Curing Cannabis: Why It’s Important and How to Do It Properly
Monday February 19, 2018
T here’s no one secret to producing great cannabis – the best cannabis is the product of premium genetics, careful cultivation, precise pruning, timely trimming and, finally, a slow-and-steady curing process.
The necessity of this last step should not be understated. A proper curing process (though timely and kind of boring) is key to producing that smooth, flavorful (and yes, more potent) smoke sesh that’s characteristic of only the finest green, and we’ll tell you exactly how to do it right. But before we do that, let’s look at why curing cannabis is so important in the first place.
Curing for Preservation Purposes
People have been curing their food for as long as there has been civilization. In fact, the ability of ancient humans to cure (and thus store) food for later consumption may have been the most important step to creating civilize societies.
No longer was it necessary to consume food as soon as it was harvested or hunted; food preservation via various curing processes meant people could reap bountiful harvest then save it for later instead of always having to be on the prowl for their next meal.
Though many curing methods have been used over the years, the goal is always the same: to remove bacteria for long-term storage.
This is done to meats using preservatives like salts, sugars and nitrites, but when it comes to cannabis, we rely on nothing more than patience and persistence.
Benefits to Properly Curing Cannabis
Though every vegetable requires a different curing process for the best outcome, the goal is the same: to preserve the product while retaining vital flavors, nutrients and in the case of cannabis, cannabinoids.
Proper curing stops the degradation process before volatile compounds like terpenes and cannabinoids evaporate or transform into less favorable compounds.
From the moment the crop is harvested it begins to degrade as enzymes and aerobic bacteria break down excess sugars and starches. Curing cannabis essentially forces the plant to use up those sugars, starches and excessive nutrients before they’ve had the chance to dry out and get stuck inside the plant.
If you’ve ever wondered why some cannabis is harsher or less flavorful when you smoke it, it is because these residual components have not been properly cured out of the plant prior to drying and/or distribution to the consumer. A good cannabis cure will not only improve the flavor and smoothness of a smoke sesh, it will also improve product potency, too!
That’s because cannabinoid synthesis (the process of creating those valuable chemicals) continues even after harvest.
When freshly-harvested cannabis flowers are kept at the proper temperature and humidity, non-psychoactive cannabinoids will continue to transform into THCa, a precursor to psychoactive THC.
How to Cure Cannabis
To effectively cure your harvested cannabis (if you’re unsure when to harvest, click here), begin by hanging trimmed bud upside down in a dark room from a laundry line or clothing hangers. Buds that are still attached to the stock will hang easily at the node while smaller, “popcorn” buds may need to be dried on a screen to encourage airflow.
The room should ideally be kept between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity level between 45 and 55 percent to help preserve the terpene content of the bud.
After one to two weeks, the stems should gently break when bent (instead of folding like they do when they’re fresh) and the outside of the flower should be slightly crisp. When this happens, it’s time for the next step: sweating your bud. You’ll do this by removing the bud from the larger stems (use this time to finish manicuring them if necessary) and placing them in sealable containers.
Set the containers in a cool, dark location then return multiple times daily to open (or “burp”) the containers which removes excess moisture by drawing it out through the bud slowly while keeping the oxygen content fresh.
Note: if you notice the smell of mold or ammonia after burping your containers the first few times, it likely means the bud is not dry enough to cure yet. Remove the buds from the jars and continue air-drying for a few more days to avoid mold.
After a few weeks, you’ll be able to burp your containers less frequently (once every few days to a week, for example) while the bud continues curing. Though your bud will be fine to smoke after two to four weeks, continued curing for four to eight weeks or more will improve the flavor and potency even more. Properly cured cannabis can be stored for up to six months in these containers or for long-term storage, it can be kept in vacuum-sealed storage for a year or more.
You don’t have to be an experienced cannabis cultivator to produce high-quality bud at home. Ideal strain and grow conditions aside, the best bud always takes a bit more love and attention, and the curing process is no exception.
Taking the time to properly cure your cannabis will pay off big-time, and earn you some awesome bragging rights, to boot.
Interested in growing? Click here to purchase your own seeds and start growing today!
Do you have any tips for curing cannabis? Share them with our readers below.
Curing your cannabis is extremely important if you want high-quality flower. From flavor and smoothness all the way to potency, curing affects many aspects of the plant.
Is Curing Cannabis Always Necessary?
Takeaway: How you handle your post-harvest cannabis is personal, though there are right ways and wrong ways to each method. Grubbycup provides some pointers on various methods and what they are best intended for.
There are different methods of curing cannabis after it has been harvested, and which is best depends on a combination of how it is intended to be consumed and personal preference.
Below are some popular methods of storing and preserving cannabis post-harvest.
Fresh Frozen: No Drying, No Curing
Some concentrate artists prefer to work with cannabis that has been immediately frozen after harvest. The material is rough trimmed while wet and then placed into containers and then into a freezer. This method eliminates the drying and curing steps, but is unsuitable for use for cannabis intended for smoking.
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Water Cure: Cure Without Drying First
Water curing allows for cannabis to be cured without being dried first (it can also be done with dried cannabis, but that adds an unnecessary step).
The cannabis is placed in a container with clean water. The water is then changed with fresh water a couple of times a day for five to seven days. This process will leech out the water-soluble components through osmosis.
Since the concentration of these components is higher inside the plant than in the surrounding water, they will move from inside the plant material to try to equalize with the concentration in the water.
By exchanging the surrounding water with fresh water, it keeps the concentration low and encourages movement out of the plant into the water.
Even though the aromatic oils (terpenes) are not water-soluble, they too are reduced because they are lighter than water, and the force of being submerged will cause them to float to the top where they are removed with the changing of the water. Then the cannabis is hung and dried before use or storage.
The result of properly water cured cannabis is some of the smoothest smoke available, if that is how you chose to consume it. It is so smooth that many find the flavor (what little there is left) to be flat and boring.
Well-made, water cured cannabis doesn’t have much flavor at all, although the potency is still present. This can be an asset if smoking in stealth is a concern (the smoke it produces has little if any conventional cannabis aroma), or when used in edibles.
After decarboxylation (exposing to low heat to drive off carbon dioxide from THC-A to convert it to the active form THC), water cured cannabis is so mild tasting it can be simply ground and used directly in cooking.
When made into cannabutter or infused oils, the end product lacks the distinctive cannabis flavor that many find somewhat repellent in edibles.
However, the process isn’t without its drawbacks. Even if done correctly, the “bag appeal” is severely reduced. The buds appear inferior and mistreated even if they haven’t been.
If done incorrectly and water changes are not performed, it can be ruined by being allowed to sit in stale water for several days. If not dried properly after the rinsing, it can mold.
Speaking of mold, water cured cannabis should only be obtained from reliable sources, as it is sometimes used by unscrupulous folk to pass molded, insecticide-contaminated, or otherwise ruined cannabis onto the unsuspecting.
Hurried and Harsh: Dry Only, No Cure
Unless using one of the above methods, cannabis is usually at least dried before use. Freshly harvested cannabis has too much moisture in it to be stable and will eventually mold unless a substantial portion of the moisture is removed.
To this end, immediately after harvest, the cannabis should be allowed to dry in the open air until enough moisture has evaporated to prevent fungal growth, but not so much that it loses structural integrity.
Drying is best done under mild conditions, as an environment too wet and cold can delay drying long enough to be a mold risk, and conditions too hot and dry can cause the outermost portions to over-dry while the interior flowers and stems are still too wet to be safely stored.
Due to time constraints, some cannabis is merely dried and not allowed to cure before use. This is more commonly seen from commercial farms or novice gardens than from properly cared-for home grows.
All other factors being equal, the smoke from dried but not cured cannabis tends to be harsher and less pleasant when compared with a properly cured bud from the same plant.
On the other hand, dried but uncured cannabis is much more popular than having no cannabis at all, so it is frequently used in times of urgency, need, or occasionally greed.
The Conventional Method: Dry then Cure
Conventional, properly cured cannabis is dried as above and then placed into airtight containers and kept in a cool, unlit location to allow for the buds to mature and cure over a few weeks or months.
Ideally, if the cannabis was appropriately dried to just the right amount, it will be dry enough to prevent mold but still have enough moisture to cure properly. Erring on the side of dry is a smaller error than it being too wet.
Particularly in the beginning, the jars should be opened and checked. At any indication of excess moisture, the buds should be removed and allowed to dry more before returning to sealed jars.
For smaller adjustments, the lid can be removed until a more acceptable moisture level is reached (a process known as burping).
A hint of ammonia in the aroma is an indication of the cannabis being too wet and is a result of it starting to spoil, and a strong ammonia smell or visible mold are indications that the cannabis was much too wet and has been ruined.
The proper care and treatment of cannabis after it has been harvested can have a large impact on the quality and properties of the final product.
Even if the starting material is of the same quality, matching the type and quality of cure to expected further processing can have a big influence on whether the end product is delightful or just mediocre.
How you handle your post-harvest cannabis is personal, though there are right ways and wrong ways to each method.