What are your top recommendations for drying the most fragrant buds? I don’t want to compromise quality at this stage in the game!
I want to start by saying that drying and curing are two distinct and separate processes. Flowers must be properly dried before you can begin to cure them. Curing is much more difficult and requires some trial and error before you can achieve a true cure. Experience will be your best teacher.
In contrast, properly drying your bud is a fairly straightforward process but you must pay close attention to get it right. What follows is my favorite technique for producing the most flavorful buds with all the qualities I desire when smoking flowers.
Plants should be hung upside down on a line, whole and intact, for five to 10 days. How long they need to hang will depend on flower size and density. Ambient temperature and humidity also greatly affects drying times. Higher temperatures and low humidity will hasten drying, so you want to be able to control the environment. For this reason, many people use their growroom for drying. The optimal humidity level to begin drying is 50-55 per cent. After three to five days you can lower the dehumidifier to 45-50 per cent. The optimal temperature for drying is 70-72°F. Better a little cooler than a little warmer.
You don’t want your dehumidifiers to suck moisture from the plants. You only want to remove the excess humidity from the room, allowing the plants to dry out naturally. You also don’t want fans blow-drying your flowers either. Just a little circulation in the room is all you need. Quick drying causes harshness in the smoke. Hanging whole plants upside down forces a slower and more even drying over the entire plant.
Moisture within the branches leach water into the flowers until the capillaries begin to harden. The plant’s tips harden first, cutting off moisture from the top buds, while the smallest buds at the bottom of the plant will continue to receive small amounts of water. This technique ensures all the buds are crispy and ready to be trimmed on the same day. There is much debate over the choice between trimming wet or dry; that is, either to trim the leaf from the buds right when you harvest, or wait until the flowers are dried.
Oxidation, a fancy word describing the evaporation of essential oils, is what happens when you put dozens of scissor gashes in fresh flowers. Once the flowers have dried out the capillaries that transport water through the plant has also dried out. The same concept of capillary action applies here. The more access points you create for air, the quicker the plant will dry out. If your goal is smokability and the tastiest flowers, then you absolutely want to hang your plants whole and trim after the bud is mostly dry.
During the drying process, avoid squeezing the flowers. Check the stems daily and monitor the level of dryness. When they begin to stiffen you may start to check the dryness of the flowers. They should be crispy on the outside and you’ll start to be able to separate the flowers from the stem by hand. Take into consideration that you will need time to chop the plants up and remove the flowers. Leave enough moisture in the flowers to make it through trimming. I like to call this bucking the flowers.
I’ve dried many crops with no controls at all. Northern California is pretty hospitable. The main killer of great bud is low humidity and high heat. Make the best of every situation by being vigilant. Take it down before it is bone dry so you never find yourself in the awful situation of trying to rehydrate cannabis that has been over dried.