Many experienced growers know that the hard work truly begins once the weed has been harvested. Before being able to grind the buds and light up a bowl, you’ll want to dry and cure them slowly.
Is it Vital to Dry and Cure Cannabis?
The trimming and drying process is crucial to enjoying your cannabis buds thoroughly. While the curing process isn’t essential, it’s still an excellent idea to be patient and allow the cannabis flower to cure in a jar. Curing buds enhance their flavor and quality and enable them to be stored for longer.
Here, you’ll learn the proper drying process and alternative methods that can be used. We’ll also provide helpful tips and tools to assist you with confidently curing cannabis and storing it at home.
Cannabis Plant 101
The Cannabis Sativa plant has structural similarities to other plants; however, it is highly unique. From its’ long, slim main stem to the thick purple and green buds with orange hairs and shimmering crystals, the cannabis plant is sure to stand out among your everyday flowering plants.
Like most plants and animals, marijuana has recognizable genders with specific reproductive sex organs. Whether you’re looking to breed, grow, or both, it’s crucial to be able to tell the difference.
In rare breeding cases, you may end up with hermaphrodite plants that can identify male or female. These marijuana plants are equipped with both male and female traits. Regarding the cannabis plant, being labeled a hermaphrodite means it has developed male and female flowers.
Marijuana plant anatomy
Female marijuana plants produce seeds and will grow fifty/fifty female or male plants. Seeds need to go through germination, sprout, and form the taproot to anchor the marijuana plant and provide stability.
The cotyledon leaves are the first leaves to grow after germination. They usually grow in pairs and signify a healthy and strong female or male plant.
The roots of the cannabis plant grow downward from the main stem into the soil. It’s often called a taproot. It is the lifeline of your plant and will provide essential nutrients, water, and oxygen.
The branches of marijuana plants grow directly out of the central stalk. They are in place to protect and support the bud sites and fan leaves.
The main stem or stalk is the support system of the plant and grows upward from the roots. You’ll also find the pollen sacs along the stem in male cannabis plants. While small stems snap, the main branch is sturdy.
The marijuana plant’s node is a little “joint” where branches grow from the main stem or another component. Some nodes contain buds, and some do not. They play an essential role in reproduction but do not significantly influence potency.
Fan and Sugar leaves
These leaves are large and capture light for photosynthesis. They are the iconic marijuana leaf, though they are usually discarded once trimmed due to the fact that they do not produce resin.
Sugar leaves are smaller than fan leaves and produce quite a bit of resin. These leaves are where the buds are formed and can be saved after trimming for pre-rolls, extracts, or concentrates.
There are no male flowers; only female plants produce buds. They are small and teardrop-shaped, with pistils attached to bracts. You’ll notice shimmering trichomes, and the more, the better because they contain CBD, THC cannabinoids, and terpenes.
Flowers are typically dried, cured, and then ground to smoke.
Cola is a cluster of flowers that form in a bunch. There will be small colas on lower branches and one large cola (apical bud) that grows at the plant’s top and the central stalk’s end. The cola is also known as the “bud site.”
Bract and Calyx
All of the female reproductive parts are together within the bract. They are tear-shaped leaves covered in resin glands that produce the highest amount of cannabinoids like CBD or THC. While you can’t see the calyx, it’s a see-through layer inside the bract over the ovule.
Stigma and pistil
In a nutshell, the pistil is the plant’s reproductive system. It contains thick strands (stigma) which look like hairs. The job of the stigma is to collect pollen, which is why they start out white and eventually turn yellow. While these reproductive parts are vital to plant growth, they do not affect potency or taste.
The trichomes are the tiny, sugary crystals covering and protecting the buds. They come from the glands of leaves, stems, and the calyx on male or female plants. The more trichomes, the more potent your plant will be.
How long do cannabis plants grow?
Rule of thumb, it can take anywhere from four to eight months to grow your own marijuana plant. The growth stage for the plant depends on whether you are growing weed indoors or outdoors.
Indoor space allows cannabis growers to harvest after a few weeks or months, but growing outdoors depends on natural weather and annual cycles.
When is Harvest time?
Harvesting weed typically requires four steps: cutting plants down, trimming the buds, drying, and curing cannabis before smoking.
If you utilize wet trimming, the process involves cutting the female flowers and then allowing them to dry.
For dry trimming, you’ll remove the female plants, hang them to dry, and then cut the buds off and complete the curing process.
An outdoor harvest in North America should happen between September and November, depending on your specific area and local climate, as well as the type of seed you’re using. To grow weed indoors, harvesting should occur between seven and ten weeks after the flowering stage, depending on the strain.
Things to Consider when Drying Cannabis
For proper drying, humidity levels need to be maintained between 45 and 55 percent. If you are experiencing difficulty with a humid climate, investing in a dehumidifier or a humidity pack could be useful to allow the individual buds to completely dry.
When you dry marijuana buds, you’ll want to keep your drying room temperature between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius. If you have a temperature-controlled air conditioning unit, setting it to 20 degrees Celcius and 50 percent humidity level should do the trick.
If airflow becomes a problem while drying or curing cannabis, investing in a small fan to circulate air while you dry and cure would be an excellent idea; however, remain cautious not to allow the small fan to blow directly on your drying weed.
Not only should the drying room be cool, but it will also need to be dark to dry cannabis. No light should be able to enter the room or touch the drying buds. This will ensure that the chlorophyll is completely removed, leaving room for the flavorful, aromatic, and terpene-rich marijuana flower to shine.
Drying method and setup
You want to set up a drying room way before harvest time. There are a few things to consider when choosing a space to dry your marijuana buds:
- The room’s climate should not frequently change while you dry weed.
- Whenever possible, use a new room. Old areas, especially those used as storage, often have a lot of mildew.
- The room should not be too big that you won’t be able to control the climate in it accurately.
- Drying weed should be this room’s only purpose.
- Digital hygrometer for humidity level
- Digital thermometer for temperature control
- Small fan for circulation
- Duct Kit with ducting, exhaust fan, and filter
- Drying rack to hang buds upside down
- Drying screen for loose buds that fall
How to set up your drying rack
Often, the most challenging part of marijuana cultivation is setting up a grow and dry space for their cannabis. While it’s nice to use top-quality supplies and equipment, it may be best to keep it simple at first and learn to produce a couple of plants before increasing to a whole operation.
A simple dry room setup can involve putting together your rack to hang the plants upside down. Be sure the room is large enough that the plants can hang freely and allow air circulation. The space will also need to be completely dark and sunlight-free. Once you set up your circulation system, ensure it isn’t directly blowing on the drying cannabis.
Terpene loss is unavoidable during the drying process, so you want to evaporate just enough moisture at a rate where maximum terpenes can be retained. Some terpenes will inevitably be lost during the drying process, so you’ll want to set the space up to retain as many as possible during the evaporation phase.
There are a few ways to be discreet when drying weed:
- Duct system with carbon or charcoal filter for best results
- Keep room closed off as much as possible, use towels to block doorways
- Dry in a tent to allow fresh air to circulate and to maintain relative humidity levels
How long does the drying process take?
Freshly harvested weed needs to cure a minimum of two full weeks or fifteen days. You’ll know they are properly dried when the dry buds are firm to the touch, and the branches bend but don’t crack.
Smaller or wet trimmed buds may dry quicker, so regularly check on your drying buds after the ten-day mark. At the end of the drying process, the humidity level will need to drop from approximately 80 percent to around 25 to 30 percent.
Is there a way to speed up the process to dry and cure buds?
You can speed dry weed, but it’s not ideal for aroma, texture, or flavor profile. Speed drying involves keeping your dark room at higher temperatures with airflow from a fan or small air conditioner directly to the wet buds.
This drying process will result in dark green, extremely dry marijuana. Chlorophyll will not have enough time to leave the plant, so it’s not going to smell or taste as good as with a complete drying and curing process.
Now, let’s go over the entire process, start to finish, for drying and curing cannabis flower.
Prepare your plants
This process includes:
- checking for pests and disease
- discarding damaged plant parts
- cutting off larger fan leaves
- flushing with clean, room temperature water- this occurs two weeks before harvesting to remove excess fertilizer
- Stop fertilizing after flushing (two weeks prior to harvest)
- Discontinue watering one to three days prior to harvesting
Prepare space for drying cannabis
Remember these key factors:
- Darkroom or tent
- Temperature: 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit
- Relative humidity: 45 to 55 percent
- Air circulation system
Check plants for readiness
- white hairs (pistils) have turned orange and brown
- orange and brown hairs are curling inward
- trichomes have turned from clear to creamy white
- it should be around 8 to 12 weeks; less for auto-flowering seeds
- sharp scissors or plant shears
- 70 percent isopropyl for cleaning tools and mason jars
- Plastic gloves
- Trays for branches
- Drying rack, box, or tent
- clean tools and workspace with alcohol
- cut and divide branches to hang buds
- dry cannabis in a dark, cool space with air circulation
- trim them before or after you dry buds
- cure cannabis in mason jars or similar airtight container
Wet trimming vs. Dry trimming
Wet trimming is a process that involves trimming before you dry the marijuana flower.
Immediately following harvest, you would cut off the leaves before the drying and curing process.
Wet trimming benefits include:
- easier to trim
- less time to trim
- faster drying and curing time
- lower risk of mold or mildew
- less space needed to dry buds
Dry trimming is when you cut down the plants, hang dry buds with the leaves intact, and then trim them afterward.
Dry trimming benefits include:
- speed to dry marijuana can be controlled and adjusted
- results in higher quality dry weed
- Less messy to trim when dry
- Less harsh, more flavorful smoking experience
How to fix an overdried plant
As a beginner, it’s possible that you could over dry your buds. But, don’t worry! It’s best to leave them alone in the jar for 3-4 days after noticing they look dry. Often, the moisture inside will naturally surface within a few hours.
If not, you can invest in humidity packs to rehydrate the cannabis flower and balance out the humidity levels. Without using humidity packs, it may be best to leave them dry.
Attempting to rehydrate buds on your own can increase the risk for harmful mold and disease from the excess moisture inside.
Long term storage
Trimmed buds naturally dry and become less potent and flavorful over time, so storing cannabis properly is an essential step.
A proper cure will ensure that your cannabis buds will last longer. They will maintain their flavor and potency longer as well.
Humidity control packs can help ensure humidity levels remain ideal to store buds.
Store buds in airtight containers. Mason jars are perfect airtight jars for storing cannabis after the curing process. Plastic bags risk drying and losing the potency of your cured cannabis.
Maintain a dark environment with a cool temperature for optimal storage of cured cannabis in an airtight container.
Make sure your dark room is also clean and free of stagnant air and excess dust. The fewer contaminants, the less risk of harsh smoke, so it’s best to clean with alcohol a few hours before utilizing the room.
Cannabis buds frozen in airtight containers vs. plastic bags can last up to one to two years.
Some experienced cannabis growers prefer aged weed and say that, similar to a bottle of fine wine, curing buds slowly can result in a unique smell and potent final bud quality. For the aged weed experience, you’ll include a curing process of at least five months.
Why curing marijuana is essential.
If you’ve ever gotten weed that had an ammonia smell, that means the curing process was incomplete. You smell ammonia because the anaerobic bacteria are decomposing the chlorophyll.
Without completely curing cannabis, not only do you risk the ammonia smell, but you’re also in for dry marijuana that is harsh to smoke.
In the end, you will have to trim and dry your cannabis buds before using them. With a bit of patience, a drying room, some supplies, and the right environment, you’re well on your way to smoking your own homegrown weed.
It’s okay to sample your marijuana buds following the drying process, but we recommend curing methods for quality and storage purposes and a better high overall.