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Wet Trim vs. Dry Trim

Trimming cannabis is a key part of the post-harvest process, and well-trimmed buds are an important mark of quality and price in the industry. After buds are harvested from the cannabis plant, they are either dried to reduce the moisture content before they are trimmed or they’re trimmed right away. But what’s better when deciding between wet trim vs dry trim?

Whether the trimming process takes place before or after the drying phase, growers must first cut the stalks into smaller branches. The next step is to carefully remove the small sugar leaves surrounding each bud (not to be confused with the larger fan leaves most associated with marijuana). There are pros and cons to different trimming methods, and the wet trim vs dry trim debate is alive and well going into 2023.

Trimming is traditionally done by hand with a keen eye, gentle touch, and a pair of scissors to shape a cannabis plant’s fruit into a shimmering bud for retail. But the business of legal cannabis demands a different approach. 

Today, the vast majority of cannabis companies rely on industrial trimmers that process flower much more efficiently than a human hand. Trimming on a commercial scale essentially requires industrial machinery for the vast majority of brands. Fortunately, today’s technology operates much closer to hand trimming each year and allows manufacturers and growers to process their harvest at impressive rates. 

When flower is not properly trimmed, consumers notice. Poorly pruned buds are less visually appealing, with haphazard sugar leaves poking off the surface that often shrivel and curl in an unappealing manner. A proper trim will not only leave a harvest more beautiful, but it will also improve things like flower aroma, the terpene profile, and most importantly, how smoothly the buds will smoke. Removing sugar leaves from the buds helps optimize the chemical processes that occur during the curing phase, which enhances the “entourage effect.” 

Perhaps most importantly, trimming cannabis helps to prevent mold growth on the buds during the final stages of the post-harvest process. 

Why do some cultivators prefer wet trimming? 

Wet-trimmed buds are separated from their branches and pruned of their sugar leaves immediately after harvesting. If buds are trimmed wet, they will need to be dried directly after trimming. It is also important not to lay a freshly harvested branch on a flat surface because the buds will warp and flatten. Once the buds are free from sugar leaf remnants, they must be promptly placed on a drying rack. 

wet trim vs dry trim collection tray

One advantage of wet trimming is a shortened drying time. Because the buds are already separated from the rest of the plant, they dry more quickly. In addition to a shorter drying period, wet trimming also requires less space than drying entire branches of cannabis. 

At all stages of the post-harvest process, growers and manufacturers must be vigilant of mold formation. Mold can quickly ruin an entire harvest and waste months of hard work. 

Wet trimmed buds are less likely to create conditions that spur mold and mildew growth. For small growers with fewer resources, space, and tools, wet trimming offers some appealing advantages. Large-scale commercial growers may also find wet trimming appealing in cases where they have a shorter time period to ready their product for the shelves. Not only is the drying process shortened when wet trimming, commercial trimming machines are often able to process wet flower more efficiently than dry flower. 

Why do some cultivators prefer dry trimming? 

Those who choose to trim after the drying process is complete and before the curing process starts are dry trimming their cannabis buds. Before the buds are separated from the rest of the plant, the branches are suspended upside down in a drying room for 10 to 14 days. The drying process takes longer when growers choose to dry buds while they are still connected to their branches and leaves, but there are advantages to trimming buds post-drying. 

A slower drying process often produces denser buds with more richly developed and better-preserved terpene profiles and trichome coverage. These are vital components of top-shelf bud, and for many growers, the extra time is always worth the improved final product.

wet trim vs dry trim hanging plants to dry

Large-scale commercial growers commonly opt for this method for the sake of quality and cleanliness. Dry trimming is also less messy than wet trimming, which involves a lot of sticky resin and lost terpenes which adhere to the leaves and branches during their removal. Drying entire branches also optimizes trim, the excess sugar leaves, and plant components pruned from the buds, for use in extracts and edibles.

While some cannabis professionals believe trichomes may be more easily damaged when buds are dry trimmed, flower can be placed directly in curing containers to protect their integrity. Technology like Grove Bags allows growers to limit plant touching in the post-harvest process and maintain optimal environments for curing and storage. 

Is Wet Trim or Dry Trim better? 

The wet trim vs dry trim debate is likely to continue within the cannabis community for years to come, as there are some pros and cons to each method. More research must be done to determine which method results in better preservation of terpenes, trichomes, and cannabinoids. 

Different scenarios call for different post-harvest processes, and the needs of a business can always evolve. Many growers find it helpful to obtain an industrial trimming machine that can process both wet trim buds and dry trim buds. While best trimming methods are still up in the air, some aspects of the post-harvest process are not up for debate. Whether a grower chooses to wet trim or dry trim, it is vital for buds to be properly pruned, dried, and cured. 

The Bottom line 

Trimming cannabis is a pivotal part of the post-harvest process, as it separates the buds from the rest of the plant. In the past trimming was a tedious, arduous process. Today, with the help of contemporary technology, trimming cannabis is efficient, easy, and greatly reduces the amount of plant touching necessary to process a harvest for sale. 

wet trim vs dry trim grove bag, buds, and trimming scissors

While wet trimming allows for faster dry times and more efficient processing, dry trimming is often thought to yield better buds and usually creates less of a mess. A “best” method has yet to be established by the cannabis community, but it is always important to handle cannabis with the utmost care during the post-harvest process. Whether a grower chooses to dry trim or wet trim, high-quality commercial trimmers and carefully constructed curing environments will help produce the best results. 

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