Preserving the Sweet Smell of Finished Cannabis

by Paul
(ens,calif USA)

I've had some great success growing some wonderful pretty plants. As they mature through their cycles until harvest they look and smell perfect, with nice strong odor right at harvest.

Some how through my drying process the smell decreases once it's all dry and ready. I dry in a dark closet at about 50%-60% humidity an average temperature of 75F, and dry times vary between 5-10 days depending on size and density. Why does it lose some of the strong pungent odor it has right when it is harvested?

Can you give me any hints as to what I am, or am not doing correctly. All things except the lack of smell is great, most times exceptional...

Thanks, Paul

Answer: Thanks for the great question paul! There are plenty of things people do to f^(k up some perfectly grown weed right at harvest time. Harvesting, drying, and curing your cannabis properly is one of the finer points of gardening at a master level (like making perfect compost), but it is the one skill that will absolutely separate your cannabis from the rest of the pack once you learn how to do it well.

Preparing for the day of harvest involves flushing nutrient salts from the plant tissue. Generally 14 days for soil grown cannabis and about 10 days for hydroponically grown cannabis. While flushing, don't starve your plants! They put on bud weight and more importantly the last 10% of their resin weight and terpenes in the last 10 days. In addition to the plain water, I recommend also adding 10ml per gallon Thrive Alive B1 and 10ml per gallon Liquid Karma (or Sweet, the raw version). These products continue to feed the resin profile and allow the plants to develop all of the plant alcohols, esters, amino acids, and terpenes that make up the final resin profile and ultimately affect the potency and smell and flavor of the final product.

There may be room for improvement in this part of your process (the flush), but from what you have shared with me I do not believe this is where your problem is.

In the next two steps of the drying process, darkness is critical, and here is why. As long as there is moisture present in the tissue of the cannabis, long chains of carbohydrate starches will continue to break down into simple sugars. As long as this process continues in the dark, by the time you pass day five you should notice an almost magical improvement in the smell and flavor of the dried cannabis. The fresh 'hay' smell begins to go away, and to cannabis begins to present it's particular bouquet (pine, lemon, blueberry, skunk, etc.). The long starch chains that smoke harsh yield to small sugar molecules that are smoother and sweeter!

BUT....this is where most people mess it up.

As long as there is still moisture in the plant tissue, you have to KEEP IT IN THE DARK! The chlorophyll in the plant tissue is still alive and active if there is any moisture in the tissue still, and if you allow light to come in contact with your drying cannabis the chlorophyll in the leaf and flower of the plant will manufacture NEW long chains of carbohydrate starch.

If you peek at your drying weed, or show it off, and it is illuminated by several minutes of light, it will photosynthesize and produce more long, harsh starch chains. Now say, for example, it is already four days into a seven or eight day drying process. You don't have five days in the presence of moisture for those fresh chains of long starch molecules to break down into the simple sugars you are wanting to finish with. You have just permanently screwed yourself. Finishing the drying process will now PRESERVE those harsh, long chain starches in your finished cannabis, and it will affect the delicate aroma of your finished product more than anything else.

Keeping all this in mind, the next step is the harvest itself.

Time the harvest right. Make sure your plants are fully mature. Watch for 50% or more of the white hairs to turn red (i prefer 75%), and watch for the resin glands to swell and begin to turn in color from clear to golden. Some growers keep the lights off for 24 hours before cutting down the fully mature cannabis, to maximize those terpenes that are produced during the dark hours. Cut the plants in the dark, and move them to a dark closet or room to dry.

The drying area should be kept dark, and close to 70 degrees as possible. +/-5 degrees won't be an issue. High humidity in the drying room will. Ideally the humidity should be kept at 50% or less to start, and should be brought down once it becomes obvious that the plants will not dry any faster than five days (I shoot for 7-10). Higher temperatures degrade potency, lower temperatures risk mold or mildew. A very small amount of air movement around all of the plants is a good idea to keep everything drying even, and in particular to make sure there are no overly-humid spots in the drying room.

The cannabis has nearly finished the drying process when you can pick a piece, chop it up, roll it up, and it will stay lit in a joint. Place the fully trimmed up buds into glass mason jars, leaving very little extra air space. Watch it carefully to make sure it doesn't become soggy again after being in a glass jar for 12 hours. If so, let it air dry 12 hours more then try to put it into glass jars again. Once it can stay in a jar for 12 hours and still come out dry enough to stay lit in a joint, then the drying process really is over.

Now, there is an opportunity to go one step further and cure your cannabis. As long as there is some moisture in the bud still, and it can stay in a jar without becoming soggy, the idea is to put it into the jars and pull the last 3-7% moisture from the buds very slowly. The jars should be kept in a dark place with a steady temperature close to 70F. At first, check the jars once a day for condensation. Open them once a day to see if they are getting soggy. As it becomes obvious the buds are loosing moisture open the jars less often, until you are comfortable leaving the jars sealed for three weeks without opening.

If your cannabis begins growing mold or mildew during the curing process, take note of it! Your cannabis need to be just a little bit dryer before putting it into jars next time. Otherwise, you have successfully put a short cure on your finished cannabis. Some master growers out here in Denver Colorado place their finished buds in jars to cure for 4-6 months, depending on how crazy they are!

I sure hope this helps you out Paul, and Happy Growing!

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