DRYING AND CURING BASICS AND TECHNIQUES
BY ADAM JACQUES
DRYING AND CURING cannabis is one of the most important parts of the cultivation process. So much can be lost from all of your hard work in these final weeks. Proper drying and curing will insure that your cannabis retains its amazing look and smell for a long time to come. It has been commonplace for home growers to use a closet or a garage to hang their cannabis to dry, but that has changed dramatically. Now custom rooms are being built for this sole purpose. These rooms allow for total control of the space, so you get great results every time. So lets talk about what these rooms look like and how they work.
One key to having a good drying and curing chamber is an insulated space so you can control the elements. Most homes are insulated, and a bedroom could work well, but there are issues with using them. Carpets and windows are problems in these spaces. You want a clean space that is easy to sanitize with no light coming in. I prefer a sealed concrete floor and walls that are easy to wash. If at all possible, the same kind of walls you would see in a refrigeration container are great. Also there are companies that sell already built containers that have all the bells and whistles for plug-and-play operations.
Once you have your space light-sealed and are ready to get plants in there, you need to decide on a rack system to hang your branches for drying. You need to make sure your racking is easy to clean, like steel with a chrome finish. Also be sure that it is able to handle the weight of your wet flower. Some people opt to use the fabric net circular hangers where the buds lay flat. I do not recommend that style as it can lead to buds with a squished side caused by the weight of the wet bud pushing it into the netting. Leaving a branch with a crotch in it will make hanging them vertically on a rack simple and easy. Leave enough room between your buds so they are not touching and proper airflow can get to all sides of the material.
So, now that we have the room and racks decided on, the next question is how do we maintain the proper humidity and temperature in our space? High ventilation, low humidity, and reduced temperatures are required during drying to reduce the water content of cannabis buds, preserve the potency, remove unwanted pigment and chlorophyll, and to prevent mold formation. A company named Conviron engineers manufactures and installs drying rooms on a turn-key basis. Their standard models can be customized to suit client-specific requirements for size and performance. With full control over temperature, humidity, and air quality, growers can program the room for custom drying regimes followed by a controlled curing stage, without having to remove dried product from the room. These are very interesting units. They do come with a high price tag, but will take the guesswork out of the drying process. Also, the ability to plug them in and play with them in just about any space takes a lot of headache out of the building process.
If doing it on your own you need to first install an air conditioning unit in the space. Your unit should be able to maintain a temperature of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit for the duration of the dry and cure stages. Depending on where you live, you will need a dehumidifier or humidifier to maintain a relative humidity of 45 to 55 percent. You want to make sure your space is always at these levels for a great drying process. Air flow is also a key factor in the drying process. You want to ensure that there is not too much air as it may dry your buds too fast.
You also want to be certain that it is not too low either, as flowers will get stagnant. A nice gentle breeze is just right to keep things fresh and moving. Make sure to keep your space devoid of ultraviolet light, as this will slowly vaporize the cannabinoids from your flowers, reducing their potency. Once the flower is fully dried, often taking well over a week, you are ready to cure your final product.
Curing slowly helps this process, and low temperatures are ideal. Anything above 70 degrees can affect the terpenes in your cannabis. Light will also help speed up the degradation process. Keep it dark and cool––I prefer the 50 to 60 degree range. The plants will also be breaking down the chlorophyll during this step. Decomposition of chlorophyll will create sugars and leftover minerals. Enzymes and aerobic bacteria will break this down over time. This is important as those sugars and minerals can cause harsh burning cannabis. Place buds in an air-tight container and burp them daily––more if possible––for a minimum of two to three weeks. Ideally you would want to extend it to four to eight weeks for ideal smoothness and flavor. I prefer air-tight Mason jars placed in a cool and dark space.
So now that we have our cannabis dried and cured, how do we store it so that it stays the freshest the longest? A lot of people will just leave them in their glass jars in the dark. This method is viable, and when properly stored can keep cannabis fresh and pleasant for quite some time. But now we are getting new and interesting storage options for keeping our cannabis fresher longer. If your product is going to market you will need a storage solution that will keep your cannabis fresh for long-term shelf storage. It may not affect the personal home growers as much, but on a large-scale production basis sometimes products will sit for longer than we would like. This has opened new ways of thinking and new markets of products you can use to keep your cannabis fresher longer.
The very air we breathe is the most common issue of the long-term storage of cannabis. Oxygen in the air causes degradation of cannabis flower. You will lose color, you will see your cannabinoids turning into CBN (cannabinol), and you will notice that it is no longer as terpene dominant as it once was. The answer that most have found to this issue is to remove the air from the bag or container being used to store the flower. Some people achieve this with a common type of food vacuum sealer used in home kitchens, but this compacts the buds into each other and creates a squished product that lacks its original appeal. We are trying to keep all of the products looking great, smelling great, tasting great, and demonstrating the proper effects of the cannabis we intended. The answer to all of these issues is to backfill the container with an inert gas––the most popular being nitrogen––after removing all of the air from the package. By modifying the internal atmosphere to pure nitrogen, the growth of aerobic organisms and oxidation is eliminated. This means we do not see the normal lowering of product quality over time.
This is an amazing answer for long-term cannabis storage. This also adds a protective barrier of gas around your product, creating a cushion so flowers don’t get crushed or smashed. This leads us to what kind of packaging container works best with this method of storage. The most popular of these are storage bags, like those used in the food industry. Enovators, LLC., is a company that creates a nitrogen filling solution called the Grasshopper Protector, and their website states: “Some plastic bags used for food storage will generate static electricity when rubbed up against many materials. If static electricity is produced near cannabis it will attract the trichomes. That is why it is usually recommended that cannabis not be stored in plastic bags, since any static electricity will make the cannabis less potent.” This is a great tip for knowing what kind of bags to use for the best results. They go on to say: “The Grasshopper Protector addresses this concern by not using plastic bags but using barrier bags with an anti-static material instead. The material contains additives that effectively eliminate the hazards of static damage during packaging, storing, and shipping.”
They also say that using this type of bag over normal plastic will make your bud impervious to gas migration––nothing new in and nothing new out protects your cannabis long term. “All bags used by the Grasshopper Protector provide UVA absorption through the 390 nanometer range, achieving complete protection from UV light-wave damage and degradation when stored properly,” their website claims. This makes sure that we do not see vaporization of our cannabinoids in the storage process. Grasshopper is just one of the companies providing these services, but being based in Oregon makes them my first choice along with others based in our state.
There is also a company called N2 Packaging Systems LLC. They have created a system of back-filling containers made of metal with a pull-ring seal and plastic cap. They have amazing branding and common sizes. These are great for shops as they have fresh weighed containers that look great on the shelf. These products are sealed with no way for light to get in. Some farms only put out limited or small amounts of certain strains. To buy a canister I can store in my cupboard for months at a time is a great way to collect my favorite strains and have them available when I want them. This is definitely a company to look into for long-term storage solutions.
This information regarding cannabis drying, curing, and storage may be a little advanced for the normal home grower. As the industry grows, these solutions are bound to become more commonplace and affordable to the masses, not just the big operations. I hope we can make them available for all growers so that your own homegrown cannabis can stay fresh and last longer. The value of your cannabis is directly affected by its quality, and these preservation tools can help keep them fresher longer.
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