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How to dry and cure cannabis

How to dry and cure marijuana at harvest

After cutting down your marijuana plants, a proper dry and cure are crucial. These help retain terpenes and cannabinoids, preserving and accentuating the flavors of weed, while diminishing chlorophyll, and getting rid of the vegetal taste of the plant.

A dry shouldn’t be too quick or too long. Too quick and the outsides of buds will appear dry but the insides won’t be. Too long and buds could develop mold.

The drying and curing processes are similar but with a subtle difference. Drying happens before or after trimming and occurs when the initial amount of moisture comes out of buds. This can happen after you cut down the plant in drying trimming, or after you trim the buds in wet trimming, when buds are in a drying room or on a drying rack.

Curing happens after this initial removal of moisture and after buds have been trimmed. It involves storing finished buds in containers to stop the loss of moisture and to preserve flavors and aromas. More on curing below.

How to set up a cannabis drying room

drying cannabis
(OlegMalyshev/iStock)

Keep harvested weed in a dark room with temperatures between 60-70°F and humidity between 55-65%. A cheap hygrometer will help you monitor these numbers. 

Add a small fan to circulate air, and you may need to add a dehumidifier or AC as well. If it’s taking too long to dry buds in your space, you may need to adjust the temperature or humidity to help along the drying process. 

Cannabis drying room equipment

  • Drying rack or line to hang buds for drying
  • Hygrometer to measure temperature and humidity
  • Fan
  • AC unit (optional)
  • Dehumidifier (optional)

How long does it take to dry cannabis?

When dry trimming cannabis, you can hang harvested plants upside down on a line or hanger—it prevents buds from getting flattened or misshapen as they dry. Also, keep buds connected to branches to help create an even, slow dry.

If dry trimming, check your drying branches after they’ve been hanging for 3 days. A good test is to bend a branch with buds—if the stem snaps, that means buds are dry and ready for trimming.

If they don’t snap, leave them and check the next day. Drying usually takes 3-7 days, but could take longer.

How to dry buds without hanging

When trimming wet, you’ll need a flat rack—you’ll have lots of trimmed individual buds, so you can’t hang them. Flat racks are circular with layers of mesh, and are great for airflow.

Check wet-trimmed buds drying in the flat rack after 2-3 days by giving them a little squish. If they’re still too wet, leave them and check again the next day.

How to cure marijuana

When buds are done drying and have been trimmed, the initial amount of moisture is out of the buds and it’s time to cure your weed. 

For curing, you’ll be storing finished buds in containers—typically airtight glass jars—to stop the loss of moisture, and to preserve flavors and aromas. Curing usually takes two weeks to a month, and humidity inside curing containers needs to be between 55-65%.

Why curing cannabis is important

The curing process is possibly the most overlooked aspect of growing weed. During curing, moisture continues to draw from the center of the bud toward the outside. 

Curing affects the flavor and quality of the smoke. Many terpenes, which give cannabis its unique smell and flavor, are quite volatile and can degrade and evaporate at temperatures as low as 50°F. A slow cure at low temperatures will preserve terpenes better than a quick, hot dry.

Hot, humid conditions also create an optimal environment for enzymes and aerobic bacteria to break down leftover minerals and the undesirable sugars produced by the decomposition of chlorophyll during the drying process. The presence of these sugars and leftover minerals can cause a harsh throat-burning sensation when smoking.

A proper cure also allows you to store weed for long periods without worrying about mold or loss of cannabinoids. Well-cured flowers can be stored in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place for up to two years without significant loss of potency.

Equipment and tools needed to cure cannabis

When curing cannabis, it should be done in a room or space that has a stable temperature and humidity—dank, wet basements or hot, muggy attics aren’t ideal. The space should maintain room temperature and not be too humid.

Light can also degrade terpenes, so it’s ideal to be able to turn off the lights in the space or be able to cover the jars so light doesn’t leak in.

To cure buds, you will need:

  • Airtight jars
  • Hygrometer (for each jar) to measure temperature and humidity

Curing cannabis buds

cannabis storage

Once buds are dry, it’s time to cure them.

Place the trimmed buds into some type of airtight container. Most people use wide-mouth quart or half-gallon glass mason jars, but you can also use ceramic, metal, or wood vessels.

Plastic bags are unsuitable for curing as they are not impervious to oxygen and can degrade when they come in contact with some terpenes in cannabis. 

Pack buds loosely in containers without compacting or crushing them. Seal containers and store in a cool, dry, dark place. 

Within a day or two you’ll notice buds get a little softer as moisture from the middle of the buds rehydrates the outer portions. If this doesn’t happen, you have likely over-dried your cannabis.

Humidity inside the sealed jars should be between 55-65%. If you’re unsure, you can also buy a digital hygrometer—which measures moisture—available for $20 or so at any hardware store.

Burp your buds

Seal jars overnight and check on them the next day. If buds are too wet, leave the lid off for half a day or a full day before resealing at night. Repeat this process until they are ready—give them a gentle squeeze to test softness and moisture content. Again, a hygrometer comes in handy here.

During the first week of curing, regardless of humidity level, open the containers once or twice a day for a couple minutes—this is called “burping.” This allows moisture to escape and replenishes the oxygen inside the container. 

If you notice an odor of ammonia when opening a container, it means the buds are not dry enough and anaerobic bacteria are consuming them, which will lead to moldy, rotten cannabis. Leave the lid off for a day and reseal tomorrow.

After the first week, you only need to burp containers once every few days.

How long does it take to cure cannabis?

After two to four weeks in containers, your cannabis should be cured enough to provide a quality experience. Some people prefer to cure for four to eight weeks, and some strains even benefit from six months or more of curing.

How to store your harvested cannabis buds

After curing your cannabis, you can store buds for up to two years without much loss of potency. Like fine wine or a whiskey barrel, properly dried and cured cannabis is best when kept in a cool, dark place—mildew and other molds on cannabis and organic matter thrive in temperatures between 77-86°F. 

Excessive heat can dry out cannabinoids and terpenes that have taken months to develop. When these essential oils get too dry along with plant material, it can result in a hot, harsh smoke.

Temperature

Lower temperatures also slow decarboxylation, the process in which THCA converts into the intoxicating THC. THC eventually degrades into CBN, a cannabinoid with different effects and properties. Additionally, warm air holds more moisture than cold air.

Humidity

Humidity control is paramount to keeping mildew and other mold contaminants out of your cannabis. Keep cannabis between 55-65% relative humidity when stored to maintain and enhance color, consistency, aroma, and flavor. 

Light

Harmful UV rays break down many organic and synthetic materials, and UV rays will degrade cannabis over time. A study in the 1970s concluded that light was the single biggest factor in the degradation of cannabinoids. 

The same study concluded that cannabinoids maintain stability for up to two years when stored under the proper conditions, though it can remain effective and safe to consume for much longer, as essential oils slowly break down over time. Storing your cannabis out of direct light will also help control temperature.

Air

Having too little air can greatly affect humidity, especially if buds aren’t completely dried before storage.

Too much air, on the other hand, will speed up the degradation process as cannabinoids and other organic matter are exposed to oxygen. There are a variety of hand and electric vacuum pump attachments available for canning jars that can help minimize oxygen exposure.

To recap:

  • Store out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry place
  • Store in containers with a neutral charge, like glass mason jars
  • Use hygrometers or products like Boveda to monitor and control humidity levels
  • Vacuum seal jars and containers to minimize oxygen exposure
  • Separate strains to maintain individual flavor profiles, and label with a date—it sucks to mix up strains


Will Hyde contributed to this article.

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