Dry & Cure Cannabis Buds Like an Expert!
Table of Contents
Harvest: Harvest cannabis when the white hairs have darkened and curled in. Too early can sometimes trigger anxiousness or headaches for some people. When do I harvest? The most common way to harvest cannabis is: cut down branches, trim off unwanted leaves, then hang branches upside down in a ventilated area.
Drying: Dry buds slowly for 3-7 days. The amount of drying time will vary depending on your local temperature and humidity. Don’t let buds touch each other during drying, especially in high humidity. Watch buds closely to make sure they’re not drying to a crisp overnight (drying too fast), or parts of buds feel wet and don’t seem to be drying (drying too slow). Drying is finished when small stems start to snap instead of bend.
1st Level Curing: Put buds in quart-sized glass mason jars for at least 2 weeks. Curing for 2-4 weeks will reduce “harshness,” the fresh-cut-grass smell of newly dried buds, as well as help prevent headaches and anxious effects. Open jars at least once a day for a minute or two. The outside of cannabis buds should never feel wet; if they feel wet then leave lid off jar for an hour or two until they feel dry again, and go back to curing.
2nd Level Curing: Continue curing buds for 2-6 months to further increase smoothness and potency (while buds “feel stronger,” it’s unknown whether 2nd level curing has any effect on the medical benfits of cannabis)
Long-Term Storage: After 6 months, you should prepare your buds for long-term storage
It takes a lot of patience to wait for your buds to mature until they’re ready for harvest. Many cannabis growers (especially first-time growers) have a tendency to harvest their cannabis too early out of excitement.
To test your patience even more, after you’ve harvested your cannabis, buds still need to be dried and “cured” to achieve the proper taste, smell and potency most growers are looking for in high-quality buds.
Drying and curing your buds improperly (or not drying and curing at all) will result in buds that are harsh, taste/smell bad, and actually seem less potent. Improperly dried and cured buds can also give you a headache or increase your chances of feeling anxious or paranoid during use. This article will give you hints and tips to achieve the perfect dry/cure every time so you produce the best buds possible with every harvest.
Note: Read the full article with step-by-step instructions on how to dry/cure your cannabis buds here. This article provides extra tips and hints for the best cannabis curing results, but the above link will give you detailed step-by-step instructions.
Why Do Growers Cure Buds After Harvest?
Here’s what drying and curing cannabis will do for you…
Dramatically improves taste of buds after harvest
Gets rid of the unpleasant “fresh hay” or “cut grass” smell which is common on newly harvested buds
Brings out the subtle flavors and unique smell of your cannabis strain
Reduces “harshness” in buds; you’re less likely to start coughing or get a headache
Buds that are dried/cured properly are less likely to cause anxiety, racing thoughts, or paranoia
Increases storage time; you can store properly dried/cured buds for years and buds will retain a lot of their original potency
Reduce the chance of mold growing on your buds
Curing increases the perceived “potency” of your buds. Buds actually produce stronger effects!
Detailed Breakdown of the Dry/Cure Process
Harvesting your cannabis at the right time will dramatically increase the quality of your buds. When do I harvest? The first step of a great dry/cure is to harvest your cannabis the right way at the right time.
During harvest, you will cut the buds from your cannabis plant. How do I harvest the buds from the plant? For most growers, harvesting plants means cutting stems with buds on them away from the main plant.
At this point, most growers will trim the extra leaves off their newly harvested buds. Leaves do not contain as much THC and other cannabinoids as the buds themselves, and leaving too many leaves on the buds will contribute to “harshness.”
Don’t worry, you can still use the extra leaves or “trim” to make hash or edibles (like Canna Caps, Cannabis Extract Oil or Dry Ice Hash). These processes extract the “good stuff” from the leaves of the plant, while getting rid of the inert matter in the leaves that can cause harshness.
Some growers choose to trim leaves off the buds after the drying process, but please note that trimming after drying is much more difficult! I only recommend waiting to trim if you live in a very dry area (extremely low humidity), and absolutely need the leaves to help slow down the drying process. Otherwise it’s recommended that most growers trim their cannabis buds immediately after harvest.
Here’s some examples to help show you what I mean.
Drying before trimming (not recommended unless you live in a extremely dry environment)
The buds still have all of their leaves because they were not trimmed before being hung to dry
Drying after trimming (recommended)
Notice how the leaves have been mostly trimmed away before the buds were hung up to dry
Drying: Dry buds slowly, for 3-7 days
While “drying” and “curing” are usually thought of as two separate events, the “curing” process actually starts as soon as you cut your buds from your plants. Drying your cannabis buds slowly is a part of achieving the best cure.
It’s important to leave just the right amount of moisture before taking buds down. If you dry the buds too quickly, or too much, it can actually halt the whole curing process so you don’t get as much benefits or improvement from jarring your buds.
When deciding when to pull buds down during the drying process, it’s better to err on the side of leaving buds too wet than too dry. You can always dry buds more, but the curing process will not go as well if you’ve dried your buds too much.
Some growers like to use mesh racks for the drying process. I personally believe most growers, especially small-scale growers, will get the best results by drying their buds hanging upside down with buds still attached to their stems.
When using mesh racks, buds will dry quicker because you cut the buds off the stems (which contain moisture and help the buds dry slowly). Being horizontal (as buds will be on a mesh rack) also seems to make buds dry more quickly. Additionally, buds tend to flatten on the side that’s lying on the mesh due to gravity and the softness of buds.
Racks will help your buds dry faster (and prevent mold), so they are a great choice if you live in a high humidity area, and/or if you’re drying a LOT of buds in a small area. If you’re drying a pound or more of buds in a small space, you may want to invest in a mesh rack to make sure buds don’t mold.
Remember how we had to trim the buds earlier? Racks are also useful for those who have huge harvests because it is easier/faster to trim buds when they’ve been separated from the stems. Some growers even use trimming machines to trim buds, but machines need the buds to be separated from their stems. Trimming buds while still on the stems can be time-consuming. A rack allows you to dry buds no matter how they’ve been trimmed, even if they’ve been separated from the stems.
That being said, I highly recommend trimming your buds while still on their stems, then hanging them upside down if possible. You want your buds to dry relatively slowly to achieve the best cure, and I’ve always achieved the best results by drying my cannabis buds by hanging them upside down by their stems. When I’ve used mesh racks to dry my buds, they’ve always tended to dry too quickly.
Whether your hanging your buds or drying them on a mesh rack, don’t let buds touch each other during the drying process! This increases the likelihood that your buds will get mold. Throughout the drying/curing process, it’s a battle between drying too fast and the possibility of mold. One of the best things you can do to prevent mold is to never let buds that feel wet on the outside touch each other.
Never let buds touch each other during the drying process
(arrange them so buds don’t touch)
When it comes to drying slowly, it’s good to aim for a drying process that has your buds ready to put in jars after about 7 days. That being said, growers have dried buds for only a few days, and up to a few weeks and still gotten great results.
The most important thing to remember is to always take buds down and put them in the jars before they’re too dry. If they’re too wet, there’s still a lot you can do to dry them out more, but you can’t fix overdried buds.
When are buds done drying? Your buds are ready to be placed in jars when the outsides of buds start to feel dry to the touch. At this point, some of the small stems will snap, though the thicker stems should still have a small amount of flex when you try to bend them in half. This flex indicates that there’s still moisture contained inside the stems, which is what you need for the curing process.
1st Level Curing: Keep buds in glass mason jars for 2-4 Weeks
When buds have just finished drying, they tend to have a “fresh cut grass” smell instead of the skunky or sweet scent they carried during the flowering stage. If smoked, newly dried buds which haven’t been cured tend to be “harsh” and are more likely to cause headaches, racing thoughts or anxiety.
1st level curing will reduce harshness and bring out the natural taste and smell of your cannabis. It will make your buds smoother and can actually increase the perceived potency compared to newly dried buds.
The first step of 1st level curing is to place buds in quart-sized, wide mouth glass mason jars for at least 2-4 weeks.
Use glass mason jars that are quart-sized with a wide mouth, like this:
Never leave buds closed in jars for long periods of time if they feel moist or wet! You need to open your jars at least daily and monitor your buds closely for the first few weeks, and this gives you a perfect chance to check on the moisture levels of your buds.
If you ever notice that buds feel moist or wet, you should leave jars open for 20 minutes to an hour (or until the outsides of the buds feel dry to the touch). If buds ever are left in jars while they feel wet on the outside, they are much more likely to get mold! Buds should feel dry on the outside every time you close them in your jars.
During the first few weeks of the curing process, it’s normal for buds to periodically feel wet as the moisture from the inside of the buds works its way to the outside. That’s a good thing because it means you didn’t overdry the buds, but this is also part of why it’s so important to open jars at least daily for the first few weeks – you need to check on them and control the moisture levels.
2 weeks of curing is generally considered the “minimum” amount of time for acceptable curing. 4 weeks of curing is a great goal. I personally do not start sampling my buds until they’ve been curing for at least 4 weeks.
It’s crucial to open jars daily for at least the first 2-3 weeks of curing, and to continue to open jars regularly throughout the rest of the 1st level curing process. Even if you’ve overdried your buds, it’s still important to open jars daily for the first few weeks to achieve the best results.
Almost all growers agree that there are additional benefits to curing your cannabis buds past 4 weeks. In my experience, buds will continue to improve from additional curing for about 6 months.
When I say “improve” I mean that buds subjectively seem to get “stronger” or more potent. Buds seem to get “smoother” after a long cure. The smell continues to change during the curing process, and most growers seem to agree that the changes in smell are a big improvement that brings out the natural taste and smell of your cannabis.
That said, buds are good to go after 2-4 weeks. Getting to the end of the 1st level cure is the most important part of the drying/curing process, and the remaining benefits of further curing are all gravy as far as I’m concerned.
2nd Level Curing: Continue keeping buds in mason jars for 4 weeks – 6 months
Continue curing buds for up to 6 months to further increase smoothness and potency (though it’s currently unknown if 2nd level curing has an effect on medical benefits of cannabis). Yes, buds actually seem to get more potent if you continue curing past 4 weeks. The exact process is not well understood, but it’s true. I encourage you to test your buds at all stages of curing so you can see for yourself!
Once you hit 2+ months of curing, buds will begin losing some of their color. Bright greens and purples will become darker and less vibrant, though potency continues to improve. There is a common misconception that brighter or more vibrant colors indicates more potent buds, but that’s not the case. This myth may have started because buds that have actually turned brown (not just muted green or purple) usually have been harvested at the wrong time, overdried and/or not stored properly. You don’t want brown buds. Yet muted greens and purples do not mean the bud has lost any potency.
What do medical cannabis dispensaries do? I’ve noticed that dispensaries around here (in California) do a very short cure, only 2-4 weeks. I think this is because it’s easier and cheaper to have a fast turnaround as opposed to doing a long cure. A fast cure allows businesses to get rid of their stock sooner, so they don’t need to store buds for as long. A quick cure also allows dispensaries to sell buds that are still bright green or purple. People like bright colors in their buds, even if the colors don’t necessarily indicate a better product.
After about 6 months of curing, I haven’t really noticed more improvement in potency. Buds may continue to get smoother, but they stop getting stronger. So with a long cure, you gain potency and smoothness but lose some of the color. I recommend preparing your buds for long term storage after 6 months of curing to maintain the most potency.
After a very long cure (12+ months), the buds begin to lose their potency and smell unless you’ve prepared them for long-term storage. Over-cured buds will tend to make you feel sleepy. Unfortunately, buds don’t continue improving forever.
After 6 months, you should prepare your buds for long-term storage. If it’s just going to be a few months, this means storing your jarred buds in a cool, dry place. If you plan on storing buds for longer than that, it’s recommended that you use a vacuum seal.
Review: Timeline for Drying & Curing
Harvest: Cut down your buds
Drying: Dry buds for 3-7 days
Start Curing: Put buds in glass jars and open daily for 2+ weeks.
Continue to cure buds (while opening jars occasionally) for as long as you want, up to 6 months.
After 6 months, you should prepare your buds for long-term storage
After 12+ months, buds will begin to lose their potency and smell unless they’ve been stored properly
Tips to Take Away
Trim your buds to prevent harshness (leaves left on buds tend to be harsh). I recommend trimming leaves immediately after harvest (before drying) unless you need to leave them on to help buds dry slowly, for example if you live in a very dry area. It’s much more difficult to trim buds properly after drying.
Don’t over-dry buds or dry them too quickly – remember that drying is actually part of the curing process, and it’s better to dry buds slowly. Mostly importantly, never dry buds in an oven, a dehydrator, or in the microwave. These fast-drying methods will ruin the taste and smell of your buds, and prevent them from ever being able to cure properly.
Mesh Racks (or any way to dry buds horizontally) will help your buds dry faster, so they are a great choice if you…
- live in a high humidity area (faster drying will help prevent mold in high humidity)
- if you’re drying a LOT of buds in a small area, or
- if you just can’t make the time to trim buds on the stem. Otherwise…
Trim buds on the stem and dry them by hanging upside down for a long, slow cure. It’s the best way to do dry your buds!
Never let buds touch each other while drying! When buds that feel wet on the outside are touching, it increases the likelihood of mold. Throughout the drying/curing process, it’s a battle between drying too fast and the possibility of mold. One of the best things you can do to prevent mold is to never let buds that feel wet or moist touch each other. This goes for drying and curing. During drying, make sure you arrange your buds so that there is always some amount of air between buds that feel wet on the outside. During curing you will monitor your buds closely to make sure they never feel wet (more info below).
Notice how none of the buds are touching each other in these pics
(click for closeups)
5.) Do yourself a favor and get quart-sized glass mason jars for the curing process. Don’t get larger or smaller sized jars. Paradoxically, jars that are too large or too small will both increase the chances of mold showing up. The specific seal you get from mason jars seems to consistently get the best results when it comes to curing. It’s also important not to completely fill up your jars with bud; try to leave at least 1.5 – 2″ of air space at the top of your jars.
6.) Cure your buds for at least 2-4 weeks (1st level cure) – trust me it’s worth it! You can always sample buds along the way to see for yourself how big a difference it makes.
7.) Open all the jars daily (at least) for the first few weeks of curing, even if you’ve overdried your buds. This is an important part of the curing process and will also give you a chance to check on the buds.
8.) Never place anything wet in your jars during curing to try to “fix” overdried buds. I’ve heard of people sticking a piece of potato or other things like that to try to get more moisture to the buds. It doesn’t help the curing process, can negatively affect bud flavor, and may even cause mold. Even Humidipaks, which can help re-hydrate buds, will not improve the curing process for the first few weeks. If you’ve overdried you buds, just continue the curing process as normal for the first few weeks to achieve the best results.
9.) It’s normal for buds to occasionally feel wet or moist during the curing process as moisture from the inside of the cannabis buds works its way to the outside. This is actually what you want because it means that enough water was retained during the drying process for a great cure! Because you are opening all your buds daily for the first few weeks of curing, you will be able to identify this quickly. If buds ever feel wet or moist when you open the jars, you need to leave the jars open for 20 minutes to an hour (or until buds feel dry on the outside again) before closing jars again. You should also check buds (by opening all the jars) a few times a day when buds have recently seemed moist. This will help dry out the buds so they never feel moist on the outside while inside the jars. This will prevent mold while allowing the curing process to continue perfectly.
10.) 2 weeks of curing is generally considered the “minimum” amount of time for acceptable curing. 4 weeks of curing is a great goal. Letting buds cure for even longer is better, Yet after 6 months of curing, you won’t really see further gains. That’s why it’s recommended to prepare buds for long-term storage once you hit 6 months.
Dry & Cure Cannabis Buds Like an Expert! Table of Contents Harvest: Harvest cannabis when the white hairs have darkened and curled in. Too early can sometimes trigger anxiousness or
Four Options for Small-Scale Drying and Curing of Cannabis
Fresh cut whole marijuana plants in the dry room.
How and why you want to dry cannabis
Properly grown, dried and cured flowers burn smoothly and taste flavorful. The smell and flavor come from the terpenes and flavonoids in the buds. Terpenes also contribute to the strain’s specific effects.
For buds to be proud of, think “low and slow.” Drying and curing flowers takes time and patience, but the finished buds are worth the wait.
”Low” refers to temperature. Terpenes evaporate at different temperatures, and some at slightly below room temperature. When the air is fragrant with flower odors, the buds are losing their terpenes. Improperly dried and cured buds lose terpenes due to evaporation.
For example, the terpene myrcene — found in mango fruit, hops, bay leaves, eucalyptus, lemongrass and cannabis — evaporates at just 68º F (20º C). In addition to contributing to the smell, myrcene has analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties and helps THC cross the blood/brain barrier. Terpenes are essential to cannabis consumers. Buds must be dried at low temperatures for the terpenes to be preserved. Drying at low temperatures and moderate humidity takes longer, hence “low and slow.”
Cannabis fan leaves are removed by hand. The buds are manicured after they dry and cure.
Keeping the area clean is imperative when slowly drying buds at low temperatures. Do not allow pets in the area because they shed fur and dander that become airborne and catch on sticky buds. Workers should wear gloves. Fungal spores and bacteria are ubiquitous and germinate under favorable conditions: moist environment, oxygen, temperatures between 50 and 70° F (10-21° C) and an acidic surface on the host.
Buds infected with powdery mildew are considered unfit for smoking but have not been implicated in any human ailments. Buds attacked by bacteria turn brown and crispy. When anaerobic bacteria attack, they emit an acrid ammonia gas that turns buds to mush.
Under cool conditions the plant’s cells stay alive for up to 72 hours after cutting. During the early part of drying, the plant consumes some of its store of water and carbohydrates. Dried too fast, the buds use fewer starches, resulting in a harsher smoke. Cells on the surface of the plant die first, and the ones farther inside die last. During the first stage of drying, water loss is rapid. At the same time some of the chlorophyll degrades, creating a smooth smoke. Buds dried slowly and then cured for a few weeks develop the smooth draw of fine herb. Rushed drying locks in chlorophyll leaving a “green,” minty taste and a rougher smoke.
Heat and light degrade THC into cannabinol (CBN), which has only a fraction of the psychotropic effect and induces sleepiness. When buds, especially large ones, are dried at high temperatures to speed the process, they dry unevenly. By the time the inner portion is dry, some of the THC on the outer portion has turned to CBN.
Four Options for Small-Scale Drying
1. Climate-controlled drying box
Buds drying in cardboard boxes. The pile in each box is 2-3 inches deep. Opening and closing the lids is used to regulate the drying rate.
Find a climate-controlled drying box such as a grow tent, large appliance box, or construct one using wood and plastic or plasterboard walls. Add a hygrometer connected to a small dehumidifier and a thermostat regulating a heater or air conditioner.
2. Drying in a bag
Drying and curing in an open or partially closed bag is popular because it’s convenient and it slows down the drying time of small batches so they don’t dry out too rapidly.
A brown paper bag is a simple way to keep humidity higher than the humidity in a room; this slows evaporation. Recirculate humidity by opening or closing the bag. To keep the humidity lower, place only two or three layers of big buds in the bag.
Use a hygrometer to measure the moisture level in the bag. If the humidity climbs above 50%, use a fan to remove moisture-laden air.
3. Closed, humidity-neutral space
These plants were about 4 1/2’ tall with colas that stretch 15-18’. They are hung from a rod.
A small room or a closet is likely to have the right temperature for drying. If not, adjust the conditions by opening or closing the door and using a fan. For more control, use a heater, air conditioner, humidifier, or dehumidifier as needed.
4. Rack drying
Cannabis plants are tagged on rack.
The advantage of rack drying is that air flows freely around the buds. Using fans to circulate the air shortens drying time.
Two places to NEVER dry cannabis
1. Never dry in a room with growing plants
Don’t dry buds in a room with growing plants because the conditions required for the two operations are incompatible. The humidity and temperature in the growing room are likely to be too high for proper drying. The result may be mold attacks and loss of terpenes through evaporation.
Bud is suffering from Botrytis (Brown or Grey mold) as well as powdery mildew. These are the two molds most likely to attack cannabis.
2. Never dry in jars or closed containers
Buds should neither be dried nor cured in an enclosed container such as a closed box, plastic container or jar that traps air. As the buds dry, humidity in the container builds up and water is likely to condense on the sidewalls of the container, increasing the ambient moisture. These are ideal conditions for mildews, molds and bacteria to thrive.
Mold and mildew are likely to attack in closed containers, causing rot (botrytis) and molds. The fungi and aerobic bacteria use up the oxygen and anaerobic bacteria, which thrive in a non-oxygen environment. Their telltale sign is the acrid odor of ammonia they emit.
Molds, mildews and bacteria have a devastating effect on the terpenes and flavonoids (taste molecules); infected marijuana loses its distinctive odors and smells earthier.
None of the conditions created by closed containers are good for buds. The microorganisms can quickly turn a good harvest into waste.
The concept of using a closed container for either drying or curing is an urban myth. People often “burp” (open) the jars during drying to remove excess humidity. However, the humidity is trapped until the burping takes place, encouraging the proliferation of molds.
Here are the six KEY steps to drying cannabis
Clean the space to be used for drying. If it has been used for harvests before, wipe it clean with a hydrogen peroxide solution or just spray the whole space using it. This decreases microorganisms on surfaces. To keep air free from mold spores, hang a UVC sterilizing light and set up a carbon filter to cleanse the air of odor, particulates and microorganisms.
Use an air conditioner and a heater to maintain a temperature of about 68o F (20o C) in the drying area. Set the humidifier/dehumidifier to maintain humidity at 50%. When relative humidity is higher than 55%, the germination and growth of fungi and bacteria on wet material proliferates after about two or three days. Humidity be- low 45% promotes faster drying, but at that humidity level big buds have a tendency to dry on the outside while the inside remains moist.
Turn on oscillating circulation fans to keep air moving throughout the space.
Add buds by hanging them or laying them on screens. Don’t flat-dry flower buds or branches on screens if intending to machine trim them. Gravity compresses the part of the bud touching the surface. Trimming machines don’t work well when fed flat-dried buds.
Monitor the buds during the drying process. This process can last from one to three weeks. Bud size, crop weight, crop moisture, ambient temperature and humidity all affect drying time.
Leave a dim light on throughout the drying process.
Here’s what you do when drying is complete
As the buds dry, they lose color and weight and become more brittle. The green color fades a bit as chlorophyll degrades, making yellow, brown, red and purple hues more prominent.
The first stage of drying is complete when buds feel dry on the outside but retain moisture inside that keeps them fairly pliable. Take an average-sized bud and slowly try to fold it in half. If the bud stem bends, the bud is still too wet. If the bud stem breaks, it’s ready to be cured. If it breaks with a crisp snap, it is ready to cure. Another way of subjectively judging readiness is by lighting up a thinly rolled joint. If it doesn’t go out between puffs, then it is ready for curing and storing.
Buds on cut whole plants take a longer time to dry than on cut branches and trimmed buds because there’s more vegetation and thus more water to evaporate. But the slower cure mellows the taste. Big, thick, dense buds take much longer to dry than smaller buds and are more susceptible to mold and powdery mildew.
How to cure your cannabis
Whole plant curing. Photo by David Downs
The first phase of drying is about removing the vast majority of water in the plant, which takes 1 to 3 weeks. The second phase, removing most of the remaining water while retaining the terpenes, is known as curing. It is analogous to the wine-aging process in that it uses a precise climate and time to bring out the aromas of the plant.
Curing is essential to the taste and experience of the finished buds. Like aged wines, well-cured buds are smooth and flavorful. Uncured buds still “work” but are not nearly as enjoyable or desirable. However, curing does not make buds more potent than they already are.
Four key steps to curing cannabis
1. Start with mostly dried buds or colas. The bud stems may be just brittle enough to snap after bending a bit.
2. Set up a climate-controlled environment with consistent temperature and relative humidity so the buds lose water at a stable, slow pace.
Temperature: 65-70° F (18-21° C)
Continuous circulation using oscillating and/or ceiling fans on low
Buds or colas placed loosely on trays, in boxes, or hung on lines.
3. Time: 10 to 30 days
The buds dry slowly and consistently over several weeks. Curing allows the terpenes, which are oils, to continue to evolve. The trichomes continue to dry and smooth out and the THC-acid (THCa) converts to 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
4. Light: Constant dim light
Bright light, especially ultraviolet light, degrades cannabinoids and terpenes. Curing buds must sit in low light to total darkness.
Curing myths: Don’t bury buds
A long-running rumor involves burying buds to encourage certain microbes to eat them and secrete a more euphoric chemical. That’s total nonsense. Do not smoke buds with any kind of mold on them. There is no way to boost potency after the plant is cut.
Drying and curing cannabis flowers takes time and patience, but the finished buds are worth the wait. Here are four options for small-scale drying and curing marijuana.