Drying & Curing Cannabis: A Complete Guide

Haute Health / Introduction / Drying & Curing Cannabis: A Complete Guide
Drying & Curing Cannabis: A Complete Guide

For many aspiring cannabis growers, drying weed is one of the last steps they worry about.  Unfortunately, this typically means that drying marijuana and curing cannabis can be overlooked or rushed.  Learning the proper methods of how to dry cannabis and curing weed can mean the difference between a successful crop and utter disaster.  After all the work of propagating those precious seeds, cultivating your fragile plants through the early stages of veg, and carefully manicuring your crop into a bunch of blooming, bud-i-ful works of art, the last thing you’d want is to risk all of that time, money and effort by improperly drying or curing your cannabis flowers. Serious issues like mold, bacteria and a loss of terpene or cannabinoid potencies can occur if you don’t commit to drying weed or curing cannabis effectively.

Expert cultivators, seasoned stoners and cannabis aficionados know that drying & curing is an essential step in the harvesting process.  Drying cannabis & curing marijuana is a real artform for many experienced growers, and the more time, planning and efforts you spend on optimizing the drying & curing conditions for your buds, the better they’ll be. 

Have you ever wrecked a perfectly good batch of weed because you didn’t dry or cure your cannabis properly? What are the best practices for drying cannabis? Is it hard to learn how to cure weed?  Let’s go over the do’s and don’ts of drying weed and curing cannabis.

HOW TO DRY CANNABIS

There are many ways to dry marijuana, most of which depend on your preferred method of harvesting.  For the purposes of this article, we’ll stick to the standard cut & hang and drying racks techniques because they work, they’re simple, and there isn’t much equipment or expertise involved.  If you have a better system already in place, by all means continue to do whatever suits your cultivation regime.  That being said, let’s look at some tips and tricks to drying cannabis properly.

1. Harvesting your buds for drying

There are a few schools of thought on how to best harvest cannabis flowers: hang dry with buds on branches, or trimming buds and drying on racks.  Which process suits you will depend on your setup, how much cannabis you’ve harvested, and especially how much time, manpower, and resources you have to devote to drying & curing.  For instance, deleafing branches with buds and cutting them around 12 inches long seems to be the most common standard.  You can hang dry these buds by tying string, wire or fastening the ends of the branches, similar to a clothes-line.  This is optimal if you have a lot of space, with a climate-controlled room.

Alternatively, with a bit more time, attention to detail and some expertise in trimming, you can remove the buds from the plant right away and place them on drying racks.  Rigging up a hanging drying rack is excellent if you have limited space to work with, but ideally you’d want to invest in a drying rack system that acts like a wine-fridge – compact, climate controlled, easy to monitor without disturbing your curing cannabis.  That being said, you have to be extra detailed when deleafing, and careful not to over-trim – in fact, many less-experienced growers don’t choose drying racks because the harvesting process is much more involved when you’re going straight to removing buds from the stem.

Nevertheless, you’re going to have to get familiar with this process anyway, because even if you hang dry you’ll need to spend the time and effort carefully trimming your buds and preparing them for final storage.

How to Dry Cannabis

2. Hanging vs drying racks

Once you’ve harvested your buds and they’re ready to be dried, you need to choose whether to hang or place your buds on drying racks.  If you are hang-drying buds still on stems, just make sure they’re sufficiently deleafed so that there is appropriate airflow between flowers. Also, make sure you don’t bunch up your hanging buds too closely together; leave roughly a couple inches between each bundle of buds, and try to fan them out evenly across the line.  Some drying rigs can involve clothes-hangers, shower curtain rods or any system whereby the buds-on-stems can be secured and spaced accordingly.  No matter what system you implement for drying, just be sure to leave enough space between bunches and feel free to cycle your buds down the line/rig.

On the other hand, if you’re drying on a hanging drying rack or placing manicured buds in a climate-controlled drying rack, be sure to separate your buds from bunching up and promote airflow between the flowers.  Drying racks are a lot less hands-on because they’re a lot easier to closely check on your buds, do the pinch test and monitor them for moisture build-up or mold.  Which drying method you choose can impact the overall quality of your buds, so be sure to check out the latest expert opinions and pros/cons of these and other drying cannabis

3. Temperature, humidity, light & airflow factors

Standard drying temperatures are around 60 – 70℉ (15.5 – 21℃), and although these figures can be the source for some heated debate (no pun intended), this is a very safe range to keep your cannabis in during drying.  As for humidity, the standard range is from 45-55% – again, some experts will argue a much more specific range like 48-52%, but this is a good starting point from which you can start when you’re learning how to dry cannabis.  To maintain ideal humidity levels, you’ll need a couple pieces of equipment: air conditioner, dehumidifier and oscillation fans.  Also, make sure your room is free of any light sources – darkness is key to not initiating any further biosynthesis as well.

It might sound counterintuitive to NOT have a heater in the drying room, but this is easily explainable by a common mistake that new growers make: over drying. Over drying or quick drying occurs when your drying room temperatures are too high for too long.  This leads to a rapid evaporation of the moisture in your buds, leading them to crispen too quickly and therefore lose terpene potential or even diminished cannabinoid potency.  Some savvy stoners do use heaters in their drying rooms, but they would also employ an A/C unit to balance the temperatures when the heater raises them.  This identifies a common misconception about drying weed – it’s not so much about temperature as it is airflow.  Keeping consistent airflow will regulate moisture, temperature and the air pressure within your drying room, therefore maintaining ideal conditions for preservation of terpenes and cannabinoids.

You need to keep an oscillating fan on at all times, on low setting so as not to physically disturb your buds too much. Continuously circulating the air is crucial to consistently drying your buds, to avoid pockets of moisture forming on certain flowers, and to aid your efforts of managing temperatures and humidity levels.

Drying & Curing Cannabis: A Complete Guide

4. The “pinch” or “snap” test

After about 5-14 days, you should have a room or drying rig full of slightly crunchy, but still somewhat pliable buds.  The time it takes to dry your cannabis will largely depend on your setup, the conditions you maintain and the genetics of the cannabis itself, but on average a one-two week drying period is standard. To test your buds and determine if they’re ready for curing, gently pinch the buds and snap the stems.  Be very careful to handle your buds with care – you’d hate to break one of your hard-earned nugs before it is ready to be cured.  A bud that is sufficiently dried will be slightly crunchy to the touch, brittle enough to shed some trichomes but not dry to the point of disintegrating when you handle it.

You want some bounce or pliability to the nugs, but if they’re quite cool or exhibit moistness when you pinch them, they’re probably not done drying. Snapping the stems is another way of checking their readiness for curing.  Gently bend the smallest stems or branches near the buds – if they snap instead of folding, they’re dried and ready to be cured/stored.  If the plant fiber doesn’t break off, give your buds another day and check again.  Remember, that the duration for drying marijuana will vary greatly from situation to situation, so check on your buds frequently and use your best judgement – after all, no one knows your weed as good as you do.

After following these steps closely, and you’ve got some perfectly dried buds, you’re ready to move onto curing and storage.

Learn More:

HOW TO CURE WEED

1. Bud manicuring/final trimming

If you haven’t already trimmed your buds down to nug-perfection, then you need to deleaf and remove any of the extra plant material from your final product.  This process can be time consuming – depending on how detailed you want your buds to be – but most cannabis connoisseurs are more than happy to devote their time and efforts to this manicuring step.  Who doesn’t like showing off their sugary, super-dense, aromatic and vividly colored buds to your buddies?

How to Cure Weed
Drying & Curing Cannabis

2. Storage containers

Storage containers are more of a personal preference or convenience factor – which ever kind you prefer or own is up to you.  However, just make sure the container you store your buds in is air-tight or sealable and can limit the amount of light exposure (blacked out, opaque, with a viewing window or slot, etc).  Containers can be metal, plastic, glass but try to avoid wooden or other organic materials (these are prone to mold issues or attracting pests and other bacteria).

3. Storing your buds

Once you’ve decided on a set of storage containers, there are a few things to keep in mind when packing them with buds.  Be careful to not overpack your buds – don’t jam them in, they should be lightly packed, so don’t crush them or overfill the container (think of each bud having breathing room).  You can include a storage-humidity pack – such as a Boveda – to balance the RH (relative humidity) in your containers.  These kinds of two-way humidity packets control the addition or subtraction of moisture in the enclosed space of your container – maintaining a consistent level throughout the curing process.  Finally, seal the containers and store them in a cool, dark place.

Storing Your Buds
Curing Cannabis

4. Curing cannabis

For the first 5-7 days of storage/curing, make sure you check on your buds daily.  By opening the containers at least once a day for the initial week of curing, you are allowing your flowers to breathe – moisture build-up can be released, and oxygen levels in the containers can be replenished.  After the first week or so, only open your curing containers once every few days – this is why a viewing window/slot is so helpful, because you can check on your curing weed without disturbing the conditions inside.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE ON CURING: if you ever smell something akin to hay, wet grass clippings or an overall aroma of ammonia, this might mean that your buds were too wet when you stored them.  There is a chance that you can return them to the drying racks and save the batch, but if left like this too long you’ll likely develop mold, fungus or other harmful bacteria on your buds.

Curing marijuana can take anywhere from 2-8 weeks, but a common curing window is 3-5 weeks.  Some truly artistic cannabis growers and curators will cure/store their cannabis for months – even as long as half a year.  This is definitely plausible, but again it depends on your needs, the sophistication of your drying/curing system, and your experience level with cannabis cultivation & consumption. 

Learn More:

HOW IMPORTANT IS DRYING & CURING MARIJUANA?

Even after learning the dangers or risks of improper cannabis drying & curing, you might wonder what all the fuss is about.  If you’re mitigating the risks, then your marijuana is safe… so why is drying cannabis or curing weed such a hot topic? Well, there’s actually a lot more to drying & curing and how they impact the overall quality, potency and longevity of your cannabis buds.

When you know how to dry marijuana effectively, you can actually preserve the potency of terpenes, flavinoids and cannabinoids in your harvested buds.  Contrary to popular belief, just because you’ve cut your flowers down from the plant, they don’t stop undergoing chemical and physical changes.  As many of us know, cannabinoids like THC and CBD are just the most well known phyto-compounds of which there are possibly hundreds.  What we do understand about cannabinoids is that they’re created from a process called biosynthesis – the process by which organisms, such as plants, create complex molecular compounds. 

Essentially, biosynthesis is how the cannabis flowers produce cannabinoids and terpenes, but where many people understand this concept, most do not comprehend that your buds continue to develop these compounds even after harvest.  An example of this is how the acidic (or raw) cannabinoid forms of THC & CBD – THCA, CBDA – can continue to convert into THC or CBD during the drying or curing phases.  If you maintain a favorable environment for the conversion of THCA or CBDA into THC & CBD, you can manage or control this natural, internal process.

How Important is Drying & Curing Marijuana?

Not only can you influence the flavor, potency and overall quality of your buds by learning how to cure cannabis effectively, but you can preserve your buds and increase their longevity.  Have you ever opened a jar of nugs that you had been saving for months or years, and just when that special occasion arrives you take off the lid to reveal that mold has ruined your “top shelf” stash? When you dry weed properly, you are essentially locking in the quality of those buds.  Not only can you extend the lifetime of your cured cannabis from months to years (1-2 years is very achievable), but their potency and presentability will be preserved as well.  Who doesn’t want beautiful looking, powerful buds for longer? Curing marijuana can be the difference between your cannabis lasting from weeks, to months, to years.

From a smoother drag, to less burning smoke and a long-lasting, potent bouquet of flavors and aromas, curing weed is an essential step for any successful crop.  Harvesting buds is definitely hard work and requires a lot of attention to detail, but so does the processes of drying, curing and storing your cannabis.  Take the extra steps, go above and beyond the bare minimums, and learn how to cure marijuana properly – it just might be the difference maker for your next batch of bodacious buds.

Learn More: