Author: Kira Turner, Master Gardener
Why should I cure my cannabis and what are the benefits?
There are many reasons people cure their cannabis, the main being preservation of the product. This has been done for years with many different foods to help retain the vital flavours and nutrients of the product. Cannabis is no different.
Curing cannabis stops the degradation process before volatile compounds such as terpenes and cannabinoids evaporate or break down into less favourable compounds. From the moment your plant is harvested it begins degrading as enzymes and aerobic bacteria break down excess sugars and starches. Curing your cannabis forces the plant to use up any sugars, starches, and excessive nutrients before the bud has completely dried out and trapped them within the plant.
The curing process must be slow to allow for the full development of the cannabinoids and to prevent decomposition of chlorophyll particles in the buds, which can sometimes occur when dried too quickly. The curing process allows the buds to develop to their full potential of cannabinoid content of THC and THCA. It also allows the terpene profile to fully develop as well, giving the bud its unique flavourful aroma.
It may be too late to correct mistakes made during flower, however, it is never too late to improve the flavour, smoking quality, and potency of your buds by using a controlled drying and curing process.
Terpenes, which are the aromatic compounds that give cannabis its unique smell and flavour profile are quite volatile. For this reason they can degrade and evaporate fairly quickly at high heats. A slow cure at low temperatures will help preserve terpenes and result in a more flavourful smoke.
- Quality of smoke
The process of curing creates the ideal environment for enzymes and aerobic bacteria to break down any leftover minerals and sugars produced by the plant during the decomposition of chlorophyll from the drying process. It is the presence of these sugars and minerals that causes a harsh, throat burning feeling you sometimes experience while smoking. Hence, why curing is so important for creating a more enjoyable smooth smoke for the user.
- Improved potency
Cannabis produces many different cannabinoid compounds. One being tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). The cannabinoids go through a process called biosynthesis, where certain compounds are gradually converted and decarboxylated into new ones. For example, THCA is decarboxylated into the main psychoactive compound in cannabis tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The biosynthesis of THCA to THC does not completely stop the second you harvest. If you keep your freshly harvested cannabis in temperatures between 16-22℃ and a humidity of 45-55%, this process of converting THCA to THC will continue increasing your buds potency. Drying under warm, dry conditions stops this process much faster.
- Longer storage time
A proper cure also allows you to store your cannabis for longer periods of time without having to worry about loss of cannabinoid content and mold. A flower that has been well cured can be stored in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place for up to two years without significant loss of potency.
What will I need for the drying and curing process?
- Drying Rack
We recommend the Grower’s Edge Drying Rack Whether you choose to dry your cannabis before you trim, or vice versa, you will need something comparable to a dry rack in order to properly dry your buds.
- Stash/Curing Jars
In order to cure and preserve your freshly trimmed buds, you will need something airtight, spacious, and convenient. Our go-to is the C-Vault which preserves freshness, terpenes, and includes a Boveda pack to regulate humidity. The C-Vault storage container is constructed of 304 food grade stainless steel and is impenetrable by light, combined with a humidity pack it creates “perfect conditions” for curing. Standard airtight glass jars will also suffice, however, it is extremely important to monitor the humidity levels to minimize the risk of mould forming, and store in a dark place so there is no light penetration.
Check out our latest Curing Bundle for a great deal on a variety of C-Vaults.
No matter the container you are curing your product in, we always recommend using a hygrometer to accurately track the environment conditions. We recommend the Boveda Butler as it syncs with your smartphone to get full visibility on the relative humidity (RH) and temperature levels without ever having to open your jar or humidor.
The Process of Drying & Curing
Curing is typically done in two steps: a drying stage and a curing stage. If you decide to do a wet trim for your harvest, trim all of your product before you start the drying & curing process. If you choose to do a dry trim on the other hand, the initial dry will begin right after harvest before you have trimmed any of the product.
The Drying Stage
Regardless of how you choose to dry your cannabis, begin by properly trimming your harvest. For more information on different trimming methods check out our last blog post on Trimming Your Cannabis Flower: Wet Trimming versus Dry Trimming.
If you decide to do a wet trim for your harvest your first step will be to trim the buds so it is easier for them to dry evenly. For drier climates leave a few leaves on your buds, this will help keep them from drying out too fast. For a humid climate, remove the buds from the stems and trim as many leaves as possible.
If you have decided to go with a dry trim you will want to begin by cutting each plant at the base of the stock using a pair of pruners such as Fiskars Softgrip Floral Pruners. Use a metal hanger or string to hang the plants upside down in a warm (16-22℃) tent or room with a fan to allow for air circulation, keeping the humidity between 45-55%. This first step can take anywhere from 5 to 15 days depending on the density of the flower and the environmental conditions. Fresh cannabis flower typically has a water content of 75% that needs to be dried back to 10-15% for a desirable smoke. The temperature and humidity must be constantly controlled and adjusted. Once your buds have completely dried you can cut off individual branches for trimming.
In an ideal situation, most of the moisture should evaporate from the bud during the first 3 days, then the drying process should be slowed. This can be achieved by creating the most optimal environmental conditions. A temperature of 20℃ and a relative humidity of 55%. These conditions will ensure the bud dries back to a water content of approximately 30-40%. Once the buds have reached this point the temperature should be decreased to 18℃ to slow the drying process. When the flowers feel slightly crunchy on the outside and the smallest branches snap rather than fold when bent you are ready to move on to the curing stage. This is started by removing the buds from the larger stems and placing them in sealable containers.
The Curing Stage
There are many ways to cure cannabis buds during the final drying stage. You can freeze dry, water cure, or even dry-ice cure, but the most popular method is using an airtight sealable container. Once you have determined that your buds are mostly dry, it is time to move to the final drying stage “curing”. This is done in several steps.
Step 1: Trim your buds and separate them from the branches, if you have not already done so.
Step 2: Place the trimmed buds into some type of airtight container. Mason jars are a great option but if you are looking for something specifically designed for curing cannabis try the Freshtor C-Vault. Without compacting or crushing the buds pack the flower loosely in the container filling it about 75% of the way full. It is important that the container is not too full allowing room for air. During this process you also have the opportunity to test if your bud is dry enough to begin curing. This is done by gently shaking the jars. If your buds rattle around the glass freely you are ready for the next step! If they begin to clump together, this means the exterior of the flower is still too wet and will need to dry further before you can continue.
Step 3: Once you have confirmed your flower is dry enough to continue the curing process you can seal the containers and place them in a cool, dry, dark spot. Ideally they should be kept in a cupboard or storage room that maintains a temperature of 21℃ and a relative humidity of 60-65% within the jars. The only way to accurately measure this is to add a hygrometer like the Boveda Butler to each jar.
Step 4: During the first couple of days, you should be checking on your buds twice a day if possible. You will need to open the containers for a couple minutes each time you check them to inspect for mould and to allow for fresh air exchange (also referred to as letting the flower “breathe” or “burping”). This is an important time to monitor your hygrometer. If the reading is between 60-65% continue as normal. If the humidity is reading 65% or higher things are getting too wet. Leave the lids off the containers for approximately 3 hours to allow any excess moisture to escape. If the humidity is reading below 60%, leave the lids on for longer periods without allowing the buds to breathe. If there is no change in humidity add a small humidity pack to the affected jars, we recommend boveda packs. During this time you will notice the buds are no longer crunchy and dry on the outside, as the moisture from inside the flower rehydrates the outer portions. If you do not notice this change you have most likely over dried your cannabis.
If you notice an ammonia like smell during this step it means the buds are not dry enough to be cured. As a result anaerobic bacteria begins consuming the flower, leading to moldy, rotten cannabis.
Step 5: After the first week you will only need to open the containers once every few days or so. Using the hygrometer readings to adjust burping the containers accordingly. After 2 to 3 weeks in containers the cannabis will be cured enough to provide a quality smoking experience. If you can continue to cure for 4 to 8 weeks this will further improve the quality. Some strains benefit from curing that can last more than 6 months.
In this case the more patient smokers will receive the best rewards!
Speaking of rewards, be sure to treat yourself to a Cannador to store your cannabis once it’s cured! The Cannador airtight storage box allows you to store multiple strains at a time, come with rewritable labels, airtight lids, keys, and can be upgraded to include a full humidity control system.