When it comes to cannabis, there are many factors that affect the overall quality of the end product. Many connoisseurs will agree, final quality is usually dependent upon 3 major factors: plant genetics, growing method, and the way it is dried and cured. We believe plant genetics, the grow method and the curing method each represent about 30% of the “final grade” of buds. Then what accounts for the last 10%? Love and attention towards the plants themselves, will give flower the difference between an A or a B grade product.
It is no secret that superior genetics will play a determining factor in the final product. At Whole Grow, we are pretty clear that living soil is the growing method we champion, as it allows the expression of the greatest potential of the plant. This of course is tied in to which genetics are chosen for cultivation. For the purpose of this blog, we are going to focus on post-harvest efforts and the importance of drying and curing flower for commercial cultivations.
COMMON PRACTICE: RUSHING FLOWER TO MARKET
So why do many commercial cultivations skip the cure if it represents nearly 30% of a buds’ final grade? The answer is time and space. Many commercial cultivations, which prioritize profits over quality, will rush the drying process and skip curing all together. The rushed model for commoditized product relies on the assumption that once a bud is dry, it is ready to sell. This model gets flower to the shelf faster, but at the expense of the quality of flower.
FLASH-DRYING PRODUCT. Rush-drying product happens in large, commercial grows frequently. The drying process in these facilities is accelerated through use of large dehumidifiers, which will quickly deplete harvested plants of their moisture content. Even if a superior phenotype is grown properly, when moisture is quickly stripped from harvested plants, degradation of terpenes can occur. The result, of course, is less pungent flower and diminished taste. Dehydrated buds lose their inherent stickiness, and often crumble between your fingers. Over-dried buds also generate more shake when handled, resulting in less “full buds” that can be used.
Yes, flower can make it to the shelf quicker by flash-drying it and skipping the cure. They say “patience is a virtue,” and this is absolutely true when crafting quality cannabis.
The rush-to-shelf model does not require extra real estate to properly dry and cure flower, therefore more space in the grow can be allocated for growing plants. Many large scale commercial grows use every square inch of their warehouse to cultivate plants, ignoring the need for proper drying space and curing space. The assumption here is more plants = more sellable flower = greater profit. However, if the final product is of inferior quality, the cultivations will find their bone-dry, no-nose product will fetch bottom-of-the-barrel prices.
WHOLE GROW METHOD FOR DRYING & CURING: SLOW & STEADY
It is a shame to see properly grown flower suffer once it is harvested. So what is the method to ensure the flower is the “stickiest of the icky,” with a pungent nose and impeccable taste? Slow drying and properly curing the flower is the recipe for success.
Aren’t drying and curing the same thing? No. Drying removes moisture from fresh buds so they can be smoked and/or vaporized. Curing occurs after the plant has been dried and trimmed, then it is stored in close containers (and burped) for at least 2 weeks. Curing is one of the most important steps, as it enables the flavor and aroma of the flower to develop and deepen.
At Whole Grow, we advise our clients to place environmental controls in their dry and cure rooms. Our post-harvest method involves de-fanning, breaking down branches, hang drying, trimming, then curing. We recommend defanning plants before they are taken to hang dry, and typically do not recommend any more wet trimming on plants. Some growers prefer to wet trim and remove sugar leaves, but we like to keep them intact on the plant to protect precious buds and trichomes.
Let’s break down the 2 most important steps: drying and curing (we’ll save trim tips for another post!).
There are 3 main factors that affect drying properly: humidity, temperature, and air flow. The most important thing to remember is you want the buds to dry evenly. This is accomplished by ensuring air has free-flow around the buds from all sides. While some growers prefer to use baking-type racks for drying, this method requires more handling of the buds to ensure they will not flatten on one side, you have to flip them while they dry. Instead, at Whole Grow, we advocate the “hippie hang” method, which involves breaking down branches and hanging them on wires.
Having adequate airflow within the dry room is essential. At bare minimum, a dry room should be able to keep a constant temperature and humidity level. The ideal temperature for drying cannabis is 70 degrees, while humidity should remain between 45-55%.
Accidents and variations in dry rooms can always occur. A proper dry room will be equipped with both a humidifier and a dehumidifier, to deal with any variation that comes up. What could cause variation in If it is very hot outside, and ACs are struggling to keep up, humidity spikes could necessitate the need for dehumidifiers. Why? Because as air temperature increases, the amount of water vapor the air can hold also increases. When possible, equip your drying rooms with self-adjusting humidifiers to keep the rooms held at a constant level of humidity.
How quickly your buds dry depends of course on the size of the buds: large buds are going to take longer to dry, while smaller, larfier buds will dry much more quickly. Pay attention and keep records of each cultivar’s drying habits so you know what to expect with each harvest.
Typically, plants that are hung will dry between 5-10 days, if temperature and humidity is kept constant and there is adequate airflow around the plants. When the smallest bud on a branch snaps off, they have finished drying and are ready to be trimmed. Trimming shapes the final appearance of the bud and removes unnecessary stems and crows feet.
For the purpose of this post, we are going to skip the ins and outs of trimming and move to the next step: the cure.
Curing cannabis is an art, but that doesn’t mean there is no science behind it. When cannabis flowers are first harvested, the sugars and starches within the plant are susceptible to airborne bacteria and enzymes. When buds are cured, these nutrients degrade, resulting in a smoother smoke. Additionally, independent tests have shown that curing can actually increase cannabinoid content, as CBG will continue to convert to THC during the curing process.
The best way to cure is in large, airtight glass jars, however this is not always feasible for large-scale cultivation facilities. Why? Space. Large glass jars typically can hold less product, requiring more jars, which necessitates more space. Many craft cultivations have found success curing their buds in food-grade, 5 gallon food-grade plastic buckets with airtight lids.
Carefully place batches into whichever container you are using (glass or buckets). The containers should never be filled to the brim. Instead, fill the containers half-way to three-quarters of the way full. This way, there is room in the container for additional air. Containers should be kept in a dark, dry room. When using glass, keep in mind that light can also degrade the buds. Make sure lights are turned off when the room is not in use.
Containers need to be burped on a daily basis, to exchange air within the jar and ensure the buds are curing evenly. Bud should be gently stirred, by hand, to ensure the bottom buds are moved to the top of the container.
This process should continue for a minimum of 2 weeks, though we recommend curing for 4-8 weeks for commercial grows, although connoisseurs may cure for up to 6 months.