Everything You Need to Know About Drying and Curing Marijuana
Harvest is always exciting, but patience is never more important for a marijuana seed grower than in the final stages of what happens after harvest. Freshly cut buds will produce harsh, unpleasant smoke, and the high that follows will have rough edges, too.
Marijuana needs to be dried before being enjoyed, and it often makes sense to cure it, as well. These processes serve important, partially overlapping purposes:
- Drying reduces the water content of marijuana buds, helping them resist mold thereafter. Properly dried buds will also be easier to handle than wet ones and a lot more enjoyable to smoke. Growers usually target a final water content of somewhere between 10 and 15 percent. Commercial weed seed growers tend to aim for the high side of the scale, since they market their wares by weight. Individuals who plan to smoke their supplies fairly quickly will sometimes opt for water content levels in the high single digits, depending on personal preferences.
- Curing allows previously dried marijuana to mature further. Controlled conditions encourage starches and simple sugars within marijuana buds to break down over time, making the finished product tastier when smoked. Careful curing preserves the terpenes that make great marijuana so delicious and aromatic. Curing can also help stabilize THC, reducing its tendency to break down into psychoactive but less-potent CBN when buds are in storage.
Drying is so important that it should only be skipped if marijuana will undergo some other specialized form of processing. Curing is less so, with the vast majority of commercial marijuana, for instance, not being cured at all.
While each of these processes takes time, they can both easily repay the investment. Read on to learn about how to dry and cure marijuana, along with more about why you would want to do so.
An Important First Step: Making a Decision About Trimming
In addition to being dried and often cured, marijuana almost always ends up being trimmed before it gets consumed. There are two windows of time when trimming is appropriate, and the choice between them will impact the drying process:
- Wet trimming takes place either before harvest time or right after buds have been cut. Still moist and lively, buds expose their small sugar leaves, making trimming easier. Much of the resin clinging to wet buds will also stay in place under fairly vigorous handling. Trimming buds while they are wet will speed up the subsequent drying process. Some growers also maintain that trimming wet buds leaves them looking tighter and more impressive once dried.
- Dry trimming happens after buds have been encouraged to give up some amount of moisture. Drier buds are less likely to coat scissors and fingers in sticky resin, although they are more prone to shedding particles of it when jostled. The most common reason to opt for dry trimming is a desire to slow and moderate the process of drying. Keeping leaves and stems attached to buds buffers them against especially dry environments, which can be useful in certain places. Because dry buds will have already achieved something like their finished look, the cosmetic effects of trimming will be easier to judge.
Both wet and dry trimming have their advocates, and some growers switch between them depending upon the situation. Your choice of trimming approach will impact the speed of the drying process and can also make it easier to control.
Drying Buds to Get Them Ready for Curing or Consumption
Cannabis buds dry from the outside in, with the moisture content normally being highest at the very center. Freshly cut outdoor marijuana can include as much as three-quarters of its gross weight in water, and the goal of drying is to reduce that figure to somewhere around 12 percent. That will mean leaving the outermost layers of buds quite a bit drier, while the insides contain a higher level of moisture.
It is important to control several factors along the way, because improper drying will degrade or even ruin marijuana plants regardless of whether they sprout from cheap seeds or premium seeds. The issues that always need to be accounted for are:
- The fastest way to dry marijuana buds is to subject them to plenty of heat. Unfortunately, that will also damage them, with desirable components like THC and terpenes suffering more with every degree of increase. Most growers dry their crops at around room temperature or slightly below it, with some varying the level as time goes on. One common strategy is to start drying at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit, with the goal of achieving 30 to 40 percent moisture content after three days. The temperature in the enclosure will then be dropped several degrees to slow the process until the target level is hit.
- Ambient humidity. The amount of moisture in the air around marijuana buds will impact the rate at which they dry. Excessive humidity can even make it impossible to reduce the moisture content of buds to the desired level. Insufficient humidity will speed up the drying process too much, although holding off on trimming can help moderate the effect. Growers generally aim to dry marijuana in spaces with humidity levels of between 45 and 55 percent.
- Air circulation. Stagnant air will slow down the drying process, since the humidity around buds will rise and remain there. Buds also need to be exposed on all sides to the air, or else they will dry less evenly and more slowly. Growers with enough room often opt to hang their harvests, but screens or racks can be used, too. In the latter case, cut marijuana will need to be turned regularly to make sure that it dries evenly and does not deform. Using a growing fan to generate a gentle breeze will help air circulate as needed.
- One of the goals of drying is to stabilize and protect marijuana buds. Wet buds that are subjected to too much light while drying will deteriorate all the while. The simplest way to avoid that is to dry in a dark room or enclosed space, only letting light in as needed. Some growers use green LEDs whose light spectrum does not encourage the breakdown of THC and terpenes. On the other hand, experienced growers sometimes subject drying or curing buds to ultraviolet light to mellow out the high they produce. In most cases, it will be safest to keep light exposure to a minimum.
The simplest way to tell when your Auto Girl Scout Cookies or Auto OG Kush marijuana plant has dried out enough is to try to snap a stem. If it breaks easily, the marijuana is at least dry enough. An overly moist stem will bend quite a bit before breaking, instead.
It should normally take anywhere from seven to twelve days to dry marijuana sufficiently. You should begin checking stems before then to avoid missing the target.
If marijuana dries too rapidly, it will deteriorate in several significant ways. An overly slow drying process, on the other hand, can allow too much THC to convert into CBN, reducing the potency of the finished product.
Controlling the factors listed above will make the rate of drying more predictable. Other details, like bud size and density, will affect the speed of drying, as well. As such, keeping tabs on the process throughout is always the best bet.
Curing: An Optional but Often Desirable Process
Marijuana buds that are drying are also curing, with bitter chlorophyll breaking down and starches turning into simpler sugars. Devoting weeks or months of additional time to curing can make sense, although it is not strictly necessary.
Commercial marijuana is rarely cured, with producers preferring to move their product to market as quickly as possible. People who stick to vaping marijuana sometimes prefer uncured buds or do not see the time investment required for curing as justified.
Curing can improve the quality and potency of dried marijuana, but only so much. It might not make sense to cure low-quality, fast-growing, high-yield marijuana but be entirely worthwhile to do so for better buds.
It will take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to cure marijuana. The first couple of days require the most attention, with daily checkups being needed thereafter for about two weeks. The usual process involves starting with dried, trimmed buds and then:
- Filling glass containers like mason jars about three-quarters to the top. A gentle shake thereafter should have the buds moving freely. If they clump up instead, they need to be dried out more.
- Storing the closed jars in a cool, dark place with a humidity level of 40 to 60 percent. Hygrometers can be added to each container beforehand to make things easier later on.
- Checking twice on each of the first two days for mold and appropriate humidity. Any buds with mold on them should be removed immediately. Moisture still escaping from the buds will raise the humidity in each jar, with a level of 60 to 65 percent being desirable. If the buds are overly moist, the jars should be left open to breathe for several hours. If they are too dry, skip one or more subsequent checks.
- Burping each jar for a few minutes by leaving it open and undisturbed after it gets checked. This allows fresh air to work its way into the empty space and moderate the humidity.
- Switching to a once-daily schedule of checking and burping for the next two weeks.
- Waiting for anywhere from a week to several months for the curing process to complete. The containers should be left undisturbed throughout this period.
All told, buds can be allowed to cure for times ranging from three weeks to a few months. As might be expected, the progress will be made more quickly earlier on, and many growers feel that overly extended curing times can actually damage marijuana.
Properly cured Purple Gelato or White Rhino buds will often feature an improved, more complex flavor and a more potent high. Buds that have finished curing can be stored in the same jars used throughout the process, sometimes for a year or longer without problems.
Keeping jars sealed as much as possible will help prevent additional, unwanted drying while cured marijuana is being stored. Special-purpose consumable packs can also be added to jars to keep humidity levels steady.
Whether you choose to cure your dried buds or not, being familiar with how both processes work can only be helpful. Both drying and curing are powerful tools that marijuana growers will always do well to master.