Atlas Plant Founder – Rob Smith – How To Drying and Cure Cannabis
I had the good fortune of talking with Rob Smith, the co-founder, and CEO of Atlas Plant Trainer. Rob and I talked in detail about the drying and curing process of cannabis. Rob offers his tips and tricks and what to do and what not to do. He also offers practical tips on how to boost your yield.
For the first few minutes of this interview, Rob and I talked about his startup. If you’re solely interested in reading about drying and curing please click on this link. As always please share your thoughts and opinions about this interview in the comment section.
Shane: Hello everyone this is Shane from cheaphomegrow.com, interviewing Ron Smith, Rob is the founder and CEO of Atlas Plant Trainer, and today we are going to be talking about drying and curing. Rob, why don’t you tell my audience a little bit about yourself?
Rob: Sure, Thanks for having me, Shane. My wife and I started growing cannabis as medicine for other people about four years ago, and I learned that I have a pretty green thumb. We continued the operation and have been growing for elderly patients, veterans, school teachers, mothers, and for a variety of different ailments over the last four years. In that journey we found that there was a hole in our market, we live in Maine, for some ancillary services. So we bought a trimming machine from EasyTrim and their satellite, which is a great trimming machine, and we started renting it out to caregivers locally in Maine.
Rob: Since then we’ve started expanding that operation throughout New England. That business is called Green Harvest Solutions. We started that not only out of a hole in the market, but seeing that there was a lot of quickly dried and quickly cured, or not cured it all, Cannabis out in the market. I’m a firm believer that at least 50 percent of your final product of your Cannabis comes after you chop the plant down. So a lot of people put a lot of work into growing the best Cannabis and the best-looking buds that they can and then don’t dry and cure properly, so they burn off a lot of the terpenes and cannabinoids, and don’t preserve them by curing properly.
Rob: We wanted to help educate people, so at Green Harvest Solutions we not only provide a service but also some education as well. I was really frustrated with the lack of training and supporting products that were on the market, so we designed and have brought to market a product called Atlas Plant Trainer. Which is a click together tomato cage that allows you to grow your plant to the exact size, shape, and dimensions that you want. We’re replacing the bamboo stakes, tomato cage, trellis, soft wire ties, all of that cell type stuff that people have used in the garden for centuries, to get the biggest yields. We’re just trying to meet that need for people that are growing at home to get the biggest yields and the most product out of each plant that they possibly can.
Shane: How is the market reacting to your new product? Is it being well accepted?
Rob: Yeah, I think so. We do a lot of trade shows and we have some solid pre-orders. The overwhelming response that we get from people, especially experienced growers, is that they’re excited to see something like this has actually come out. People have called us the “K’nex” or the “Lincoln Logs” for growers because our pieces click together and grow with the plant as the plant grows, as opposed to using a set length bamboo stake or tomato cage that is very limited in functionality and customization.
Rob: Our pieces provide growers with all of that functionality that some knew that they needed and didn’t know how to get, and others are quickly learning that they absolutely need as they’re trying to get the most out of each one of their limited plant counts.
Shane: It sounds pretty interesting, and I definitely want to have you back on again on this, show so that we can talk further about that in the future.
Rob: Yeah, we’d love that.
Shane: Let’s get into the drying and curing questions that I have for you. [Rob, “Sure”] Why do you growers dry and cure buds to begin with, what’s the point?
Rob: First off, a dry cannabis means it’s smokeable and usable. To smoke or use a … plant freshly cut down I don’t think is anywhere near possible … (A) Long-Time consumer, maybe people that are newer to the market haven’t experienced this, but I have a bought a bag of flower from somebody and had it not be quite dry. It was moist, and I needed to leave the bag open, or even leave it in a paper bag, to dry it out.
Rob: First off, it makes it combustible, but it also drives the chlorophyll out of the plant which gets you to the true flavor of the terpenes the of the cannabis plant that we’ve all come to know and love. That’s the smell and the flavor that you get. There’s been a lot more focus on the terpenes and the entourage effect, and what terpenes can bring to you outside of the effects of the cannabinoids THC and CBD. One of the main reasons that we started the business is because drying should be done slowly and a lot of people were speed drying their Cannabis to get it out the door and on to the market faster … (T)hat doesn’t preserve, that smell and the flavor as much as it should.
Rob: Depending on your drying techniques, you can actually destroy those terpenes out and the cannabinoids and lessen the efficacy. Terpenes evaporate … after you cut the plant down, so depending on how you dry and your plant and how fast you dry it, the heat that you apply can evaporate those terpenes and then degrade the smell and flavor, then, in turn, the degree of the overall efficacy of it. I’m not a scientist, and this is all that I’ve learned over the years of doing this type of stuff. We noticed… with the proper trimming and drying techniques, being able to retain a much better smell and flavor out of our products and than we were finding on the market, so we kind of wanted to help educate people on that.
Shane: I’m happy you said techniques, which brings me to my next question. How does one go about drying a drying their buds?
Rob: There are lots of different ways to dry your cannabis. The most effective and terpene and cannabinoid preserving techniques that we’ve found and use is, not a whole plant hang, but we cut our plants down into sections that are 12 inches to 24 inches in length… cut them off the plant so that there is a hook them on them. So you cut a branch off from the main branch leaving a hook at the top, and then we hang a bunch of those on a coat hanger. We have twenty, two-tier drying racks or clothes racks… you can purchase from Walmart or Amazon, and they hold fourteen hangers, nine on the top, five on the bottom, and they hold about a half pound of dry product per rack.
Rob: We hang those in a temperature and humidity controlled room, as dark as we can keep it … because light can also evaporate those terpenes and cannabinoids, and leaving it in the dark will leave a better flavor. So, we control that humidity to about 45 to 50 percent and the temperature between 68 and 72 (degrees), and let the product dry. We have some strains that, in those conditions are done in 7 – 10 days, and then we have some strains that take up to three weeks to dry under those conditions. So you just let the plant do whatever it does, and whenever those stems that are hanging break (or) snap as opposed to… bend… we want our stems breaking all the ways from the first node all the way down to right underneath that top bud.
Rob: About two days before we expect that to be dry we’ll pull all the fan leaves off at that point in time. We leave all the fan leaves off during the drying process to protect the bud there are a lot easier to pull off when they’re a lot drier, you know. Um, so about two weeks before we expect them to dry and go through, other than pull out the fan leaves and then when they’re dry and the stems are snapping we’ll pluck off all the buds and put them in jars. Once all of a particular strain is dry we will toss it into the trimming machine… (I)f it’s a hand trim strain like a Pineapple Express, because it’s more of a sativa (with) longer more delicate buds. We do hand trim some of our products but only if it wouldn’t do well in any trimming machine. There are just some strains that aren’t going to be machine trimmed. That’s our process because we found that it promotes the most terpenes and the most cannabinoids and it turns into an amazing smelling and tasting product.
Shane: What are some things that people shouldn’t do when drying their cannabis?
Rob: They should not raise the temperature and lower the humidity. Any time that you are rushing through the drying process, it is going to evaporate the terpenes and cannabinoids faster and not preserve them as much as they should be. So you’re going to lose a lot of the flavor and smell and efficacy especially raising the heat, but also lowering the humidity zaps that moisture out quicker than it should be and takes a lot of that smell and flavor with it. So the two main points when we’re looking at quality, value cannabis, in my opinion, is temperature and humidity and controlling that at a seventy-ish degrees means and fifty-ish humidity.
Shane: How does, how does one go about curing their cannabis?
Rob: So I think what the important things to mention is the aspect of trimming after you dry. One of the major things that we found that we really started to influence our market is the need for dry trimming. A lot of people might question why and it’s pretty good science behind why, and hand trimming doesn’t seem to affect it as much, but definitely when we’re using machines. The science behind it is every leaf for every plant has chlorophyll in it. It’s what makes the plant green, we all learn that in high school biology or middle school biology. When you cut that plant and then cut that leaf in the trimming process, it still has chlorophyll in it. With a pair of scissors you are cutting that leaf one, maybe three times during the hand trim process.
Rob: Everytime you cut that leaf it’s forcing chlorophyll in that cut into the end of the leaf and then back into the bud. When you’re cutting that two to three times you’re forcing a little bit of chlorophyll back in there and then that chlorophyll needs to be work back out of the bud during the cure process, so after you’ve dry it and cured it you may open up a jar and smell hay or grass. Definitely, that trimmed product need to be cured longer to get that smell out of there and back to the true smelling flavor of the bud.
Rob: With machine trimming some of those blades on a wet trimmer may cut that leaf a hundred times, a thousand times, who really knows, but it forces chlorophyll back into that bud every time it cuts it.
Rob: So you’re finding with the machine trimmed bud, it was leaving that chlorophyll and that hay smell a lot longer and taking a longer cure process to get down to the true smell and flavor of it. In my belief, never actually make it down to the true smell and flavor of the bud.
Rob: There’s always that lingering, hay smell, l like you just rolled by a huge grass field that was just cut in the middle of summer… (D)ry trimming allows all of that chlorophyll and all of that green to dry out of that leaf. You can cut it a million times, and you’re not forcing any chlorophyll back into the bud, that’s why you’re able to get to the true smell and flavor of that cannabis quicker.
Rob: To get back to your question, that brings up the curing process. Curing is to even out the last little bit of moisture that’s left in that stem and that bud, even it out throughout that entire jar … (D)uring the curing process you’re letting that moist air out by burping the jars, which is taking the cap off, letting fresh air circulate, you’re refreshing the moistness and really getting that cannabis to that perfect smoking quality. Then the smell and the flavor really start to come out.
Rob: For me, it’s after 7 to 10 days in that jar, and that’s really when it’s perfectly cured for me because of the slow dry that we do. Some people that either speed dry or wet trim have to cure for three, four or five weeks to get to that good smelling bud.
Rob: Some people don’t ever let it get to that point and then put stuff out there without ever truly capturing that smell by putting it in a glass jar and letting that product permeate in itself and allow the smell and the flavors blend together. So that when you open up that jar it punches in the face, and you just love that smell.
Rob: Have you ever had that experience of opening up a bag or opening up a jar and you’re like, man, this smells like a grass field in the middle of summer? That’s not what weed is supposed to smell like, so if you let that stuff cure up a little bit longer to get to that, that smell and flavor the buds is intended to have.
Shane: Let’s go back a little bit. You mentioned trimming. Is there anything you want to elaborate on regarding trimming and do’s and don’ts and so on, so forth?
Rob: Dry trim, dry trim, dry trim. I personally would, hand trim everything that we produce, and we’re going to get to the point very soon where, because of the other businesses, we’re going to be able to shift away from the growing for other people. When we’re only growing for ourselves, we might actually get back to being human.
Rob: Personally for me, it’s a way to connect with the plant during its last stages. I find a great deal of joy and growing and connecting to the plant throughout the entire growth cycle.
Rob: Watching a bud grow from a plant and then into this beautiful flower, and then taking that flower down and trimming it and putting it in a jar and then consuming it like I have for more than half my life now.
Rob: Completing that cycle is really something to see: all the work that you’ve done come out in a pair of scissors and really look amazing, and then being able to put that in a jar and then smell it and smoked it and experience that part that you put your heart and soul into.
Rob: I hate seeing people put so much effort into growing really top shelf, great looking cannabis and then ruin it by not trimming properly or not curing properly, not drying properly, any one of those three things. In my opinion, ruin three or four months of your hard work that went into that plant or that bud.
Shane: How do people ruin their harvest, is it trimming or drying? What is the number one thing that people screw up on in your opinion?
Rob: Are we looking for after the plant is cut down?
Shane: During the process and after the process.
Rob: One thing that I preach to anybody that I talked to you about growing is to be willing to try different things … the most important thing is wanting your plant, getting to know your plant, spending time with your plant, and loving your plant. If you are not familiar with the strain that you’re growing and how it’s going to react to your feeding program and the things you’re doing day in and day out, you really really, in order to get the best quality cannabis. You need to be watching that plant and learn what it’s doing and how it’s reacting to your feeding, or your flushing or a training or a talking.
Rob: And if you’re watching it and not, overreacting, but reacting to what it’s doing and trying to learn, keeping a journal of feeding. I still write down every feeding I give my plants after four years of growing because I want to be able to track back if something went wrong. I guess that’s the biggest thing is during the growing cycle, keeping track of what you’re doing, pay attention to how it affects your plants and reacting properly to signs of stress, whether that’s overfeeding or-or light stuff, and correcting those issues.
Rob: The biggest thing that growers do to ruin their hard work after cutting I would say is wet trimming and, and not allowing that chlorophyll to dry, and trimming it without concerns about the end quality product and that hay grass smell that you’re leaving.
Shane: What do you mean by wet trimming?
Rob: That trimming is as soon as you cut down the plant you are putting on a pair of scissors to it and trimming it down to the bud. Then after that, there are some different ways that people handle that, some people trim it down on the stem and hang dry it.
Rob: Some people will cut all the buds off and then have them hand trimmed and throw them on the drying rack. That to me is the worst option of the two because you’re not only wet trimming, but they’re also kind of hurrying up the drying process by eliminating that stem and the natural moisture that has and just kind of rushing through the drying and curing process.
Rob: When you spend three to four months growing a beautiful plant, what’s another three or four days to properly dry and cure it to get the best product you can over rushing through that process and just getting it out there?
Shane: OK. You touched upon this a little bit earlier in the conversation, but should a person use jars?
Rob: Absolutely. I’m a big fan of glass jars, or we have a handful of the CVaults, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, but they come in multiple sizes, they’re stainless steel, they have an airtight lid. They don’t allow any light in. On the underside of the lid, they have some places for some Boveda humidity packs.
Rob: For the long-term storage of cannabis, which we really haven’t talked about, Boveda humidity packs are a two-way humidity control product that maintains the moisture level at a certain spot, whether that’s 55 percent, 58 percent or 62 percent within your jar or container.
Rob: I learned a long time ago that glass or stainless steel was the way to go for the storage of the cannabis because throwing a bunch of your weed in plastic bins or plastic totes, that plastic leaves a flavor or a smell. It’s sometimes distinguishable, sometimes not, but you never get that with a glass jar. You’re always smelling what the bud was intended to smell like if you did a good job growing it. So glass jars, or new things out in the market, or CVaults are the way to go for curing your cannabis.
Shane: So know this is all off the cuff. What do you mean by that? Can you take me through, not just me, but the people that are listening, what do you mean by that? How does it work and what a person should do, shouldn’t do, so on so forth?
Rob: Sure. Admittedly this is not in the area that I have perspective because we haven’t had to, but I think Cannabis has a good 6 to 12-month shelf life if properly preserved before degradation starts to begin. To get past that six months and you really do have to do a perfect job in drying for the right humidity level, which runs 50 to 55 percent, and then curing your backup for that 55 to 58 percent, in my opinion, for that long-term storage.
Rob: Maybe you have an outdoor grow, and you’re really successful, and you want that outdoor product to last you throughout the year until the next time you’re able to outdoor grow.
Rob: So, say you’re cutting down in October, and you’re in jars and November, you want that product to last all the way through until the next summer. In order to do that you have to control the humidity that’s inside that jar. You don’t want it getting too moist because it will create mold inside your buds and then you don’t want it to get too dry because then everything will be crumbling.
Rob: The dryness also affects the overall quality. Curing your buds will involve putting the product in the jars and then to start you would burp those jars two times a day today, which means taking the cap off for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, capping that backup, maybe give it a little shake and circulate that air.
Rob: Then after a week or so you’re really starting to notice that quality smell in those buds, you drop down to burping your jars once a day, and then once every other day, and then maybe twice a week. Over time you’re getting down to burping those jars once a week because you just want to keep that air in there keeping that moisture circulating, but you don’t want it getting stale.
Rob: That’s where that long-term storage comes in is those Boveda humidity packs to the keep your bud at that, I prefer, 58 percent. Some people prefer up to 62 or 63 percent. I find that it keeps that bud a little too moist in my opinion. That 58 percent for me is that sweet spot where you can squeeze the bud, it’s a little spongy butt, crack it open that stem cell snap and get that in, know that proper smell and that pungent aroma to your nose.
Rob: So that 58 percent is that sweet spot, and that’s where we like to keep our products for that long-term aspect. I think one of the key points is a dark, cool place so you’re not getting light to the bud and you’re not introducing outside dry air that will dry out the bud and the Boveda pack quicker than it needs to be. I think those are keys for that long-term storage. Like I said, that is one area that I have yet to perfect, and we’re definitely working on it.
Shane: Should a person use paper bags in order to dry their Cannabis or is that something that you would not recommend?
Rob: I wouldn’t recommend it, but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think it’s the worst method. I think a big paper bag is probably generally used for moisture conditions where you can’t necessarily control their humidity and temperature, where the paper bag kind of help kind of helps the moisture level because it can absorb some of the moisture from getting through it.
Rob: When people have to use that it’s an okay option. Ideally, you can hang it in there and let the moisture dry out through the stem. I think in a pinch I think paper bags are a perfectly okay option because of the things I said, the moisture control. It keeps things easy to shake up and move around.
Shane: Getting back to curing, Is it possible to cure your cannabis for a better taste? Is that even possible and if so, how?
Rob: Yeah. Essentially, that’s what curing is all about, and you’re normalizing that moisture level throughout the bud and allowing the true smell and the flavor of the bud to come out, um, through the terpenes and curing process. I know you’ve grown before.
Rob: You’ve probably experienced this, where you cut down a plant, and you’re like, “Man, that really smells great,” and then three or four days after drying dry, and you’re like “oh, this doesn’t really smell like anything. Seven or 10 days after drying and you’re like, “oh, that’s the smell that I’ve been waiting for,” and curing only magnifies that smell that you are looking for in that final product, and the taste. Without that, depending on your trimming and your drying process, without a proper quality cure, you’re never getting to what the bud is supposed to taste or smell like, in my opinion.
Shane: I have some “how to” questions for you could, but I think you’ve pretty much answered these questions in previous statements that you made. Let me see if you didn’t answer any of these.
Rob: Sure. You want me just to give a real quick answer?
Shane: Yeah. How to stop cannabis from drying out?
Rob: When you’re in the drying process, it is definitely something that you need to monitor daily. When it gets closer to dry, you should be checking your buds in the morning and in the evening because there is that fine point, especially in a humidity controlled room, that if you don’t check them for 24 hours, they might go bad, and some of your buds are too dry.
Rob: We check ours in the morning and evening to prevent dryness. We’re taking buds off the stem morning and evening… It’s coming off from the stem and into a jar. We really try and capture it at that perfect dryness level, but if you allow it to get too dry those humidity like I talked about are a great way to bring your product back to the humidity level that you desire.
Shane: From that, you mentioned the prior, it doesn’t sound like you were too excited about speeding up the drying process, but if you had to recommend a method, or methods, of speeding it up, what method would you recommend?
Rob: Lowering the humidity would be my preferred method over increasing the temperature. Temperature will dry out the product quicker and evaporate those terpenes, as opposed to maybe just lowering the humidity to 40 percent or lower, it will dry it out quicker, but you get to keep most of the smell, the effects, and the flavor.
Shane: How do you slow down the drying process?
Rob: We increase the humidity and temperature and hanging your plants by the larger stem will definitely slow things down. On the flip side, back to speeding things up is cutting the buds off the stem and putting them on a drying rack.
Shane: Your preferred method is is using a drying rack?
Rob: Normally we hang things from the stem on a clothes hanging rack on clothes hangers.
Shane: If a listener is interested in drawing cannabis on a rack, how would they do so?
Rob: To get to that dry curing state would be to cut the fan leaves off, cut the buds off the stem, office them, then throw them on a drying rack. When your buds dry, that’s again, test them by snapping the bud in half or the stem and half, and then once that’s all dry, then you’d want to go through the trimming and the curing process, but on a drying rack obviously no stem will speed up the drying process and then the layers allowing the airflow all the way around the bud will certainly help that out as well.
Shane: One final question, how much weight is lost when you dry the actual cannabis itself?
Rob: You end up with about 25 percent of your wet rate, maybe as low as 20 percent when all is said and done and trimmed it off. Say you cut down a plant that weighs 10 pounds; you’re probably looking at two pounds or less of the final product.
Shane: Wow, that seems like a lot really, in my opinion.
Rob: Yeah, but plants are made mostly of water. Imagine lettuce after it dries out or an apple after dries out, shriveled and crunchy and crinkly. A lot of those fruits and vegetables are mostly water and cannabis is no different.
Shane: Is there any questions that I should be asking? Is there anything that I’m forgetting? Do you have any closing statements that you want to make or anything along those lines?
Rob: As far as drying and curing and trimming, my biggest suggestion is don’t rush the process. You spend a lot of time and effort into growing the best quality cannabis, and there’s certainly no need to ruin all your hard work by rushing that last step by 3 or 4 more days when you spent 3 or 4 months getting to that point. So you take it slow, take it easy, and it’ll all be worth it if you do it the right way.
Shane: Thanks for coming on the show and I really do appreciate it, and I hope to have you on again.
Rob: Yeah, thanks, Shane. I’m definitely looking forward to that opportunity to talk about plant community and our entrepreneurial journey.
Shane: I’ll be talking to you soon.
Rob: Awesome. Thanks, Shane.