Curing vs. Drying: What’s The Best Way To Process Cannabis?
Veteran cultivators usually have strong opinions about the best method, but really you just have to find what works best for you.
What happens to cannabis between the time it is harvested and the time you smoke it? There’s a bit of processing, preparation and curing involved between the field (or grow room) and your pipe or paper. Here’s how it’s done.
Let’s take a look at trimming (manicuring) first, although this step of the process can occur either before or after drying, according to personal preference.
Trimming is done because the leafy material smokes more harshly than the flower portion of the plant. This is true even of the sugar leaves, which are the leaves that grow from the central part of the bud and have visible trichomes (i.e. crystals) on them. (Having said that, the sugar leaves will provide quite a buzz if you don’t mind their harshness.)
Disposable rubber gloves are typically worn during the trimming process because sticky resin is difficult to wash off. Sharp scissors or shears are used to trim the buds; models specifically for trimming cannabis are available. Trimming is done by removing the sugar leaves and shade leaves from the flowers.
The vegetable material thus removed is known as “trim.” It used to be regarded as near-waste, but, more and more, is valued by concentrate makers. High-quality “sugar trim,” with further processing, can yield potent full extract cannabis oil (FECO), butane hash oil (BHO), pressed resin, or hashish.
Many growers trim their cannabis before drying it. This is the “wet trim.” Advocates of wet trimming believe it’s easier to separate leaves from buds when the plant is still wet. Dry trimmers, on the other hand, believe the leaves can impart more sweetness to the flowers if they’re left on through the drying process.
Drying vs. Curing
Cannabis connoisseurs differentiate between curing cannabis and merely drying it. Drying marijuana simply means getting it dry enough to smoke. It is a perfectly respectable way to prepare weed for smoking, but it results in a somewhat harsher smoke. It also means the cannabis will taste a lot “grassier” due to the presence of more chlorophyll. Marijuana is generally dry enough to smoke in 10 to 14 days after harvest, under average conditions. Hot, dry environments can result in weed drying much more quickly. Such conditions, however, aren’t optimal for either taste or potency.
Curing weed, on the other hand, is a form of controlled fermentation through careful, extended drying. It allows the terpenes and flavonoids to express themselves in a different way. It is an art with many variations. Be advised that just about every grower has his or her own preferred method of curing. Almost all of them will tell you that their method is the only real way and that if you do it differently, you’re ruining your weed. Accept and incorporate their knowledge, but try to zen your way through the debate.
For drying immediately after harvest, cannabis is usually hung from string or wire. This can be either entire plants, or (especially in the case of larger plants) individual branches. Some growers prefer to trim individual buds from plants and put them on drying racks.
Curing breaks down much of the chlorophyll in the plant. This cuts down on the hay-like smell and green taste. It also allows the terpenes to take a much more prominent role in both smell and taste. Subtle flavor notes that would have been overwhelmed by the green taste of weed that was just dried come to the fore with curing.
The process of curing weed is slowed down by various methods. These include sealing the still-moist weed in a jar and “burping” it every day, then every few days, until cured. Another method is to put the weed in a plastic bag, remove it, aerate it, and put it back in. Perfectionist growers usually have very precise schedules for doing this. They rarely agree on them.
Many curing experts believe that cycling the weed through periods of being sealed up and being exposed to the air for up to three months results in optimal taste, smell, and potency. This is why almost all commercially available weed has been cured, rather than simply dried.