Whether you are growing weed for yourself or you are a cannabis enthusiast on the lookout for the best buds in town, knowing a bit about the curing process is essential to telling high-quality flowers from a crop that has just been harvested.
The cannabis curing process may take a while but it is this extra effort that helps a weed harvest achieve its maximum potential.
What is curing weed?
Curing cannabis is the long process of slowly removing moisture from buds under controlled environmental conditions.
Curing is a preservation technique that humans have used for millennia to store meats and other degradable items, typically with the help of salts and sugars. However, to cure weed you will not need anything else but a jar and perhaps a humidity gauge.
Why should weed be cured?
Patience is a virtue in all areas of life, and it certainly pays off when curing cannabis. Curing is a prolonged process that can take weeks to complete. It might seem like a hassle at first, but the reality is that curing will turn harsh buds into ones that offer a smooth and delicious smoke.
This is because prolonged curing leads to the degradation of byproducts produced by the drying process, such as sugars. These molecules leave a particularly harsh and unpleasant taste in the mouth. Curing banishes these compounds.
Curing also preserves desirable flavors. The molecules that give cannabis strains their intense and unique flavors are known as terpenes. These volatile compounds can degrade easily under high heat, so gentle drying followed by prolonged curing is the way to go to achieve tasty buds.
Taste is not the only thing that curing can accomplish. The process can also enhance the high itself. THC, the active psychotropic constituent in cannabis, degrades over time into a cannabinoid known as CBN. CBN is thought to be mildly psychoactive but is associated with different effects than THC.
Curing will also greatly enhance the shelf life of your harvest and further minimize cases of mold. If cured and stored correctly, your buds can last for several months without any decline in taste or strength.
Factors that affect the curing process
Before we get into exactly how to cure your cannabis buds, let’s discuss some of the factors that influence the process. This will help you gain a firm understanding of what to aim for and what to avoid.
Avoid light exposure
During the curing process, you will need to keep your stash in a dark location. Light is one factor that can lead to the degradation of valuable molecules such as THC and terpenes. To avoid having light spoil the taste and potency of your flower, keep your jars in a dark cupboard or box. Alternatively, storing your buds in amber-tinted Mason glass jars will help block out light.
Protect your stash from heat
Heat will only be a substantial issue if you live in a climate where it becomes exceptionally hot. Heat is another factor that can lead to the degradation of cannabinoids, potentially reducing the potency of your buds. Be sure to keep your jars in a cool location to minimize damage and mold formation. An ideal room temperature for curing is around 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Maintain optimal humidity
Curing is a straightforward process considering you start with properly dried buds. If your stash is too wet before curing, buds will clump together and there is a good chance that mold will develop. Increased moisture will also encourage anaerobic bacteria to start breaking down your stash. A telltale sign this is happening is the smell of ammonia emerging from your jars every time you open them.
On the flip side, curing bud that is too dry will create a crumbly and harsh stash that is not pleasant to smoke. Ideally, cannabis flower should be dried in a room with a humidity of between 45–55 percent. This will result in a dry and slightly crumbly exterior and a more humid interior. Once it comes time for curing, humidity is increased slightly to an ideal reading of around 62 percent.
How to dry and cure your cannabis
There are many ways to cure cannabis buds, but most people use a variation of one popular method. Although you can freeze dry, water cure, or even dry-ice cure your buds, we are going to focus on the easiest and surest way to get the best results from your harvest.
Initial cannabis drying
How you complete this step will depend on how you harvest your cannabis. The most popular way is to cut 12-16” branches from the plants, remove unwanted leaves, and then hang the branches from string or wire. Some growers cut and hang whole plants, while others will snip buds from branches and place them on cannabis drying racks.
You may fully manicure your flower buds before drying, or wait until after. Regardless of which method you prefer, you will need to keep the harvested cannabis in a dark room with temperatures kept within the 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit range and humidity between 45-55 percent, with a small fan to gently circulate the air.
It is recommended that you have a dehumidifier, A/C unit, or another method for ensuring that conditions stay in this range.
When the flowers feel a little crunchy on the outside and the smallest branches snap when you bend them rather than fold, you are ready for the next step. Depending on the density of the flowers and the environmental conditions, it can take anywhere from 5 to 15 days for the initial drying to be complete.
Final cannabis cure
Once you have determined that your cannabis buds are optimally dry, it is time to cure them. This process can be broken up into the following steps:
Step 1: Manicure your buds and separate them from the branches, if you have not done so already.
Step 2: Place the trimmed buds into some type of airtight container. Wide mouth quart-size canning jars are the most commonly used container, but you can use ceramic, metal, wood, or plastic vessels as well. Some people use oven bags, which are perfectly fine, but most plastic bags are unsuitable for curing as they are not impervious to oxygen. Pack the flower buds loosely into your containers, filling them all the way to the top without compacting or crushing the buds.
Step 3: Seal the containers and place them in a cool, dry, and dark spot to finish the curing process. Within the first day, you will notice that the buds are no longer crunchy and dry on the outside, as moisture from inside the flower rehydrates the outer portions. If this is not the case, you have over-dried your cannabis.
Step 4: During the first week, open the containers several times per day and let the buds “breathe” for a few minutes. This allows moisture to escape and replenishes the oxygen inside the container. If you notice the odor of ammonia when opening a container, it means the buds are not dry enough to be cured and anaerobic bacteria are consuming them, which will lead to moldy, rotten cannabis. After the first week, you will only need to open the containers once every few days or so.
After 2 to 3 weeks in containers, your cannabis will be cured enough to provide a quality experience, but 4 to 8 weeks of cure time will improve it even more. Some strains benefit from 6 months or more of curing.