Harvest is in full swing but before you can rest, you must be certain your marijuana is dried properly. If you want high quality cannabis that can be stored away for months and still tastes great, you must dry it correctly. There is more than one way to skin a cat, but these methods for drying marijuana have stood the test of time and produce perfectly dried and cured cannabis. You can’t wing it on this. You have to get it right or your risk losing it all.
Screen drying basically means spreading your buds out on screens to dry. The screens can be removed from the windows of your house or you can make special screen racks to dry on. The screen allows airflow from all directions and if proper spacing is maintained, the screens can be stacked like the shelves in a food dehydrator. Screen drying marijuana is ideal for small buds that can’t effectively be hung to dry. This is often the case when buds are shucked from the stem so they can be fed through an automatic style trimming machine.
There are some disadvantages to screen drying. One major drawback is the extra labor involved in removing the leaves from the buds and then removing the buds from the stems. For a large harvest this can be a costly use of valuable time. Additionally, because there is no stem to hold water, the buds dry very quickly. This may sound great if you have another batch waiting for your drying space to become available, but a quick dry makes the cannabis much harsher tasting. Buds that dry on the screen often end up with a flat spot on one side that leaves them with a bit of a smashed look. Screens drying can result in uneven drying as small buds will dry more quickly than larger buds.
Hanging colas, branches, or entire plants upside down from wire or rope lines running from wall to wall makes a convenient temporary hanging system. As the bud dries, water contained in the stem slowly wicks into the bud slowing down the drying process. The slower drying process results in a smoother taste. Removing extra leaf matter before hanging the buds to dry increases the airflow around the buds and decreases the humidity in the room. This will reduce the chance of mold developing while the buds dry.
Buds can also be hung from wire cages which are self supporting and mobile. These drying cages can be made by taking a 6 foot long section of 2”x4” 18 gauge welded wire fence and connecting the two ends to make a round 2 foot diameter cage. Simply stand the cage on one end and hang the buds ranging from 2-10” in length on the outside of the cage.
Because cages can be picked up and moved, they can be positioned by table top trimming machines and then moved once full. If this is your plan, choose the 4 foot tall fence so you can easily hang the buds from a seated position. Because of their mobility, they can easily be moved closer or further from heaters, fans, and dehumidifiers as needed to insure even drying. If more room is needed, these cages can be suspended from high ceilings. Just slide a slim board through the top of the cage and hang it from a rafter with a rope. These same cages can be used later as the cages for next years outdoor garden.
Speeding The Drying Process
While you don’t want to dry the buds too quickly, sometimes leaving them out to dry doesn’t remove the water from the plant material fast enough. The longer the buds take to dry, the higher the chances of mold growth on the buds. With both hang drying and screen drying, you can speed along the drying process with the use of fans, heaters, and dehumidifiers.
Air circulation is essential for decreasing the chances of mold and helps speed along the drying. Be careful not to blast one area to hard with a fan, as this will dry one side of the bud much faster than the other and result in uneven drying. Oscillating fans or box fans set away from the buds work great and are pretty inexpensive.
Cannabis dries quickest when the humidity in the room is low. Cold air can’t hold as much moisture as warm air, which is why you often see condensation around cold objects in warm rooms. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the warm air takes up more space and can therefore hold more evaporated water. The moisture in the buds doesn’t just vanish, it evaporates into the air. By adding a space heater to the room, you can drive down the humidity levels and speed up the drying process. Cold drying rooms also increase the growth rate of molds
Dehumidifiers work great to lower the humidity in the room by actively removing the moisture from the air and hence, the buds. Dehumidifiers also create heat further reducing the rooms humidity. Set at 35% humidity, you’ll be surprised how much water a dehumidifier can pull from the air in just a few hours.
How Dry Should Cannabis Be?
Ideally your fully cured cannabis should have between 8% and 10% moisture content. This moisture range keeps the bud from crumbling to dust and burning up too fast, but is still dry enough to prevent mold, smoke well and stay lit. While you can’t know the exact moisture content without lab testing, here is a good way to tell if you are close.
Lightly squeeze a bud between your fingers. If the bud crumbles and breaks apart, it is over dried. If you bend the stem of the bud and it gives off a snapping sound, you know that it is dry all the way to the stem. If the stem bends without a sound, the moisture in the stem is still high and continuing to wick into the bud. You want the stem to make the snapping sound without the bud crumbling.
For those interested in having their cannabis lab tested for cannabinoid content, keep in mind that the higher the moisture level, the lower the bud will test for cannabinoids. Buds are tested by weight, and the more of that weight that is water, the less of that weight can be cannabinoids.
When using the hang drying method, the cannabis will need to dry for several days before it is ready for deboning. The leaves on the outside of the bud will begin to dry first and may feel a bit crunchy when lightly squeezed. The interior of the buds retain moisture longer because it is drawing water from the stem. The more stem, the longer the bud will take to completely dry. Wait until the stems starts to crack instead of bend. Then it is time to debone the buds.
Even if the bud seems fully dry, they will moisten up some during the curing process as the moisture balances between the interior and exterior of the bud. Clip the buds from the stem to the size you will want for manicuring. The more stem that is removed the easier it will be to store and the better the cure will be. You don’t want to hack the buds down to tiny budlets, but there should be no buds more than about 3 inches long. Extra stem will hold moisture and interfere with the curing process. Place the buds in a plastic tub and discard the stems.
Fill the tubs with bud and leave them uncovered. If the humidity is very low in the drying room you will need to pay very close attention to the buds once they are removed from the stems. Without the stem the buds can over dry quickly and the tubs may need to be removed from the drying room. You will notice that a full tub of buds will begin to compact towards the bottom of the tub. Gently loosen or fluff the buds by carefully dumping the contents into an empty tub. This allows the buds on the bottom to become the buds on the top and should be done about twice each day so the buds can continue to dry.
When the buds have reached what seems to be the perfect moisture content, place the lids on the tubs overnight. You will find that in the morning the buds have re-hydrated as the moisture levels balanced throughout the tub. Leave the tops off the tubs for the day and fluff as before. When they appear to be dry again, return the lid. It can take up to a week to properly sweat out the extra moisture from the tub but continue this process until the moisture levels have stabilized. Fail the remove enough moisture and your buds will mold in storage.
When you are satisfied that the buds are dry, place the lids on the tubs and store them in a cool dry and secure place. Your cannabis will store well in tubs without being bagged for month on end. When you are ready to manicure the bud, remove a tub from storage and check on the others to make sure you have no moisture problems.
A Word About Manicuring
Manicuring can be performed on wet buds before drying. In a perfect world this might be ideal. On the one hand, the leaves are still turgid and are easy to snip away. The trichomes are also less likely to break free from the buds while they are still wet. The downside is that it’s nearly impossible to manicure any sizable amount of bud while it remains turgid. Manicuring a sizable harvest can take months and you only have a window of about a week or two to complete your harvest. Additionally, wet buds are stickier which slows down the manicure process. Unless you are harvesting a small amount for personal use, focus on harvesting and drying properly. You will have all winter to worry about perfectly manicuring your cannabis.
With the drying process complete and the perfect cure underway, it’s time to celebrate harvest. Remember to give thanks for the bounty of the Earth and that you made it through another harvest. We are very lucky to have access to great natural medicine so be generous and share with those who helped you through the year.
How to Properly Dry Marijuana,