Drying Harvested Buds
Proper Drying & Handling for Top Shelf Quality
Drying harvested buds to perfection means they will taste and burn smoothly for maximum enjoyment. If buds aren’t dried properly they smoke harsh and lack flavor and aroma. Moldy buds can be harmful to your health and are the result of poor drying practices and improper storage. Drying harvested buds carefully is worth the extra time and effort–consider how many weeks or months were put into growing them to maturity–rushing it now could throw all that hard work away.
Don’t Harvest Until Ready
Picking early will reduce your overall dried bud weight. On top of that, buds picked too early may lack fully developed flavors, aromas and most importantly of all, maximum cannabinoids (THC, CBD, Terpenes, etc). Every strain is different in terms of when it’s mature. The same can be said of the same strain grown in two different environments.
Using a magnifying glass or the zoom on your smart phone, look at the tiny resin caps on the trichomes (hair like structures on buds and smaller leaves). Are they swollen up and big? Are they milky with a few amber ones? That’s a good sign your buds are at or nearing peak maturity. The stigma (red or orange hairs) sticking out of the buds are also an indicator–when they are all dried up and withered is another sign of maturity. Additionally, plants begin to “fade” with older foliage yellowing and some leaves turning purple or red.
Watering plants with pure water the final days before harvest is often practiced to help reduce any excess fertilizers in the medium, which some say can leave unpleasant tastes in the buds when smoked. While partly true, a lot of the final quality has to do with proper drying harvested buds.
Hang drying branches or entire plants will lend to better quality buds versus drying on racks. You want to taste the flowers, not musty old drying racks. Prune off the big water leaves and hang your plants or branches up to dry in a clean area with dry air and light air movement. Make sure to leave some space between branches or plants. If overcrowded or the air is stale and moist, post harvest molds can develop, ruining the harvest.
Optimally, you can control the relative humidity in the drying area–this is easy do with a dehumidifier and adjustable settings. Just make sure dry air isn’t blowing directly onto buds, more in the area with the air circulating gently around.
Take these steps drying harvested buds for an efficient process that results in excellent harvest quality. This process lasts 7 to 10 days before buds are ready for a final trim and curing.
- After hanging up plants or branches, maintain Relative Humidity (RH) at around 60% for the first two or three days. They won’t feel very dry initially, however, they are losing a lot of their water content–the last amounts before buds actually “feel” dry take a little more coaxing.
- After the second or third day of initial drying is over, reduce humidity to 45%. In a couple of days the buds will start to feel dry and crispy on the outside to the touch. Note, however, they are not dry yet. You’ll find the stem bends rather than snaps–even though buds feel dry on the outside. This means there is still water content to coax out. By now, you should see lots of resins starting to “sugar up”.
- Once buds feel dry to the touch (as above), increase the humidity again to 60% again. Over the next day or two you’ll notice the buds begin to feel a little moist again–that’s because the moisture that was trapped in the stems is coming out through the buds.
- Reduce the humidity back down to 45% or lower until the buds feel dry to the touch again. Check if stems snap or bend. Keeping repeating the process (alternating humidity levels) until the stems just barely break. From there, buds are ready to be trimmed and cured.
When it comes to perfectly drying harvested buds, the process goes beyond just getting the moisture out and trimming off any excess leaves. After trimmed, place buds in stainless steel or glass canisters with tight fitting lids. Open the lids daily and gently turn the buds inside–you should feel a little moisture content again. Leave the lids off for several hours before closing up again Repeat this process every day or every other day for about a week to bring out the very best in your buds. A well cured bud smokes exceptionally smooth and has better flavors and aromas versus a freshly dried and trimmed bud.
Controlling Moisture Content
After drying harvested buds and curing, connoisseur bud aficionados may prefer a particular moisture content to their nugs for maximum enjoyment. When storing buds in glass jars or stainless steel canisters, a moisture pack (available in specific moisture %s, ie 65, 60, 55) can be added to control how much moisture is in the buds. There are high quality packs easily available that work great for cannabis and they are relatively inexpensive, coming in various sizes relative to the amount of dry bud weight they are to be stored with. Old Timer TIP: if your buds get too dry, in a pinch you can add a small piece of apple peel or orange peel to your container of buds–it will add some moisture for smoother smoke and give a hint of natural flavor and aroma.