Long before discovering improved cannabis processing mechanisms, ancient consumers of cannabis were most likely not familiar with the current techniques, but the drive to find better, healthier ways evolved cannabis processing chains from the original, now passé methods to modified, novel means.
Initially, cannabis, as a commodity, was available in a wide variety of colors from Acapulco Gold, brown Colombian, and redder-than-red Thai stick to the bright green Oaxaca big bud. The wide range of colors resulted from drying the plant under the sun in the archaic alternative to curing, which led to the activation of photolytic reactions in the plant.
It is a cannabis processing method believed to take roots from tobacco refinery. Similar to its parent form, “burping” takes place during this stage, but the congruity ends here because they differ in the aspect of the final result; while tobacco curing is also identified based on the primary reaction as “color curing,” cannabis curing results in a melange of changes; from its potency to its resultant effect on the consumer.
In the cannabis cultivation and processing chain, there are several determinants of the cultivar’s final qualities; however, one of its predominant phases is in the curing stage. The plant’s cure can be the sole minute but sovereign difference between good cannabis and magnificent buds.
There are several methods and processes to carry out this stage, and each of these methods and the level of precision in their systematic gives a variance to the outcomes: How effective will it be? How fine and rich will it taste?, or How long can it retain its freshness? Now to list a few of the most common means of curing a cannabis harvest:
- The Water Cure method
- The Freeze Dry method
- The Sweat Cure method
- The Heat Dehydration Cure method
THE WATER-CURE METHOD
It is a viable alternative to traditional curing since it reduces the long wait period in which the latter is disadvantaged while still removing the unwanted bits and purifying the plant.
By submerging the buds in water for around one week, a hydrolytic, purification-like reaction occurs where the water dissolves the unwanted hydrophilic compounds, like salt, sugar, insecticides, and toxins, more rapidly; a more effective process than allowing the buds to digest these compounds themselves.
Though this process appears quite the blast, it is not 100%-great, because alongside the unwanted hydrophilic compounds, is flushed the desired hydrophilic molecules, like some terpenes, causing the cured plant to lose some flavor and aroma. It could nevertheless be beneficial, as it gives the smoke a less conspicuous, smoother, healthier tang.
It also causes a loss in the plant’s aesthetic quality: water-cured cannabis is not as lush as the air-cured cannabis.
In summary, there is a loss in the organoleptic qualities of the buds cured using this process.
THE FREEZE-DRY METHOD
This process of freeze-drying (lyophilizing) cannabis has been a long-discussed topic but had never been perfected until recently. Cannabis lyophilization involves drying the buds before curing to preserve the flower’s aesthetic and other useful properties and reduce the moisture. The perfection of this process came as the actualization of a system that would result in the preservation of even the glistening and phytochemical-dense trichomes and have the buds still smokable.
It is carried out in 3 critical stages, sequentially listed: the freezing stage, to eliminate the formation of large ice crystals in the final product, the sublimation drying stage, and the desorption drying stage.
At the initial drying phase, about 95% of the water present is removed, and after the final drying, only about 1% – 4% moisture remains in the freeze-dried product and can be stored for between 6 months to 3 years in poly bags and 25 years or longer in cans.
Currently, the fastest curing process, the entire procedure, could reach completion in about 24 hours, giving off a relatively – when compared to other methods – lightweight, vibrantly-colored, and nutrient-dense plant. The downside to this process is, however, the high operating cost.
THE SWEAT-CURE METHOD
Otherwise called wet curing or high-humidity curing, this method involves laying the buds on a planar surface and rotating them at intervals to ensure even drying. Like the fermentation process, sweat curing involves the action of microorganisms on the leaves, causing a rapid color change.
It is not the most conventional means as it is quite laborious and often, without a pleasant outlook, but could be quite appropriate with buds too tiny to employ other means.
Modifications to this method involve using paper or absorbent materials to soak up the condensed moisture, slow down the process, roll the plant in plastic bags, and open them up every week until the cure is complete.
THE HEAT DEHYDRATION CURE METHOD
Of all the methods, this is one of the most critical because as much as this removes excess moisture from the buds, the medium’s temperature must be closely monitored to prevent the disintegration or adverse modification of vital compounds at critical conditions.
To list a few sub-techniques of this method include the microwave drying, oven drying, dehydrator method.
Note: Regardless of how careful this method of curing is monitored, the application of heat of this amount to the compounds would undoubtedly alter the composition of the plant, but the level to which this happens, will determine to what extent.
Finally, curing as a cannabis processing phase is a top priority inclusion and a decisive criterion of several of the package’s qualities; however, in deciding what method to employ, the market for which it has been harvested and processed must be placed into top consideration.