Autoflowering cannabis strains may be easier to grow than photoperiod cultivars, but that doesn’t mean you can skip any vital post-harvest processes. As with all strains, it’s essential to properly dry your autoflower weed before using it, otherwise, you could end up with some foul-tasting bud that quickly becomes mouldy.
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Why Dry Autoflower Cannabis?
Freshly harvested cannabis plants contain a surprising amount of water, which can cause problems if it isn’t dealt with. For instance, excess moisture causes terpenes to degrade, impoverishing the aroma and flavour of the final product.
Fungal infections also rely on water to thrive, so cannabis that hasn’t been adequately dried has a short shelf life. Mould, mildew and other pathogens love a good bit of moisture, and the last thing you want is to give these nasties any encouragement. It’s also worth pointing out that if you intend to smoke your harvested flowers, you’ll want them to ignite and burn easily. Giving your plants sufficient drying time can therefore save you a lot of frustration later on.
Ultimately, all growers must dry their weed, regardless of whether they’re growing autoflower or photoperiod cultivars.
Many growers find hang-drying to be the easiest method. As the name suggests, this technique involves hanging weed upside down and can be achieved by stinging plants up on coat hangers, hooks or pegs. Ideally, plants will be left to dry in a dark place (which may be your grow room), as exposure to light can cause cannabinoids like THC and CBD to degrade.
Airflow makes the drying process more efficient, so it’s crucial to ensure that all cannabis buds have access to air. For this reason, many growers choose to remove the branches from each plant and hang them individually rather than attempting to hang an entire plant. Wet trimming – which involves the removal of all sugar leaves and fan leaves immediately after harvest – also helps to de-clutter branches so that autoflower plants can dry faster.
The ideal temperature in your drying room should be around 20 degrees Celsius, while the humidity level should fall close to 50 per cent. Investing in a dehumidifier can help ensure that conditions remain within the optimal range, thereby enhancing the efficacy of the drying process.
Other growers prefer to dry buds on racks. Usually, they’ll remove all the buds from the branches first and spread them out on a drying rack made of netting, although sometimes small brunches with more than one bud site will be left intact. A rack can be multi-layered with multiple shelves, but it’s important not to let buds touch one another, or they won’t dry evenly. Often, growers will place a hygrometer on each shelf to keep track of humidity levels.
Whichever method you use to dry weed, expect to wait between one and two weeks for the process to complete. Impatient growers sometimes speed things up by increasing the temperature or placing their harvested cannabis under grow lights. However, doing so is unwise and results in a lower-quality final product.
What we’re getting at is you can’t cut corners when it comes to drying, as slow and steady is the only way to go. It makes no difference if you’re trying to dry photoperiod or autoflower cannabis; you’ll have to play the waiting game for a few weeks.
Exactly how long you’ll need to wait will depend on the size of your buds and the atmospheric conditions in your drying room. The best way to tell whether your weed is dry is to bend a few of the smaller branches. You’re done if they are brittle enough to snap, but if they still have some give then, they probably need a little longer.
What To Do Once Your Autoflower Cannabis Is Dry
By this point, you’re already several weeks past harvest time, and your weed might seem pretty dry. However, it’s actually still surprisingly wet deep inside. Drying only gets rid of the water close to the buds’ surface, and the curing process eliminates the inner moisture.
Curing cannabis is another essential step that only the most foolish growers overlook. In addition to eradicating the deeper moisture, curing buds also encourages chlorophyll and excess sugars to break down, thus reducing the harshness of the smoking experience.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much THC your buds contain or how coated they are with trichomes; you can’t produce high-quality weed without curing. It’s also very difficult to store cannabis that hasn’t been cured, so it’s good that the process is so straightforward.
Note that if you didn’t trim your branches before drying, you’ll have to do so now – a procedure known as dry trimming. Once that’s done, you must put your dried buds into mason jars or other glass jars.
Jars should only be filled to about three-quarters of their capacity to allow airflow and evaporation. Once the lids are on, place your containers in a dark, dry place for several weeks.
Most growers advocate ‘burping’ your weed once daily for the first couple weeks of the curing process. To do so, simply open the lids to let the moisture out and fresh air in. At the same time, it’s worth checking your stash for any mould and getting rid of the affected buds before the pathogen can spread through the jar.
Burping is only necessary for the first two weeks, but many growers choose to cure their weed for a month or two to really bring out the terpenes and enhance the flavour of the final product. Once again, it makes little difference whether you’re working with autos or photoperiod strains, as curing is equally vital for both varieties.
How To Store Your Cured Weed
Once your autoflower cannabis is dry and fully cured, the last thing you want to do is ruin all that hard work by storing it incorrectly. Too much heat or moisture can destroy terpenes and cannabinoids while also encouraging mould, so keeping your weed in an optimal environment is vital.
The same mason jars used for curing make excellent long-term storage containers and are far superior to baggies or other plastic vessels. Properly cured cannabis can easily last for a year or more without losing its potency or aroma if stored in a sealed glass jar in a dark, cool spot.
Ideally, relative humidity within the jar should be around 55 per cent, and many growers choose to use Boveda humidity packs to ensure they hit the right level.
Now all that’s left for you to do is enjoy your dried, cured and properly stored weed!