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Better Tasting, Better Smelling Cannabis
by Nebula Haze
How can I get home-grown cannabis to taste and smell as good as professional-quality bud?
Although potency and yields are the biggest concerns for those who grow their own cannabis, many growers want to produce buds that also have a great taste and powerful smell.
If you're one of those people who wants to improve the smell and taste of their home-grown buds, you're on a good path as a grower! Having good taste and odor isn't just an option, it's the hallmark of properly grown bud!
But before you get started, it’s important to understand that one of the best things you can do to ensure your buds taste and smell better is to grow your cannabis properly, and that means...
- Master the basics of growing
- Harvest cannabis plants at the right time
- Dry/cure your buds like a professional.
I know it's not fun to hear, but knowing how to properly grow, harvest, dry and cure cannabis will produce buds that will satisfy even the most discerning cannabis enthusiasts. But there’s still a lot much that can be done to improve the final quality of your home-grown cannabis.
When it comes to improving taste and smell, there are three very important facets on which growers should focus. Today, we'll go through exactly what you need to do:
3 Steps To Improving Taste & Smell
- Increase the Terpene (and Terpenoid) content of your buds - terpenes (pronounced TUR-peen) are what give cannabis its distinctive taste and smell, so increasing these levels are incredibly important. There’s a lot you can do as a grower to increase terpene content and thus bring out the best taste and flavor of your cannabis.
- Avoid common mistakes - some growers are accidentally ruining the taste or smell of their buds and they might not even know it.
- Get the right strain - learn about easy-to-grow and potent strains that are also flavorful and smell great.
Terpenes and terpenoids are a big part of what makes up the the scent of most flowers, including cannabis buds. By promoting terpene and terpenoid production in your buds during the growing process, you are encouraging your plants to produce the strongest scent possible.
Want to know more?
Click here to learn about the science of terpenes and terpenoids!
Each strain will have it’s own unique scent, but you can increase this natural scent using the tips below.
Here is what you, as a grower, need to do...
For advanced growers ONLY! Never attempt to stress your plants intentionally until you’ve already made it through a couple of grows and feel comfortable with your setup. Too much stress can and will slow down your plant’s growth or kill it in severe cases. However, regularly applying a small amount of stress to the plant throughout the flowering stage, especially in the week or two before harvest, can actually increase both trichome (potency) and terpene (smell/taste) production. Common ways of stressing the plant include:
Gentle manipulation of the stems - slight bending or re-arranging without touching the buds, for example LST (low stress training)
More aggressive manipulation of the stems - supercropping is a method that calls for planned breaks in the plants stems without damaging the outside of the stem
- Light defoliation of fan leaves to expose bud sites - some strains do not respond well to defoliation, so start very slowly if you don’t have experience removing leaves. Some advanced growers go for extreme defoliation, but that's not necessary to slightly stress the plant to produce more terpenes
Maintain a low humidity in the flowering stage - in addition to increasing terpene content, this technique may also increase trichome production and potency. Some growers will use a dehumidifier to drop the relative humidity below 20% during the last 2 weeks before harvest
Allow roots to experience drought conditions - Advanced only! Some growers allow roots to get slightly too dry mid-flower - be careful as you can damage the appearance of buds as well as harm or kill your plant if roots are damaged!
Give plants 2-3 days of complete darkness right before harvesting
Restrict Nutrients Towards End of Flowering
Many growers choose to lower nutrients as harvest approaches. In particular, growers should be sure to lower nitrogen levels as too much nitrogen slows down bud formation. It’s also important to make sure that you only use specially formulated “flowering” cannabis nutrients during the flowering stage, as these nutrients are made for the budding stage and will have lower levels of nitrogen and higher levels of potassium and phosphorous.
Nutrient restriction in the flowering phase culminates in “flushing” your plants (giving them only plain water) for the final 1-2 weeks before harvest. Although this doesn't add terpenes, it helps to make sure the plant isn't getting more nutrients during its last two weeks when nutrients really aren't necessary.
Keep Temps Under 80°F (26°C) Throughout the Flowering Stage
Not only can higher temperatures cause plant problems, they can cause terpenes to evaporate into the air. If your buds stay too hot during the flowering stage, the higher temperature may accidentally be burning away some of your terpenes (reducing the final taste/smell of your buds after harvest). It is especially important to make sure buds are not exposed to too-high temps after week 6 or 7 of flowering, as this is when the terpene content in the buds really starts to ramp up.
Give Plants Slightly Cooler Temps at Night, Especially Towards End of Flowering Stage
Cannabis plants are exposed to slightly cooler temps at night in the wild, and there's some evidence that you can increase the terpene content of your buds by giving plants slightly cooler temps indoors when the lights are off.
Note: Slightly chilly is okay, but never let your plants be exposed to cold or freezing temps!
For example, some growers try to keep their plants 10 degrees (F) cooler at night to help improve bud quality and terpene production. Refer to the optimal temperature diagram above to get an idea what temps cannabis plants like best during the flowering stage.
Did you know? In addition to improving taste and smell, terpenes can affect the color of plants. For example, terpenoids are what give tomatoes their red color. This may be at work for certain cannabis strains, too. By maintaining lower night temperatures in the last few weeks before your cannabis harvest, you will also help bring out colors in your cannabis (purple, pink, etc). Of course this only works if your strain has the genes to produce colored cannabis buds in these conditions. Most strains will only grow green buds, but if your plant can produce other colors, cooler night temps is one way to help bring them out!
Grow in Composted Soil
If you grow hydro, sorry this tip will not work for you! There are many others though, so don't worry!
Now for soil-growers, there is some evidence that soil-grown cannabis (especially cannabis grown in composted super soil) will tend to have a more varied and complex terpene profile, which could possibly lead to buds that smell and taste better.
Greenhouse Seeds has been leading the way in cannabis terpene and terpenoid research by growing cannabis in a variety of ways and then directly measuring the terpene content in the buds. They have found that while hydroponic grows tend to get much higher yields (with the exception of a few indica strains), soil-grown buds tend to have a more complex terpene profile. You can see the results of the terpene analyses here.
Never Harvest Buds Early!
Greenhouse Seeds also demonstrated in their testing that terpene content rises steadily throughout the flowering stage while buds are maturing, which indicates that harvesting too early can dramatically reduce your total terpene content.
For many of the strains tested, there appears to be a significant rise in terpene content that seems to happen after around week 6 or 7 of flowering.
While there are some early-harvest strains, it's possible that many strains could produce a better taste/smell if given at least 8 full weeks in the flowering stage before harvest. There are very few strains that need to be harvested sooner than that, and by making sure you give your plants at least 8 full weeks of flowering, you could be helping to ensure that your plants produce all the terpenes they are capable of. Keep in mind that some plants need longer to flower and that 8 is a minimum for non-early-harvest strains.
Learn how to harvest buds at the exact right time here: http://growweedeasy.com/harvest
Grow Under the Sun (Outdoors)
Some growers believe that the type of light received by the plant will affect the terpene content of buds, and believe there is a positive effect on terpenes when cannabis plants are exposed to sunlight throughout the flowering stage.
One such grower - Franco of Greenhouse Seeds - has stated that he believes the sun’s rays increases terpene production. This may be a factor in why some growers believe you get a better taste/smell from outdoor or greenhouse-grown buds.
Some growers believe that the color spectrum being produced in certain modern LED grow lights can also add to the complexity of terpene content, similar to what happens with plants grown under the sun.
This may explain why those growers believe that indoor plants that are supplemented with LED grow lights have a better quality than ones grown just under standard HID lighting.
It’s becoming increasingly popular to supplement HPS grow lights with one or two LED panels during the flowering stage. And while the evidence is only anecdotal, growers who use supplemental LED lighting say the LEDs seem to provide some benefits even though those benefits are hard to measure.
Many growers believe that outdoor-grown or greenhouse-grown bud has a better taste and smell, and perhaps it's possible for indoor growers to capture some of that by using HPS and LED grow lights together in the budding phase of growth, especially during the last few weeks before harvest when terpene production is ramping up.
Avoid handling buds during the grow and after harvest. Bad or rough handling can destroy terpenes and reduce the overall aroma of your buds. Of course you need to touch buds at times, but avoid touching them when you don't need to. (This is tough one for me but I still try!)
After Harvest, Dry Buds Slowly Before Jarring Buds for the Curing Process
Buds turn out better if they're dried slowly after harvest before being jarred; up to 7-10 days of drying is great as long as you can prevent mold.
Some growers who have trouble getting buds to dry slow enough choose to not trim their leaves from buds to help slow down the drying process even further. This definitely will help slow the drying process though this means that you will have to deal with leaves after the buds are already dry which can be very annoying.
It’s important that buds are dry but not over-dry when you put them in jars to begin the curing process. When hanging buds upside down to dry, you know they're ready to put in jars when the outsides of buds feel completely dry, and the smallest stems start to snap instead of bend (though at this point all the big stems will still be bendy).
Avoid drying buds too quickly, and especially avoid quick-dry methods like using a microwave, heater or stove to dry the buds. Quick drying completely ruins the taste and smell of buds!
Never put buds in a jar if they feel wet on the outside. Along the same lines, if buds ever feel even a little damp during the curing process it's important to keep jars open to let the outsides of all buds dry out before closing the jar again. Any amount of dampness in jars can trigger mold, and in addition to being gross and unhealthy, mold makes buds harsh and taste bad.
Learn exactly how to dry and cure your buds like a professional right here: http://growweedeasy.com/curing
There are a few ways that cannabis growers can accidentally ruin the taste/smell of their buds. Don't let this happen to you!
Never Use Scent Neutralizers Anywhere near Flowering Cannabis Plants
Do not spray Febreeze around the grow room, or keep Ona Gel in the same area as your plants!
This is especially important during the flowering stage after buds have started forming!
Any type of scent neutralizer that leaves a "perfume" smell in the air should be avoided anywhere near your flowering cannabis plants. It's important to note that a scent neutralizer doesn’t have to touch your plants to affect them. The taste of your buds can be affected just by sharing the same air.
That is why you should never allow your plants to share air with these products - especially during the flowering stage - to prevent the smell or taste of your buds from being affected.
Using Febreeze in the grow room once probably won’t do it, but repeated use of odor neutralizer products near plants can and will change the taste/smell of your buds.
In particular, Ona products, which are extremely powerful odor neutralizers, can drastically alter the smell and taste of buds if left in the same space. We've had a few buds where the smell and taste were unrecognizable as cannabis after being left directly over an open jar of Ona gel. That being said, both these products are effective and can be safe for your plants as long as they're used properly.
Avoid Mold, Mildew and Bud Rot
If a grower harvests a bud with mold (such as white powdery mildew/mold) or bud rot, the buds should be thrown out immediately. In the case where bud is harvested and the mold goes unnoticed, the buds will be “harsh” and cause growers to cough as well as irritate the throat. It is highly recommended you check all buds thoroughly throughout the grow and especially around harvest time to make sure you do not allow any moldy buds to make it into your curing jars.
If you believe you see mold on the buds, remember that it's better to be safe than sorry!
Throw away moldy buds immediately!
Flush Your Plants
Flushing means providing your plants with just plain water and no nutrients. It's generally recommended to flush your plants for a period of days to weeks before harvest. If growers are lowering the amount of nutrients given to the plants by the end of the flowering stage, there might not be any need to flush the plants, but it's still probably a good idea.
Flushing your plants before harvest is especially important if you suspect that you may have fed too many nutrients during the second half of the flowering stage, if you’re worried about nutrient-buildup in the plant altering the taste of your buds, or if you just want to be doubly sure your buds come out as smooth as possible, then we recommend flushing the plant with just plain pH’ed water for the last few days up to 2 weeks before harvest.
This gives the plant time to uptake water without nutrients, so nothing is being added towards the end that could possibly alter the taste of the buds, and the plant is using up some of the nutrients stored in the plant. Flushing is another thing which those grow in composted soil don't have to worry about!
Most strains of cannabis will smell to some extent when grown properly. However, there are also some (like Northern Lights) which have a particularly light smell, so working on increasing the terpenoid content of this strain won't do much to make it smell or taste much better.
Conversely, there are strains that are particularly pleasant smelling compared to other strains and others that have a a downright pungent odor. There are growers who want both kinds. The strains below have been hand-picked by us because they're exceptionally strong and aromatic, as well as being stable strains from known and trusted breeders. One in particular was so aromatic (or 'stinky' in this case) that Sirius refused to even open the jars it was in!
These strains produce buds that taste and smell delightful. Some of them are also multiple cannabis cup winners.
Aurora Indica (by Nirvana) - Diesel smell, almost like gasoline.
Note by Nebula: “Stoney” strong indica I would describe as "couchlock,” and tends to grow short with fast flowering time. Typical indica growth pattern and this strain responded very well to training.
Here's a freshly trimmed harvest from an Aurora Indica plant we grew:
(she was very short, pictured below and produced 5.3 ounces)
Pineapple Chunk (by Barneys Farm) - Smells sweet and sugary. Many plants of this strain produce smells with pineapple undertones, which is what gives this strain its name.
LA Confidential (by DNA Genetics) - Smells sweet & spicy, in fact some plants have been described as having a smell like cookie dough.
Bubblelicious (by Nirvana) - Always smells sweet & fruity, and certain plants smell just like bubblegum.
Hybrid (good mix of both indica and sativa traits)
Blue Cheese (by Big Buddha Seeds) - Smells fruity, sweet and spicy, with hints of the powerful “cheese” smell. Incredibly strong smell in flowering may be overwhelming. Powerful and stoney effect has been described as euphoric.
Note by Nebula: This strain is forgiving (easy) to grow indoors and produces incredible yields. Naturally mold-resistant (which is partly why this strain is popular in humid climates like the UK). Not as good outdoors, the powerful smell gives it away. Most plants grow short and stocky with lots of side branching, though certain plants tend to grow a bit taller. Responds well to plant training.
Here's a Blue Cheese cola: (click for closeup)
Liberty Haze (by Barneys Farm) - Liberty Haze is a potency juggernaut, and the only thing as strong as its potency is the diesel smell it produces.
Note from Sirius - This strain is seriously strong in terms of both potency and smell. The smell is so strong that you probably shouldn't open a jar of it with other people in your house. They are definitely going to notice when it smells like an 18 wheeler is filling up on gas in your home!
Wonder Woman (by Nirvana) - Smells very skunky.
Note by Nebula: This strain is very high yielding and produces dense and potent buds - we harvested 12.57 oz from just one Wonder Woman plant last time we grew this strain.
Here's a Wonder Woman cola from that grow: (click for closeup)
View full grow journal here
Super Lemon Haze (by Greenhouse Seeds) - Smells lemony, and certain plants will end up smelling just like a Lemonhead. The potency is surprisingly strong, energetic and creative, perfect for daytime use. Doesn't usually cause 'couchlock'.
See the birth of a Super Lemon Haze plant
(watch a video time-lapse of the seed sprouting, it's the first video on the page)
S.A.G.E. (Sativa Afghani Genetic Equilibrium by THSeeds) - Has a spicy smell that is pretty unique to this strain, certain plants smell like sandlewood (weird!)
Chocolope (by DNA Genetics) - This strain is famous for its fruity-sweet that can resemble the smell of chocolate or dark chocolate. Grows big with big yields.
- Auto Critical Jack (by Dinafem) - This autoflowering strain smells sweet and fruity, often almost tropical. Sometimes buds will smell just like lemon or citrus Also very potent.
- Blue AutoMazar (by Dutch Passion) - A cross between two autoflowering strains from breeder Dutch Passion, this strain is as much about taste and smell as it is about potency.
Note from Sirius - The smell on this one was so strong it was downright offensive to me! I was able to get past it once or twice to what the bud was like out of sheer curiosity, but man that smell! Whew! I didn't even want to open the jars!