Cannabis goes through a series of stages during its life cycle. Once cannabis has become fully grown, post-harvest steps must be completed carefully to get a rewarding and productive cannabis harvest, as many things can happen to the freshly harvested crop if it is not appropriately prepared. If overexposed to air or light, terpenes can evaporate or vaporize, and medicinal cannabinoids can decarboxylate. This in turn leads to a significant drop in the flavor and potential of your harvest.
Let's look at various stages of post-harvest preparation of the cannabis crop.
The first step toward preparing your cannabis crop is to harvest it at the optimal time. If you harvest it too early, it can reduce the potential and yield, but if you gather it too late, it can cause the trichomes to become brittle and break off easily when they are cured and dried.
Observe the color of the trichomes to identify the proper time for harvesting. If you notice the trichomes changing colors from cloudy white to brown, it means that the plant can safely be harvested now. It is recommended to only begin harvesting when half of the trichomes become opaque.
After observing these changes, you need to flush the plant to eliminate any unused nutrients. Flushing ideally starts two weeks before harvest.
The plant is then cut into smaller branches to be dried quickly during harvesting.
To preserve your buds' color, vibrancy, and potential, drying them evenly and properly is crucial. If unevenly or improperly dried, they can develop mold or lose fragrance and flavor. Hang-drying is the best way to dry the buds. Place the plant cuttings upside down in a room set at 21 degrees Celsius with a dehumidifier set at 50% for seven days. After seven days, decrease the humidity to 53% while keeping the temperature the same.
When you notice that the stem is not rubbery and it completely breaks when you bend it, that signals that the plant is dry. Usually, drying takes seven to fourteen days.
Once the flower or bud is completely dry, you must trim it and cure it. The main goal of trimming is to remove excess leaves with a low concentration of trichomes compared to a flower that will produce harsh smoke.
Curing means cutting the flowers or buds from the stem when they are dry enough. While cutting, leave a small part of the stem attached to the flower to prevent it from falling apart, then take a mason jar and place the dried flowers inside it. Ideally, curing takes two to three weeks, but if you prolong drying, it maximizes the potential of terpenes. The containers should be opened several times a day during the first week to release extra moisture from the buds. After the process of curing, your cannabis is now ready to be packed or stored.
To maintain the potential and chemical profile of cannabis, it must be stored properly. Improper storage can lead to loss of terpenes, degradation of the cannabinoids, loss of trichomes, and the production of harsh smoke.