Drying & Curing Cannabis: Your How-To Guide
All summer you cared for your cannabis plants. Throughout early fall you fretted over their well-being, hoping the rains and cooler temperatures wouldn’t destroy them. Now your window of peak ripeness has arrived, and you’ve finally snipped those glorious branches down.
It’s harvest time.
So, what comes next? You’ve harvested at the proper time, to be sure. But it’s your next steps in drying and curing that will make the difference between a just-okay product – and fine cannabis you’ll be proud to share with friends and family.
Here’s your guide for learning how to dry and cure cannabis like a pro:
The resin glands found in the trichomes on cannabis flowers (and to a lesser degree, leaves) contain terpenes. Terpenes are a complex group of chemical compounds that give each unique cultivar, and in fact every phenotype, its individual taste, smell and physiological effects. Preserving the terpene profile in your homegrown cannabis will take its quality to the next level, and you’ll be proud to share the final product. The process is simple – as long as you know what to do.
Terpenes degrade in the presence of light and heat, resulting in tasteless cannabis that smells like – ugh – hay. To avoid this, set up your drying room in a location that does not see a lot of traffic. The room must be enclosed, and the windows darkened or blocked. Keep the temperature between 15o and 20oC and set up an oscillating fan. Note: If you have a large harvest and the room becomes overly humid, you will need to set up a dehumidifier.
Clip large fan leaves from your cannabis branches. If there are lots of leaves, give the branches a rough trim. Run a line of twine between two points in your drying room. Hang the branches upside down along the line. Keep some space between them; a little overlap is acceptable, but every branch does need space to breathe.
It’s tempting at this point in your cannabis-growing journey to want to turn up the heat in the room. However, stay the course and be patient. Resist increasing the temperature in your drying room above 21oC; otherwise, your cannabis terpenes will surely degrade. Keeping your room cool and dark will extend the drying time beyond a week or more, depending on how many branches you have and the available air circulation.
After about a week, check for dryness. Pull a branch from the line and try to snap the branch with your fingers. If it snaps easily, your cannabis is perfectly dried. If it bends and bows, put it back and close the door. Your cannabis must be perfectly dried before you can move on to the next stage.
Okay, so now your cannabis is sufficiently dried. Before it’s ready for consumption, you’ll need to trim and cure it. Get a pair of simple scissors and invert the lid of a Rubbermaid container to use as a tray. Wear close-fitting latex or gardening gloves to avoid disturbing trichome heads. Carefully snip leaf material from the edges of your buds. Finished buds can go into a paper bag. Save your trim and scrap bud material for value-added products. Sticks and stems can be composted or burned.
Inexperienced growers are often eager to show off their cannabis right after trimming. That’s understandable. After all, the buds have been dried and trimmed. They must be ready to smoke, right? Not so fast. Combusting uncured cannabis soon after drying and trimming produces a harsh smoke that will undermine your efforts as a grower. Put down that grinder and be patient. Curing your cannabis will preserve it for long-term storage while retaining its flavour. This is the final step in refining your product.
When cannabis branches are cut down, the volatile compounds in the buds – the terpenes and cannabinoids which are essential components to the cannabis-use experience – begin to degrade and evaporate. The harsh smoke of uncured cannabis is caused by the breakdown of essential sugars and starches by enzymes and anaerobic bacteria. Carefully curing the buds not only preserves terpenes and cannabinoids, it enhances them. Following these steps will take your cannabis to the next level and earn you bragging rights from everyone you share with.
To cure your cannabis, begin by placing trimmed buds into airtight glass jars. Mason jars work well; however, opaque glass works best to ensure light cannot penetrate the plant material. Avoid using plastic or Rubbermaid containers. Fill glass jars to 75-80% capacity. Be sure to leave space inside the jars for buds to expand and contract with changing humidity. Overfilling your curing jars could lead to mould growth. Seal jar lids tightly and place in a cool, dark cupboard or cold storage.
For the first week, inspect your curing jars at least once per day. Pick up and lightly shake each jar; the buds inside should rattle freely. If your buds stick together, it’s possible they aren’t properly dried. Open the jar lids and allow buds to breathe. Inspect for mould formation. If you smell ammonia, your buds are too humid. In that case, put them back on the drying rack. They’ll need more time to dry before curing.
But if your buds rattle freely and smell good – you’re on your way to a proper cure! You can leave the lids off your jars for an hour or more, depending on the humidity level of your cannabis (humidity should not exceed 65% on a hygrometer). Reseal the jars and put back in the cupboard or cold storage. Repeat this process every day.
After a week of daily inspection, begin opening your curing jars every second day. Do this for two weeks. At week three of curing time, examine the jars twice per week. Continue opening them twice weekly until four to six weeks have passed. At this point your curing is finished. Store tightly sealed jars in a cool, dark location for up to one year.
From all of us at Signature by Liberty Leaf, good luck in your cannabis journey – and enjoy!
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