Thanks to our cultural obsession with THC and CBD, too many growers make the mistake of overlooking the smell of their buds (aka flower) in their quest to achieve that perfect balance of cannabinoids. This can be bad for business. Like wine, weed is an aromatic experience. You wouldn’t drink a flat-smelling glass of Pinot noir; or, if you did, you wouldn’t enjoy it very much. The same goes for cannabis. Even novice marijuana consumers understand that a product’s aroma can say a lot about its overall quality—and they shop accordingly.
So, are your buds not smelling as vigorous as you’d like them to? Don’t sweat it. It’s a common problem with multiple solutions. We outline a few of them in this article.
Terpenes are the key
The importance of terpenes in this context cannot be overstated. Indeed, when discussing the smell and taste of marijuana, terpenes are paramount. Hundreds of them exist; they’re found in various concentrations and combinations throughout the natural world. The most abundant terpene in cannabis, myrcene, is also found in mangoes, hops, and lemongrass.
If a cannabis strain has an especially potent aroma, you can bet it has a robust terpene profile. Furthermore, the strain in question has therapeutic value. Why? Because along with imparting smells, terpenes fortify the health benefits of cannabinoids by participating in the entourage effect. They also have health benefits of their own.
That’s why a cannabis product’s quality is directly related to its aroma. The question is twofold: how to optimize terpene production during the flowering stage, and how to preserve them after harvest.
Growing stronger smelling bud
If your bud’s not smelling quite right, it’s worth looking into nutrients and supplements on the market. There are a lot of products to choose from, and there are a few things you should be aware of before you decide to buy one.
First, you’ll probably want to stick with products made from all-natural ingredients. That means no chemical compounds like Ammonium Phosphate or Potassium Nitrate. Organic weed, like organic food, is better in every sense. The more natural your bud is, the fresher and richer it’s likely to smell.
During the budding stage, look for dedicated “flowering” nutrients with lower levels of nitrogen. In this crucial phase of growth, your plant requires the nurturing effects of amino acids and elements like potassium and phosphorous.
Some growers use soil nutrients along with UVB grow lights, as the latter is said to foster trichome production.
You should begin to taper down the overall nutrient levels once your plants reach the sixth week of growth. By now they’re no longer sprouting new leaves and, assuming you’ve done your due diligence up to this point, they don’t need as many nutrients as they approach harvest. Keep in mind that over fertilizing your bud—especially with nitrogen—can seriously alter its smell, giving it a chemical-like quality.
Curing for maximum smell
This is a crucial and often-overlooked component of maximizing your weed’s aromatic potential. Are your buds not smelling while curing? Or are they smelling too much like grass or hay? It may be that you made a mistake while drying them.
When it comes to drying, slower is better. You can avoid drying too hastily by keeping the humidity around 50 °F. If it’s much lower it will accelerate the drying process; if it’s much higher, mold is liable to appear. You want to avoid both of those scenarios.
As for temperature, keep it around 70 °F. Any higher and you risk losing more terpenes than necessary, which will have a negative impact on the smell of your cannabis.
With that out of the way, it’s time to cure your buds. To repeat, this is a critical step with enormous influence on how the end product will smell and taste. No cigar maker would ever roll his tobacco leaves into a cigar without first curing them; the same ought to be true of weed growers.
Once your flower is properly dried, put them into airtight containers—typically mason jars—and let the curing stage begin. It will take at least two weeks to sufficiently cure your buds, although many growers choose to stretch the process out over a month or two.
At this point, the most important variable is going to be the humidity. Open the jars every so often to check on the state of the buds. If they’re getting too dry, you need more humidity; if they’re beginning to stick together or smell musty, you need less. The ideal range is 60-65%. Consider investing in a hydrometer to help you manage the humidity with precision.
Preserving aroma when storing
There are no hard and fast rules about marijuana’s shelf life, but we know there are steps we can take to keep it from losing aroma, flavor, and potency. The last thing you want is to spend time and resources cultivating flower with rich, textured aromas, only to let them slip away through improper storage.
The buds should be stored in a cool, dry place, out of the sunlight, in a sealed container. By “cool” we mean 70 °F or less. If you keep your cannabis in a warmer environment it’s liable to develop mildew and mold. Plus, as we stated above, terpenes don’t do well in high temperatures.
And just as humidity is a vital factor while you cure your buds, so it is while you store them. Maintain a relative humidity of about 60% to keep the aromas from breaking down.
By nurturing and preserving the terpenes in your cannabis plants, you’ll no longer need to worry about your buds not smelling the way they should. On the contrary, you’ll end up with a delightfully pungent flower characterized by layered scents, bold flavors, and optimized effects.