Growing and nurturing cannabis plants from a seed or small clone to a strapping, healthy tree can be a rewarding experience. As the flowers swell and mature, glistening with trichomes, the anticipation builds. Finally, with milky trichomes beginning to turn amber, the day comes when your flowers are ripe and ready to harvest. But what next?
You can’t just clip your buds and pack a bowl. You have to let your weed dry properly. Without proper curing and drying, your flowers can lose potency or, even worse, turn moldy and ruin your crop. And to clarify, “drying” removes or evaporated water from the plant. “Curing,” however, is a process that chemically changes the plant (usually through oxidation). If you’re careful and learn how to dry weed properly, your harvest will largely maintain its cannabinoid and terpene profiles and be fit to store until you’re ready to use it.
Harvest and Manicure
The first step to drying weed properly is to harvest and manicure the flowers. While some growers — especially those dealing with a large harvest — will chop down plants and hang them whole to dry, it’s generally easier on the bud and the trimmer to manicure buds before hanging them to dry.
First, cut a branch down to a manageable size and remove any large fan leaves. Using narrow, sharp scissors or shears, trim off the leaves protruding from the buds by either clipping the petiole, or leaf stem, cleanly away if it’s visible. Otherwise, trim the points of the leaves flush against the surface of the bud. Save the trim to use for edible infusions or to make hash, if you want to get the most out of your harvest.
How to Dry Weed by Hanging
Leaving the buds on their branches makes it convenient to dry flowers by hanging. Use a string, wire, clothes rack, or similar apparatus, to suspend the buds and air dry them. If you cut the branches from the plant leaving a short section of the main stem attached, you’ll create a handy hook to hang the branch. Don’t pack the branches too closely together. You want air to be able to circulate freely around the flowers. Allow the buds to cure and dry before snipping them from the stem for storage.
How to Dry Weed on Trays
Instead of hanging branches to dry weed, you can also remove the buds and lay them on shallow trays to dry in a specially-constructed rack. Screen trays afford the most air circulation and offer protection from mold. Drying weed on trays is likely to leave your buds with a noticeably flat side. While this is mostly an aesthetic issue, if flowers are moved or jostled extensively on the trays, trichomes may break off of the buds.
Curing and Drying
After the manicured branches have been hung or the buds arranged on trays, the curing and drying process begins. If your harvest is kept at about 50 percent relative humidity and between 60- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit, biological processes will continue in the cells of the flowers for up to several days. During this curing time, complex carbohydrates and chlorophyll will be broken down into simpler compounds, creating a smoother and mellower smoke.
Keep your branches hanging or buds on the drying trays in dim light until the flowers are ready to store. This can take anywhere from five days to two weeks or more, depending on many factors including environmental conditions, air circulation, the size of the buds, and how moist they were at harvest.
During this time, mold is a danger, particularly in humid conditions. Keep the air in the drying room circulating, and prevent buds from touching each other as the weed dries. For the best flavor and smoothest smoke, avoid the temptation to speed drying by raising the temperature, as this could lead to damp conditions that are likely to promote the growth of mold.
When Are My Buds Dry?
When the stem of a bud snaps instead of bends, your weed should be dry enough to pack and store. Snip the buds from the branches and pack them loosely into containers such as mason jars. Ensure they are dry and prevent the production of anaerobic bacteria that can cause a sour smell by removing the lid from, or burping, the jar once or twice a day for the first week or so.
If condensation appears inside the jars, the weed is not properly dry. Remove the flowers from the jars and lay them out flat to dry longer, or at the very least take the lids off for a couple of days or so before resealing. Continue to monitor the jars until you’re confident the buds are thoroughly dry.
Once weed is properly dried and stored, it will stay fresh and potent for months when kept in cool, dark conditions. Terpenes, the compounds responsible for the varying flavors of cannabis, are highly volatile and evaporate, quickly at first and more over time. For long-term storage, keeping sealed containers of properly dried cannabis in the refrigerator or freezer can help preserve flavor.
Taking the time to cure and dry weed slowly will help ensure you’re able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. There’s nothing worse than spending the time and expense needed to grow prime herb and then having to throw it in the trash because it’s gone moldy. Have patience and learn how to dry weed properly. Your buzz will thank you for it. Happy harvest!
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