Having carefully been germinating your seeds, providing the tender love and care to bring your plants into life, and creating the perfect conditions for your flowers to grow, it’s now come to the long-awaited harvest!. However, harvesting is not quite the final step. First, comes the need to dry or ‘cure’ your cannabis. Whilst it is possible to do this quickly, the method is much more important than the speed at which you are able to do it.
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There are a host of different ways to cure your buds and the bets way will vary from person to person depending on their intentions for the final product. Here we take a look at some of the different ways out there to cure your weed and which ones are suitable for all your cannabis inspired purposes.
Why Cure Cannabis?
Below we look at some reasons to cure your weed that are going to persuade you never to see this phase as something to just get out of the way quickly.
#1 Curing Cannabis Increases Potency
As you’ll be well aware, cannabis plants produce varying levels of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and a number of other cannabinoids such as CBD and CBN. These compounds gradually transform over time, with THCA eventually becoming converted into THC through a process of biosynthesis as your plant grows.
Interestingly, this process of biosynthesis continues after you decide to cut down your plant and, fortunately for THC lovers, the non-psychoactive cannabinoids in your buds will begin to convert into THCA when kept in the right conditions. Namely, this means keeping them at temperatures that fall between 60°F and 70°F and humidity levels of 45% to no more than 55%.
Top Tip: If you dry your bud too quickly this process stops much faster so you’ll lose potential potency. You should also always keep your bud out of any light and particularly sunlight when curing, no matter what method you are using.
#2 Curing Cannabis Improves Flavours and Smoothness
Cannabis gets its flavor and smell from the wonderful terpenes the plants produce naturally. Unfortunately, these compounds are seriously volatile which means they are quick to degrade and evaporate off into the ether when they get too warm. In fact, terpenes can begin to break down at just 70°F, hence the need to keep your harvested bud between 60 and 70°F and take a slow curing approach.
Only with a slow cure will you be able to properly appreciate the best flavors and tastes of your plant so don’t let all your hard work go to waste at the curing stage just because you are desperate to give your handy work its first run-out. The proper slow curing conditions also help to ensure certain enzymes and bacteria and other unwanted sugars are broken down which also improves the smoothness of your smoke and prevents the throat-burn you get from badly cured weed.
#3 Curing Cannabis Preserves It
Good curing techniques enable you to keep your cannabis for much longer. Whilst you might not be used to having more bud than you can smoke, when you grow your own you might find you surprise yourself, so you’re not going to want to have to miss out on smoking it just because you can’t keep up the pace with its degradation.
So long as you cure your weed properly, then you won’t have to worry about mold or your bud losing its cannabinoids. Just make sure to keep your buds in an air-tight container and in a cool and dark location and, amazingly, your bud is fine for use for close to two years. In fact, you might even find your weed is aged a little, just like you would expect from a fine wine or whiskey aged in a barrel.
DO: Use glass vacuum-sealed jars or containers that have a neutral charge, to store your bud.
DON’T: Store your bud in the fridge or freezer (this makes your trichomes brittle and makes them break off, in plastic bags (these have a charge which can steal your trichomes), or above or close to electronics or other appliances (as they give off heat).
Preparing to Cure: Pre-Dry Your Buds
Some of the most popular curing methods will rely on you drying your cannabis out for an initial period before you completely cure it. You’ll need to decide if you want to “wet trim” or “dry trim” your buds first.
If you choose to “wet trim” it is easier to precisely trim off any excess plant matter, although make sure to keep the sugar leaves you cut off as these can be used later to make edibles and oils. This method requires you to spread your buds over a large surface area that is aerated, such as a mesh drying rack. Cardboard and plastic will prevent aeration and lead to the development of mold, just as over-filling a rack will as the sticky resin is a great breeding space for unwanted bacteria.
Perhaps a more popular method is the “dry trim” as this is much easier when you’ve got a large amount of bud to dry off. This involves cutting off branches of between 10-15” in length and hanging buds whole from drying lines. These can then be trimmed once dry, although the smaller sugar leaves will be harder to remove when you use this method as they will have shriveled and curled inwards.
Top Tip: Whether you “wet trim” or “dry trim” you need to make sure the drying process takes place in a dark room or space that you can keep within the 60 and 70°F range and, perhaps with the aid of a dehumidifier, the humidity must remain within 45-55%. Use a fan to aid with air circulation.
You’ll know your buds are ready for curing when they are looking crunchy on the outside and you can easily snap the smallest branches away from the stem when bending them. If they fold, rather than bend, then they are not ready yet! This can take anywhere from 5-15 days but remember the slower the better, so long as you can keep the conditions right. Make sure to check regularly for any appearance of mold or mildew.
How to Choose Your Cannabis Curing Method
Once your buds have been carefully dried off, you’re ready to move on to the curing stage of the process. Our favorite is one of the easiest as it is a method that doesn’t involve too much equipment, but here we will run you through a few of the other options available to you if after reading the easy method it doesn’t appeal to you.
The Basic Curing Method
For this method, you’ll need a fair few air-tight Kilner jars which are easy enough to pick up or you could even use some recycled jam jars if they still have a good seal and are properly sanitized. Once your buds have passed the snap test you can pick off the buds, snapping them where they come apart easily. Fill each jar until it is around 2/3rds full and loosely place the lid on (without clamping it down if you have got Kilner jars) and store them in a cool dark place.
At this stage, it is still important to give your buds air to add the potency as the non-psychoactive compounds transform into THCA. As already mentioned, it also breaks down the sugars which helps to ensure you get a smoother smoke. For the first week, it’s important to check your buds at least twice a day for mildew and mold, this can go down to once a day after 1 to two weeks of curing. Take the buds out of the jar and look them over picking off any bud sections that are moldy.
The buds will be ready after 2 or 3 weeks, but a longer curing period can improve the taste and smoothness of the smoke still further and some strains can even require months of curing to be properly appreciated.
Top Tip: When you replace your buds in their jars make sure they are in a different position to how they came out. This helps to cure them evenly and reduces the risk of mold forming in areas pressed against the jars.
How to Water Cure Cannabis
The water curing process actually begins before the drying process and is a totally excellent way to remove vast arrays of unwanted substances that may be found lingering in your buds if you use the traditional method of curing. Using water to flush out impurities in the final weeks of growth can help improve taste and make for a truly smooth smoke. The downside of this method is that you may reduce some of the flavor of your buds.
In water curing, you will also use Kilner jars as you would in the traditional air-curing method. However, they will be filled with water and the buds will only need to stay in the jars, submerged in water, for about a week. The water speeds up the process of breaking down residual substances helping buds digest their sugars faster. As THC is fat soluble, the water will not dislodge it from the buds, meaning this method helps improve potency faster.
Place your trimmed flowers in your jar and fill the jar with water as the buds will float. Replace the water every day to flush out the unwanted substances and to purify your weed. Remember that this is a curing process, so just flushing your plant out whilst it’s still growing will not have the same effect as curing your buds in this way. Once 7-8 days have passed your buds are ready for drying. Be sure to check them for mold as this is more of a risk with this method.
Top Tip: Use distilled water as this will be free from any unwanted contaminants that may be present in the normal water supply coming out of your tap.
How to Freeze Dry Cannabis
If you’ve been interested in how to freeze dry weed for some time, you might want to consider biting the bullet and giving it a try as growing your own can leave you with huge surpluses that you might not want to share. Whilst good curing and keeping your weed in a Kilner jar in a cool and dark location can preserve your weed for up to 18 months, freeze drying can be a good option if you’ve had a huge yield or if you are making bubble hash.
To freeze dry you will need to first follow the usual dry curing method above before freeze-drying, otherwise, the benefits of freezing will be turned into negatives, remember the curing process is what adds potency to your buds so you have to do it. You’ll also need a machine such as a blast freezer found in many professional kitchens. For this reason, this method is not usually a good route for those who are not professional growers as it is pricey and requires a great deal of expertise.
If you’ve got your blast freezer, lay out you cured buds on a steel rack and place them in at sub-zero temperatures to freeze them. These buds will now be safe to store in a Kilner jar in a freezer. Another freeze-drying method that does not require the dry cure uses blast chillers that can also control pressure. These create a vacuum to turn ice crystals into gas which is sublimated by the vacuum into a condensation unit and retained in your bud’s taste, shape, and color.
Top Tip: Only choose this method if you have huge yields and have done plenty of research on the type of machine you will need as freeze-drying can lead to lost batches if not carried out carefully. However, fridge freezers inside fridges have evaporators built in so can be a good option for the beginner as it makes freezing your buds less risky.
How to Sweat Cure Cannabis
This method is popular in South America and the Caribbean and is typically used for large commercial crop grows as it is cheap and quick to do. In many ways, it is similar to how tobacco is cured. However, as a result of being a quick process, there are some downsides, such as making your buds brown and often reducing potency.
If the downsides don’t put you off and you have a whole load of buds to dry, then this method is not to be sniffed at. After all, it is a method used traditionally by Rasters who know a thing or two about the best way to smoke weed. All you need are paper bags and either paper towels or cotton cloths which are used to absorb any excess moisture.
Add your buds in layers into your paper bag separated by either the paper towels or your cotton cloths. Then, place your filled paper bags in the sun or under something warm. Make sure to turn the bags regularly each day for 5-6 days to ensure mold doesn’t form. Keep checking the buds inside the bag to spot changes in their color and any dryness as this will indicate that the sweat curing process is complete.
Top Tip: Remember to use paper bags when choosing this method. Plastic bags contain a charge that will steal your buds’ trichomes reducing potency.
How to Cure Cannabis with CO2
This method can be a popular choice as it avoids the use of heat, light, and air to cure cannabis, all of which can degrade potency if not controlled right. Thanks to the wide availability of dry ice these days, it is also much easier to give a go in comparison to the freeze-drying method outlined above, whilst offering similar benefits. Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide (C02) gas so you have to make sure it does not touch your bare skin directly.
All you need for this method is a container large enough to store the buds you want to dry and with space for an equal amount of dry ice. No light, air, or heat will need to touch your weed with this method to dry it. Just fill the container half full with dry ice and cover this with a cotton cloth where you can pile on your buds. Leave an escape route for the gas from the dry ice as it evaporates and place the container in the freezer.
This process draws out water molecules (in a process called sublimation) from the buds within 24-48 hours. However, you may need to add more dry-ice in this time so check it 2 or 3 times over this period and top it up if necessary. Although you will lose some trichomes using this method as they become brittle when frozen, you are still left with a pretty potent bud as they have not been exposed to heat, air or light.
How to Cure Cannabis in a Microwave, Oven, and Food Dehydrator
If you’re in a hurry then you can even cure your bud in any of a microwave, oven and food dehydrator. However, these methods are not recommended as they speed up the process massively and as you now know low and slow is much better if you want to increase your buds’ potency and make sure you maintain all the terpines, flavors and smells that your home-grown has to offer. If we have still not managed to put you off using this method, here’s how you can do it.
In a microwave, you can layer your buds in between cotton cloth and use the defrost setting to dry out your buds using heat. In the oven, you can lay it on a try and put it on the lowest heat possible with the door kept slightly ajar. Food dehydrators are even less recommended, but if you want to see for yourself what happens to fast cured buds, then put it in and give it a try, You’ll see with any of these methods that the smoke is harsh and the potency is poor.
Top Tip: Don’t cure your weed in this way! If you are interested to see the difference, just put in a small unattractive bud whilst you wait for the traditional method to come through and you’ll soon agree this method is not the one for you.
It’s clear that curing cannabis is a vital stage of the home growing process and if done slowly, in the right conditions, and with the best method for your needs, can lead to a highly potent and flavorsome product. In most cases, the best method for us is certainly the most basic and tried and tested Kilner jar, slow cure, traditional method outlined above. However, we highly recommend giving at least a few of the other methods a go to see which creates the best weed for your own tastebuds.