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An overview of the cannabis drying and curing process

The curing of farmed cannabis is undertaken for broadly similar reasons to the curing of meats and other perishable foods.

By removing destructive bacteria, the cannabis curing process preserves organically based products for longer term storage. Like many cured meats, such as bacon and hákarl, users commonly find the taste of cannabis which has been preserved through curing to be more palatable than its fresher equivalent.

Why do we cure and dry cannabis?

By appropriately preserving each new crop of cannabis shortly after it is harvested, a producer can be certain that their harvest can be safely stored until it is sold. Freshly picked cannabis which is not dried or cured carries a greater risk of incurring mould, mildew or rot. Storing cannabis products which have not been correctly preserved or packaged in areas with high humidity levels will further accelerate the degradation process.

Some cannabis cultivation and production operations elide the necessary drying and curing processes from their product chains due to space and economic concerns: rather than setting aside a section of their facility to preserve the product before it is stored, these businesses would prefer to devote their entire operational space to storing unpreserved cannabis.

While in the short term this would appear to make economic sense, as it allows the producer more space for storage, in the long term it is deeply flawed; as the cannabis which is produced has a substantially shorter shelf life and is less strong than a correctly cured product – and, in the event of mould, can be hazardous or even toxic to the consumer.

Like all plant matter, cannabis begins to enter the process of degradation as soon as it has been harvested. Curing cannabis eliminates the bacteria and enzymes which cause the plant matter to break down; and in doing so, arrests the breakdown of terpenes and cannabinoids, both of which are essentially volatile compounds and, without intervention, would either break down into less active compounds or simply evaporate altogether.

How do we cure and dry cannabis?

To dry cannabis buds, their water content must normally be reduced to between 10% and 15%. This can vary according to the particular purpose of the finished product – experts recommend a final water content of 10% to 12% for cannabis which is to be smoked with tobacco, while product which is intended for use in a vaporiser may have water content between 12% and 15%. Gourmet users who prioritise flavour prefer buds with a water content as low as 8%, resulting in a purer flavour and an even burn.

In order to create an optimal product, the drying process must be slow and carefully regulated: rushed or inconsistent drying can result in a product which is dusty and fragile; or worse, if the drying process is not adequately completed due to haste and the product retains excessive moisture, the risk of mould and mildew increases.

It is typically considered best to dry a cannabis harvest in strictly controlled climate conditions: moderately cool drying rooms are preferred for better preservation of the highest possible levels of terpenes; however, at temperatures much below 15°C the product will retain excessive amounts of chlorophyll. This will have a detrimental effect on both the smell and taste. Judicious application of both heaters and coolers, as well as humidifiers and dehumidifiers, enable the producer to maintain a consistent level of temperature and humidity.

Curing can begin once the product has undergone the multi-day drying process: the dried cannabis is placed in sealed containers for retention of moisture and terpenes. These containers must be checked multiple times per day, to ensure that the cannabis is retaining an appropriate level of moisture – overly moist buds may need to return to the drying process for a period – and to change the air in the containers. Moisture inspections may be done through touch or using a hygrometer, which measures ambient humidity; producers who find their cannabis produces an ammonia-like odour at this stage must return it to the drying stage immediately, as this smell is an indication that excessive moisture is causing the plant to break down.

The curing process continues for at least one to two months, after which the air in the containers will need changing much less frequently. The final product may be stored in these containers for up to six months, or alternatively it may be vacuum packed for longer term storage and sale.

This article appeared in the second issue of Medical Cannabis Network which is out now. Click here to get your free subscription today.

The curing of farmed cannabis is undertaken for broadly similar reasons to the curing of meats and other perishable foods.

Curing Cannabis: Why It’s Important and How to Do It Properly

Monday February 19, 2018

T here’s no one secret to producing great cannabis – the best cannabis is the product of premium genetics, careful cultivation, precise pruning, timely trimming and, finally, a slow-and-steady curing process.

The necessity of this last step should not be understated. A proper curing process (though timely and kind of boring) is key to producing that smooth, flavorful (and yes, more potent) smoke sesh that’s characteristic of only the finest green, and we’ll tell you exactly how to do it right. But before we do that, let’s look at why curing cannabis is so important in the first place.

Curing for Preservation Purposes

People have been curing their food for as long as there has been civilization. In fact, the ability of ancient humans to cure (and thus store) food for later consumption may have been the most important step to creating civilize societies.

No longer was it necessary to consume food as soon as it was harvested or hunted; food preservation via various curing processes meant people could reap bountiful harvest then save it for later instead of always having to be on the prowl for their next meal.

Though many curing methods have been used over the years, the goal is always the same: to remove bacteria for long-term storage.

This is done to meats using preservatives like salts, sugars and nitrites, but when it comes to cannabis, we rely on nothing more than patience and persistence.

Benefits to Properly Curing Cannabis

Though every vegetable requires a different curing process for the best outcome, the goal is the same: to preserve the product while retaining vital flavors, nutrients and in the case of cannabis, cannabinoids.

Proper curing stops the degradation process before volatile compounds like terpenes and cannabinoids evaporate or transform into less favorable compounds.

From the moment the crop is harvested it begins to degrade as enzymes and aerobic bacteria break down excess sugars and starches. Curing cannabis essentially forces the plant to use up those sugars, starches and excessive nutrients before they’ve had the chance to dry out and get stuck inside the plant.

If you’ve ever wondered why some cannabis is harsher or less flavorful when you smoke it, it is because these residual components have not been properly cured out of the plant prior to drying and/or distribution to the consumer. A good cannabis cure will not only improve the flavor and smoothness of a smoke sesh, it will also improve product potency, too!

That’s because cannabinoid synthesis (the process of creating those valuable chemicals) continues even after harvest.

When freshly-harvested cannabis flowers are kept at the proper temperature and humidity, non-psychoactive cannabinoids will continue to transform into THCa, a precursor to psychoactive THC.

How to Cure Cannabis

To effectively cure your harvested cannabis (if you’re unsure when to harvest, click here), begin by hanging trimmed bud upside down in a dark room from a laundry line or clothing hangers. Buds that are still attached to the stock will hang easily at the node while smaller, “popcorn” buds may need to be dried on a screen to encourage airflow.

The room should ideally be kept between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity level between 45 and 55 percent to help preserve the terpene content of the bud.

After one to two weeks, the stems should gently break when bent (instead of folding like they do when they’re fresh) and the outside of the flower should be slightly crisp. When this happens, it’s time for the next step: sweating your bud. You’ll do this by removing the bud from the larger stems (use this time to finish manicuring them if necessary) and placing them in sealable containers.

Set the containers in a cool, dark location then return multiple times daily to open (or “burp”) the containers which removes excess moisture by drawing it out through the bud slowly while keeping the oxygen content fresh.

Note: if you notice the smell of mold or ammonia after burping your containers the first few times, it likely means the bud is not dry enough to cure yet. Remove the buds from the jars and continue air-drying for a few more days to avoid mold.

After a few weeks, you’ll be able to burp your containers less frequently (once every few days to a week, for example) while the bud continues curing. Though your bud will be fine to smoke after two to four weeks, continued curing for four to eight weeks or more will improve the flavor and potency even more. Properly cured cannabis can be stored for up to six months in these containers or for long-term storage, it can be kept in vacuum-sealed storage for a year or more.

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to be an experienced cannabis cultivator to produce high-quality bud at home. Ideal strain and grow conditions aside, the best bud always takes a bit more love and attention, and the curing process is no exception.

Taking the time to properly cure your cannabis will pay off big-time, and earn you some awesome bragging rights, to boot.

Interested in growing? Click here to purchase your own seeds and start growing today!

Do you have any tips for curing cannabis? Share them with our readers below.

Curing your cannabis is extremely important if you want high-quality flower. From flavor and smoothness all the way to potency, curing affects many aspects of the plant.