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How to Dry and Cure Cannabis to Ensure Quality, Shelf Life

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It’s not just about growing the cannabis crop but also about what comes next – that’s what experts in marijuana and hemp production emphasize. The steps after the harvest are just as crucial. These steps involve drying, curing, and proper storage, and this is where the real magic happens.

Once the plants are cut down, they are still full of moisture – they’re “wet.” To get rid of this excess moisture, cultivators hang the plants upside down or remove the flowers and let them dry. This is the drying process, and it happens right after harvest.

Once the plants are completely dry, the next step is trimming the buds. These buds are then carefully stored in containers. Why? To prevent moisture loss and keep those wonderful flavors and aromas intact.

Planning for these stages shouldn’t be an afterthought. Even before planting the crops or getting the necessary materials, marijuana and hemp producers should have a plan for what happens after the harvest. That’s how important these postharvest strategies are. So, remember, the quality journey doesn’t end with the harvest – it continues through proper drying, curing, and storage.

Table of Contents

Drying

The space you require depends on how you want to grow your plants.

Many folks just go with the flow and face problems like losing the special smells in the plants (those are terpenes), getting unwanted stuff mixed in (that’s contamination), or even losing the whole crop. And trust me, that comes with loads of avoidable stress.

Drying marijuana and hemp can be done in different ways. Here are a few methods:

Hang-Drying the Whole Plant: You can let the entire plant hang upside down. This helps the moisture inside the plant to escape.

Wet-Bucking Flowers: Another method is taking off the flowers from the plant when they’re still wet. This also helps get rid of excess moisture.

Using Drying Racks or Chambers: You might use special drying racks that are safe for food or even use big drying rooms made for industrial purposes. These places help the plants dry out properly.

Using machines to dry cannabis can speed up the drying process from weeks to hours, but it can also get expensive, causing problems.

However, the usual way of drying, hanging the plants, isn’t always cheaper either. It needs a lot of work; if not done correctly, it can harm or ruin the plants.

If you hang-dry your plants, you can keep them whole or separate them into single branches.

When you dry the whole plant, it’s usually for bigger harvests. Putting wet buds on screens or trays is okay, but they shouldn’t be too close or on top of each other.

Remember, the place where you grow your plants matters when deciding how to dry them.

In wet or humid places, it’s better to break the plants into branches or give them more space to avoid mold.

On the other hand, drying the whole plant in dry areas can slow down the drying process.

Suppose your plant is about 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide before you harvest it. You’ll need roughly 75% of that space to hang it properly.

As the plants hang upside down, the branches come closer to the center, so they’ll need less space.

One person, for example, uses the whole-plant hanging method to dry their plants in a space set up to control the climate.

Usually, it takes around three to four weeks for the drying process, depending on how much the flowers weigh and how they look.

Curing

For folks growing both marijuana and hemp for smoking, curing is a really important step after harvesting. This step adds extra value to the final product’s quality.

One company, Cultivaris, has a cool machine that can dry and cure 1,200 to 1,800 pounds of wet-bucked flowers in just 14 days.

They say that when you cure the flower correctly, it keeps and even makes the taste and how good it is for smoking even better. The color and moisture stay just right too.

Curing takes effort and time, but it’s worth it because you can sell the flower for more money. After all, it’s so good.

If selling smokable hemp flowers is a big part of a producer’s business, it’s smart to cure it. But if it’s not the main thing, finding a way to harvest and dry the hemp that costs less might be better.

Curing the regular way needs a lot of work and space. It takes around 10 to 30 days to do it well. If you don’t plan right, your super valuable harvest could become not-so-great because of mold, bacteria, or too much light.

People sometimes mix “curing” and “drying,” but they differ. Drying is where the real special stuff happens, and if you dry cannabis the wrong way, you can’t fix it by curing it.

For a good dry, keep cannabis at about 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity between 45% and 60%.

Storage

Growers need to store cannabis correctly, depending on how much they have and how long they want to keep it.

One way to store the flower is in a closed container. This keeps it safe from light and moisture and controls how much air is inside.

Really good cannabis can be stored for a long time in big, sealed plastic drums that are safe for food. These drums are about 50 gallons.

The flower should be kept inside, where the temperature and conditions are controlled. 

Unlike some ideas, you don’t need to open the container to release the gas. If you have to do that, it means the drying process wasn’t done right.

In the world of hemp, it’s become really important to think about how to store it for a long time. There’s a lot more hemp than people need, especially for CBD.

Cheaper parts of the hemp plant, called biomass, should also be stored in a controlled place, but you can use breathable bags or big containers that are safe for food.

Look for bags or crates you can close up to keep the good stuff in. Oxygen and light can mess up the cannabis.

The flower and the biomass will change if they’re not sealed properly. Biomass can be kept for months or years, but it starts to break down right after it’s taken from the plant.

Even if you store biomass correctly and it still looks good after a year, it won’t be as good as when it was fresh. This affects how much you can get from it, how good it is, and how well you can make stuff from it.

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