Picking the right bud from a dispensary or another access point can be confusing. With so many samples, how do you know which buds are the best? Fortunately, there are a few key things to look for when determining the quality of your flower.

1. Crystals and hairs

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It’s obvious, high-quality buds will be covered in crystals. A bud that glistens with amber and milky white trichomes is likely to be potent and flavor-packed.

Trichomes are the resin glands of the cannabis plant. They are also the source of psychoactive THC, other cannabinoids, and terpenes.

It takes lots of love and care to produce crystal-coated buds. The denser the trichomes, the more high-end the strain will be. Crystals also give an idea about the strength of the strain.

A thick coat of resin is a valuable indicator for the amount of cannabinoids that the strain will provide. The more resin, the more cannabinoids.

Golden red-orange pistillate hairs are another indicator of quality. A top-shelf bud will have a lot of them, and the deeper the color the better.

2. Trim

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Leafy cannabis is a thing of the past. Though scraggly buds were a thing in the 1970s, today’s top-shelve cannabis is tidy and trimmed down to the calyxes.

A quality cannabis bud should have the sugar leaves trimmed off, exposing only the most potent and resin-dense part of the flower.

In some cases, some small sugar leaves may be left on the sample if they are particularly resin dense. However, it’s common practice to hand-trim cannabis colas down to the dense, conical shaped, sticky buds.

In addition, those that manage to secure a bud over an inch and a half (3.8 centimeters) from a dispensary are in for some luck.

3. Color

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The majority of the cannabis out there will be made up of various lovely shades of green. However, top-shelf buds often feature a bouquet of color.

Purples, oranges, reds, violates, blues, blacks, and unique greens can all be found in dried cannabis flowers.

Color does not always indicate potency. Further, some strains are more inclined to produce color and temperature can alter the coloration of the plant.

However, coaxing color out of many strains is a sign of excellent cannabis growing techniques.

For the most part, cannabis plants express coloration when the right conditions have been met. Dark purple, blue, and black colors, for example, are thought to act as a type of anti-freeze for the plant.

Others suggest that deep coloration can act as a sort of sunblock, protecting leaves and buds from damage.

Getting great color from a strain isn’t easy. Plants that feature a superb compilation of various tones and colors are likely to have come from growers who know how to get the most out of their buds.

Not to mention, the darker the color, the more nutrient-dense the plant.

4. Aroma

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Does your herb smell like grass? A few strains have a bit of a grassy aroma, but a mowed lawn fragrance generally doesn’t belong in properly cured cannabis.

If the bud still has a fresh, grassy aroma, it could be a sign that the herb is a little damp and was not fully dried.

Smoking buds that are still a little wet is not pleasant. Not only does it overpower the complex aromatic profile of the herb, but it gives molds and mildews the opportunity to develop and make a lunch out of your bud.

The ideal sample should have a deep and complex aroma that can range from woody and musk to sweet and fruit-like. The more powerful the aroma at either end of the scale, the better quality the herb.

If the bud sample does not have much of an aroma, it is generally lower-shelf material.

5. Moisture

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The amount of moisture in a dried bud indicates how well it was dried and cured. As mentioned, herb with a strong grass smell often has too much moisture.

A bud that is difficult to break up is also a sign of improper drying. Yet, herb shouldn’t just crumble completely apart when you touch it, either.

A great flower is sticky, dry, and easy to break up without being too crisp. Some producers include the moisture content online or on the cannabis label. Ideally, the levels of water in the sample should be under 5%.

The bud should similarly be easy to light. This could be a sign of too much moisture or the presence of a contaminant.

6. Color of the ash

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After lighting up, the color of the remaining ash can tell you quite a lot about how the herb was grown. The ash at the tip of a joint or packed in a bowl should turn white, or a very light shade of gray.

Black ash or extremely dark ash is a sign that there may be some residual moisture, nutrients, pesticides, or other chemicals on your bud.

It’s important to note that this test isn’t a fool-proof way of testing for residual contaminants. Only looking at the lab tested results for the strain will tell you whether or not a bud has passed pesticide and mold inspection.

However, paying attention to ash is a quick and easy way to determine whether or not you’ve got some good stuff.

7. Chest pain

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Chest pain after smoking some herb is another indicator that the bud is contaminated with residual chemicals or mildews. Unfortunately, quality control in many states and regions are less than ideal.

In some instances, up to 70% of lab-tested samples from California dispensaries tested positive for residual pesticide and fungi.

Some strains are said to produce a sensation of chest expansion, and new cannabis consumers often cough while they are getting used to the herb.

Yet, chest pain and discomfort can be a sign that you may be smoking something other than plain and simple cannabis.