Growing your cannabis is only part of the process. After harvesting, you will also need to dry and cure your buds before you can consume them. This is true whether you plan on smoking the buds or turning them into your favorite edible. You do not want to skip this step as it has a significant impact on the final effects you feel from your marijuana.
With help from this guide, you will be clear on why you need to dry and cure your marijuana buds and how to go about doing so.
Why Cure and Dry Cannabis?
If you are new to growing cannabis, you may see the process of drying and curing it as an unnecessary step that will simply waste time and effort. In reality, however, skipping this step can put all of the hard work and time you put into nurturing and growing the cannabis to waste. That is because curing cannabis provides some crucial benefits.
Perhaps the most important reason to cure cannabis is that this process will increase the potency of your buds. To understand why this is the case, consider that cannabis naturally produces THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) as well as cannabinoids via biosynthesis. This process involves converting compounds into different blends. An example would be the conversion of THCA to THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.
The thing that you may not realize is that biosynthesis does not stop right when you cut your marijuana plants. Storing your cannabis in the proper conditions allows the process to continue, turning more of the non-psychoactive cannabinoids in the plant into THCA. When you decarboxylate the buds by smoking them later, this results in more THC since there will be more THCA to form it. The greater the THC, the greater the potency. For the necessary biosynthesis to continue, you need to keep the humidity between 45 and 55 percent and the temperature between 60 and 70 Fahrenheit.
If you take shortcuts and dry your cannabis quickly with dry, warm conditions, the biosynthesis will end early. That results in less THCA, so you get less THC later and reduced potency.
Preserves the Buds
Another crucial reason to cure your cannabis is that this process will extend its life span. Assuming you cure your cannabis properly, you will be able to store it for longer without worries about it losing cannabinoid content or accumulating mold.
In fact, storing cured cannabis properly in a cool, dark area and an air-tight container lets you use it up to two years later.
Regular consumers of marijuana are in agreement that when you take the time to properly dry and cure cannabis, you will end up with an improved smoke with better flavor. Some aspects of the flavor are subjective, but the consensus is that the flavor improves.
This change comes from the fact that the terpenes or aromatic compounds responsible for giving cannabis its flavor and smell are volatile. Even at temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, they may evaporate and degrade. As such, you will retain the terpenes better if you cure cannabis at a low temperature slowly than doing so with a quick process in a hot environment.
Improves Smoke Quality
Curing and drying in those same conditions will also optimize the environment for aerobic bacteria and enzymes that break down the sugars and leftover minerals you do not want. These are remnants of the chlorophyll decomposing. If left alone, they lead to a sensation of burning in your throat and harshness.
Since the proper curing conditions encourage these compounds to break down, you will have fewer of them present. This results in a smoother smoking experience without that harshness.
All of the above benefits mostly focus on curing cannabis, but drying is also crucial. In addition to being part of the curing process, drying cannabis helps ensure that it will not develop mold. You definitely want to avoid that since a little bit of mold can make your entire container of buds unsafe to consume.
How to Dry Marijuana Buds
Now that you know why you should dry and cure your cannabis buds, it is time to learn how to do this. There are some slight variations to the process, depending on your preferences and your harvest method.
The Ideal Conditions
No matter what variation of the following drying instructions and methods you choose, you will need to ensure that you cure cannabis in the right environment, which is always the same.
Choose a dark room where you can control the temperature and humidity. Keep the humidity between 45 and 55 percent and the temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Set up a small fan as this will ensure the air circulates properly.
Ideally, you should have an air conditioner, dehumidifier, and/or other similar equipment to keep the room within these conditions. Otherwise, your buds may not be as flavorful or aromatic.
Branches Vs. Plants Vs. Buds
Your setup for placing the marijuana buds will depend on how much of the plant you plan to cut off during harvest. Most people choose to just cut off branches of the marijuana plant that are 12 to 16 inches. They will then take off the leaves they do not want and hang the branches off of wire or string.
If you want, you could also choose to cut the entire plant or larger clusters of branches and hang those. Or you can go the other route and cut off the individual buds and place them on smaller drying racks.
There are two factors to consider here: drying time and active time. Hanging larger portions of marijuana to dry, such as branches or whole plants, will save you time at this step, but you will then have to trim the buds later. In contrast, if you trim the buds and dry those, you will spend more time at this step but less later. Think about when you have more time to decide.
The other factor to consider is the drying time. Buds will dry the quickest since they are smaller clusters of plant material and have less overlapping elements. If you dry cannabis as a whole plant or even as a branch, you will need to wait longer and be extra careful to ensure it is thoroughly dry. Because the various plant materials, including other buds, will be in close proximity to each other, there is less space for everything to dry.
When to Manicure or Trim the Flowers
Another decision you will have to make regarding when to complete a task is when you want to fully manicure the flowers. If you choose to dry the buds individually, you may want to spend the time manicuring the flowers before drying. Alternatively, you can save this for later when the plants are already dry. That comes down to personal preference.
Obviously, you will not manicure the flowers before drying if you dry the cannabis in branches or as a whole plant.
You will also have to decide if you want to wet trim or dry trim the plants. During trimming, you essentially get rid of all the unnecessary plant material. Dry trimming is ideal if you are dealing with very large quantities of cannabis, but with smaller quantities, it comes down to personal preference. Keep in mind that dry trimming provides the extra challenge of sugar leaves curling around your buds.
As you trim, consider saving at least some of the sugar leaves from your plants. These are great for edibles thanks to their lower content of cannabinoids.
How to Tell the Buds Are Dry
Expect to need anywhere from five to 15 days for your cannabis buds to dry completely. This depends on the environmental conditions of your curing room and the density of the flowers.
You can confirm that buds are ready if they fell slightly crunchy on the exterior. Grab one of the smallest branches and bend it. It should bend instead of folding when the cannabis is ready.
A Note for Areas With High Humidity
If you live somewhere with high levels of humidity, you will have to be extra careful as you dry your cannabis as the environment will be working against you. In high-humidity areas, it is best to trim the plants down to the buds before drying and to use a drying rack, so all sides of the buds are exposed. Otherwise, you will need to rotate them every several hours to prevent wet spots.
How to Cure Cannabis Buds
Once your cannabis buds are dry, it is time to get ready to cure them.
Manicure the Buds
If you have not already manicured your buds, this is the time to do so. This involves separating the buds from their branches and removing any excess plant. This is also when you shape the buds if you want.
Prepare Buds for Storage
The next part of curing the buds is to store them properly. You need an air-tight container of some sort. The most common and widely available container is the quart-size canning jar with a wide mouth. If you prefer, you can also use a plastic, wood, metal, or ceramic container. You could even use oven bags. Just be sure not to use plastic bags as most will let in oxygen. Most plastic bags will also degrade when in contact with some of the common terpenes, which would ruin your air-tight seal.
When putting the buds in your chosen container, pack them loosely and fill the container up to the top. Make sure you do not crush the buds or compact them.
Store the Buds
Seal up your container and then store it in a dark, dry, and cool spot. Within a day, the buds should have a bit of moisture return to their exterior. This comes from the interior moisture of the plant rehydrating the outer areas. If the buds are still dry and crunchy after a day of curing, you likely dried the cannabis too much.
During your first week of curing, you want to give the flowers the chance to breathe. Do this by opening the containers a few times daily. This breathing helps replenish the oxygen and lets moisture escape. After a week, you can just let the buds breathe about once a week.
Be on the lookout for an ammonia-like smell as you open the container. This indicates the buds were not dry enough, so anaerobic bacteria are eating them. This will likely lead to moldy cannabis if you do not fix the problem.
Humidity During Curing
As you cure cannabis, the humidity in your containers should ideally be 60 to 65 percent. If it is lower than 55 percent, use a humidipack to rehydrate the buds. Otherwise, organic materials, like orange peels, will work. If the humidity is between 65 and 70 percent, remove the lid on the jar for two to four hours. If it is above 70 percent, take the buds out of the jar for 12 to 24 hours.
How Long to Cure
At a minimum, you should cure your cannabis for two to three weeks. If you want the absolute best cannabis, then try to cure it for at least six months. Some strains do even better with longer curing times than this. Generally, four to eight weeks of curing is enough for a middle ground that most growers and consumers will be fine with.
Other Curing Methods
The above is the most popular and well-tested and proven method of curing cannabis. However, there are some other methods that you may find, such as freeze-drying, water curing, or dry ice curing. These deliver less reliable results, but they are worth considering if you are tight on time and willing to take a risk.
Just be warned that using those methods will likely lead to cannabis that does not taste very good. Some consumers even say those curing methods result in an increased risk of headaches and paranoia.