On to the next phase of the cannabis plant’s journey from seed to sale!
Last week, we went over the cultivation process from seed to harvest. If you missed it, be sure to check it out here. In the second blog of our three-part 420 Blog Series, we’re discussing the importance of drying and curing cannabis and why mastering these processes is key to consistently producing high-quality flower.
What is Curing?
Curing is a technique humans have used for centuries to preserve and store different kinds of meats, vegetables, and plants. It just happens to also be a super important detail in cannabis cultivation, minus the use of salt and sugar.
In reality, this stage of cannabis cultivation is two-fold because drying and curing cannabis go hand-in-hand. Neither process can fully produce the type of high-quality cannabis desired by patients, and both are often lumped together as being one and the same.
Drying removes most of the moisture from freshly harvested cannabis plants over a 7 to 10 day period. Curing can dry and help slightly remoisten flower to ensure an optimal and balanced moisture content. The average curing time followed by most growers, commercially or otherwise, is a minimum of three weeks, but this varies based on the region the cannabis is grown. It also depends on the preferences of the consumer. Some enjoy drier flower, while others may only consider cannabis to be of premium quality after curing for six months.
Curing itself is easy enough to understand, now the bigger question is, why do it with cannabis? Well, for the same reasons humans have done it for various foods for thousands of years: to preserve flavor and taste, prevent disease, and ensure a longer shelf life.
Why is it Important to Cure Cannabis Flower?
Improperly cured cannabis flower can alter the entire consumption experience. No matter how meticulous growers are during the cultivation process, inconsistent and poorly executed drying and curing processes will ruin any great harvest. Common issues will include:
- Lower potency
- Poor terpene profile
- Harsher smoke when inhaled
As mentioned above, like with curing foods, curing cannabis is all about enhancing and preserving the flavor, aroma, shelf life, and potency of the flower. One important aspect of curing, besides removing the excess moisture, is the degradation of different plant matter still present in freshly harvested buds.
Fresh cannabis buds contain sugars, starches, and chlorophyll, which will impact the flower in almost every aspect. Enzymes and other airborne bacteria attack these byproducts, diminishing the flower’s taste and aroma. During this time, chlorophyll will convert into gas and dissipate, allowing the terpenes to really come through. Without this process, the flower will be masked by a more “hay-like” smell, instead of emitting their usual aroma
The degradation of these plant byproducts preserves the most important elements of cannabis buds. Some cultivars can even be smoked after two years and still maintain its potency when cured and stored properly!
First Thing’s First: Drying Cannabis
Before the curing can begin, all the newly cut cannabis plants are dried immediately after harvesting.
The most common method used by small and large-scale grow operations is hang-drying. All the branches are hung upside down in an environmentally controlled space. The dry room should be kept at 70 degrees F with the relative humidity staying at around 40-50%, stay completely dark, and maintain a consistent airflow. A moisture meter is also used to measure the moisture content of the plant. Flower that’s too dry will cause the terpenes to evaporate. That’s why increasing the heat in order to quicken the drying process is highly discouraged.
The setup and length of time can also depend on whether growers dry or wet trim the cannabis leaves.
- Dry trimming is done after drying and before curing. The plants are hung as is and left to dry for about 7 to 10 days. Many find dry trimming to be the most effective method since it gives the flower adequate time to dry without rushing the process.
- Wet trimming happens as soon as the plants are harvested and shortens how long the flower will need to fully dry. Once the buds are trimmed, they’re spread out onto drying racks. This method normally takes about two to three days but is often discouraged because it rushes the drying time, which could negatively impact the flower quality.
How to Cure Cannabis
How cannabis is cured depends entirely on the scale of the harvest. What works for individual growers or smaller farms won’t transfer over well to larger, commercial grow operations.
The right environment is especially critical to proper curing, regardless of the method used. Conditions need to be around the same as they are during drying. There should be little to no light exposure with temperatures kept below 70 degrees F and 55-60% humidity. The flower must be checked consistently and vented at certain times, also called “burping”, which releases gases and compounds that can create a harsher smoke and lower the shelf life of the flower.
Typically, with large-scale production, custom rooms and systems are designed to account for the volume of commercial grows. Many facilities oversee multiple grow rooms with nearly 50+ plant cultivars all growing at once, so drying and curing at this level requires far more innovation to ensure buds remain at top quality with every harvest.
We’re Almost There
Two parts down, one to go! We’ve covered how cannabis plants are cultivated, the importance of drying and curing, and now we move on to the final phases of the seed to sale journey.
For the final blog of the 420 Blog Series, we’ll look at cannabis testing and how the data and analysis determine whether the buds are dispensary worthy. Don’t forget to subscribe for blog updates and alerts for this year’s 420 specials, news, and product releases!