Dive into our comprehensive guide to uncover the art and science of perfecting your cannabis drying process and ensuring optimal potency and flavor.

Drying Cannabis: A Master Guide

At SunMed Growers, we know that proper drying and curing is key to making sure cannabis exhibits all its best qualities. Without proper drying and curing, we’d lose the smooth smoke and diverse flavor profiles that we carefully cultivate in our sun-grown plants.

That’s why we’ve compiled this master guide for home growers to show you how to dry and cure your own cannabis. This guide provides a deep dive into the nuances of cannabis drying, unraveling its complexities and spotlighting tried-and-true methods to ensure that each bud reaches its fullest potential.

Smiling SunMed grower with cannabis hanging in the background

Why Is Drying Cannabis Properly Important?

Drying cannabis might seem straightforward, but it's a delicate process. Even minor oversights can significantly alter the cannabinoid and terpene profiles, impacting both flavor and potency. In the complex process of cannabis cultivation, drying is a pivotal step that directly influences the quality of the final product.

How to Dry Cannabis

Let’s consider the specific steps and major considerations that are essential to the process. We’ll start with the basics:

When to Harvest Cannabis

Timing is everything when it comes to harvesting cannabis for drying. Harvest too early, and you risk reducing the potency and overall yield of your crop. Harvest too late, and the THC, the primary psychoactive compound, might degrade into CBN, making the product more sedative. The key is to look for specific visual cues:

  1. Trichome Appearance: Using a magnifying glass or microscope, examine the trichomes—the tiny, crystalline hair-like structures commonly referred to as kief. Ideally, you want a mix of milky-white and amber trichomes, signifying peak THC levels.

  2. Pistil Coloration: Pistils are hair-like structures on the plant observable with the naked eye. When a majority of these shift from white to reddish-brown, it often indicates readiness for harvest.

  3. Leaf Changes: As maturity approaches, the sugar leaves around the bud may start to yellow and wilt, another hint that the plant is ready.

It's essential to remember that each strain has its own unique growth timeline and characteristics. While these guidelines offer a general overview, understanding the specific nuances of the strain you're growing will always yield the best results. 

What Is the Best Method for Drying Cannabis? Hang Drying v. Rack Drying

Once your cannabis is ready to harvest, the next crucial decision is choosing a drying method. Two prominent techniques in the industry are hang drying and rack drying. Both have their merits, but the best method often hinges on your specific needs, space, and the volume of cannabis to be dried.

Hang Drying:

  • Overview: This traditional method involves hanging entire branches or individual buds upside down, allowing gravity to assist in the drying process.

  • Advantages: By maintaining the integrity of the whole plant or branch, you ensure an even drying process, preserving terpenes and preventing the buds from drying out too quickly.

  • Considerations: Hang drying requires more vertical space and adequate airflow. It's essential to ensure branches aren't touching, as this can lead to mold.

Racks of hanging cannabis

Rack Drying:

  • Overview: Rack drying utilizes mesh racks or screens where buds are laid out in a single layer.

  • Advantages: Ideal for larger operations or limited space scenarios, this method allows for quicker drying times and more efficient use of space.

  • Considerations: Buds might dry at different rates, so regular rotation is crucial. There's also an increased risk of buds becoming overly dry if they’re not monitored carefully.

How Long Does It Take to Dry Cannabis?

Most cannabis buds, under optimal conditions, take between 7 to 14 days to dry thoroughly. However, this range is a guideline, not a strict rule. Buds may be dry enough to smoke after a few days, though most growers prefer a slower drying process. Some cultivators extend the process for up to three weeks to preserve terpenes and flavors.

Some key elements that make a difference in the length of time required are:

Environmental Factors

  • Humidity: In higher humidity environments, drying can take longer, whereas in low humidity, buds may dry faster but risk becoming too brittle.

  • Temperature: Aim for a temperature between 60-70°F (15-21°C). Higher temperatures can hasten drying but might degrade the quality.

Drying Method

  • Hang Drying: Given that this method uses entire branches, it often takes on the longer side of the range, around 10-14 days.

  • Rack Drying: Since buds are laid out individually, they might dry faster, typically within 7-10 days.

Size of the Buds

Larger, denser buds naturally take longer to dry than smaller ones, so it's crucial to monitor different bud sizes separately.

In the greenhouses at SunMed Growers, we have the advantage of finely tuning environmental parameters. This control, combined with regular monitoring, ensures that our cannabis dries not just within an optimal timeframe, but also to the peak of its quality and potency.

How Do You Know When Cannabis is Dry Enough?

  • Stem Snap Test: Perhaps the most tried-and-true method is the stem snap test. Take a small branch and bend it. If it snaps cleanly with a noticeable break, it's likely dry enough. If it bends without snapping, it’s still retaining too much moisture.

  • Bud Feel: While external feel isn't the most reliable indicator, it can give clues. Buds should feel slightly crispy on the outside but shouldn't crumble upon touch. Overly brittle buds indicate over-drying.

  • Equipment Aid: For those seeking precision, moisture meters, typically used in the agriculture sector, can provide a more quantitative assessment. Ideally, the moisture content of dried cannabis should be between 8-12%.

How Should Cannabis Smell During Drying?

If you've never dried your own cannabis before, you might be thrown off by the presence of some unfamiliar weed aromas while your plants are drying. In particular, during the final curing process, some people report a distinct grassy smell when burping their glass jars. This grassy smell is produced by the slow degradation of chlorophyll during the curing process and it fades over time as the cannabinoid and terpene smells are enhanced.

Should You Set Up a Drying Room?

Drying rooms offer unparalleled consistency, allowing for precise management of temperature, humidity, and airflow, all of which directly influence the final quality of your cannabis. However, setting up a drying room also comes with challenges, including initial costs and space requirements. 

Should You Dry Cannabis in the Dark?

When drying cannabis, it's generally advised to keep buds in complete or near-complete darkness. This is because direct light, especially UV light, can degrade cannabinoids, particularly THC, resulting in diminished potency. Hence, one compelling reason to set up a drying room is that it enables you to monitor light levels more easily. 

Equipment

Equipping your drying room with the right tools is paramount to achieving optimal drying conditions. Key pieces include oscillating fans for proper air circulation, dehumidifiers to regulate moisture levels, and hygrometers to monitor the room's relative humidity. For those seeking precision, moisture meters can offer a more quantifiable gauge of when buds reach their ideal dryness. Furthermore, installing a thermostat allows for consistent temperature monitoring and control. 

How to Cure Cannabis

While drying cannabis is a fundamental step in the post-harvest process, curing is where the true magic unfolds. Curing is akin to aging fine wine; it's a deliberate and controlled process that amplifies flavor, smoothness, and overall quality.

What is Cannabis Curing?

Cannabis curing, at its core, is a controlled aging process designed to refine the qualities of dried cannabis buds. It allows the slow degradation of chlorophyll and the enhancement of cannabinoids and terpenes. This not only improves the aroma and taste, but also ensures a more pleasant and smoother smoking or vaping experience.

After the initial drying phase, where the majority of water content is removed, curing begins. The buds are sealed in containers, often glass jars, allowing the remaining moisture to redistribute evenly. This moisture reactivates enzymes and beneficial bacteria within the plant, which then break down any residual chlorophyll and sugars. The result? A significant reduction in the "grassy" taste, making way for the strain's true flavor and aroma profile.

How Long Does It Take to Cure Cannabis?

Generally, a basic cure will require a minimum of two to four weeks to truly refine the flavor and aroma of the buds. However, for connoisseurs seeking an unparalleled experience, extending the cure to several months can bring out even more nuanced characteristics in the strain. 

Curing cannabis is similar to aging cheese or wine; the longer it's allowed to mature, the richer and more intricate the profile becomes. That said, it's crucial to monitor the buds regularly during the curing process to ensure there’s no mold or mildew development. 

Cannabis curing in glass jar

Equipment

  • Glass Jars: Quart-sized mason jars are a staple in the curing world. Their airtight seals are perfect for maintaining the required environment, and the transparent glass allows for easy inspection without constantly opening the container. Pack your buds loosely to avoid compacting or crushing them. 

  • Hygrometers: Small hygrometers can be placed inside the jars to monitor the relative humidity. Ideal humidity levels should hover between 58% to 65% to prevent mold growth while allowing the curing process to take place.

  • Humidity Control: Boveda humidity packs can be a lifesaver. If your buds are too dry, a Boveda Pack will help rehydrate them. If they’re too wet, you can take off the lid for a day or two. 

  • Opaque Storage: Store your mason jars in a dark, cool place. 

  • Labels: This is especially important if you’re curing multiple strains at once. Labeling jars with the strain name and start date of curing will help you keep track and ensure each strain is cured for the desired period.

Burping

“Burping” is the practice of periodically opening the curing jars to let fresh air in and release any built-up gasses. During the early stages of curing, cannabis buds still undergo respiration, producing moisture and releasing gasses. By opening the jars for a few minutes once or twice a day in the first week, cultivators prevent excess humidity buildup, reducing the risk of mold, and allowing the release of any unwanted gaseous byproducts. 

After the first week, the frequency of burping can be reduced to every few days, but it remains essential throughout the process. 

Try Our Expertly Cultivated, Sun Grown Cannabis

At SunMed Growers, our careful drying and curing process is just one part of the in-depth knowledge and experience that helps us cultivate unparalleled, natural-light cannabis. They’re the final steps in a process that brings you the finest buds, grown sustainably, and offered at an affordable price.

See the difference our refined growing methods have made, and dive into a world of flavor, aroma, and potency that only sun-grown cannabis, dried and curated with expertise, can offer.