Anyone interested in growing their own hemp – whether for personal use or for sale – knows that a bountiful harvest isn’t the end of the process. While it might feel like a complete success to finally pluck the fat fruits of your cultivation effort, there’s no possible way you can enjoy the effects of your chosen strain straight from the stem.
As a general rule, hemp needs to be dried or cured to maximize its effects during use. These critical processes begin important reactions that enhance and alter the chemical compounds responsible for the effects of hemp. So, in essence, lighting a nug of hemp fresh from the plant is a lot like mowing your lawn, putting the cuttings into a pipe, and taking a toke – pointless.
You’re probably here because you’re close to harvesting a batch of sweet, trichome-encrusted hemp, and you’re not exactly sure how to go about the next steps of the process. If that’s the case, we’re dishing all the answers you need to properly dry and cure your hemp flowers for max satisfaction.
Drying is the primary step of the post-harvest process. This important phase reduces the moisture content of the hemp by 10-15%. Choosing where in that range you want your bud to be depends on the crispiness you desire. The drier the hemp, the crunchier it becomes and the better the end result.
Of course, most cultivators would probably want to achieve the ideal dryness at a max of 15% moisture loss, but because over drying your hemp over a short period of time can damage its quality, most would rather settle at just 12% to play it safe.
Although drying is an integral part of the process, halting there can produce lacklustre product. That’s why you might have encountered some pretty unimpressive bud once or twice before. In fact, a vast majority of cultivators and distributors end the post-harvest process at drying, which ultimately dials down the quality of the final outcome.
For hemp connoisseurs, cured bud is the only way to go. Glistening in a coat of milky white trichomes, hemp that undergoes the curing process showcases aesthetics, aroma, and flavor that’s worlds apart from its dried counterparts. The only reason why some distributors don’t go the extra curing mile is that the process takes time.
The drying process begins at harvest. Choosing the right drying conditions for your bud will ultimately depend on how you’ve decided to harvest your plant. There are some cultivators who choose to snip small, retail-sized buds from the mother plant. This can be ideal if you’re a small retailer or if you’re growing for personal use.
Then there are those who choose to cut off larger branches, anywhere from 1-foot to 1-foot and 4-inches long. For those who don’t want to take too much time cutting their harvest, slicing the plant at the stalk and taking its entire length to the drying room proves to require the least amount of effort.
Once you’ve cut up your plant, then you’re ready to move on to the next phase which involves stepping into your drying facility.
After collecting the hemp, it’s imperative that you move the harvest to your drying facility immediately to prevent the loss of valuable terpenes and cannabinoids. So, prior to snipping up your plants, it would be ideal that you have your drying room prepared to welcome its hemp tenant.
To create the ideal conditions in your facility, you’d want to consider proper temperature and humidity. Generally, drying hemp should occur in a well-ventilated room that’s 60-70°F in temperature. Humidity should rest between 45-55%. if you’ve got a fan that can generate gentle air circulation, that would be ideal.
If you’ve already manicured your hemp, then you should have nug sized pieces perfect for laying out on a drying rack. If you took the whole plant or cut off larger branches, hanging them may be a more practical choice.
Keep in mind that although hanging bigger samples might be far less labor intensive, there are downsides to drying such large pieces. For starters, the density of the leaves may resist airflow into the branch’s center. Another issue would be the downward drooping of leaves which may compromise the overall aesthetic and glaze of the final product.
The initial drying period can take anywhere from 5 days to a little over 2 weeks, depending on the conditions in your space and the quality of your bud. To determine if your hemp is dry enough to cure, look for a small terminal branch and see if it breaks. If it snaps rather than bends on itself, then your hemp is most likely ready for the next step.
There are two choices when it comes to cutting up your harvest into retail servings. Some harvesters choose to cut their hemp while it’s wet, allowing more precise measurements and easier handling. On the other hand, there are more experienced cultivators who cut when the samples are dry.
Although dry cutting might risk the disruption of the delicate trichome coating, it generally produces far better hemp after curing. So, if you were hoping for top shelf status, dry cutting might be for you.
If you’re in a rush to generate a return on your investment, then you may be able to sell your hemp right after it’s been dried. Sure, the samples might not be as lucrative as premium cured hemp, but you’ll still manage to get away with some sales.
On the other hand, if you’re after nothing short of the finest product, then curing your harvest through these steps should be a vital part of your post-drying processing.
Once your bud has been dried and trimmed, it’s time to place them into separate containers. Ceramic, metal, wood, and glass vessels are all viable choices as long as they have wide openings and tight air-seals.
Fill up the container with trimmed hemp, making sure not to compress them. Secure the lid ensuring that zero air penetrates the interior. This should permit some of the internal moisture from the hemp to rehydrate the exterior leaves. Set aside the containers in a cool, dark, dry area away from direct heat, moisture, and light.
After the first 24 hours, take a sample jar and inspect the hemp inside. Have the outer leaves regained some moisture? If they have, then you’ve properly dried and stored your hemp. If it remains dry and brittle, then it’s most likely that you’ve over dried your samples.
A week after placing them in their curing containers, you should provide your hemp with some time to breathe. Remove the lids and allow a few minutes for oxygen levels to restore inside the containers.
This would be the perfect opportunity to try to sniff out ammonia. If you smell that distinct odor, it’s likely because your hemp wasn’t dry enough before being put through the curing process. Unfortunately, this means that mold has probably started to grow within the samples, rendering them unusable.
Your hemp should be ready for sale within 2 to 4 weeks after starting out the curing process. But keep in mind that this number isn’t set in stone. There are some strains that benefit from longer curing, with certain phenotypes partial to curing periods of up to 6 months.