Your buds are ready for harvest, yet your job as a grower is not quite over yet. You still need to put your newly harvested buds through the cannabis curing process.
Properly dried and cured cannabis flower buds burn evenly and have a smooth, rich taste. When smoked, the embers have an even glow and enter the body smoothly. When vaporized, there should be no apparent “green” taste.
If flower buds are dried too quickly, chlorophyll and other pigments, starch and nitrates or other fertilizer salts are trapped within plant tissue, making it burn unevenly and taste unpleasantly “green.” If buds are dried too slow, or not at all, they rot.
In order to ensure the best quality for your freshly harvested buds, you must prepare your buds with a process known as curing, which involves drying your buds slowly in a controlled environment, then keeping buds in glass jars over the course of a few weeks to let certain natural plant processes occur. The drying/curing process causes buds to smell better and for effects to feel more potent. It also reduces harshness.
Here’s what drying and curing cannabis properly does for you…
• Breaks down chlorophyll and dramatically improves taste / smoothness of buds.
• Brings out the subtle flavors and unique smell of your cannabis strain.
• Reduces “harshness” in buds; you’re less likely to start coughing or get a headache.
• Buds are less likely to cause anxiety, racing thoughts, or paranoia.
• Reduces the chance of mold or bacteria growing on your buds.
• Curing seems to actually increase potency!
How to Dry Your Buds?
Curing begins as soon as you cut down your plant. So in order to get the most from curing, you need to master the process of drying your buds.
Drying converts 75% or more of a freshly harvested plant into water vapor and other gases and converts carbohydrates to simple sugars. Drying also converts chlorophyll and other pigments so that no “green” residuals remain.
You can harvest an entire plant, individual branches or strip flower buds from branches to dry. When stems are severed, the transport of fluids within the plant continues, but at a much slower rate. The natural plant processes slowly come to an end as the plant dries. The outer cells are the first to dry, but fluid still moves from internal cells to supply moisture to outer cells, which are dry. When the drying and curing processes occur properly, plants dry evenly throughout.
Before you start drying your buds, most growers will trim away extra leaves. Removing leaves and large stems upon harvest speeds drying; however, moisture content within the “dried” flower buds, leaves and stems can become uneven. At the very least, you should trim away all your big fan leaves, though many growers also trim down the little leaves that grow on the buds. This improves the appearance of your buds, and will provide a smoother experience. Too much leafy matter can make buds more harsh.
You can dry buds by hanging them upside down from clothes hangers, string, almost anything you can think of. You can even hang the entire plant upside down. Some growers place their freshly harvested buds on a drying rack. A drying rack will dry your buds faster than most of the other methods because the stems are removed from the buds. Using a drying rack is the preferred drying method if you live in a humid area where mold is a problem, if you’re drying a lot of buds in a relatively small space, or if you have huge colas or buds that you’re worried might mold.
Drying time depends upon temperature, humidity and bud density. Ideal temperature is 60-70°F and the best humidity range for drying is 45-55%. Most flower buds will be dry enough in three to five days before passing to the curing process, but they may take longer. Big, fat, dense flower buds can take three to four days longer to dry than smaller buds. Gently squeeze buds after they have been drying for a few days to check for moisture content. Bend stems to see if they are dry. If the stem breaks rather than folds, it is ready to cure. The bud should be dry to the touch but not brittle. The bud should burn well enough to smoke when dry.
- Dry (Under 30% RH) – You might consider leaving more leaves on your plant while trimming to help slow down the drying process.
- Average Humidity – If you never really notice the humidity where you live chances are it’s perfect for hanging your cannabis upside down to dry
- Humid (Over 60% Humidity) – If it’s very humid where you live, you might consider actually separating buds from branches after trimming and put them on a drying rack or mesh to help them dry in the high humidity without running into problems with mold
Here are some ideas to adjust your environment:
- Air Conditioner – Cools Air & Lowers Humidity
- Evaporative Cooler – Cools Air & Raises Humidity
- Dehumidifier – Heats Air & Lowers Humidity
- Humidifier – Heats Air & Raises Humidity
- Heater – Heats Air & (Usually) Lowers Humidity
How to Cure Your Buds?
Even after plants, branches or buds have dried on screens or been suspended in a drying room for five to seven days and appear to be dry, they still contain moisture inside. This moisture affects taste, fragrance and cannabinoid content (potency). Curing will remove this excess moisture and all it contains.
Curing makes buds uniformly dry and pleasant to consume, and preserves natural cannabinoids and terpenes.
Curing after drying helps remove any remaining chlorophyll, other pigments, latent fertilizer salts and so on that have accumulated in flower buds, leaves and stems. If dried too quickly, flower buds retain more chlorophyll and have a “green” taste, and when vaporized or smoked are harsh on the pallet and often burn too hot. For some, curing is not essential. In fact, some medical patients prefer the often minty flavor of uncured cannabis.
Curing also allows cannabis to fully dry so that mold does not grow when it is stored. Well-cured flower buds are soft and pliable but dry inside. Flower buds should feel like they are dry and only the dry pliable foliage is holding resin onto stems. Here’s how to cure bud:
Gently place “dry” flower buds in an airtight container. Clear and opaque turkey bags are popular. So are food-grade sealable plastic buckets. There are also bags that reflect heat and are airtight (when properly sealed) and infrared-proof, which protects them from heat.
Write the date on the containers and place in a cool, dry, dark place. Moisture inside buds will migrate from the center of the stem outward. Check the container after two to four hours to see if buds feel different. Gently squeeze a couple of buds to see if they feel moister now, but be careful, resin glands bruise easily.
Open the drying container two to three times a day for the first seven days to release moisture. During the first few days, you may want to check even more often than once/day, especially if you are worried about mold or bacteria from too much moisture. Take a whiff the instant you open the container. The fragrance should be sweet and somewhat moist. Close the container quickly. If you smell ammonia or the outside of buds feel moist, it means buds are too wet and need to air out before closing the jars again. Buds need some amount of time “to sweat” in the jar before you can get an accurate reading of how much moisture is really in the jars. Sometime buds which seemed dry when you put them in will feel damp and soggy when you check them a few hours later. This is because the moisture that was contained in the middle has spread out to the rest of the buds, and it means the buds need to be dried further. If it smells more like cannabis every day, it means you’re doing it right! If necessary, remove buds from jar for a short time to inspect for mold and disease.
For the impatient, this also gives you the opportunity to “try out” your new buds and see how they improve during the curing process.
Every time you open your jars you’re checking:
- If buds feel wet while curing – Wet buds need to be placed outside the jar to dry for another 12-24 hours. Moist buds should not be touching each other! It is very important you react quickly if buds feel damp to the touch, as this is the most likely time for mold to grow.
- If buds feel moist during curing – leave the tops of jars off for a little while, until they feel dry on the outside again. If you shake the jar at this point, you may notice that some of your buds are still sticking together. You’re almost there, but buds are still a little too damp and you’re at risk for mold or anaerobic bacteria. If you live in a normal to dry climate, you may be able to get away with just leaving the top off the jars for 1-4 hours. If you live in a humid climate, you may have to take the buds out of the jars and lay them out until the outsides begin to feel dry again.
- If buds feel dry while curing – this is actually a sign you’re in the cure zone, don’t change anything! Buds are not wet, but also not brittle – You’re in the cure zone! Your buds may feel a bit sticky to your fingers. Buds should move independently and not clump together in big bunches when you shake the jars.
- If buds are too dry – Buds feel brittle and crumbly. At this point, there is not enough moisture in the jars for the curing process to continue at a normal pace, and buds tend to cure much more slowly.
After the first week, open containers once or twice a week for a quick whiff. Do not open too many times or the slow-curing process will stop. Some gardeners cure flower buds slowly for six months or longer. However, after two to three weeks they should be fully cured and remain fresh, firm and pliable. Flower buds can be sealed in containers and stored.
Things to Avoid and Helpful Tricks
Light — especially ultraviolet (UV) rays from natural sunlight — heat and friction hasten biodegradation of resin glands and cannabinoids. Do not place dried cannabis in hot automobile glove compartments, and keep it away from heat vents and so forth. Friction and rough handling can bruise and rupture resin glands. Even with proper drying and curing, brutal handling of harvested cannabis will diminish cannabinoid content.
For those who struggle with curing even after going through all the steps in this curing tutorial, you can use humidipaks which can help maintain the correct humidity in your jars. Some growers choose to use these every time they jar their buds to maintain the humidity in the 62% range.
If you feel like you’ve overdried your buds, don’t panic! Sometimes it feels like buds are too dry even when there is still moisture inside. It’s a good idea to leave buds in jars for at least 2-3 days to see if moisture starts coming to the surface from inside. If buds still feel bone dry after a few days of being jarred, that’s when you might consider rehydrating buds. Re-hydration increases the risk of mold, especially if using something organic, like an orange peel, so use something that’s mean to to do the re-hydrating, such as humidipaks for Re-Hydrating Dry Buds.