You’ve gotten this far. You have religiously dotted the I’s and crossed the t’s. Everything is right and you are on the verge of becoming a player in this new cannabis industry. You’re also readying for your first paycheck, having chosen the colour of your new Ferrari from your favourite car magazine. But first there is the last hurdle to overcome, the drying process.
Drying may be one of the least written about processes in the cannabis universe. It is also a process with a lot of opinions where even experts sometimes clash over how things should be done. Thing is, seeing that it’s the last step of the process, a lot of people mess this up and walk away with an inferior product. Through careful drying, the product is not only enhanced in quality, but it also becomes tastier and the irony is that all it takes is patience and a few extra hours of work. Too many cultivators mess up this part of the process because of impatience.
If we were one of those websites that used capital letters, we would have written “DON’T TRY TO HURRY THE PROCESS UP” in caps, just to underline the importance of the point.
The reason you are drying these flowers is to make sure that they are ready to be used. If
done correctly, it not only enhances potency and flavor, but also helps to prevent mold and
But let’s start at the beginning and see what goes for what.
Dry or wet trimming
Step one is to decide how you are going to process it before drying – wet trimming or dry trimming. This means choosing between hanging the full plant or separated branches upside down and trimming the flowers once it’s dry or wet trimming which means you process the flowers while the plant is still wet and dry the flowers afterwards.
Advantages versus disadvantages
Each of these two processes comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Dry trimming will obviously contribute to the esthetics of the final product and is less labour intensive than wet trimming. If you do wet trimming, you will need trays which may lead to an uneven dry. There are also issues with agitation when doing wet trimming. If you are mass producing by the ton and the final product is not that important (quantity over quality) wet trimming is the usual choice, but any cultivator who cares about the quality of the product will rather use dry trimming. With wet trimming the flowers will obviously take quicker to dry than hanging the tree upside down because there is less matter to dry. Some cultivators feel that wet trimming causes quality loss because the drying process is too quick and causes the loss of terpenes.
So there you have your choices: it involves labour, space and time, but there is one more thing to take into consideration.
By hanging the plant or branch upside down, the sap content still flows. This slows down the drying process which gives more time for the chlorophyll and sugar content to get broken down, preventing the loss of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. In plain English this means that your product will be stronger and tastier.
Ok, I have decided which method I prefer, so now what?
Optimum drying conditions are between around 10 degrees Celsius and humidity at 60% This will give it a long and slow dry which is optimum for taste and strength.
Not everybody sees this the same way, but they all agree on a few things: It should be cool, it should be humid and it should be dark. Higher temperatures and humidity will promote bacterial and fungal growth while lower temperatures won’t dry the cannabis fast enough. Keep it low and keep it slow.
You should start off by cutting some of the larger fan leaves away but keep the smaller sugar leaves and other vegetation. This will help expose the buds. The sugar leaves protect the buds while they dry and can help to create an ideal moisture level. When they are removed before drying, it can cause the buds to dry up more quickly than they should.
You also want to make sure that things aren’t touching each other because that leads to an uneven drying process and raises the possibility of mold and mildew. If you want the flowers to dry evenly (and of course you do) you need to make sure that there is free air flow. Stagnant air is bad for the drying process, so having a fan or fans will get rid of pockets of air or moisture from the room.
So by now you have the plants hanging upside down, not touching each other with the larger fan leaves cut away. And of course, those fans are working to help circulation. We haven’t mentioned that this should all happen in the dark, right?
This all needs to happen in the dark. Light damages your cannabinoids. Some experts feel that something as simple as a flashlight from photography can damage it, others say it’s okay to use a light to check on the progress. But the plants should be in the dark at all times, so if there are light leaks where you dry, make sure to take care of them.
We mentioned patience earlier and this is a good place to remind you about that again. Hurrying the process will cause the delicate essential oils or terpenes to evaporate first before the water does. This means your quality will go down.
Drying time can range anything between 7 and 21 days. Drying time is determined by the size of the flowers and if and how you trimmed the plant before starting the process. Branches hold the most water so their length and thickness will also play a role in how long it takes.
If you are not sure whether your grow is dry yet, take a small branch and try to bend it. If it snaps you are ready to move on the next step, if not, remember to be patient.
As any surgeon or nurse will tell you, if you don’t want contamination you need to keep things clean. Wear gloves, use liners when you collect fresh material and regularly clean your facility. The more contaminants you introduce, the quicker you will have problems.
Burping is the step between drying and curing. Whereas we had the eye on the humidity of the environment in the past, during burping we concentrate on getting the humidity of the flower correct. The humidity should be around 15%.
The goal here is to stabilise the flower before we cure it.
Your cannabis may be dry but there is still some moisture captured deep inside and that needs to be dry too. Leaving the flowers on the branch, chop up the branches in sizes that will fit into a container. Don’t overfill it, 75% is good. Leave it for twelve hours, open and close the container to allow the air to escape. Continue to do this until all the moisture has been removed. This process usually takes between three and six days.
Curing is the storing of your flowers in a closed container to improve aroma and develop flavour. Done correctly it also means that it can retain its potency for up to two years. This process should take about two weeks and should happen at a humidity of about eight to twelve percent. The process should take four to eight weeks for optimum results.
You will need an airtight container. Some growers say that using plastic containers spoils the taste. There is no research that backs this claim. If you want to be in total control, put a hygrometer in the container. By sealing it airtight, the flowers will establish its own humidity. During curing chlorophyll continues to break down – without curing the flower will smell and taste like a freshly cut lawn. The space needs to be at room temperature and not too humid. If you keep it dark, the results will be even better.
Ok, that’s about it. It is a long and slow process that will make your crop the toast of the town. And don’t forget about that Ferrari.
Planning on starting a greenhouse? Start your journey armed with the knowledge of what not to do, and you’ll be well on your way to success.