In many ways, drying and curing buds is one of the most important steps to a successful harvest.
That’s because you’ve spent months getting to this point and it’s almost time to show the world your finished product.
A mistake at this point could, literally, waste months of time, effort, energy, and money you’ve put into your precious plants.
In short, you have to do it right to get the best results, so in today’s harvest guide we’ll go in depth to cover drying and curing, including…
- How to dry your buds.
- Why you need to cure your buds.
- A step-by-step guide to drying and curing your harvest.
Let’s start with the basics…
Why Dry And Cure Your Buds?
First, you’ll want to harvest at the right time. And then you’ll want to dry and cure your buds to raise their potency and make a better quality product.
In short, you’ll help your buds reach their maximum potential and quality if you dry and cure them properly. Here’s just a few of the benefits of drying and curing your buds properly:
- Dramatically improves smoothness and reduces harshness of product. Proper drying breaks down chlorophyll. And proper curing breaks down leftover minerals and undesirable sugars produced by this process. All of this gives you a smoother, higher quality experience in the end product.
- Increases potency. Much like some types of alcohol increase in potency the longer it’s fermented, your buds will also increase their potency of compounds during the curing process.
- Better flavor, taste and aroma. A relatively slow cure at the proper temperatures will help preserve the aromatic compounds, or terpenes, that give your buds their unique smell and flavor.
- Reduces chances of mold and bacteria. When you dry and cure properly, you’ll be paying extra attention to making sure you prevent mold and bacteria.
- Increases shelf life. Properly cured buds can be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark place for up to two years without any loss in potency.
The Best Tools And Equipment For Drying And Curing
There are a few main necessities and apparatus you’ll need for drying and curing:
- Environmentally controlled area to dry, plus wire or string. It’s vital to have a space where you can control the temperature and humidity. Otherwise, you won’t be able to control how long the drying process takes. The wire or string is for hanging your buds, which is the most common way to dry them.
- Dry rack. Depending on how you intend to dry your buds, you may need a drying rack, which we’ll go into more detail about below. This is definitely not the preferred method because it’s easy to misshape your buds, but it may be necessary if working in higher humidity environments.
- Turkey oven bags (or 1 quart-size Mason jars). While many growers utilize Mason jars for curing, the best method we’ve found is to use turkey-sized oven bags. These are the best for curing for a few reasons. They’re cheaper than Mason jars. They hold more buds (over a pound!). And because they’re not 100 percent airtight, they breathe a little better, making it easier to get a proper cure. That said, Mason jars are what many dispensaries use on their shelves to display finished product, so you can go that route, but using such jars makes it a little trickier to get a proper cure because they tend to be too airtight.
- Hygrometer. This small gadget measures the water vapour in the air. It’s an optional piece of equipment, but it can really help you ascertain the humidity levels you’re dealing with inside your curing bags or jars, so you can make sure it’s optimal. Another reason we recommend the oven bags is because there’s more room to fit the buds and hygrometer inside.
- Humidity packets. This is also optional, but handy Boveda 62% humidity control packets precisely control the amount of humidity inside your turkey bags.
How Long To Dry Buds
These are the ideal environmental conditions and the ideal timeline for drying:
- Day 1 — 3:65 degrees and 55% humidity
- Day 4 — 6:70 degrees and 50% humidity
- Day 7 — 10’ish: 73–75 degrees and 45% humidity, until they pass the snap test.
You’ll continue to let your buds dry until they pass the snap test. That is, you grab a stem and when you bend it, it should audibly snap, sounding nice and crisp.
Now your buds are dry and ready to be trimmed.
We cover this step in depth in the article how to trim buds. For more information on why we recommend dry trimming for practically everyone (unless you’re only bringing in a small harvest, working solo, or you’re in a hurry), then check that article out.
How To Dry Buds: A Step-By-Step Guide
Now that you know how much time it will take to dry your buds, let’s talk about how to complete this task. How you dry will depend on how you harvested and the environment you’re doing it in.
Step 1: The most popular method is to cut 12–16-inch branches from the plants, remove the big fan leaves, and then hang the branches from string or wire upside down (i.e., buds hanging down).
Depending on how much you have to harvest and how humid your environment is, you may need to cut more or less at a time. This is because you want to follow the 7–10 day drying process as outlined above (keep in mind, the bigger the buds, the longer the time to dry). You don’t want them to dry too fast or too slow. To do this successfully, you have to work with the humidity in your environment along with the water in your plants.
For example, in a very dry environment, some growers cut and hang whole plants. This greatly increases the total drying time because the stems and branches hold water in addition to the buds.
However, in a more humid environment, where it might take too long to dry your plants (and you’ll have to worry about things like overly wet buds fighting off mold), you might clip the buds from branches — leaving only a couple of inches worth of stem — and place them on drying racks, because they’ll dry quicker that way.
In shorts, take your environment into consideration and realize that the more plant matter you hang to dry, the longer it will take.
For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll use the standard method of cutting 12–16-inch branches with buds from the plants, removing the fan leaves and hanging them to dry in a controlled environment from a string or wire.
Step 2: Allow your buds to dry, under the ideal conditions, until they pass the snap test. It’s crucial to not rush this step.
If you’re drying the buds by themselves on a drying rack, then we recommend keeping a few inches of stem attached. Many growers will dry until the outsides of the buds feel dry to the touch, but this can be a costly mistake.
You can go very wrong if you’re judging by how your buds feel. This is because your buds hold the majority of their moisture deep inside their structure. Your buds can feel like they are perfectly dry when you touch them — even ready to crumble in your hands — and yet just a few days in a jar can ruin them because they’re still too wet.
A simple test you can do is to take one of your bigger buds and put it in a small jar or bag. Come back in an hour and if there is any moisture on the inside of the bag or the bud is suddenly damp to the touch, then you know it needs more drying time. If it’s just a bit too wet to smoke, it needs another day.
In short, if you have any doubts about your buds being dry, give them one more day of drying.
Curing Your Buds: A Step-By-Step Guide
Step 1: After your buds are properly dried, you’ll put them inside your turkey bags. Again, you can use Mason jars, but turkey bags work so well because they’re clear and large enough to hold more than a pound of buds. They also breathe a little better than Mason jars allow.
Whatever you use, you’ll only want to fill the container about 75 percent of the way, leaving a little room for air because it helps break up sugars and byproducts that are released from the breakdown of chlorophyll in the buds as part of the curing process. This is what makes for a smoother product.
TIP: Do not stuff the buds in. You want them loosely stacked. You don’t want to deform or crush them and you need air/space around them. Leaving a quarter of your container empty toward the top will help make sure you follow this tip.
Put the lid on the jar or seal the bag and place in a cool, dark place.
Step 2: If you’re using a hygrometer, then you can put it inside your bags to measure the humidity and temperature. The ideal environment for curing is around 70°F (21°C), with 50–60 percent humidity. If you’re operating in anything more than a moderate climate, it’s a good idea to measure the temps and humidity in this manner.
Step 3: For about 1–2 weeks, you’ll want to check your buds at least daily for mildew and mold (or even many times per day if you think they may still be too wet).
You’ll also want to “burp” your buds. This involves taking them out of your container to inspect them, then putting them back in after you’ve removed any that seem to have problems. Changing their position in the container like this should help them cure more uniformly. You don’t have to keep them out long; just long enough to inspect them and let them air out a bit.
Step 4: After two weeks or so, you only need to open the curing containers about once per week, not daily. The longer you cure them this way, the better the buds up to about six months. Any longer and you probably won’t improve the quality much more. You can always sample small amounts during your curing process to see if you think your product is ready for market.
How To Rehydrate Your Buds If You Overdry Them
If you’re inspecting your buds and they feel dry and brittle, don’t panic! If you leave them curing for a few days, often this will draw the moisture from inside the bud to the surface and make it feel less parched.
If after a few days they still seem dry and you think you might have overdried them, there is a way you can rehydrate.
You can do this by using a product such as Boveda 62% humidity control packets. Stick one of these packs in the curing container along with your buds and it will raise the humidity to 62 percent, which should add a little moisture to the buds.
You could also consider using a leaf of lettuce or kale, even a wet napkin or paper towel. Some growers use citrus peels, but because these will impact the flavor of your buds, it’s only recommended to use them if you’re growing a citrus-tasting strain.
If you followed the above steps, it’s unlikely you will overdry your buds, yet these tips are worth mentioning. If you grow in a very dry, low humidity environment and the humidity inside your containers is consistently low, you can reuse the same packs throughout the curing process.
Congratulations! After Drying and Curing, Your Buds Are Ready To Enjoy
Properly drying and curing your buds is like a painter putting the finishing strokes to a piece of art: It can and will greatly increase the value of your final product.
When it comes to drying and curing, it pays to plan ahead and take your time. The fact is, there’s no real way to quick dry buds that won’t decrease their quality in some way.
In short, take the proper time and care to do this right, so that you may make the most of your harvest and bring the best buds possible to market.
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