Why Traditional Freeze Dryers Shouldn’t Be Used for Drying and Curing Cannabis

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October 14, 2020
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Drying and curing cannabis, while two separate steps, are often executed together and are closely linked. These two steps can be a make-or-break moment for your run: when the right choices aren’t made during drying and curing, you’re left with subpar product that cannot be sold or consumed – not to mention all the time and money lost.

Many of the issues stem from uncontrolled moisture levels. In the quest to avoid these issues, cannabis cultivators have recently turned to freeze dryers. A method promoted by cannabis grower Ed Rosenthal, freeze drying gained a following for its ability to bring moisture content to ultra-low levels, a great asset for extractors. Plus, freeze drying shaved days and even weeks off the drying process. 

Unfortunately, though, the same freeze dryers that make banana chips and preserve wedding bouquets aren’t exactly equipped to handle the intricacies of a plant as complicated as cannabis. How can cannabis get the freeze drying treatment without giving up quality and experience? Here, we’ll briefly go through the cannabis drying and cannabis curing process and break down how a new generation of cannabis pioneers has unlocked the key to preserving cannabis at its freshest.

How does the commercial cannabis curing and drying process work?

The drying process is crucial to removing excess moisture that could cause bud rot, mold, or mildew. The cannabis curing process is key for concentrating flavors, increasing potency, and for the flower’s long-term preservation. 

Just like any craft, there are varying opinions between cannabis enthusiasts as to which methods are best for drying and curing cannabis. Keep that in mind as you read the steps outlined below, which are designed to be a general guideline of how the cannabis drying and cannabis curing process works.

  • Cannabis is harvested and trimmed: At the end of the growing season, the cannabis is collected and prepared for drying. Depending on the processor, the small sugar leaves emerging from the bud may be manicured before or after drying. (Cryo Cure can handle your flower both ways!)
  • Cannabis is hung to dry: The most common way to dry cannabis is to cut stems from your cannabis plant and hang them upside-down. Some will also trim bud from the plant and lay them on drying racks. Light, temperature, and humidity play a big role here, so keeping an eye on those two factors is key for a successful drying process. Drying typically takes a few days up to two weeks or more.
  • Cannabis is cured: The dried buds are then put in an air-tight container. One of the most popular cannabis curing methods involves jars, but some cannabis advocates call for containers made of wood, ceramic, or other materials. These jars are opened frequently or “burped” to let in fresh air. Depending on your desired outcome, cannabis can be cured for weeks or even months before it’s ready for consumption. 

Expediting cannabis drying and curing: How freeze dryers came to be

Time is a significant pitfall of the traditional cannabis drying and curing process. Waiting for weeks or months to gift or enjoy your cannabis is certainly a test of patience. This prolonged period presents practical challenges for industrial cannabis cultivators, too, as weeks and even months go by before a harvest is brought to market, particularly in a cost-effective manner.

Time also creates room for error. The cannabis curing and drying processes are so precise and sensitive that even the slightest changes in temperature, airflow, humidity, time, and light can put an entire harvest at risk. Once damaging moisture gets in, there’s no way to mitigate it: flower with traces of mold, mildew, and bud rot must be destroyed and can never be sold to the consumer. You could incur regulatory fines if your flower doesn’t pass inspection, not to mention the public relations nightmare if a consumer finds moldy bud in their purchase. By shortening time spent drying and curing, you reduce opportunities for moisture to creep in and wreak havoc on your crop.

Reducing moisture is one of the reasons why freeze dryers gained popularity in the first place. On the surface, freeze dryers for cannabis drying and curing makes total sense. If moisture is the enemy, then a machine designed to zap plant matter of its dampness is the ideal solution. Not only do freeze dryers extract maximum moisture, but they also do so in a fraction of the time – a win-win for the long traditional drying and curing process! However, as we learn more about the science of cannabis and further refine drying and curing best practices, the shortcomings of traditional freeze dryers are coming to light as new technologies emerge to improve the practice.

Why commercial freeze dryers are a bad idea for cannabis drying and curing

While apple rings may turn out delicious and roses may be beautifully preserved in time, those same systems are literally not built to preserve cannabis and hemp flower’s best qualities in the same way. As a result, cannabis and hemp flower sent through a traditional freeze dryer turns out brittle, dry, and less potent. Why is that?

  • Commercial freeze dryers make cannabis too dry. Yes, that’s possible! Overdried flower burns too fast, creating a less-than-ideal smoking experience for both cannabis and hemp. It’s extremely fragile, too: one touch, and cannabis from a commercial freeze dryer can quite literally turn to dust. 
  • Commercial freeze dryers zap aroma and flavor. Taste and smell from terpenes are a big part of the consumption and medicinal experience. After all that hard work growing and processing your cannabis, the last thing you want is for a customer to turn away, longing for the flavors and smells that come with a traditional cure. 
  • Commercial freeze dryers make trichomes too brittle. Trichomes are the most important component of cannabis flower. These ultra-small structures coat the outside of the bud, containing most of its cannabinoid and terpene content. Freeze dryer settings make these trichomes too brittle and they often break off, reducing flower’s overall potency. 

That all being said, it doesn’t mean that cannabis shouldn’t be freeze dried. It just needs to be done so correctly – and that’s where Cryo Cure comes in.

The Cryo Cure difference: our system for drying and curing cannabis

Cryo Cure’s main objective isn’t to remove all moisture from smokable flower (although settings can be changed to remove more moisture for extraction purposes) – it’s to bring your cannabis down to ideal moisture levels. This patent-pending process applies a proven range of time, temperatures and pressure to properly preserve cannabis and hemp at the height of freshness, preserving flavor, color, and aroma. This “live resin” flower preserves trichomes at their peak, preventing degradation of THC into CBN.

Cryo Curing shaves weeks off the time typically spent drying and curing cannabis and hemp. Cryo Cure skips the hanging phase of drying, accelerating the process by deep freezing the cannabis for at least 1 hour at -20°F before Cryo Curing. Once the frozen cannabis is placed in the machine, let it run for 12 to 13 hours. With Cryo Cure, you only need to “burp” the cannabis once during the curing process to even out moisture. Moisture settings in the finished product are at an ideal 8 to 12 percent.

Cryo Cure also works magic on the fragile terpenes often lost in the cannabis drying and curing process. Terpenes often evaporate naturally during traditional cannabis drying. Not so with Cryo Cure – this system has a method for collecting trace amounts of terpenes that may be lost during the Cryo Cure process, an excellent feature for extractors and manufactures of products like edibles and vape cartridges. There’s also a dedicated setting for pulling all terpenes from the flower, an extremely valuable process for compounds that are notoriously difficult to harvest.

Cryo Cure has been tested and proven to avoid the pitfalls of commercial freeze dryers designed for other products but have been marketed toward, or informally adopted by, the hemp and cannabis communities. Here’s a quick breakdown of what Cryo Cure can do for your cannabis or hemp, and where other freeze dryers and commercial drying and cannabis curing processes fall short:

FeatureCryo CureOther freeze dryersTraditional method
Drying and curing timeAs little as 24 hours24 hours to a few daysWeeks or months
Trichome preservationYes, not brittleYes, but very brittleYes, but warped and shrunken
Cannabinoid and terpene preservationYesYes, but diminishedYes, but diminished
Terpene collectionYesVariesNo
Programmed specifically for cannabis and hempYesNoNo
Patent pending processYesNoNo
Fresh “live resin” flowerYesNoNo

Cannabis drying and curing: choose Cryo Cure

At first, freeze dryers may seem like the right answer for cannabis drying and curing woes. However, cannabis and hemp has commanding needs that cannot be met by machines designed for food and flowers. Buying a freeze dryer meant for apples is a costly mistake for your facility. The bottom line: if your freeze dryer isn’t built to handle cannabis, proceed with extreme caution. 

With multiple programmable settings, Cryo Cure lets you cut right to the chase and have a top shelf-ready or processor-ready product in just a day’s time, revolutionizing when and how cannabis companies deliver their products to eager dispensaries. We’ve been endorsed by the world’s leading cannabis experts, too, with Ed Rosenthal, Danny Danko, Rick Naya, Tony Verzura, and many more experiencing the Cryo Cure difference for themselves.

Want to learn more about how Cryo Cure can work for you? Explore our models, learn more about our process, and check out our FAQ.

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