7 Steps to Dry Cannabis (Everything You Need to Know & More!)
When your marijuana plants are happily budding, producing potent little pot flowers, you don’t just wander out to your ganja garden and pop a nug into your pipe to smoke it! Of course, you could do that, and it would be an okay but kind of cough-inducing smoke and you’d get a little high and somewhat feel the cannabis strain’s effects, but you get much more out of your weed in terms of longevity and potency if you dry and cure your weed before consumption. Because you want the absolutely best quality from your fresh flowers, you need to cure your buds, drying the newborn nugs slowly in a carefully temperature- and humidity-controlled environment; then, after they are properly dried, you want to store them in airtight containers over the course of a few weeks where natural pot plant processes will continue the curing of your cannabis. All of this rigmarole is so that your harvested ganja smells better and has pleasantly potent effects. Improperly dried and cured weed can be a harsh smoke and the unpleasant side effects, such as jitteriness, can actually be worse!
(Branches of cannabis buds hanging down, image source: Orchid Mandala on Instagram)
Background:What drying and curing cannabis actually does for you does for you:
- Drying and curing weed breaks down chlorophyll and dramatically improves the taste, aroma and smokable smoothness of your harvest - enhancing the subtle flavors and unique scents of marijuana strains.
- Drying and curing harvested pot reduces its harshness so that there is much less coughing, headaches, nausea or anxiety.
- Very importantly, drying harvested nugs of cannabis drastically reduces the chance of mold or bacteria growing on your buds!
- It is an established fact, by ganja growers and marijuana merchants, that properly dried and cured cannabis can be stored sealed in air-tight containers - in a cool, dark place - for up to two years without losing potency.
- And lastly, proper drying and curing seems to boost bud potency! You have to keep your freshly harvested cannabis crop at temperatures between 60 and 70°F (10 to 21° Celsius) and at a 45-55% humidity level. Then the chemical reactions, biosynthesis, that convert non-psychoactive cannabinoids like THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) into the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) , will proceed and your pot potency will optimize!
(A sad nug of moldy weed, image source: Athena Babbee on Instagram)
How the Drying Happens:
1) Most often, when cannabis is cultivated – especially in big grow operations, 12-16” branches are cut from the plants, unwanted plant leaves are trimmed, and then the branches are hung with string or wire with care. Some growers, like individuals who want to keep their little plants popping out pot, or smaller grow operations, will instead pluck the nugs off from the branches and lay them out on drying racks.
2) Regardless of whichever method of the above you utilize, you will want to keep your branches or drying buds in a darkened room at around 60-70°F (again, 10 to 21° C) in temperature and with a humidity of between 45-55%, and with fans gently circulating the air around your drying chamber. You really should also have a dehumidifier and maybe even an air conditioner so that you can keep conditions constant.
3) Within around 5 to 15 days, your ganja nuggets should start to feel just a little crunchy when you press them between your fingers and, if drying whole branches, the branches will snap when you twist them as opposed to just bending. When you are confident that your cannabis flowers have indeed dried, then you can proceed to cure them.
4) Next you will want to trim off the nugs, separating them from their branches, unless you go with the individual buds on a drying rack method.
5) Then you want to store your trimmed buds in an airtight container, like a rubber-sealed canning jar suitable for curing, packing the pot nugs loosely in the container, filling the jar or airtight container close to the top or lid without compacting or crushing your fragile flowers.
(Weed drying on racks, image from Cannabis in Canada on Instagram)
6) After this, you want to take your nug-filled storage containers and place them in a cool, dry, dark (especially if they are translucent or transparent) place, where they will finish curing. After a day or so the buds will be less crunchy and dry externally because remnant moisture from inside the flowers seeps out to rehydrate the outside of the buds.
7) At first, you’ll want to check your stored stash of ganja goodness by opening the containers several times a day to let the flowers aerate for a few minutes and releasing any trapped moisture; also checking for mildewy smells that indicate that you may have rushed the drying process. After a week, you only need to check your buds in their containers once every few days or so.
It is generally recommended that you cure your cannabis from 2 to 3 weeks in their sealed containers, in climate-controlled conditions, and if you can afford to, 4 to 8 weeks of curing time is even more ideal. Stronger strains benefit from 6 months or more of curing.
Here is a very in-depth vid on pretty much the same things we just went over with you regarding drying and curing your cannabis buds:
(Weed in jars for curing, image source: AJ Canna Jackie on Instagram)
Decarboxylating, or decarbing, your dried and cured weed:
Properly dried and cured cannabis has not been decarboxylated during the drying and curing process we described above. Smoking and vaporizing your weed will instantaneously decarboxylate cannabinoids due to the high heat of the flame or heating unit, making them instantly absorbable through inhalation.
Edible marijuana products or medibles require prior decarboxylation so that when we consume our weed cookies or cannabutter brownies our bodies can actually absorb the cannabinoids properly during digestion.
To decarb your own cured weed for use in baking you'll need:
- an oven set to 220°F/105°C
- a baking sheet
- parchment paper
- ground bud or kief
Place a sheet of your parchment paper on a baking sheet, spreading out your crumbled cannabis or kief in a thin layer so it will dry properly.
Then you will put the baking sheet in the oven for 25 minutes, if it is properly dried and cured; if it is fresh bud straight from your pot plant or if it has been improperly cured, and is excessively moist, then it will take longer, probably up to 50 minutes.
After your cooking time is up, then just let your tray of decarboxylated ganja sit on the counter to cool; and from there you can use it to make yourself whatever marijuana munchies you have a mind to!
(Racks of drying pot plant branches, image source: Fresh Off the Hill Farm on Instagram)
So, there you have it, the basics of drying, curing and even decarbing your sweet herb to smoke, vape or even bake into a cake, ensuring you get the most benefit from its strain-specific effects! Plus proper drying, curing and storage of your cannabis will keep it fresh and potent for a very long time! We have given you seven steps for prepping your pot for its best use plus a quick rundown on decarboxylating your cannabis for use in cooking. Pot is an expensive enough hobby, you want to make sure you get the most bang for your hard-earned bucks from your nugs - and the best way to do that is to dry and cure them properly after harvest so that their cannabinoid effects are properly activated to their most potent potential, and then store them safely so that you can continue to enjoy your cannabis for a long time to come. So, hang up your pot branches or lay out your buds on a drying rack, and with some patience, you’ll bring out the best in your buds and they in turn will be much better smokes, vapes or even munchable medibles!
Written by Megan Medeiros (BA)
Megan Medeiros has a bachelor’s degree in English and is currently working on a master’s in English at James Madison University. She's the owner and operator of Medeiros Writing, and has been working as a cannabis writer for the past three years, mostly following the legal climate of marijuana, especially in areas like California, Colorado, Oregon, Canada, and other legal areas.
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