Machine Trimming vs Hand Trimming: Is There a Difference?
Cultivators are locked in a fierce debate between machine trimming and hand trimming. Is one method better than another? Does it make a difference?
Automatic cannabis trimmers drastically improve the harvesting process, getting your product to the public faster, for less. However, hand-trimming purists prefer their method for its supposed superior quality.
Readying buds for retail during harvest is exciting. It’s the culmination of months of painstaking work — a time when growers can finally reap what they’ve sown.
But harvest season is also when the chore of cannabis trimming begins, and most growers fall into one of two camps: you’re either a hand-trimming purist or a machine-trimming innovator.
Each method has advantages and disadvantages, but there’s a clear winner.
Let’s grind through the trimming process and learn the differences between each style to determine the advantages — and disadvantages — of each.
Hand Trimming Cannabis
Hand trimming is an art dating back to the earliest days of cannabis cultivation.
Before there was an industry to speak of, skilled cultivators individually hand-trimmed leaves and undesirable plant material. Skilled hand-trimmers can perfectly preserve precious trichomes, ensuring high-quality buds bursting with potent cannabinoids.
But while the final product is often a breathtaking work of weed artistry, the process is slow, error-prone, and requires a lot of people and a lot of room.
What are the advantages of hand-trimming cannabis?
Though it necessitates a steady hand and a meticulous eye, hand trimming is widely regarded as best practice. Why?
Skilled hand trimmers can identify and highlight a strain’s best features, and since each cannabis strain is unique, manual trimming can deliver specialized results. Like other handmade or customized products, hand-trimmed flower also has an artisanal appeal, and strains can be hand-trimmed to highlight the fullness of buds and trichomes.
The prevailing philosophy says that only hand-trimming can achieve this feat of bud individuality. Popular opinion also claims that individually handled buds are easily examined for contamination, seeds, pests, and unwanted elements. But is that true? Not exactly.
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What are the disadvantages of hand trimming cannabis?
Hand trimming comes down to the skills of a human, so the method is inherently imperfect.
The art of producing aesthetically and commercially pleasing hand-trimmed buds is tedious, back-breaking, and time-consuming. The work takes a physical toll on your trimming team since the method forces them to hunch over their workstations for hours on end.
With all those hours of hard work, skilled cannabis bud trimmers should be generously compensated. As such, the labor costs associated with employing a team of weed trimmers adds up for cultivators. These costs can prove to be astronomical and prohibitive to the success of the operation.
Then there’s the managerial aspect; successfully hiring, managing, and organizing a team of cannabis trimmers takes time and resources, often distracting the grower from other elements of the cultivation process.
Hand-trimming cannabis yields a decent product, but it’s only a good fit for small growers (but even small grow operations can benefit from harvest automation).
Commercial cultivators deal in vast quantities of product. Investing in automatic bud-trimming equipment that increases productivity for these expansive enterprises is an intelligent and cost-effective maneuver.
Machine Trimming Cannabis
Automatic weed trimmers shape cannabis buds into beautiful organic structures. They gently trim away the leaves and deposit flower into containers before it's ready for further processing or distribution to recreational and medical dispensaries.
The best machines offer varying capacities, speeds, and power—some handle impossibly large batches, while others are specifically designed for smaller growing operations with a more modest output.
The earliest generation of machine trimmers earned an understandably poor reputation. But today’s trimmers, like the M108S, produce a product many cultivators believe to be superior to hand-trimmed cannabis. And with Mobius, you can trim wet or dry.
What are the advantages of machine-trimming cannabis?
The commercial cannabis industry is growing, with more states regularly legalizing recreational and medical marijuana, increasing the need for high-quality products. And that’s precisely what makes automatic weed trimmers so desirable.
In the modern day cannabis industry, successful brands must quickly deliver large quantities of top-shelf product, making the lengthy hand-trimming process unsustainable.
Advancements in automated trimming machines allow large, medium, and even small grow operations to dramatically increase their trim capacity without hiring and managing new team members.
Bud-trimming technology has progressed dramatically over the last few years, with the latest models producing precisely trimmed buds that are clean and beautiful, mimicking the artful accuracy of the human trimmer.
In addition, these machines can process hundreds or even thousands of pounds of cannabis per hour, making them faster and far more efficient than any human hand trimmer on earth.
It’s an advantage that’s especially appealing to the larger, commercial growing operations that find themselves stuck in the middle of the machine- vs. hand-trimming debate.
What are the disadvantages of machine trimming?
As we touched on before, the earliest automatic bud trimmers were questionable.
Cannabis purists believed that the machine’s processes resulted in lost flower, damaged trichomes, and a uniform product lacking the character and quality of hand-trimmed bud. In addition, some detractors think machine trimmers change the flavor profile and overall potency of a cannabis harvest.
But, as previously stated, technology advancements have transformed this once-maligned machinery into an indispensable tool with minimal impact on the product's characteristics. These days, automatic bud trimmers compete with even the greatest human hand trimmers while also offering a superb return on investment.
Dry Trimming vs Wet Trimming
If you’re trying to decide between automatic or hand-trimming, it’s crucial to consider how you’re going to process your plants: wet or dry.
While a grower might prefer one method over the other, most large-scale cannabis cultivators prefer wet-trimming as the plants are easier to handle—and less fragile—when fresh from the ground. “Wet” buds are sturdier and less damage prone as they make their way through the automatic trimmer. Wet-trimming cannabis also staves off molds or fungus from forming as the bud dries.
One advantage to dry-trimming bud is the final look of the product. In general dry trimming tends to retain the color and terpene profile of the buds immediately after trimming which is certainly a compelling reason for commercial cultivators to select this method.
In the end, whether to trim dry or wet is a personal choice, but with the Mobius M108S trimmer (unlike many machine trimmers), you have the option to use either style.
The Takeaway: Machine Trimming vs. Hand Trimming
Most cultivators interested in scaling their operations and maintaining quality and efficiency opt for machine trimming. But in the end, the decision is entirely personal. It depends on your unique situation.
Still, it’s hard to deny the quality, consistency, speed, and productivity that comes with the latest generation of automatic cannabis trimmers.
Mobius takes the complexity out of harvesting by offering the world’s best cannabis processing equipment. Our machines are engineered for ease of use, scalable output, and safety. They disassemble by hand in minutes, and are so simple to clean that GMP-certified workflows are easily accommodated. Plant material bucked, trimmed, and milled by Mobius equipment rivals product processed by hand. To learn more, visit mobiustrimmer.com or contact [email protected].
Written by Jack Bohannan | Denver-based freelance writer specializing in technical cannabis subjects
Jack Bohannan is a Denver-based freelance writer specializing in technical cannabis subjects ranging from cultivation to extraction. He brings a research-first orientation to content creation with special emphasis on clear communication.