As a cannabis producer, the profit you make is determined by how good your product is. Drying is the last step before your product gets into your customer’s hands, so if that process isn’t dialed in and accurate, there’s a lot more opportunity for failure, such as botrytis and other molds and fungus. To lose it at the end can eat away at your profits and be detrimental to your business in the long run.
Why is the drying process so key to cannabis production?
If you don’t dry or cure adequately, you’ll harm the product in a way that really degrades the product. You differentiate yourself in the market by having a quality product and showcasing it. As drying is the last step before your product gets into the hands of your customer you want it to be dialed in and accurate as there is a lot of opportunity for failure during the drying process.
When people reach for your brand, they’re expecting uniformity. Terpene and THC preservation keeps the product high-end and consistent. I like to think of moisture content in cannabis as similar to the temperature in wine; if the cannabis is great, but it’s at 6% moisture content, then it’s not going to be a great product.
Is drying overlooked in the industry?
It seems to be one of the last things that many people go to, putting more emphasis on growing the plant – which is also important, as you need the plant matter to be able to dry and cure. However, if your drying process and room isn’t dialed in, you’re going to lose out. To me, that’s the most important room in the entire facility, so being able to automate it is crucial.
What are the key considerations of the drying process?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about drying is that it’s just a room with dehumidification. One of the main aspects to drive home in the drying/curing process is adequate airflow uniformity and dehumidification. We want to make sure that we have the capacity to adequately dry the product quick enough that it reduces any chance of botrytis, bringing that available water down in the room below 0.8 and mitigate pathogens and mold growth. Once it’s past that point, you’ll want to even out the curve and slow the drying process to make sure the product isn’t losing terpenes and cannabinoids. That’s where uniformity and precision controls come in as key, because controlling the product allows it to dry adequately and become a fantastic product.
Having 50% of moisture removed within the first 24-48 hours is typically ideal, and being able to control humidity temperature and maintain adequate airflow means you’re not agitating the bud.
What are some dry room equipment considerations?
You can purchase specifically engineered rooms that include their own HVAC built in on the roof. If somebody has built a room themselves, it’s important to have a proper HVAC, know your latent loads, and have a supplemental dehumidification unit (if it’s needed). The main part that many people miss is to have something that can reintroduce humidity back into the room; it’s incredibly important to have this and proper airflow and dehumidification. If you don’t, it can be detrimental.
What are some of the alternatives for airflow and humidity control?
There’s many different drying solutions on the market right now, such as microwave drying, freezer drying, and dehumidification drying. It’s heavily dependant upon the product that you want to promote. If you’re promoting a flower, then you want to provide a good dry and cure, because that’s where you really want to showcase your flower. If you’re extracting materials after the product is dry, an immediate dry might be a quick solution to pump it out as quick as possible.
When we’re specifically talking about solutions where you want to promote the integrity of the bud, cannabinoids, and terpenes, the most ideal practice is reducing any possibilities of microclimates in that space as it will provide you with uniformity and ensure the product is drying adequately and consistently.
Another aspect is the ability to sanitize the surface after each harvest, which gives you a safety factor of reducing any chance of pathogens passing along to the next batch brought into the room. For certain certifications, this is also a requirement.
Whether you use isopropyl alcohol, vinegar, or just handwash the space, sanitizing is typically required for all processes. Aside from that, providing adequate filtration for fresh air is all the processes you typically require. You can also add some sort of positive pressure to reduce pathogens from entering the room; when the door opens, almost no contaminants can enter the room if the positive pressure is pushing out anything in the room.
How does terpene preservation and development play into the drying process?
One of the aspects we see goes back to airflow; you’re maintaining the integrity of the bud. For example, you’re trying to crystalize those trichomes on the edge of the bud via a very soft airflow that pulls moisture away, but isn’t strong enough to agitate the bud. One thing I’ve seen in the industry that if there’s dehumidification, you should just force as much circulation airflow as possible. This pulls away any residual moisture we’re not getting from the dehumidification. However, where you’re hurting the bud more is by pushing more air against it and agitating it more, diminishing the quality of your product. This is one of the things you’re combining with adequate airflow to ensure you’re maintaining those essential cannabinoids without irritating them. There’s a happy medium of gently pulling away moisture, but not pulling away any valuable aspects of the bud.
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