First, let me point out, that it seems to me, many growers out there do not put enough importance on the final processing of their crop. After all that hard work and expense, they will rush through the drying process ill-prepared for the inevitable variety of conditions caused by weather and the different densities, moisture content and resin of the huge variations in strains being grown by our highly experimental mad scientist type growers out there today!
The Drying Room
So, let’s start by discussing what a proper drying room should be composed of. What you want is complete control of all the variables, humidity, temperature and air circulation. You obtain this by having a clean, well-sealed room, preferably with concrete floors; walls and ceiling that are smooth (I like fiberglass reinforced plastic panels, water resistant and easily cleaned.) Tight, properly placed lines for hanging whole or partial plants (whole seems to be preferred as it helps slow down the drying process, an advantage explained later) and some wall mounted fans to ensure proper circulation of the equipment used, in, between and around the hanging plants.
Now, lets talk about proper equipment, i.e., air conditioner, dehumidifier, heater and one of the most important items for successful dry trimming, a high quality, misting type humidifier! I know, some of these items are expensive! But so will be the loss of or hugely diminished quality of your crop should you choose to cheap out here! These pieces of equipment are critical to consistently finishing your carefully grown crop. By purchasing high quality components here you get the reliability needed to ensure a proper, hassle free job done each and every harvest.
Here I have only two recommendations. For the dehumidifier A Dri-Eaz – these are incredible units! I know people who have had theirs for 15 years with no problems (clean the unit as per instructions.) They are also one of the only de-humidifiers that remove moisture at temperatures around 60 degrees f. And for the humidifier Hydrofogger – best I know of!
Air-conditioner, heater and fans are a personal choice based in part on your electrical situation and space.
Each piece needs to have a control on it, humidistat, de-humidistat, thermostat. And size wise, my attitude is get the biggest you can of each type, it is better to have your equipment be able to handle the occasional need to deal with extremes and work at an easier pace when not needed then to be constantly pushing it to its limits.
Until you get the room ready, you’re not ready to harvest!
When you decide that your buds are ripe and ready to pick (not going to get into this) I recommend you cut the entire plant and hang it upside down in your room. You can put them together fairly tightly, touching even, as long as you have your room-equipped right (as per previous section of this article).
Here I have a suggestion: if you are an outdoor grower and your plants are coming in wet (rain or mist) I believe you should run your humidity at close to 50 or 55 percent for the first twenty-four hours to remove the excess moisture. A step that will help with the mould and rot issue many face at this juncture. Please remember-bud rot starts out in the field while the plants are growing! Its up to you to spot this and deal with it before bringing those plants into a tightly sealed room!
Next we want to raise the humidity up to 60%, our goal here is to slowly dry these buds down to around the 90% to 95% point of dryness.
Here is why we do this: taught to me a by a lady botanist who finally explained to me the mystery of why buds trimmed dry always smell so much better then ones trimmed fresh.
Now I am not 100% sure of the validity of this explanation, but it sure seems to make sense! Especially after hearing all the feedback from my customers as they have helped me dial in this dry trimming method.
As most of us are aware, we are made up of cells, at least on an above nuclear level. Whether animal or plant, we have millions of cells in us. Each of these cells has a permeable membrane, which amongst other things, are filled with a type of gas. When these cells are cut while living they release this gas in a concentrated form that permeates the surrounding material (read bud here) and starts the process of putrefaction, or rot. This is what greatly affects the aroma of our buds! When we dry them out slowly this problem is overcome because the cell membrane, which is permeable, allows the gas to escape slowly in concentrations low enough to negate the effect it would induce in the much stronger levels when cut live. Now, when the buds extraneous leaf is removed, by the trimmer (man or machine) the gas is gone!
This is the reason we want to dry the buds out slowly. When you get those humidity levels done below 60% what can happen is the outside layer of the flower dries out too fast and forms a sort of scab or barrier that traps the moisture for too long in the center of the buds. This forces the gas to remain in the bud in concentrated amounts for too long! Greatly reducing the aroma you want. By maintaining a slightly higher humidity in the room the gas is able to migrate outwards through the mass of the bud, greatly reducing its affect on the flower. Maintaining the 60% humidity level is also important to prevent “flash drying” the outside of your buds. Two bad things happen when this occurs, first, the outside of the bud becomes so dry that it acts like a seal around the bud preventing the moisture still trapped in the center from escaping in an even constant manner. This traps the gasses inside for a longer period then we want, again reducing the aroma and flavour.
The worst effect however, is that this turns the outside tips very brittle and despite our rehumidication step before trimming, many of the extraneous parts of the bud will break or crumble off during processing.
Leaving the operator the impression the machine is chewing up their buds! Not so! They are actually crumbling off because of their over dry brittle state. Maintain the humidity at 60% throughout the entire drying process and your buds will be much more resistant to this effect and have the bonus of not tasting like paper when smoked!
The easiest way to ensure “Flash drying “does not occur is to run your Hydro-fogger set at 60% in your dry room through out the process. I believe the best place to set the fogger is at ceiling level. If you have left a few feet above your hanging plants open across the whole room the you have the perfect space to distribute the moisture evenly throughout the room ensuring a consistent 60% to all plants.
So how many days do you let the buds dry at the 60% level? I really do not like to answer this question in the “this many days” format. It varies far too much based on strain, conditions, density, and so forth. But I will give you an old school method to use that has been around since the sixties and still works great!
Usually, around day 7 or 8 of hanging in 60% humidity trying to keep the temperature around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 to 21 degrees Celsius you want to start going into the room and testing the “snap” factor of the branches. Pick branches that are of medium diameter, on different levels of the plant in different parts of the room. Bend the branch to about 90 degrees. If it just bends without a snap to it you are not ready for the next phase, they need to be drier. Test twice a day until they just start to have a snap to them. Different plants in different parts of the room will be ready at various times. The only way to know is to check!
Once you have that snap you should immediately cut off the branches, breaking the plant down to a more manageable size, and put them into a large contractor plastic garbage bag or plastic tote. Placing them in with the stalks all oriented in the same direction will make removal for the bucking process much easier.
Be sure to check on the condition of the buds every few hours over the first day. What you want to see here are those outside leaves staying a little dry, this lets you know you guessed right at the amount of snap in your test stalks and they were not still too wet. What you do not want to see is the buds “sweating” and softening up too much again. Especially important is to not allow the stalks to become pliable again!
If you see this, just open up the bags in a 60% humidity room and let them air out a few hours, and then seal them up again. Many of the naysayers out there about machine trimming point to the frayed stalks at the end of the bud as a sure sign of the inferior cut and final look of a machine trimmed bud. While I cannot speak to the reasons for this in other manufacturers’ machines, I can tell you that with a Shearline, if you see this it is a result of just a few errors made by the operator.
So, you’re either trimming fresh, just bucked off a living plant, in which case your stalks will cut cleanly without fraying, or you’re trimming dry with stalks that are at that “just snapping” stage, in which case you will get clean sharp cuts as well. What you cannot do with a machine, or with hand trimming for that matter, is get sharp clean cuts off soft mushy buds! It’s just not possible! Picture trying to cut paper, when it is dry, easy, cuts nice! Now wet the paper, even a bit, and try again, you will see!
The other mistake made by operators is not maintaining their machine correctly. Keep it clean! I designed the Shearline so this is fast and easily done, less than five minutes to clean it every two or three hours is all you need! Watch my extensive “how too” video section on this and setting the blade.
One of the huge advantages to this method is that you now have some breathing room! You can immediately start the next phase and begin to trim or you can safely leave them like this for a considerable length of time with no loss of quality.
I have a number of outdoor growers in California who run half of their yearly crop through in the fall and then store the rest in this manner until spring when the prices are higher. They swear the taste and aroma are even better at this point!
Running it through the machine
Let’s assume that you are ready to trim on the day those stems start to snap for you. Your crew of buckers has shown up, and your machine is clean and ready to go. Now comes the part that really makes the Shearline models able to give you that hand trimmed look!
As stated earlier, those stems need to be snapping for you, not bone dry, because then your bud will be as well, but not bending without a bit of snap. However when they are at this stage the outside leaf that you wish to remove will be dry and somewhat crumbly. This is a problem, because now these buds are around 90% lighter than when fresh. Since your machine operates on the principle of suction, pulling the bud down tight into the slots in the drum. Thus allowing the razor sharp blades to cleanly cut the excess leaf close to the main body of the bud. Those dry leaves are too stiff to allow the suction to pull them through the slots properly. Add to this the fact that you will need to reduce the suction to the drum by opening up your blower’s diverters as much some times as fifty percent (depends on how airy your strain is) and you can see the problem! If you have too much suction on these dry light buds they simply will not travel through the drum on their own. They will just build up inside the drum refusing to come out no matter how much you push in.
How we solve this is quite easy really! Wish I could take credit for it, but as happens a lot when you speak to your customers as often as I do, it was one of my favourite clients who came up with this. Thanks, Frank!
As you have now purchased a Hydro-fogger humidifier (you did right?) Because you needed it to slow down your drying process. What you are going to do here is expose the buds to this high humidity for as short a time as necessary to soften up those extraneous leaf, just to where they get a sort of leathery feel, not crumble when you pinch them between your fingers. The easiest way to do this is buck up one tote or bag at a time, spread the buds out on a clean surface and aim you Hydro-fogger over the buds allowing it to mist down over them. How long? That is your job to figure out! No more then twenty minutes for sure though! If it takes longer then this then you have gotten your buds way to dry.
Pay close attention as you do not want to get these buds wet again inside the main body of the flower or especially, soften up those stalks again! This will just simply not work! All that will happen is you will gum up your machine and ruin a lot of bud.
Your branches are all safely sealed off in your plastic bags and this gives you all the time you need to re-hydrate the leaf. So, open up one bag at a time and get your buckers busy removing the buds from the stalk. Scissors work best for this.
It will take around 10 to 20 minutes usually to soften up all the outside leaves enough for running them through the machine. You will want to stir the buds up a bit to expose all surfaces to the higher humidity so it is even. Do not leave them in there too long! This is important, do not let the stalks soften up or you will have to dry it out again. Not a problem, but a waste of time! This all might sound complicated, it is not! In a few tries you will get the rhythm of this method down and things will flow along beautifully!
Once the leaf has been softened up get them to your machine right away. They will dry out again quickly so find the right speed to buck, re-hydrate and trim that will allow you to keep the product flowing in the right state. Turn on the machine and blower. Start out with all the diverters on your machine fully closed, feed enough bud into the drum to fill it to around one third full in height and the full length of the drum. Less and you will not get a true sense of where you should set your diverters and the speed to feed.
Open your out-feed diverter (see Blower Assembly manual) all the way leave the in-feed one fully closed and wait a few minutes for the machine to trim up the bud inside. When you can see that it is trimmed, usually around three minutes or so, start opening up your Dump Diverter (see Blower Assembly manual) an inch or so at a time. Be patient! Wait two or three minutes each time you make an adjustment. At one point the buds should start to come out the end of the drum, when you see this push another handful in and watch a few minutes. Continue with this, open the dump diverter a bit, feed a handful in, and watch to see the flowers are coming out completely finished. At some point as you do this the buds will be going through the machine a bit to fast for your strain and a few will start coming out shaggy or with leaf still sticking out. Here you simply close the dump diverter back a bit and you now have the machine adjusted to where you can run that strain throughout the day.
If you have one of our auto-feed units you can now set the timer on it to feed at the rate your machine is running after you set the diverters. The timer that comes with your auto-feed has been re programmed for shorter intervals on both the on setting and the off setting. On, is now 1 second to 20 seconds and Off, now is 30 seconds to 500 seconds. The numbers on the timer are not correct so just be aware that they do not represent the true time.
The goal in setting the auto feeder is to have it come on for a burst just enough to recover the first row of slots in the drum as they become empty of bud. This will vary a bit, but usually is some where between two to four seconds. Set the Off time by timing how long the machine takes to clear the first row of slots, usually between one minute and three minutes. Once you have this set you simply keep the hopper full and perform other. After playing with this for a little bit you will get it dialled in. Remember, my machines are designed to give a totally finished trim in one pass! Feeding too fast and trying to trim up after is counter productive, trust me!
There are a few other things to try if it is just not coming out as well done as you want. Because of the huge diversity of strains out there it is impossible to give step-by-step instructions that apply to all. If its not coming out perfect, here are a few things to try. If the buds are not coming out fast enough but they seem to be done and you have opened up the diverters fully. You probably have an airy strain, remove the clear cover over the upper module. This will really allow the bud to travel through the machine faster. You will probably have to close up your diverters a lot when you do this so they don’t run through to fast but this works very well for some. Always start by closing your dump diverter first and then you’re in feed next if you feel you need more suction. The out feed diverter is usually left open in most dry trimming.
If the buds are coming out too fast and not fully finished. You probably have a very dense strain with stiff leaf. Leave the top on and close up your diverters more and possibly feed slower.
This is the present thought on dry trimming, more will probably be coming as this industry is constantly improving as we go. You are always welcome to contact me directly for updates or questions. We want to help you get the best out of your Shearline trimmers.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]