cannabis dried and cured in a jar

Curing, a pivotal stage post-harvest, significantly refines the quality of cannabis by enhancing its flavor and aroma while reducing harshness during consumption. It's a meticulous process, demanding a fine balance of humidity, temperature, and time to ensure the controlled degradation of chlorophyll and other cellular constituents.

This transformation not only augments the properties of the cannabis but also minimizes the risk of mold and bacterial growth. The core principle of curing extends to preserving the integrity of cannabinoids and terpenes, compounds crucial for the therapeutic and sensory qualities of the bud. Through various techniques, curing caters to the diverse needs and cultivator preferences. Each method offers a unique pathway to unlocking the full potential of the harvested buds.

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Key Takeaways

  • Curing significantly enhances the potency, flavor, and smoothness of cannabis, making the smoking or vaping experience more enjoyable and effective.
  • After it is dried and cured, cannabis buds should measure between 10 to 15 percent moisture content.
  • The ideal temperature for drying and curing cannabis is 60-70°F.
  • The ideal humidity range for drying and curing cannabis is 45-55%.
  • Simple, traditional, cost-effective methods and advanced, precise, efficient methods can both be successful, with the cheaper method requiring slightly more work and attention.

The Science Behind Curing

The act of curing cannabis initiates a series of chemical reactions that enhance the quality of the final product. When the cannabis plant is harvested, it retains water and chlorophyll, which contributes to a grassy odor and harsh taste.

The aim of curing is to control the drying process, ensuring the gradual degradation of these unwanted elements while preserving desirable compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes.

  1. Chlorophyll Breakdown: The primary chemical process during curing is the breakdown of chlorophyll. As chlorophyll degrades, it not only removes the green, grassy taste of fresh cannabis but also allows the true flavor and aroma of the bud to shine through.
  2. Cannabinoid Conversion: Cannabinoids, the chemicals responsible for the psychoactive and therapeutic properties of cannabis, undergo a conversion process. For instance, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid acid THCA converts to THC, the compound known for its psychoactive effects.
  3. Terpene Preservation: Terpenes are volatile compounds that contribute to the aroma and flavor of cannabis. A slow curing process helps in preserving these delicate compounds from evaporation, thus maintaining the strain's unique scent and taste.
  4. Decarboxylation:Decarboxylation is the process by which the acid forms of cannabinoids, like THCA, are converted to their active forms, such as THC, via the application of heat. Curing also results in some decarboxylation, though the process is more pronounced when cannabis is smoked or vaporized. Source: Turner, C. E., & Elsohly, M. A. (1981). Biological activity of cannabichromene, its homologs and isomers. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 21(S1), 283S-291S.

The benefits of curing are manifold. It significantly enhances the potency, flavor, and smoothness of cannabis, making the smoking or vaping experience more enjoyable and effective.

Curing Methods and Techniques

The Traditional Curing Method

The traditional method of curing cannabis is a time-tested process that has been employed by cultivators for generations. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Trimming: After harvesting, trim away the excess leaves from the buds.
  2. Drying: Hang the trimmed buds in a dark, cool, and well-ventilated area for about 5-15 days until the buds feel slightly crispy on the outside.
  3. Jar Curing: Transfer the semi-dried buds into airtight glass jars, filling them up to ¾ full to allow some air circulation.
  4. Burping: Open the jars for about 15-30 minutes, at least once a day, to allow moisture to escape and fresh air to enter, aiding in the gradual drying process. This stage lasts for 2-4 weeks, but the longer you cure, the better the flavor and potency. Specialty ‘Burp Lids’ are also available to simplify this part of the process
  5. Long-term Curing: For those who prefer a finer taste, long-term curing of up to 6 months may yield better results. This will further mellow and refine the flavor and potency of the cannabis.
    • Continue the jar curing process for anywhere from 2 to 6 months, depending on your patience and desired taste profile.
    • The frequency of burping can be reduced over time, eventually reaching a point where you only need to check the jars once every few weeks.
    • Ensure the jars are kept in a cool, dark place throughout the curing period to preserve the cannabinoid and terpene profiles.

Modern Curing Techniques

Advancements in technology have led to modern curing techniques that aim to simplify and optimize the process providing more control and consistency in the curing process. This helps cultivators achieve the desired quality while reducing the chances of error.

  1. Controlled Humidity Chambers: These chambers provide a controlled environment with adjustable temperature and humidity settings, ensuring a consistent curing process.
  2. Vacuum Sealing: Vacuum sealing the buds in plastic bags, then periodically opening them to introduce fresh air, is a modern twist to the traditional jar curing method.
  3. Electronic Monitoring: Utilizing hygrometers and humidity packs within curing containers to monitor and control the humidity levels precisely.
  4. Automatic Curing Machines: Devices that automate the curing process by controlling all necessary parameters, making curing hassle-free and standardized.

Each of these methods, whether traditional or modern, aims at refining the curing process to produce high-quality, potent, and flavorful cannabis that caters to the varied preferences of consumers.

Preparing to Cure Cannabis

Harvesting at the Right Time

Determining the right time to harvest is crucial as it sets the stage for the curing process. The readiness for harvest is often indicated by the color and form of the trichomes, which are tiny, glandular hairs on the buds and leaves that secrete resin.

  1. Trichome Color: Initially, trichomes are clear, turning milky or cloudy as they mature. Finally, they turn amber. A higher ratio of milky trichomes usually indicates peak THC content, while amber trichomes indicate a higher CBD content and a more sedative effect. View with a magnifying glass or LED magnifying loupe.
  2. Pistil Color: The hair-like pistils on the buds change color as the plant matures. They start as white, turning darker to yellow, orange, or brown as harvest time approaches.
  3. Leaf Color: Aging and yellowing of the leaves is another sign of readiness for harvest.

Each of these signs contributes to determining the optimal harvest time to ensure the buds are in the best state for curing, which in turn affects the quality of the final product.

Trimming and Drying

Trimming and drying are preparatory steps crucial to the curing process.

  1. Trimming: This involves removing the excess leaves from the buds, which not only improves the appearance but also enhances the taste as leaves tend to be harsher and less flavorful.
  2. Drying: Slow drying of the trimmed buds in a controlled environment is key. The goal is to dry the buds slowly to retain the cannabinoids and terpenes. A dark, cool, and well-ventilated area is ideal for drying, which may take anywhere from 5 to 15 days.

Equipment Needed for Curing

Choosing the Right Containers

The choice of jars significantly impacts the curing process.

  1. Glass Jars: Airtight glass jars are traditionally used and preferred for their inert nature, meaning they don’t impart any flavor or chemicals to the buds. They also allow for a stable environment inside the jar.
  2. UV Glass Jars: These jars offer the additional benefit of blocking harmful UV light, which can degrade cannabinoids and terpenes.
  3. Ceramic and Stainless Steel Containers: Though not as common as glass, they are also inert and can be airtight, providing a suitable environment for curing.

Each type of jar or container has its merits, but the key is to ensure they can be sealed airtight to maintain the controlled environment needed for curing.

Hygrometers and Humidity Packs

  1. Hygrometers: These devices measure the humidity level inside the curing containers, which is crucial for monitoring and adjusting the curing conditions. Maintaining a relative humidity of 55-62% is often recommended for curing cannabis.
  2. Humidity Packs: These packs help maintain a specific humidity level within the curing container by either releasing or absorbing moisture. They come in various RH levels to suit the grower's needs and help in creating a consistent curing environment.

These tools play a pivotal role in monitoring and controlling the conditions within the curing environment, ensuring that curing progresses optimally to yield a high-quality final product.

Common Curing Mistakes to Avoid

Over-drying and Over-curing

  1. Over-drying: Buds that are dried too quickly or for too long will lose their flavor and potency. It's crucial to follow the dry and cure process to retain the desirable compounds in cannabis.
  2. Over-curing: While curing is beneficial, overdoing it could lead to mold growth if there's too much moisture or a loss of flavor if left for an excessively long time without proper monitoring.

Improper Storage

  1. Light Exposure: UV light can degrade cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis. Extended exposure during the curing process or in storage can reduce the potency and alter the aroma and flavor of the cured cannabis. Source: Steep Hill Labs. (2017). Decarboxylation Study of Acidic Cannabinoids: A Novel Approach Using Ultra‐Performance Liquid Chromatography (UPLC).
  2. Air Exposure: While curing requires periodic air exchange, excessive exposure to air can degrade cannabinoids and terpenes. Ensure the containers are airtight and opened only as needed for burping or checking.
  3. Temperature Fluctuations: Consistency in temperature is key during curing. Fluctuations can cause condensation, leading to mold growth or other issues. Keep the curing containers in a place with a stable temperature.

Avoiding these common mistakes and maintaining a controlled environment will significantly contribute to the quality and enjoyment of the final product.

Cannabis Strains and Curing

The Impact of Terpene Profiles on Curing

Terpenes are a diverse class of organic compounds produced by a variety of plants including cannabis. They play a crucial role in defining the aroma, flavor, and to some extent, the effects of different cannabis strains. The curing process, when executed correctly, has the potential to preserve and even enhance the terpene profiles of cannabis.

  1. Terpene Preservation:
    • The initial drying and curing phase is critical for terpene preservation. A slow, controlled drying process at lower temperatures helps to retain more terpenes.
    • Utilizing airtight containers during curing also aids in terpene preservation by minimizing exposure to oxygen which can degrade terpenes.
  2. Terpene Enhancement:
    • As the cannabis cures, the terpenes can undergo subtle changes which may alter or enhance the aroma and flavor. The gradual degradation of chlorophyll and other plant materials allows the distinct terpene profile of the strain to shine through.
  3. Strain-Specific Curing:
    • Different strains have unique terpene profiles. Some may benefit from a longer cure, while others might reach their peak quality a bit sooner. Understanding the terpene profile of the strain you are curing can guide the process to better preserve or enhance those terpenes.

Advanced Curing Techniques

Experimenting with Curing Environments

Advanced cultivators often experiment with varying curing environments to ascertain the impacts on the final product.

  1. Humidity and Temperature Control:
    • Utilizing controlled humidity and temperature chambers allows for a highly controlled curing environment. Adjusting these parameters can lead to different curing outcomes and highlight different aspects of the bud's flavor, aroma, and potency.
  2. Gas Exchange:
    • Experimenting with the frequency and duration of burping or using systems that allow for controlled gas exchange can also alter the curing process and the final product.

Professional Curing Equipment

For serious cultivators looking to optimize the curing process or manage a large volume of cannabis, professional curing setups are worth exploring.

  1. Automated Curing Chambers:
    • These chambers offer precise control over temperature, humidity, and air exchange, allowing for a consistent and optimized cure.
  2. Monitoring Systems:
    • Advanced monitoring systems can provide real-time data on the curing environment, enabling cultivators to make informed adjustments as needed.
  3. Commercial Scale Equipment:
    • On a commercial scale, specialized equipment like industrial curing ovens, freeze dryers, and humidity-controlled rooms provide the means to cure large quantities of cannabis efficiently and consistently.

These advanced techniques and equipment options provide avenues for cultivators to fine-tune the curing process, enhancing the quality, consistency, and yield of the cured cannabis.

Wrap Up

Curing cannabis is a crucial step that significantly impacts the final product's potency, flavor, and aroma. This guide has navigated through the essential aspects of the curing process, modern techniques, and community insights to provide a well-rounded understanding. As you venture into curing your cannabis, armed with knowledge from both science and seasoned growers, remember that patience and attentiveness will be your allies in achieving the desired quality and enjoying the enriching journey that cannabis cultivation offers.

Author | Chris McDonald

With two decades of expertise, Chris leads Happy Hydro in redefining sustainable gardening and delights in backpacking adventures, mind-expanding journeys, and creating memories with his loved ones.

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