Terpenes are aromatic molecules responsible for the flavor and fragrance produced not just by cannabis, but also most other plants and fruits in the plant kingdom. When it comes to cannabis plants, terpenes are produced in flower trichomes alongside other compounds such as cannabinoids, and they’re designed to protect your plant from predators, illnesses and infestations.
However, these aromatic compounds are highly fragile when it comes to preserving them once harvested due to their high volatility.
Preserving Cannabis Aromas: How to Harvest, Dry and Cure
There are many different factors during the cannabis growing process that can influence the conservation of terpenes produced; check out our post on how to conserve terpenes when growing cannabis.
However, today we’re going to focus on showing you what you need to keep in mind in order to preserve terpenes, from harvest to storage.
Why do Terpenes Evaporate?
As we were saying, terpenes are found on bud trichomes, and without the right care, they can be lost forever. Quite a common mistake that some novice cannabis growers make is putting a lot of work into growing the plant itself and then easing up when it comes to drying and curing their flowers. This is a big mistake, as it reduces the quality of the final product, including cannabis aromas and flavors.
There are four main reasons that can cause terpenes to be lost or degraded.
- Evaporation: this happens when terpenes are under high temperatures.
- Friction/handling: when buds are touched, trichomes which contain terpenes can fall off.
- Oxidization: this is a reaction that happens when terpenes are in contact with air; if cannabis isn’t stored in a space with certain humidity levels (between 50 and 60%) it can accelerate this process.
- Dry ambient conditions: when buds are stored in an area where the relative humidity is too low, they get dry and break up, which increases terpene evaporation.
How to Preserve Terpenes During the Harvest
Harvest time is quite an important step for any grower; months’ worth of work is finally coming to fruition, and it’s easy to get carried away and want to hurry the process. However, it’s highly recommended to pay attention to certain details when harvesting so as not to lose any of the intense aroma achieved through hard work.
Handle as Little as Possible
Avoiding direct contact with cannabis buds is a great tip; when possible, the plant should be held by the stems and branches, even when trimming. Remember, the less that the flowers are handled directly, the fewer the trichomes lost and/or degraded.
Trimming: Dry or Humid?
Before the curing and/or storage process begins, plants need to go through a process commonly known as trimming, which involves removing large and small leaves from around the bud so that the only thing left is the flower, which contains the most flavor, and a larger cannabinoid and terpene content.
Trimming can be done when the plant is still humid, as well as when it’s dry (right after harvesting or after drying, respectively).
However, from our point of view, dry trimming is a better way to preserve as much aroma as possible; when done before drying, small cuts on branches can cause sap to leak which can interfere with the flower’s aroma. A great way to go about this is to partially prune your plants after harvesting, removing some of the larger flowers farther from the leaves to reduce humidity and possible rot, and then trimming the rest of the leaves after drying.
It’s important to remove the small leaves carefully, always grabbing the buds by the stem. The leaves closest to the buds can also be used to make extracts, as they contain trichomes, although less than buds.
How to Dry Cannabis to Preserve Terpenes
Drying cannabis correctly is not just crucial when it comes to avoiding fungi, but also when it comes to obtaining high quality flowers; this process heavily influences the aroma and flavor of the final product. It’s important to make sure that the drying area has the following parameters.
- Temperature: heat is terpenes’ number one enemy, as it makes the evaporation process faster. To avoid this, the temperature in the drying room should be between 15° and 22°C.
- Humidity: keeping humidity levels around 50% can contribute to a balanced, even drying process. Too much humidity can cause buds to rot or attract unwanted pathogens, and too little humidity can cause it to dry out much too fast, which causes cannabis to lose terpenes and quality in genera. Fans or dehumidifiers are not recommended for lowering humidity, as accelerating the drying process can cause terpene loss.
- Light: light also degrades terpenes, so cannabis should be kept in a dark place during this process.
How Long Does the Drying Process Take?
The amount of days needed to dry cannabis usually depends on the environmental conditions of the chosen room. The ideal parameters mentioned above should take about 15 days. You’ll know the process is over when the branches break easily and cleanly; if they still “bend” instead of breaking, they should be left to dry a while longer.
Some growers leave them for another 15 days (30 total) so that their plants get rid of as much chlorophyll as possible before beginning the curing or storage phase.
Curing – The Icing on the Cake
For many growers, the previous step is the last step they take before consuming their cannabis. However, curing cannabis will bring it to another level in as far as flavor and aroma, which is why patience is highly recommended when it comes to making the most of terpene profiles.
Curing is a process through which any leftover moisture is eliminated from buds after drying them, until they reach around 25 – 30%. Plus, the curing process also allows terpenes and cannabinoids to mature, while getting rid of chlorophyll. This last aspect is essential for improving flavors, as chlorophyll is what gives cannabis that “grass” taste. This element decomposes during the curing process, which allows cannabis terpene profiles to be fully appreciated.
What’s the Best Way to Cure Cannabis?
Just like with the drying process, when curing, cannabis high temperatures should be avoided. They should be between the same parameters we mentioned previously; 15 to 22°C. In order to store flowers during the process, a great way to go is to use a wooden box that hasn’t been treated with varnish or wax, or anything else that could potentially affect aromas, or an airtight, opaque plastic container, which are ideal for preserving terpenes.
There’s also a trend going around that we’ve gotten into, which is storing dry flowers in nylon oven bags, also known as turkey bags. When properly closed, these bags do a great job of maintaining flowers’ aromatic quality.
How Long Does the Curing Process Take?
The idea behind curing cannabis flowers is to allow them to get rid of any remaining moisture in a slow, steady way. This is why it’s important that the container, bag or box that your flowers are in is opened every now and then to release that moisture and air out the container.
In order to cure cannabis properly, the aeration process should be as follows:
- Once a day (for an hour) during the first week
- Every three days (for an hour) during the second week
- Once a week (for an hour) during the third week
One last recommendation for obtaining the best possible results is to not mix different strains in the same container during the curing process (they also shouldn’t be stored like this). The reasons are clear; the idea is to get the best aroma, and flavor from each strain, but if they’re mixed the final product may end up with a different aroma than expected.
How to Store Cannabis
Once the drying and curing processes are finished and everything has gone as planned, buds should be in their best possible condition, and they should be preserved in this condition for as long as possible. The general consensus is that glass is the best way to store cannabis, ideally an opaque and airtight container so that light can’t degrade certain compounds.
As well as lighting, stored cannabis also shouldn’t have to deal with fast temperature or humidity changes.
If these conditions are met, flowers can also be stored in strong nylon oven bags.
How to Grind or Shred Buds to Preserve Terpenes
Lastly, when it comes time to consume the flowers, the best way to shred or grind them is to use a normal hand grinder; if it’s done manually, terpenes and cannabinoids will always be left behind and won’t be available when consumed.
Plus, this simple tool can make it easier to achieve a balanced shredded or ground cannabis, which in turn allows for a better experience in as far as taste.
So, what do you think? We hope this post was helpful for preserving cannabis aromas as much as possible. If, for whatever reason, flowers have lost their aroma, they can always be revived.
Until next time!