Wednesday December 15, 2021
There is no singular secret to growing great cannabis. Premium cannabis flower is the final result of months of meticulous growing, pruning, trimming, drying, and sometimes a little luck. But the final step of the process, curing the cannabis, can make a tremendous difference. While a precise and patient cure will not elevate flower that was poorly grown, a sloppy, impatient cure can ruin quality flower.
The necessity of this final step cannot be understated. A proper curing process is critical to producing a smooth, flavorful, and even more potent smoke. In this article, we review what curing is, the benefits of drying and curing marijuana, and how to cure cannabis yourself.
What is Curing?
Curing is a process of preserving organic material, generally food, by removing moisture, and so making that food inhospitable to the bacteria that would otherwise degrade it. The most ancient methods of curing are still used today like salting and smoking, though nitrites are more frequently used in mass production.
What this means for cannabis growers is that curing cannabis will dry it like jerky, making it resistant to the ravages of time. Just as bacteria would feed on meat or vegetables left out on the counter, so too will bacteria wither away uncured weed.
However, curing cannabis does more than just preserve it. It also affects the flavor and even the potency of the flower.
Benefits to Properly Curing Cannabis
Curing cannabis influences the terpene profile and cannabinoid production of the plant. Freshly cut cannabis will continue to ripen the same way green bananas bought from the store will turn a ripe yellow over the next few days at home.
Though the harvested branches can no longer draw nutrients from the main stalk, the flowers can, and will, draw the remaining nutrients from the branch. During this phase, THCa synthesis continues, and when marijuana is properly cured, these cannabinoids are allowed to fully develop before being suspended in that state.
Curing also preserves the terpene profile, which affects the smell and flavor of different strains. As enzymes and bacteria feed on the decaying plant matter, they can also consume terpenes and cannabinoids. While it may sound logical, then, to just cease all decay, the fact is you actually want some compounds in the plant to be eaten up.
Freshly cut cannabis is still loaded with excess sugars, starches, and other “stuff” of living plant matter like chlorophyll, all of which taste terrible when smoked. This is why improperly cured (or fresh-plucked) cannabis tastes bitter, and feels abrasive in the lungs.
How to Cure Cannabis
The curing process begins with a good drying process. Freshly cut and trimmed cannabis must be hung out to dry or left on drying racks for a week or two, depending on the climate in the room. When the dried stems break like brittle twigs, the cannabis is ready to be cured. If the stems bend like living plants, give them more time.
Harvest the buds from the branches and collect them in a sealable container. Wide mouth jars, particularly with rubber seals, are commonly used because they seal well when shut, and breathe well when open. Fill the jars about ¾ of the way to allow enough air in at a time. No need to pack them tight, as this will only increase the humidity, inviting mold and mildew to establish on the buds.
Some growers place a digital hydrometer in the jar to keep a precise eye on humidity levels. These devices often display temperature as well. A temperature of 60°–70°F is ideal, with humidity around 60-65%.
For the first week you’ll want to open these jars once a day to exchange the used oxygen inside for fresh air. This process is called “burping,” and allows just a little degradation to take place at a time. After the first week, burping every few days should suffice.
NOTE: if you notice the smell of mold or ammonia after burping your containers the first few times, it likely means the bud is not dry enough to cure yet. Remove the buds from the jars and continue air-drying for a few more days to avoid mold.
Properly cured cannabis will take a minimum of two weeks, but longer cures of 4 to 6 weeks are even better. Some growers cure their weed for up to six months. In a sealed jar like that, weed will stay relatively fresh for up to a year.
Curing cannabis is the final step in the growing process, and the most critical step toward preserving not only your weed, but the flavor and potency of your weed. Curing allows additional THC synthesis after harvest and preserves the terpene profile, while carefully allowing bacteria to chew away excess starches and bitter compounds.
Since curing is the last step before smoking, it can be tempting to rush this step, but patient growers will be well rewarded with a smooth, flavorful smoke.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Curing Process for Cannabis?
Curing marijuana, similar to curing food, is primarily a way to preserve weed long-term. But a proper cannabis cure also allows THC to continue developing after harvest, and preserves the terpene profile of the strain.
What is Live-Cured Cannabis?
Live-cured cannabis is freshly cut cannabis that has been preserved with freezing temperatures. This freezing preserves the fresh trichomes, which are often then harvested for bubble hash or extracts.
When Should I Start Curing My Cannabis Harvest?
Curing should begin as soon as the harvest buds are dry enough, usually 1-2 weeks after harvest, depending on the climate of the drying area.
How Long Should I Cure for?
A minimum cure of two weeks is generally recommended, though many growers opt for 4-6 weeks for a superior flavor. Some growers may cure for as long as six months for a top shelf product.
Do you have any tips for curing cannabis? Share them with our readers below.