Did you know that drying and curing marijuana buds is a critical post-harvest element? Why? It is a process that can significantly impact the taste and general quality of your cannabis crop.
It is easy to breathe a sigh of relief after harvesting your plants in the mistaken belief that the hard work has been completed. Alas, your job isn’t done just yet, because you have to cure and dry the cannabis as soon as possible.
Curing involves drying your cannabis buds slowly in a specially controlled environment. Next, you need to keep the dried buds in glass mason jars for a few weeks. Eventually, you will have marijuana that smells and tastes better and, perhaps more importantly, is a great deal more potent!
Before we provide you with a guide to drying and curing cannabis buds, let’s outline a few reasons why you need to dry and cure them in the first place.
Cannabis Curing Increases Potency
Why bother going through the entire growing and harvesting process unless you are intent on getting the most potent cannabis possible?
During a process known as biosynthesis, cannabis plants produce tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and other cannabinoids. The process involves certain compounds getting converted into different blends. For instance, THCA becomes THC.
Failure to properly cure marijuana means it ultimately contains a lower level of THC and other cannabinoids. When you cut down your cannabis, make sure it is kept in temperatures between 60- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit.
It is also essential to maintain the right humidity level. By doing this, you facilitate the biosynthesis process and ensure your crop is laden with THC.
Curing Affects Flavor and Quality of Smoke
If you didn’t know, the pleasant and unique smell and flavor of cannabis you experience are due to its terpene content. However, these volatile and fragile compounds are in danger of evaporating and degrading even at very low temperatures. Companies that mass produce low-grade marijuana often use a rapid-fire hot cannabis drying process.
For better quality bud, use a slow curing process to preserve the terpene content.
When marijuana is poorly cured, it creates the ideal environment for enzymes and bacteria to break down unwanted materials. It also results in the breaking down of the unhealthy sugars formed when chlorophyll decomposes. These sugars and minerals are what cause the unpleasant throat burn you sometimes get from smoking.
Curing Preserves Your Cannabis
If you intend to store your cannabis for a long time, high-quality curing is essential. When you cure the plant correctly, you can store it in an airtight container for approximately two years without a significant loss in potency. Otherwise, it will lose its cannabinoid content and become more susceptible to mold growth.
How to Dry and Cure Your Cannabis
Learning how to dry and cure cannabis buds is an art form. If you live in a coastal region, it is hard to dry cannabis quickly. This is because of the high nighttime humidity in such areas. Marijuana in these locations is at high risk of mold attack. So, the best time to try and dry it quickly is in winter or fall.
If you live in a warmer climate or an area at high elevation, e.g., Denver, it’s a different situation. In Arizona and Nevada, the temperature can range from 28-115 degrees Fahrenheit during the year, with mainly low humidity levels.
Denver is located at 5,000+ feet elevation with a temperature range of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (and lower) to over 100 degrees in summer. For residents of such areas, particular attention has to be paid to the drying and curing process.
Ideally, a cannabis bud will react similarly to a marshmallow when squeezed between your fingers. If it is excessively dry, it will fall apart and become a dry powder. While it is relatively easy to dry and cure small amounts, there is a greater challenge associated with commercial quantities. Don’t assume there is a particular temperature, elevation, or humidity level you need to aspire to.
Even so, your drying room must be well ventilated with lots of filtered, fresh air coming in from outside. You will also need to take measures to ensure correct odor control for exhausted air. Please note that excessively low temperatures result in cannabis with a high chlorophyll level, especially when combined with poor airflow.
Growers like to water cure, freeze-dry, or dry ice cure their plants. However, in this guide, we will focus on a tried and trusted drying and curing method.
What Is the Best Way to Dry Cannabis?
Before you begin the drying and curing process, make sure you have all the equipment you will need. This includes:
- Wide-mouth mason jars for all your plants
- A drying rack
- A hygrometer
The last two are optional. However, they make things easier by measuring humidity and ensuring your weed doesn’t get too dried out.
You begin the drying process as soon as you harvest your cannabis. When growers cut down the marijuana, they immediately notice how sticky and wet the flowers are. This is an excellent indication of your plants’ intoxicating resin levels. However, if you leave things as they are, you invite bacteria and fungi.
One of the best ways to dry marijuana is first to cut 12-inch branches from the plants. Next, trim away the unwanted leaves, and hang the branches from coat hangers or even pieces of string! There is no need to invest in expensive equipment if you have enough space to hang the plants.
There is ‘wet trimming’ and ‘dry trimming.’ The former involves trimming the plants as soon as they are ripe. Cut off branches individually and use shears to trim down unnecessary plant matter. Don’t eliminate all the sugar leaves because their lower cannabinoid content makes them ideal for edibles.
Dry trimming is best used when harvesting on a commercial scale. This is where you cut off branches and hang them upside down from individual lines. Make sure you only trim and process them when thoroughly dry.
Dry trimming is preferable on a commercial scale, but many home growers opt for the easier method of wet trimming.
It is a trickier process than wet trimming because the sugar leaves are curled towards the bud.
No matter which method you use, make sure you get rid of the larger fan leaves to improve the appearance of the buds.
Also, your marijuana will become harsher to smoke if you allow too much leafy matter to survive. As a rule of thumb, you need to trim fewer leaves if you live in a region where humidity levels are below 30% on average.
Hanging Your Buds
The most crucial aspect of proper drying is to ensure your storage room is at the right temperature and humidity levels. Keep the drying room between 60- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit and ensure the humidity stays in the 45-55% range. It is okay to use a small fan to circulate the air; don’t point it directly at the cannabis.
Are you having problems keeping the temperature and humidity levels at the recommended ranges? If so, purchase a humidifier (or dehumidifier if necessary) or an air-conditioning unit.
Hanging your buds upside down is the best method when trying to dry cannabis.
However, you can also lay them down flat on a surface such as cardboard if space is an issue. If you do this, make sure you turn the buds every few hours to avoid wet spots. Also, as you have to check on your buds daily, make sure your grow room is easy to access.
You can purchase a specialized drying rack if you have the extra cash, which will dry your buds faster than the clothes hanger method. This is mainly because you remove the moisture-laden stems from the buds. If you live in an excessively humid area, mold is going to be a problem. In this scenario, it is wise to invest in a rack.
Do You Feel the ‘Snap’ of Dry Buds?
Depending on the conditions of the storage room, you should have fully dry buds in 7-12 days. You can still cure them if they are dried faster, although that particular process will take longer. Once the buds are ready for curing, you can snap off the smallest buds by applying minimal pressure.
You may feel slightly bendy larger stems, which means there is still moisture inside. That’s okay because the curing process causes the hidden water to work its way to the outside of the buds. If you have a large crop, you can place the branches in bins with the lids left off overnight.
Every day, slide your hand to the bottom of the bin. If there is more moisture than on the top, flip the branches over. Once the bottom feels the same as the top, you can put the lids on the containers.
In most cases, you won’t need to ‘press’ the cannabis. However, if you grew nugs outside that look bushy, pressing them will improve their appearance. It is best to perform this practice 5-9 days after hanging them because you want slightly moist marijuana. Place the buds in plastic bags, roll them up, and squeeze them. Place the bags beneath pillows or something similar for a few hours.
Be careful when pressing marijuana. If you’re too forceful, the trichomes will burst and reduce the overall quality. After a few hours, take the cannabis out of the bags. You’ll notice that the buds are sticking to one another. Separate them and return them to the hangers to complete the drying process. You can repeat the trick every two days until you’re satisfied with the aesthetics.
Your 6-Step Guide to Cannabis Curing
Once you’re satisfied that your cannabis buds are dry enough, it is time to complete the curing process.
Step 1 – Separate Buds from Branches
Ideally, you will have completed this step already. If you haven’t, trim the buds and separate them from the branches.
Step 2 – Place Buds into a Container
You have put so much effort into the process that it would be a shame to get it wrong now. From now on, your primary goal is to ensure that your cannabis buds are stored in a controlled environment.
Ideally, you will now store the buds at a humidity of 60-65% and a temperature of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. At this moisture level, the buds will feel dry on the outside but still have a softness to them.
Wide-mouth mason jars are by far the best storage containers for marijuana. You can find them online or even at Walmart! Purchase 32 oz jars as they can hold up to 1.25 oz of dried bud. You could invest in larger jars, but with this, you increase the risk of mold growth. Make sure you only fill the jar so that it is 75% full. You want to leave a little air at the top and avoid crushing the buds.
You need to shake the jar now and then. If the buds are sticking together when you do this, it means your weed isn’t dry enough for curing.
Other storage options include wooden, metal, or plastic vessels. You can use plastic bags in a pinch, but they degrade after contact with specific terpenes found in cannabis. Interestingly, some growers deliberately cure bud when it is a little wet on the outside to cause additional bacterial growth.
Generally, it’s best to avoid this tactic as it usually produces inferior quality marijuana that is harsher on the lungs.
Step 3 – Place Containers in a Dark Place
Ensure the mason jars are sealed and place them in a cool, dark, and dry spot. Hopefully, the exterior of your buds is not crunchy and dry. This would indicate that the moisture from the interior of the flower has rehydrated the outside. If the outside is too dry, it means your marijuana is too dry.
Step 4 – Regular Checks
During the first few days, make sure you open the jars several times a day to let the flowers breathe. This is a crucial step because you allow moisture to escape while providing more oxygen.
If you open the container and there’s a foul odor of ammonia, it is a sign of anaerobic bacterial growth. This happens when you try to store buds that haven’t dried thoroughly. If you do nothing, you will end up with moldy cannabis.
If you have a hygrometer, use it regularly to test the humidity of the container. The ideal humidity range is between 60-65%. Here’s what to do if the humidity level is outside this range:
- Over 70%:Place your buds outside the jar for 12-24 hours.
- 65-70%:Take off the jar’s lid for 2-4 hours, but keep the bud inside.
- 55% or less:Rehydrate with a humidipack if you have one.
Leave your jars open for a few minutes with every check. After seven days, you only need to check your jars once every two days. If you believe your buds are too dry, leave them inside the jar for up to three more days. This will allow you to see if any moisture from the interior of the bud comes to the surface.
If you don’t have a humidipack, you can use organic matter, e.g., an orange peel, to rehydrate the bud. However, by doing so, you also increase the risk of mold growth.
Step 5 – Repeat All Steps for 2-3 Weeks
Your cannabis should be primed and ready for use after approximately three weeks in a mason jar. However, some experts believe that eight weeks of cure time is optimal. There are a few marijuana strains that benefit from a six-month curing process — if you can wait that long!
In most instances, curing does little for strain quality after six months. At this stage, it is best to create a long-term storage solution to ensure your cannabis remains potent.
The wide-mouth mason jars you used to cure the bud are ideal long-term vessels, too.
Alternatively, you can vacuum seal the cannabis or store it in tightly-packed mason jars. Don’t try long-term storage unless the marijuana buds have been curing for at least three months.
Step 6 – Pack in Portions and Weigh
If you intend to keep the marijuana for personal use, it’s good to invest in humidity packs. They will keep your marijuana fresh for a long time.
There are a host of low-cost cannabis scales available online. Choose a brand, weigh your cannabis, calculate your usage, and determine how long this batch will last you!
Final Thoughts on Drying and Curing Cannabis Buds
Back in the days of illegal marijuana sales, there wasn’t much attention paid to the drying and curing process. The goal was to sell as much cannabis as possible, which meant that a crucial process was neglected. This helps explain the low quality of the ‘brick’ weed that was on offer back then.
Today, the sheer level of competition in the industry means that marijuana producers have little option but to spend the extra time and money on drying and curing their products. Fortunately, no specialized equipment is needed, which means you can do it at home with the cannabis you grow.
Make sure you begin the process as soon as possible after harvesting. Otherwise, you risk reducing the quality of the plant. There is a fine line between over-drying and not drying enough. This is something you can only learn with practice.
How Long to Dry Weed After Harvest?
Various factors impact drying time. For example, small buds will dry faster than large, dense ones. Also, it will take longer to dry if you hang large branches because they hold the most water. Other factors include humidity, airflow, and temperature. Therefore, we can only give a ballpark figure of 7-12 days
How to Dry Buds Without Hanging?
Hanging buds to dry remains the most popular method. However, you can also place them flat on a surface such as cardboard. If you decide to try this drying method, make sure you turn the cannabis every few hours to ensure no wet spots.
How to Dry Weed Without Equipment?
Ideally, you will have a means of testing the temperature and humidity of the drying room. If not, you should wait at least five days before checking the moisture of the buds. Snap a bud off the branch. If smaller buds snap cleanly, they are ready for curing. If not, you’ll need to wait a few more days.
How Dark Does the Drying Room Need to Be?
The best conditions for drying cannabis involve a cool and dark place. It is best to keep the room in complete darkness as this helps remove the aroma and taste of chlorophyll. You are rewarded instead with delicious, aromatic marijuana.
What Is the Best Temperature and Humidity for Drying Cannabis?
Experts recommend keeping your drying room at between 60- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit. It is also best to ensure humidity stays between 55% and 65%. Invest in a small fan to circulate air and perhaps a dehumidifier if the room’s humidity level remains high.