Making Buds Shine
Growing and nourishing is over; cutting is done; but, there is still one last step to put the best buds forward: drying and curing. Done badly, good buds are ruined with copious money and time washed away.
The purpose of drying is to reduce the water content of buds to 10-15%. While curing is often overlooked by commercial growers to get the most flower on the market as soon as possible, it is required for top notch bud. Crucial steps, but what growers do for drying or curing varies as does the decided upon methods used.
Drying and curing go together and both require environmental manipulation. Drying wants roughly a 70°F/21°C room temperature and a 50% humidity level; curing likes the same temperature but a 58-65% humidity range. Drying is a slow open air process; whereas curing occurs in jars and is even slower. The buds need the time though for chemical processes to occur leading to the best aroma and highest potency.
Chemical processes sound vague so let’s go deeper. What does all that time give you to make it worth it:
- Chlorophyll breaks down cleaning up the taste.
- Improves the aroma by ridding the buds of a fresh grass scent.
- Allows the terpene profile to mature like good wine.
- Leads to buds less likely to induce coughing and headaches.
- Lowers risks of anxiety and paranoia.
- Improves chances for limiting mold and bacteria growth in storage.
- Increases potency by letting the cannabinoids to finish ripening.
In short, time well spent equals quality worth buying. Time for the actual processes.
Cannabis is cut and trimmed (if using the rack method). Drying can occur by hanging the cannabis upside down. That said, this does require space as you need ventilation to circulate between the plants.
Larger operations will often use drying racks to maximize usage of space and increase safety. A downside to racks is that with normal humidity levels the buds can dry too quickly because the fully manicured buds have no water filled stems to slow the process. However, there is the upside that mold is less likely to get a foothold.
Hanging or racks is not a setup and leave situation. The buds need to be checked daily. The desired effect is that drying will lead to buds that feel dry to the touch and smaller stems will snap rather than bending but not be brittle.
However one dries, manipulating with air conditioners, evaporative coolers, dehumidifiers, humidifiers, and/or heaters is non-optional, not to mention ventilation and air circulation systems, sensors, and humidity/temperature testing, the calculator costs keep ticking away. (There is a fast method of quick drying in a dehydrator or stove, with a microwave, or using dry ice, but hopefully this is something that you will never have to see)
That brings us to curing. Going back to the wine analogy, mediocre or low quality grapes aren’t going to be aged for perfection, high quality grapes will be. This is identical to the world of cannabis. If time and money was put into quality bud, then it would be criminal not to make it a masterpiece which curing can do.
Curing involves the use of airtight containers. (Traditionally glass jars have been used for this step.) Remember the benefits listed earlier? Well the controlled heat and humidity levels of curing allows cannabis enzymes and aerobic bacteria to break down chlorophyll, minerals, and sugars which makes a smoke harsher and less aromatically pleasant. Slow curing at temperatures below 50°F preserves terpenes and potency while making the end product capable of withstanding up to two years of storage safer from molds.
To get the benefits, requires a hands-on approach. At first, the jars must be opened to “burp” off water multiple times a day. As the days go on frequency diminishes. The higher the desired product the longer given to curing: anywhere from 2 weeks to 6+ months!