There are different methods of curing cannabis after it has been harvested, and which is best depends on a combination of how it is intended to be consumed and personal preference.
Below are some popular methods of storing and preserving cannabis post-harvest.
Fresh Frozen: No Drying, No Curing
Some concentrate artists prefer to work with cannabis that has been immediately frozen after harvest. The material is rough trimmed while wet and then placed into containers and then into a freezer. This method eliminates the drying and curing steps, but is unsuitable for use for cannabis intended for smoking.
Water Cure: Cure Without Drying First
Water curing allows for cannabis to be cured without being dried first (it can also be done with dried cannabis, but that adds an unnecessary step).
The cannabis is placed in a container with clean water. The water is then changed with fresh water a couple of times a day for five to seven days. This process will leech out the water-soluble components through osmosis.
Since the concentration of these components is higher inside the plant than in the surrounding water, they will move from inside the plant material to try to equalize with the concentration in the water.
By exchanging the surrounding water with fresh water, it keeps the concentration low and encourages movement out of the plant into the water.
Even though the aromatic oils (terpenes) are not water-soluble, they too are reduced because they are lighter than water, and the force of being submerged will cause them to float to the top where they are removed with the changing of the water. Then the cannabis is hung and dried before use or storage.
Read also: Promoting Terpenes in Cannabis
The result of properly water cured cannabis is some of the smoothest smoke available, if that is how you chose to consume it. It is so smooth that many find the flavor (what little there is left) to be flat and boring.
Well-made, water cured cannabis doesn’t have much flavor at all, although the potency is still present. This can be an asset if smoking in stealth is a concern (the smoke it produces has little if any conventional cannabis aroma), or when used in edibles.
After decarboxylation (exposing to low heat to drive off carbon dioxide from THC-A to convert it to the active form THC), water cured cannabis is so mild tasting it can be simply ground and used directly in cooking.
When made into cannabutter or infused oils, the end product lacks the distinctive cannabis flavor that many find somewhat repellent in edibles.
However, the process isn’t without its drawbacks. Even if done correctly, the “bag appeal” is severely reduced. The buds appear inferior and mistreated even if they haven’t been.
If done incorrectly and water changes are not performed, it can be ruined by being allowed to sit in stale water for several days. If not dried properly after the rinsing, it can mold.
Speaking of mold, water cured cannabis should only be obtained from reliable sources, as it is sometimes used by unscrupulous folk to pass molded, insecticide-contaminated, or otherwise ruined cannabis onto the unsuspecting.
Hurried and Harsh: Dry Only, No Cure
Unless using one of the above methods, cannabis is usually at least dried before use. Freshly harvested cannabis has too much moisture in it to be stable and will eventually mold unless a substantial portion of the moisture is removed.
To this end, immediately after harvest, the cannabis should be allowed to dry in the open air until enough moisture has evaporated to prevent fungal growth, but not so much that it loses structural integrity.
Drying is best done under mild conditions, as an environment too wet and cold can delay drying long enough to be a mold risk, and conditions too hot and dry can cause the outermost portions to over-dry while the interior flowers and stems are still too wet to be safely stored.
Due to time constraints, some cannabis is merely dried and not allowed to cure before use. This is more commonly seen from commercial farms or novice gardens than from properly cared-for home grows.
All other factors being equal, the smoke from dried but not cured cannabis tends to be harsher and less pleasant when compared with a properly cured bud from the same plant.
On the other hand, dried but uncured cannabis is much more popular than having no cannabis at all, so it is frequently used in times of urgency, need, or occasionally greed.
The Conventional Method: Dry then Cure
Conventional, properly cured cannabis is dried as above and then placed into airtight containers and kept in a cool, unlit location to allow for the buds to mature and cure over a few weeks or months.
Ideally, if the cannabis was appropriately dried to just the right amount, it will be dry enough to prevent mold but still have enough moisture to cure properly. Erring on the side of dry is a smaller error than it being too wet.
Particularly in the beginning, the jars should be opened and checked. At any indication of excess moisture, the buds should be removed and allowed to dry more before returning to sealed jars.
For smaller adjustments, the lid can be removed until a more acceptable moisture level is reached (a process known as burping).
A hint of ammonia in the aroma is an indication of the cannabis being too wet and is a result of it starting to spoil, and a strong ammonia smell or visible mold are indications that the cannabis was much too wet and has been ruined.
Read More: The Art of Curing Your Cannabis
The proper care and treatment of cannabis after it has been harvested can have a large impact on the quality and properties of the final product.
Even if the starting material is of the same quality, matching the type and quality of cure to expected further processing can have a big influence on whether the end product is delightful or just mediocre.