How to


A Guide to Drying and Curing Techniques

Growers wondering how to achieve the “loud”, delicious odours and dense, rock-hard, trichome laden nugs associated with high-quality cannabis, look no further! Do justice to all the hard work that’s gone into cultivating that crop, and make sure to dry and cure those precious buds the right way. 

Correctly drying and curing a crop is the road to high-grade. Conversely, a hard-fought and bountiful harvest can be ruined at the finish line with an improper cure that leaves buds smelling like hay, or worse.

The good news is that the grower will find the principles of drying and curing cannabis buds similar to the cultivation process. Namely, harvested buds need to be kept at a specific stable room temperature and humidity level for 4-7 days to preserve their desired properties. Ideally, growers should maintain a temperature of 15-21 degrees Celsius (60-70 degrees Fahrenheit) and humidity of between 45-55% in their drying environment.

The best approach to drying and curing marijuana buds is to be methodical and attentive. Maintaining the ideal conditions is reasonably straightforward with the help of the right equipment, and the perfect cure can be achieved with some tips and tricks outlined in this article.

The road to high-grade is slow and steady

One of the cultivator’s greatest allies in the growing cycle, moisture must now be removed at a steady pace to dry cannabis buds properly. The cultivator can start this process as soon as the flowers are cut down. Cannabis drying generally proceeds in the following steps:

  • Plants are cut down. Ideally, 4-5cm of stalks are left at the base of colas, creating a “hook” that the bud can be hung from
  • Extra fan leaves on colas are removed. If left on, these will raise moisture levels, increasing drying time and risk of mould.
  • Buds are hung upside down to dry on a line or hangers in a dark room. This orientation will ensure buds aren’t flattened or deformed as they dry.
  • Temperature and humidity levels are managed carefully and systematically for 4-7 days.
  • Buds are taken down from their lines. Big colas are broken down further into smaller, more manageable buds that can be stored away from light and heat inside airtight jars.

Removing moisture slowly preserves the terpenes, which give cannabis buds their flavour, as they will otherwise deteriorate in high-temperature environments. Another benefit is the mitigation of mould risk. No one wants mouldy buds!

Work smarter with the right tools

The hanging method outlined above is one of the easiest, most well-known approaches. The cultivator operating on a smaller scale (1-3 plants) may consider a collapsible drying rack for drying their flowers and to break their buds down to nug-size instead of full colas to facilitate the drying process.

The cultivator can quickly and efficiently manage their drying process by using equipment, provided they have enough space and capacity. Temperature and humidity monitors (or hygrometers) with sensors situated alongside drying buds will give the cultivator a clear picture of conditions. While not strictly necessary, a monitor will remove a lot of uncertainty and stress.

Dehumidifiers lower relative humidity by heating the air around the unit. Conversely, humidifiers raise humidity by emitting moisture into the air. The grower using humidifiers should set alarms every time they are used, or else too much moisture will promote mould.

Electric fans will circulate the air around the drying buds, minimizing mould risk. Please only use the gentlest setting available and never point the fan directly at the buds as this will over-dry them and agitate delicate trichomes, causing buds to lose their crystalline shine.

Prepare the drying room ahead of time by monitoring its temperature and humidity conditions. The room should be as dark as possible, with good airflow and on the drier side – remember, once buds are introduced to dry the humidity will be raised by moisture dispersing to the air.

The cultivator should check their drying buds as often as they can stay ahead of any fluctuations in the drying environment. Delicately squeezing the largest buds is a good indicator of dryness for the overall crop (smaller buds dry faster than larger ones). If the grower finds they are “crispy” or “crunchy” to squeeze in the first days of drying, the buds have dried too quickly and will need to re-hydrate using a humidifier or evaporative cooler.

Conversely, if after several days in the drying environment, the largest buds are “squishy” and moist when gently squeezed, the buds are drying too slowly, and there is an increased risk of mould. Use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture in the air.

The best way to manage any fluctuations in temperature and humidity is by methodically checking conditions throughout the drying period, and to think “small” – more minor adjustments to the environment rather than large-scale changes will give the cultivator more control over their environment.

Cannabis plants drying indoors

It’s in the bud: what the ideal dry feels like

The delicate squeezing method mentioned above is one of several indicators of optimal drying. Properly dried buds will have a little bit of “give” or feel “spongy” on the outside when squeezed but will give way to a dense, firm resistance. This indicates that inside, the bud is dry, with any remaining moisture left on the bud’s outermost layers.

In addition to the gentle squeeze, the cultivator can check for dryness levels by snapping stalks off the base of the bud. If the stalks are snapping cleanly off (bonus points for a snap! sound) after 4-7 days of drying, the bud is ready to cure.

If stalks are bending rather than snapping, then there is still moisture left. Another way to check is by flicking off the edges of leaves on the outermost layer of the bud using a fingernail- if they come off the bud easily, then the bud is ready to proceed to the next stage.

At the end of the drying stage, the grower’s goal is for any moisture to remain in the outermost layers of the bud rather than inside or in the stalks. This improves the density of the bud and is how growers can achieve rock-hard, high-quality buds. An added benefit of the drying stage is increased potency, as the chemical processes that convert non-psychoactive cannabinoids to THC continue in the ideal environment (if it is too hot, these processes will stop).

Preserving quality – the importance of curing

Upon completion of the initial drying process, cannabis buds are best cured by storing in mason jars or airtight containers in a cool, dark place, as exposure to direct light will degrade cannabinoid content (decreasing potency) and volatile terpenes deteriorate in heat. Curing can take weeks or even months to correctly accomplish – thankfully, the steps are relatively straightforward.

If the drying stage removes a majority of moisture from harvested buds, curing follows up by continuing to draw any excess moisture leftover from the drying process from the inside of the bud. Handheld hygrometers kept inside each curing jar to monitor humidity levels.

The cultivator will also want to gently squeeze their curing buds in the jar in the first days of curing. Buds that seem dry on the outside will re-hydrate, and squeezing will inform the grower of how much moisture has been drawn out.

Too much humidity inside the grower’s containers results in “squishy”, “sweaty” buds and can be managed by opening the containers for a short while to refresh the air inside and evaporate moisture. A handy trick to monitor overall curing conditions is to place several bare stalks in the container with the flowers. When the stalks are cleanly snapping in half instead of bending, then the cultivator can be confident that their buds have cured properly.

Humidity packs such as Boveda 62s that maintain humidity inside containers steadily at 62% can also be kept inside glass jars alongside the curing bud. This will keep them from over-drying. Properly cured cannabis flowers will smell strongly of their terpenes rather than the vegetal “green” smell of chlorophyll.

Growers who cure their cannabis buds for a period of two to three weeks can generally expect a high-quality smoking experience from the finished product: an extremely “loud” smell of preserved terpenes, buds that glisten with shiny trichomes, a very smooth smoking experience with little of the harsh throat burning sensation, and minimal headaches. Curing is one of the most underappreciated aspects of cannabis cultivation, and properly cured buds can elevate a crop from average to exceptional.

Post author
Martin is a production horticulturist with experience in commercial cannabis cultivation and sustainable farming from his time with Emerald Cup Award-winning farmers Esensia Gardens in northern California's Emerald Triangle.
See more from Martin

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