Whether you’re a cannabis grower or a more casual consumer, you still want to know that you’re using only the highest quality products. You want to know that your valuable time and/or money is well spent. One very important factor in quality is the cannabis curing process. It’s easy to fall into the trap of drying your cannabis too quickly, but proper curing will deliver far better results. Curing is a longer process than simply drying, but it’s well worth the wait: it involves removing moisture from the cannabis flowers under controlled environmental conditions, and results in a much better overall product, for the following reasons.
Because of the way THC, the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis, is formed during the plant’s growth, proper curing can raise the levels of THC and provide a more potent final product.
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA, is one type of cannabinoid that forms in cannabis plants through a process called biosynthesis. Throughout this process, certain organic compounds gradually change into something entirely different. THCA goes through biosynthesis to become THC.
What’s interesting is that biosynthesis doesn’t entirely stop once a cannabis plant is harvested. If plants are stored in temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and at a humidity level of between 45 and 55%, the process of biosynthesis continues. This means that THCA will continue to convert to THC, and your cannabis buds will slowly but surely become more potent. Quickly drying your buds in warmer conditions, however, stops this process much sooner and yields lower levels of THC.
Terpenes are the aromatic compounds found in cannabis that give it its unique smell and flavor. Different terpenes affect the smell and flavor of the cannabis differently, and the terpenes themselves are highly volatile, resulting in easy degradation, even at temperatures as low as 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Curing cannabis slowly, at lower temperatures, better preserves the terpenes, and therefore the taste and flavor of the final product.
Slow, cool curing allows helpful enzymes and aerobic bacteria to thrive. These tiny components of the curing process help break down minerals and unwanted sugars created when chlorophyll decomposes during the drying process. These minerals and sugars, if they aren’t broken down through proper curing, cause an unpleasant throat-burning feeling when you smoke, a sure sign that your cannabis hasn’t been correctly cured.
As with any other product you buy, you want your cannabis to last. Properly cured cannabis can be stored for long periods of time without much danger of mold or loss of cannabinoids. If stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, properly cured cannabis flowers can last for up to two years without losing much of their potency.
Even if you haven’t cured cannabis correctly in the past, it’s never too late to start! While there are many ways to cure cannabis, including freeze-drying, water curing, or dry-ice curing, we’re only going to focus on the easiest and most reliable method.
The way you harvest your cannabis will affect the way you dry it. Many cut 12-16 inch branches off of their plants, eliminate unwanted leaves, and hang the branches from wire or string. Other growers prefer to hang the entire plant up to dry, or cut off individual buds and set them on drying racks.
No matter which method you use, the environmental requirements for this initial drying phase remain the same. You’ll need to dry your plants, branches, or buds in a dark room kept at between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and at a humidity level of between 45 and 55 percent. You’ll also need to set up a small fan to keep the air moving. These conditions are critical for proper curing and good smell and taste in your final product so make sure you use whatever you need to keep the room in the proper temperature and humidity range.
It’s time to move to the next phase when the outsides of the flowers feel a bit crunchy to the touch and the small branches snap, rather than fold, when bent. Reaching this point can take roughly between 5 and 15 days, depending on the exact environmental conditions.
Once the buds are sufficiently dried out, it’s time to cure them. You can do so in five steps:
Step 1: Manicure your buds and separate them from the branches (you may have done this earlier, but now’s the time if you haven’t).
Step 2: Put the trimmed buds into an airtight container.
Note: Find out more about how to find the right storage container HERE.
Step 3: In your chosen container, pack the flowers loosely. You want to fill the container to the top without crushing the buds.
Step 4: Once you’ve sealed the container, place it somewhere cool and dry to finish curing. Within the first day, the edges of the flowers should no longer be crunchy due to rehydration from moisture in the inner portions of the flowers. If you find that your flowers are still crunchy, it’s possible that you’ve over-dried your cannabis.
Step 5: Open the containers for a few minutes at a time, several times a day, over the course of the first week to let the flowers breathe. This allows oxygen in and moisture out. After the first week, you only need to open the containers once every few days.
The timeframe for curing cannabis differs based on the strain you are using. Although 2 to 3 weeks of curing will make most cannabis usable, 4 to 8 weeks will make it even better, some strains need to cure for 6 months or more!
The right curing container is an incredibly important part of the cannabis curing process and one that is too often overlooked. Check out these stainless steel storage containers for solid results.