Drying and curing marijuana is a critical post-harvest element because it 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 weed 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 in the first place.
Cannabis Curing Increases Potency
There is no point going through the entire growing and harvesting process unless you’re intent on getting the most potent weed possible out of the experience. During a process known as biosynthesis, cannabis plants produce THC Acid (THCA) and other cannabinoids. The process involves certain compounds getting converted into different blends. For instance, THCA becomes THC during this process.
Failure to properly cure weed 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 with a humidity level between 45% and 55%. By doing this, you facilitate the biosynthesis process and ensure your crop is laden with THC.
Curing Affects Flavor and Quality of Smoke
In case you didn’t know, the pleasant and unique smell and flavor of cannabis you experience is 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 of the weed is essential. When you cure the plant correctly, you can save 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 in itself. 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 weed quickly is in winter or fall.
If you live in a warmer climate or in an area at high elevation, such as Denver, it is an entirely different situation. In Arizona and Nevada, the temperature can range from 28 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit during the year, with mainly low humidity levels. Meanwhile, 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 that there is a special 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 and correct odor control for exhausted air. If you wish to preserve terpenes, make sure you dry at temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, be careful not to dry at lower temperatures because, when combined with poor airflow, this process results in cannabis with high levels of chlorophyll – which doesn’t smell or taste pleasant.
Overall, there are a variety of methods you can use after harvest. For example, some growers like to water cure, freeze dry, or dry ice cure their plants. However, in this guide, I will focus on a tried and trusted method.
First Step – Cannabis Drying
Before you begin the drying and curing process, make sure you have enough wide-mouth mason jars for all your plants, a drying rack, a hygrometer, and humidipacks. While the last two are optional, 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 weed, they immediately notice how sticky and wet the flowers are. This is a great indication of your plants’ psychoactive resin levels, but if you leave things as they are, you invite bacteria and fungi. Let’s go through the cannabis drying steps.
Step 1 – Cut Down the Plant
It is possible to harvest your plant piece-by-piece, so cutting down your plant is a process that is hard to mess up. You can cut off the branches and leave them to dry, or hang the entire marijuana plant upside down. Some growers prefer to cut off individual buds and lay them out on a drying rack. Most people cut off the branches, making sure they are 12-16 inches long.
Step 2 – Trimming
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 off each one. Don’t get rid of 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.
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 weed will become a lot 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 with a humidity level below 30% on average.
Step 3 – Slow Drying
Overall, the ‘ideal’ drying environment is a temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit with 50% humidity. You can reduce humidity with a heater, dehumidifier, or an air conditioner, or increase it with a humidifier or an evaporative cooler.
It is important not to dry your weed in temperatures above 80 degrees or else you will lose most of the terpene content. Experts suggest that proper drying comprises approximately 50% of final bud quality. There are several ways to dry your weed, but most people use a drying rack, or else they hang the plant upside down.
Hanging them upside down is a great way to save money. You can hang your weed from a string, a clothesline or hangers. Although a drying rack increases overall expenditure, it is worth it because it dries the bud faster. With a drying rack, the stems must be removed from the bud. It is a good idea to use a rack if you live in an area of high humidity where mold is a menace.
Alternatively, you can carefully lay out your bud on a flat surface such as cardboard. Just make sure you rotate your weed every few hours to prevent the formation of wet spots. If you’re finding it hard to dry the buds properly, invest in a small fan to boost airflow but don’t point it directly at the weed. Above all, dry your weed in an area that is easy to access so you can check on it regularly.
Step 4 – Patience!
All you can do now is wait. Check your bud regularly and allow it to dry until the outsides feel dry to the touch. Another sign is when the small stems snap rather than bend. It usually takes 3 – 7 days for buds to dry fully.
If you achieve proper dryness before then, you have completed the process too quickly. This is okay, but it will increase the time taken to ‘cure’ the cannabis. Also, if the buds are too dry, the curing process could completely grind to a halt.
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 store the buds at a humidity of 60-65% and at a temperature of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. At this level of moisture, the buds will feel totally dry on the outside but still have a softness to them.
Wide-mouthed 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, because you want to leave a little air at the top and prevent crushing the buds. You need to be able 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 making contact with specific terpenes found in weed. Interestingly, some growers deliberately cure bud when it is a little wet on the outside to cause additional bacterial growth.
Generally, however, it is best to avoid this tactic as it usually produces inferior quality marijuana that is harsher on the lungs.
Step 3 – Place Container in a Dark Place
Make sure the mason jars are sealed and place them in a cool, dark, and dry spot. Hopefully, you will see that the exterior of your buds is not crunchy and dry because 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 are greeted with the 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 weed.
If you have a hygrometer, use it regularly to test the humidity of the container and ensure it stays in the 60-65% range.
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 lid of the jar 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 to see if any moisture from the interior of the bud comes to the surface.
If you don’t have a humidipack or something similar, you can use organic matter like an orange peel to try and rehydrate the bud, but 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 weed remains potent for as long as possible. 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 on keeping the weed for personal use, invest in humidity packs, as they will keep your marijuana fresh for a super long time.
There are a host of low-cost cannabis scales available online. Choose an accurate brand, weigh your weed, calculate your usage, and determine how long this batch is going to last you!
Final Thoughts on Drying and Curing Cannabis Buds
Back in the days of illegal weed sale, 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 to 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 no option but to spend 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, or else you risk reducing the quality of the plant. There is a fine line between over drying and not drying enough, and this is something you can only learn with practice.