot for about two weeks.
After drying Cannabis, curing cannabis is a preservation technique that we use after the cannabis flowers have dried. Traditionally, curing takes place slowly over the course of several weeks or even several months. At this point, cannabis flowers are kept closed in containers and infrequently opened. During this time reduced oxygen environments diminish the potential for oxidation as plant materials like chlorophyll continue to break down over time resulting in a much smoother and more flavorful smoking experience.
An alternative to traditional curing is called Water Curing. Because of the insolubility of cannabinoids in water, cultivators are able to take advantage of the fact that pesticides and fertilizers that might remain on the flowers as well as processes of sugars and chlorophylls breaking down and evacuating out of the flowers during the curing process can be accelerated using this technique.
Caution – while this technique is an interesting technique for removing contaminants and adulterants as well as the plant materials we’ve discussed, it also will remove quite a bit of terpene and terpenoid content, and for this reason we suggest the traditional curing technique in order to obtain the highest quality buds for months or even over a year.
Freeze drying cannabis is also a viable method for preserving the highest potency and flavour profile of your cannabis flowers, if your goal is to store it for extended periods of time – we’re talking years!
Like water curing, freeze drying has its drawbacks. Because of the nature of the mechanism behind freeze drying systems, flowers are often damaged and trichomes damaged in process. So while your potency and many flavors are preserved – as soon as they are brought back to room temperature they will begin oxidizing and degrading rapidly. Freeze dry systems have the potential to dry cannabis flowers in as quickly as 24 hours from harvest to completion!
One downside to this rapid drying process is that at these temperatures and time periods the chlorophyll and other sugars containing the plant material stay put and do not break down, resulting in a harsher smoke.
The best way to dry cannabis is by hanging the plant upside down in a room that has no light. Light will degrade the cannabinoids causing THCa to skip THC and transform to CBNa, for example.
All large leaves in which it is possible to remove from the base of the stem of the leaf without interfering with or otherwise touching the flowers, should be removed. The rest of the leaves will be removed once dry.
Some cultivators prefer to trim their buds while they are wet. While there is a large debate on which is best, we opine that a dry trim ultimately results in the very highest quality of buds when done correctly.
While it’s possible to give a range of how much time dring is likely to take (10-18 days) it is difficult to say exactly how long your cannabis will take to dry because it varies so much based on environmental conditions. In general, cannabis should be dried as slowly as possible while not drying so slowly as to invite pests or fungus to make your flowers their food.
Most growers will start trimming their buds and preparing them for curing once the small leaves around the buds are rigid enough to easily remove from the base of their stem and the branches make a cracking sound when bent.
If you have the luxury of working in a dialed in environment where you have climate controls, keeping temperatures cold – 16 to 18ºC – will help to preserve some of the more volatile components of the flavour profile and result in a more flavorful cannabis flower at the end of drying. These temperatures also help inhibit the interest of harvest ruining bacterias that would otherwise find the flowers a very habitable zone.
During the first 5-10 days of drying, maintain humidity levels at about 55%. For the days that are left you might find it helpful to drop the humidity to 45-50%. The goal is to slow down the drying process while not allowing it to ever stop.
Once your buds are substantially dry, there is likely still a small amount of moisture towards the center of the buds. This is the start of the curing process. Placing the buds inside a glass jar or stainless steel receptical with an airtight lid, will even out the moisture content between the biggest and smallest buds, from the inside out.
A glass jar or stainless steel receptical is a good way to preserve cannabis.
Over the course of the first 2 to 7 days, frequently opening the container every 6-12 hrs will allow evacuation of excess moisture as it sweats from the buds. Once your buds are nice and crisp, and have a nice density to them you can close your container semi-permanently. It’s time to leave the buds to rest and cure in a dark, cool location without opening the container. You might still want to open the container once every few weeks or every couple months in order to inspect their status and sample the product.
A glass jar or stainless steel receptical is the best choice for curing cannabis.
Expect your buds to lose about 75%-80% of their weight in moisture while drying.