How to dry weed correctly

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When you grow cannabis, so much effort is put into the growing phase, it’s easy to overlook what comes next. However, learning how to dry weed correctly is just as important if you want buds that look great, taste great, smoke smoothly and store for months.

Drying cannabis is easy if you get the basics right: temperature, humidity, air circulation and time. Getting the drying process right will ensure that your bud is ready for the curing stage. If you’ve got your grow process down to a tee but you’re not quite sure what the best methods of drying your buds are, read on….

Why is it important to dry weed?

Drying weed is important because it prepares the bud for curing. The drying process removes water, whilst curing removes chlorophyll. Both are essential to the taste, smell and smoothness of the smoke, as well as keeping it fresh while being stored. Weed will dry naturally if hung, however taking steps to ensure drying takes place in the right way will ensure that the final product offers the best smoke possible. Making sure you dry weed correctly provides the following benefits:

  • Correct drying improves taste and smell. Evaporating the water at the right rate ensures that none of the buds decompose early due to mold, which prevents bud rot occurring, and improves the final taste and smell of the bud. Drying weed also ensures that sufficient water is removed to allow effective curing. This is the process of degrading chlorophyll and increasing active components and terpenes. Effective drying and curing of weed together ensures that your bud tastes great.
  • Marijuana bud dried correctly is smoother to smoke. A smooth smoke comes from a bud which has been dried the right amount and at the correct rate. If buds are dried too quickly, they can turn powdery when you grind them. This will result in a harsh smoke. Getting the drying process right ensures that the buds still hold a little bit of moisture when you start smoking.
  • Drying reduces the chance of mold developing and helps to preserve the bud. Drying bud too quickly can lead to overly dry bud that lacks taste and smell. However, if too slow it can lead to an increased risk of mold developing which in turn affects flavour and leads to decay during storage. Getting the drying stage right ensures that adequate moisture is removed to avoid mold developing.
  • Correct drying improves potency. When buds are picked, most of the THC is inactive. THC is activated during the curing phase. Effective curing requires effective drying, and so drying in the right way can increase the amount of THC that is made active.

Should you trim fan leaves before drying?

Drying can take place before or after trimming of fan leaves. Many growers prefer to leave the fan leaves on while the buds dry, because it can help the buds to conserve water and dry more slowly which is thought to preserve flavour. Also, trimming leaves whilst the plant is still wet can get quite messy.

However, trimming marijuana before drying enables you to use the fan leaves for the making of lotions, creams and edibles. Removing the leaves can also help to puff up the buds which can add to bag appeal. Drying should therefore take place after trimming if you want to get the most use out of your cannabis plant, and to create a pleasing visual aesthetic.

Wet trimming marijuana
Trimming fan leaves off of a cannabis plant

What is the difference between drying and curing weed?

Drying and curing of weed are two different processes. Drying weed is the evaporation of moisture from plant parts and buds. Curing on the other hand is the process of breaking down the chlorophyll in the plant parts. It is essential that buds are properly dried before curing can begin.

Hanging the whole plant to dry vs. drying individual branches

Once your cannabis plants have grown, you will have to decide which drying method to use. The least labour-intensive way of drying cannabis is to simply hang entire plants upside-down on a clothesline. This approach is straight forward and will likely result in the best-tasting buds—provided you have the space and are able to circulate air adequately. You’ll save time and effort on removing individual branches, but the drying time (in terms of days) will likely be longer.

Hanging each individual branch to dry is more time intensive but does offer some benefits. Firstly, the smaller sized branches allow for greater airflow which reduces the risk of mold and speeds up the drying process. It also enables the use of racks or drying nets, which cannot be used when drying entire plants.

Which method you use really depends on the number of plants you have, the size of your space and your time constraints. If you only have a few plants, it may be best to hang dry the individual branches to reduce the risk of mold. However, if hang drying a large harvest, it will be a lot less time intensive to dry the entire plants, provided you have enough space to do so.

Table 1. Pros and cons of different drying methods

Drying MethodProsCons
Whole PlantBetter final tasteLess labour intensiveLonger dry time
Individual branchesEnables use of racksUses less vertical spaceLabour involved

Step-by-step hanging the whole plant to dry

Here’s a step-by-step guide to drying whole cannabis plants.

  1. Find a hanging space with good air circulation (e.g. a grow room or tent).
  2. Hang whole plants upside down and side-by-side on a horizontal line for five to 10 days.
  3. Judge the hanging time based on flower size and flower density. Larger or more dense flower buds will need closer to ten days.
  4. Keep humidity in the drying space at 50-55% for the first three to five days, and then lower the humidity to 45-50% for the rest of the drying time.
  5. The ideal temperature range for drying is 70-72 ºF (21-22 ºC). This is just slightly above ambient room temperature.
  6. Provide air circulation within the room, but do not blow fans directly onto the plants whilst they dry. This will hasten the drying process and reduce final product quality.
  7. Check stems for dryness each day. As the stems start to dry, check the buds for dryness. Avoid squeezing the buds in the first few days as this will damage them unnecessarily. If buds are starting to go crispy on the outside, you can perform the “snap” test. Simply choose a dry twig and snap to see if it breaks cleanly. If so, the buds will be dry enough and you can start to remove them from the stems.
  8. Bear in mind that you need time to remove all the flowers while there is still some moisture left in them. You want to leave a bit of moisture in the flowers to get them through trimming and processing without falling apart. Therefore, as soon as the outside of buds start to feel crispy, try a twig to see if it snaps.

Step-by-step how to dry buds without hanging the entire plant

The most popular method for faster but more labour-intensive drying of buds rather than whole plants is as follows.

  1. The first thing you need to do is cut branches off the plants at sizes of about 1 to 1.5 feet (12-18 inches). If you want to, you can trim fan leaves before drying. Doing so enables you to use the fan leaves for other purposes and produces a more visually appealing bud.
  2. Space can be an issue for home growers. Flat-bed methods are therefore the best way to achieve effective drying with limited space. This method is best approached using mesh board to allow complete circulation of air around the buds. If you are drying on a budget, flat-bed drying can be done dry cardboard as the beds—however, it is important to rotate the buds at least twice the day to ensure that the drying process is uniform across each bud. You can also use commercially available mesh-bags which allow drying of buds on various levels within the bags. However, care must be taken to ensure that adequate spacing is given between the buds to ensure that the buds don’t develop mold
Drying weed without drying the entire plant
Drying weed by hanging individual branches on a line

What humidity level is best for drying cannabis?

The ideal humidity for drying cannabis buds is somewhere between 40 and 55%. Ideally, humidity should be towards the upper end of this range in the first half of the drying process, and toward the lower end during the second half of the process. As a gauge, typical humidity in a well-insulated house is below 50%. Humidity should therefore be slightly higher than ambient humidity during the first half of drying, and below the ambient level in the second half. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers can be used to adjust humidity.

How long does it take to properly dry weed?

You should expect weed to take between five to ten days. Any longer, and the final product will be of a lower quality and probably too dry. Any shorter, and you risk the buds not drying fully which could lead to the development of mold during the curing stage.

How dark does a drying room need to be?

Try not to expose the buds to any light while they are drying. Keeping them in the dark will improve taste by preserving the terpenes and ensuring that chlorophyll is removed.

How do you know when your buds are fully dry?

Check stems for dryness each day. As the stems start to dry, check the buds for dryness. Avoid squeezing the buds in the first few days as this will damage them unnecessarily. If buds are starting to go crispy on the outside, you can conduct the “snap” test. Find a hard twig and see if it snaps in your hand. If it does, you can start to remove the buds from the stems. Remember that you don’t want your buds to go completely dry. They need to retain a little of moisture for curing and storage.

How to dry weed fast?

Drying should be done at a rate which suits the plant and local conditions. This will ensure a superior quality final product—one not too dry or too moist, and full of flavour. If opting for a quick-dry method, expect a lower quality product and a harsher smoke. However, we understand that there may be times when your stash is running low and drying weed fast becomes an emergency.

Here are some methods on how to dry weed fast:

  • Brown paper bag method A common method is to dry cannabis buds inside a brown paper bag. This involves simply putting a couple of handfuls of bud inside of the paper bags and leaving them to dry for between 5-8 days. You will want to check on them every day or so to move them around and to ensure they are drying properly.
  • Computer fan method – An even quicker method is to place buds on paper towels next to the air vent on a laptop or desktop PC. The warm air from the computer’s internal components will dry the buds at a faster rate than usual. You will need to turn the buds every ten minutes, and the buds should be ready to smoke within the hour. However, smoke quality will likely be very low.
  • Boiler room method – If your house or apartment has one, a boiler room offers good conditions for drying weed. The boiler and small space provide a temperature slightly above room temperature, and with low humidity. Small buds should be placed in brown bags, but larger branches can be hung from a line as in a normal drying space. If you leave your boiler on for the duration of the drying process, you can expect dry buds within three days. With normal boiler usage, it should take fewer than six days.
  • Sun-dried method – This approach requires hot sunny weather, so not an option for everyone. Simply place a handful of bud inside a brown paper bag and leave the bag on a sun-facing rock. It’s best to weigh the bag down to prevent it blowing away. The buds should be dry within 2 days.

Joe Musgrave

Joe Musgrave is a keen 420 blogger who writes about all things cannabis. After harnessing his green thumbed skills through years of working on cannabis farms, Joe now shares his knowledge with the rest of the online 420 community.

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