With the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill more and more growers are taking advantage of everything that the hemp plant has to offer. That being said, there really is no one secret to producing a great yield of hemp. The best and most potent hemp strains will be a result of several different factors. These factors can include premium genetics, careful and proper cultivation, precise pruning, timely trimming and finally a slow-and-steady curing process. In fact, the very last step is crucial and should not be taken lightly. You don’t want to make it all the way to the end of the growing process and then screw up on the last step. Although the drying process can consume a lot of time and be somewhat boring, it is key to producing a smooth flavor and adding to the overall potency.
Why Is Proper Curing Important?
There are a number of reasons that you want to make sure that you properly dry your hemp plants. To start out you need to know that the hemp plant produces what is known as CBD as well as other cannabinoids. These are nothing more than chemical compounds stored within the plant. There are over a hundred compounds in any given hemp plant, but the CBD compound is the most abundant. When you apply the process known as biosynthesis to the plant it will cause these compounds to gradually convert into new blends. And, this process does not actually stop once the plants are cut down. If you keep your freshly harvested hemp plants stored in temperatures of 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity level of 45-55 percent, the conversion of the non-psychoactive compounds will continue to blend and gain potency.
When you dry the plants at faster rates or expose them to more humid conditions it speeds up this blending process and decreases the overall potency of the flowers. Hemp plants also contain what are known as terpenes. These are the aromatic compounds in the plant that provide it with its unique smell and flavor. You have probably noticed how different hemp flowers taste different and smell different. Well, this is because of the drying process. Unfortunately, these smells and flavors can degrade and evaporate when exposed to temperatures lower than 70 degrees F. When you provide the plant with a proper and slow curing process it preserves these terpenes.
Not only do these environmental conditions enhance the taste and flavor, but they also cause the aerobic bacteria to break down mineral and sugars that will be present during the drying process. These leftover minerals and sugars are often times the main cause for that harsh throat-burning sensation that you will get when smoking improperly cured buds.
Curing Allows Preservation Purposes
Cultures and civilizations from all around the world have been curing food for a number of centuries now. In fact, without the ability to preserve food the world would be in a pretty bad place. It is no longer necessary to consume food as soon as it is harvested or hunted. With proper food preservation, civilizations can reap from bountiful harvests and save it for times when growing conditions aren’t ideal, like during the wintertime. Meats can even be preserved with the utilization of salts, sugars, and nitrates. With this being said, it should also be known that properly cured hemp can also be preserved, although the process of preservation is quite a bit different.
When you properly dry your hemp plants it allows you to store your flowers for long periods of time without worrying about exposure to mold or the loss of potency. In most cases, well-cured flowers are stored in airtight containers. These containers should be stored in cool, dark locations. And, when properly cured and stored the hemp flowers can be preserved for as long as two years without a significant loss in potency.
The Curing Process
If you put in your research you will find that there are a number of ways that you can dry a hemp plant. You can freeze dry them, dry them with a water process, or even use dry ice. However, if you want to get the best results certain procedures should be followed.
The Initial Drying Process
The initial step can really vary from grower to grower because it really depends on how the hemp is harvested. That being said, the most popular way to tackle this initial drying stage is by cutting 12 to 16” branches from the plants. After cutting the branches, remove the unwanted leaves and hang these branches upside down from a string or wire. Some farmers like to hang the entire plant, while others may just snip the flowers. There really is no method that is proven better than the other. However, hanging the entire plant is probably faster because you don’t have to worry about the snipping and cutting.
It really doesn’t matter of the two methods you choose, but you want to make sure that the plants are stored in a dark room with temperatures that range from 60 to 70 degrees F with humidity levels of 45 to 55 percent. It is also a good idea to add a fan to provide a little circulation. Only allow the fan to circulate gently, as this will be crucial to preserving the flavor and aroma. Most experts will probably even use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to make sure that the environment stays within the right curing conditions.
This initial drying stage can take anywhere from five to fifteen days. You are ready to move on when the flowers have a crunchy feel to them. You will also want to look at the branches. The branches should easily snap when you bend them.
The Final Curing Steps
When your buds of the hemp are dried properly. It is time to move onto the final stages. The next step is to start curing your plants. That process has a couple of different stages.
The First Step
If you have not done so already, you want to go ahead and manicure by separating the flowers from the branches. Once again this step will depend on how you harvested your plants. It is possible that you have already done this and if so move on to the next step.
The Second Step
Now you now will want to go ahead and place the trimmed buds inside some kind of airtight container. You can use any kind of ceramic, metal, wood or plastic vessel, as long as it is completely airtight. However, the most popular type of storage container is the wide mouth quart sized canning jar. Some people have even used oven bags, which are suitable for this application, but it should be noted that most plastic bags aren’t good for this because they will allow exposure to oxygen. When the flowers come into contact with oxygen it will degrade the terpenes. When packing the flowers into the containers make sure that you are packing them in loosely. You don’t want to force or cram the flowers in.
The Third Step
Go ahead and seal up the containers and make sure that you place them in a cool, dry, dark location. It is important to inspect the flowers within the first couple of days. You should notice that the buds are no longer crunchy and dry on the outside. The moisture from inside the flowers should rehydrate the outer portions of the bud. If you do not notice this happening it means that you have over dried the plants.
The Final Step
During the first week after storing the flowers in the airtight containers, you want to make sure that you are opening the containers several times a day. This process will allow moisture to escape from within the jar. And, it will also replenish the oxygen inside the container. If at any time when opening the jars you notice an odor of ammonia it means that the flowers are not dry enough to be cured. This will most likely result in mold, rotten yields. After the first week has gone and passed, you will still need to continue opening the containers. However, you won’t have to do it as often. You will simply just need to open them once every few days or so.
After just two to three weeks in these containers, your flowers should be cured enough to be smoked. However, if you want to improve the potency and aroma, even more, you will probably want to hold off for four to eight weeks. There are even some strains that can continue adapting and blending for as long as six months of curing.
When it comes to curing hemp, this is without a doubt one of the most overlooked aspects of the growing process. This might be because growers are just so excited to make it this far that they just want the process to be over with so that they can reap the rewards their hard work. However, with the increasing popularity of the plant and the competitive hemp market more producers are starting to pay close attention to this process, because it really can turn a good yield into an even better yield. Now, with this guide, you can do the same with your own homegrown hemp flowers.