Drying and curing cannabis are the two essential post-harvest steps to produce high-quality buds. First, drying is critical for reducing moisture content and preventing mold growth during storage. Then, curing locks in the final cannabinoid and terpene profile for a perfect final product.
Drying and curing may sound simple in theory, but each takes some finessing to execute properly. Below, you'll find everything you need to know to correctly dry and cure cannabis, including the ideal humidity, temperature, proper drying techniques, frequently asked questions, and much more.
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The Importance of Drying and Curing Cannabis
First and foremost, the drying process is a safety feature. Fresh cannabis flower has an incredibly high moisture content hovering around 80 percent. If left unprocessed, it's prone to dangerous pathogen development.
If you placed fresh cannabis bud into long-term storage without drying, it would instantly begin to decompose, its photochemical profile would degrade, and it would likely mold. Drying removes excess moisture down to a safe 14 to 15%.
Curing is the second step in the post-harvest equation. Once again, it will reduce the moisture content by several percentage points. After curing, cannabis buds should measure between 10 to 15 percent moisture content.
But, curing also serves two other purposes. First, it creates a more consistent product by drawing out the moisture from the inner parts of the cannabis flowers. It also locks in the tasty terpenes and cannabinoids for a final profile that is pleasant to smoke with nuanced effects.
The Difference Between the Drying and Curing Process
The Drying Process
Drying is the initial step in the process and involves removing the excess moisture from the freshly harvested plants. Growers place freshly harvested flower, whether wet trimmed or left whole on the stalk, in drying rooms or on racks.
The drying room (or cabinet) has a carefully controlled environment:
- The ideal temperature is 60-70°F.
- The ideal humidity range for drying is 45-55%.
The drying process takes three to seven days, depending on the cannabis plants and drying climate. Drying should happen in a well-ventilated room, cabinet, or tent.
The Curing Process
Once the buds have been dried, the next step is curing. Curing is a crucial aspect of the process, which helps the buds mature and develop their full flavor and potency. It also removes a few extra percentage points of moisture to extend the shelf life and develop a product that is smooth to smoke.
During the curing process, growers place the dried buds in airtight containers. Transparent and opaque turkey bags are common choices, as are food-safe sealable buckets. Many growers also use airtight bags designed to reflect heat and are infrared-resistant.
Curing takes several weeks, although some people prefer to cure for several months. It's important to burp the containers during this stage, opening them up to release gas and moisture. In the first week, you'll need to burp several times a day, less so at the later end of the process.
Whatever you do, check the containers regularly. Double-check for signs of mold, but also take the time to smell the aromatic profile. The 'nose' will continue to develop over several weeks, and ultimately, it is what you are trying to lock in during the curing process.
The Benefits of Properly Drying and Curing Cannabis
- Safe for Consumption
Properly drying and curing cannabis buds is a critical step in the production of a high-quality, safe bud. When done correctly, the moisture content is between 10 to 15%, which is an inhospitable environment for mold and other dangerous pathogens.
- Extended Shelf Life
This goes hand in hand with the first point. Dried cannabis has a longer shelf life than fresh flowers, just like dried tomatoes have a much longer shelf life than fresh. Moisture puts everything at risk for faster degradation. So the lower the moisture content, the longer the life span.
- Nuanced Terpene Profile
Curing also allows you to develop a nuanced terpene expression. This is because the more volatile terpenes slowly evaporate during the curing phase, and the natural sugars and starches break down. Many people believe these lighter terpenes negatively impact the effects and aroma. Finally, curing degrades other unwanted compounds, such as chlorophyll, which can negatively impact the taste.
- Smoother Smoke
Properly dried and cured buds have a smoother, more enjoyable flavor and aroma. I have a friend who grows their own, but they never properly cure their buds. Potency is still present, but the buds lack the full-bodied flavor and aroma of a well-rounded flower. The taste is often harsh and lacks the smooth, rich flavor that I prefer.
Ideal Temperature and Humidity for Drying Cannabis
Maintaining the ideal temperature and humidity during the drying process is crucial for producing high-quality cannabis buds free from mold and other pathogens.
The ideal temperature for drying cannabis should be between 60 and 70°F, with a relative humidity for drying cannabis should sit between 45% and 55%.
If the temperature is too high during the drying process, it can cause the buds to dry too quickly, leading to a harsh smoke and undesirable taste.
On the other hand, if the humidity is too high, it can cause mold and bacteria to grow, which can spoil the buds and make them unsafe for consumption.
It's important to maintain consistent temperature and humidity levels to ensure the buds dry slowly and evenly, preserving the quality and potency of the final product.
How do you achieve a consistent and controlled drying environment? Start by setting up a specialized space: a drying room, drying tent, or drying cabinet. An enclosed area will help regulate the drying climate.
Depending on your region and harvest size, you may also need to add a dehumidifier and/or humidifier to achieve the required temperature and humidity settings.
Ideal Temperature and Humidity for Curing Cannabis
"Curing weed corresponds to aging a good wine. If the weed quality is average, it is not worth the effort and time necessary to cure it. On the other hand, if the buds are high grade, it is well worth waiting a little longer to get the best out of it."
During the curing process, store the dried cannabis buds in an airtight container, such as clear or opaque turkey bags or food-grade sealable plastic buckets. The containers should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place to protect the buds from heat and light, especially ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can degrade resin glands and cannabinoids.
Once you have the containers on lock, the ideal temperature for curing cannabis is around 65° F, while the container should maintain a 50% relative humidity level.
According to Jorge Cervantes, a cannabis expert writing for Cannabis Now, for the first week of curing, the container should be opened two to three times a day to release moisture and check for a sweet, somewhat moist fragrance, indicating proper curing.
After the first week, containers should be opened once or twice a week. The slow-curing process can take up to six months or longer, but after two to three weeks, the buds should be fully cured and can be sealed in containers for storage.
Best Practices for Drying and Curing Cannabis
You can take several steps to ensure that your cannabis dries and cures properly. Here are just a few tips we have relied on over the years that have helped us get it right:
- Harvest your plants at the right time.
- Check trichome development to confirm the timing.
- Carefully trim and prepare the flower for drying.
- Dry flower in a well-ventilated room or drying cabinet. A drying rack can be helpful.
- Monitor the temperature and humidity during the drying process. Use a grow room monitor.
- Store dried buds in airtight containers for the curing process. Boveda makes excellent stainless steel and reusable curing containers.
- Regularly check the flower for density, moisture, and aroma during the curing process. This can prevent over- or under-drying.
Storing Dried and Cured Cannabis
Storing dried and cured cannabis is just as crucial as the drying and curing process. You don't want to undo all your great work by throwing a perfectly cured flower into a plastic baggie.
The ideal storage temperature is between 60 to 68° F with a relative humidity between 55% and 65%.
How do you achieve this?
There are several options for storage, including airtight containers. Think glass mason jars (in a dark room) or specially designed storage containers like Cannadors and Boveda's line of stainless steel containers. These containers are engineered to maintain the ideal storage environment for your buds, keeping them safe from mold while preserving the phytochemical profile.
No matter what container you choose, Boveda makes humidity packs for cannabis that can help achieve the right internal humidity level. They offer two options: 58% and 62%. Use the lower one for vaping and the higher one for smoking.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Drying and Curing Cannabis
Did you just open up your drying cabinet and find it full of mold? Or, did you take it over the edge and now are sitting on a stash of dry, crumbly hay?
You aren't alone. Growers often make several common mistakes that negatively impact the final product. Some of the most common mistakes to avoid include:
Maybe you were worried about uneven drying, so you went overboard. But over-drying the buds can lead to a harsh, brittle, and flavorless final product. It's important to monitor the drying process and remove the buds from the drying room or cabinet once they reach the ideal moisture level.
If the buds are not dried properly, they can become moldy and unsalvageable. It's important to ensure the buds are dried to the ideal moisture level before beginning the curing process. Do not rush the drying process!
Not Curing Cannabis at All
While curing is a time-consuming process, it's an essential step in producing high-quality buds. Neglecting to cure the buds can result in a final product that lacks flavor, aroma, and potency. It also means a harsh vaping or smoking experience.
Storing Cannabis in Unsafe Conditions
Storing the buds in the wrong conditions can lead to losing quality and potency. It will undo all the hard work you've put into growing, drying, and curing. It's important to store the buds in airtight containers at the ideal temperature and humidity to preserve their quality for months to come.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Drying and Curing Process
Q: Do I need a special drying rack?
A: Some growers harvest the entire cannabis plant and hang it upside down from a line in their drying room. Others prefer wet trimming, placing the trimmed fresh flower on drying racks within a climate-controlled tent or cabinet. The takeaway? There is always more than one way to accomplish the same goal.
If you are a home grower, a drying rack helps spread out the product to prevent uneven drying. A drying rack also takes up much less room than hanging a full plant.
Q: What is the ideal moisture content of dried and cured flower?
A: In most regulated markets, cannabis buds must have between 10 to 15% moisture content to pass compliance testing. Above 15% and there is an increased risk of mold. Under 10%, the quality significantly drops, with an incredibly harsh, unpleasant smoking experience.
Q: What type of humidity pack is best for cannabis?
A: Boveda humidity packs are the go-to brand for commercial and home growers alike. They are available in several sizes, perfect for every harvest and storage container.
Boveda humidity packs help stabilize the relative humidity in a container, either removing excess moisture or adding a bit more for dry environments. They are available in 58% and 62% options.
Q: Does wet trimming alter drying and curing?
A: Wet trimming may speed up the drying process by cutting the majority of the stems and stalks away. This means the plant can't send any remaining moisture into the flower.
However, most home growers choose dry trimming because it's easier and maintains the integrity of the trichomes and flower structure. Wet flower is soft and can easily be damaged with an untrained trimmer.
Q: Is 80% humidity too high for drying cannabis? Is 40% too low for drying cannabis?
A: As with everything online, chances are you'll come across a few opinions on the ideal conditions for drying cannabis. Remember that one of the primary reasons for drying cannabis is to prevent mold growth, which is directly related to humidity and temperature parameters.
We will reiterate — the ideal temperature for drying cannabis should be between 60 and 70°F, while the relative humidity should be maintained between 45% and 55%.
Achieve the Best Harvest Yet by Perfecting the Drying and Curing Process
If you grow your own flower, you need to understand drying and curing as important final steps in the post-harvest process. Proper drying and careful curing helps to improve the taste, aroma, and potency while reducing the presence of unwanted mold and other dangerous pathogens.
By following best practices, monitoring the temperature and humidity, and avoiding common mistakes, you can produce top-quality cannabis buds every time.