Machine Trimming vs Hand Trimming: Which is Best for You

Machine Trimming vs Hand Trimming: Which is Best for You?

Machine Trimming vs Hand Trimming: Which is Best for You?

You’ve spent countless hours growing, nurturing, and feeding your plants and now it’s time to harvest. For some growers, it’s one of the most exciting times in the entire growing cycle, for others it’s a tedious chore that they dread. Before curing, the plant’s buds need to be trimmed of unneeded leaves and stems which raises a question that is often debated by growers – to trim by hand or with the help of an automatic bud trimming machine.

While there often isn’t as much discussion around the trimming process as there is about the other aspects of the harvest process, trimming is one of the most important steps in the growing process. A well done trim job can mean the difference between an enjoyable and smooth experience when consuming your medicinal herb harvest, and a less pleasant and harsh one. There are two ways that growers can trim their product: by machine, or by hand. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of plant, the experience level of the person doing the trimming, and even the tools used to trim. Ultimately, which one you choose will have a significant impact on the quality of the final product.

Let’s take a look at hand trimmed vs machine trimmed, how machine and hand trimming work, the differences between the two, and the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

What Is Hand Trimming?

What Is Hand Trimming?

Hand trimming is a time-tested method that consistently delivers excellent results for the highest quality. Simply put, it’s the process of individually trimming the leaves and any other unwanted plant material from the buds by hand. It takes skill and precision to cut each bud precisely, preserving their trichomes, freshness, and handling each of the different strains in the best manner for that strain so the end product has the optimal final presentation and utmost quality. Trimming by hand is a proven method that delivers an outstanding final product, but it takes an extraordinarily long time, even with the most dedicated staff. There is as much art as there is science to getting the best hand trimmed results, but with skillful trim staff, plenty of time and patience, great results are possible.

Advantages of Hand Trimming

Advantages of Hand Trimming

Hand trimming is considered a more precise bud trimming method by many in the industry because a human trimmer has the potential to identify and highlight the best features of a particular strain. Hand trimmed plants are like any other custom, hand-made product. There is an artisan element to this method that many find appealing. Since each individual strain of plant or herb is unique, having a human trimming by hand can deliver specialized results, emphasizing the most desirable characteristics of that strains bud structures and calyxes, for example.

Particular strains can be trimmed to highlight the fullness of its buds, while another strain may warrant a different trim meant to bring out the intricate structures found in its makeup. This is only accomplished by inspecting and evaluating each bud individually, giving the trimmer the opportunity to maximize the terpenes and desirable components of the plant at this point in the harvest cycle.

Some appreciate the fact that with hand trimming, each bud, is individually handled by a human that inspects for contamination, adulteration, seeds, insects, and other unwanted elements. This careful inspection minimizes loss of buds and valuable plant material compared to automated machine trimming, which moves at a faster pace, making this high level of inspection difficult, especially when run by less experienced operators.

The skill level and attention to detail given by human trimmers is key in the quality of the finished product. A skilled hand trimmer can produce beautiful, precision trimmed buds and cull unwanted, adulterated, or unappealing buds, while a less experienced hand trimmer can end up producing uneven, oddly shaped buds, miss important opportunities to highlight desirable qualities, or just trim up the buds in a weird and unappealing fashion. The experience and skill level of your human hand trimmers is key in getting the quality results you want.

Hand trimmers only develop the skills and attention to detail necessary to be a true asset to your operation through years of hands-on experience. An experienced hand trimmer can consistently deliver high quality results but these skilled workers come at a cost. Skilled hand trimmers can get expensive for a large harvest so costs can skyrocket quickly.

Many growers who wanted to save money learned a hard lesson about cheap labor when it comes to hiring hand trimmers. It’s unwise to expect poorly paid, inexperienced workers - who are often simply a temporary fix and will likely leave soon after starting - to do good or even satisfactory work. Instead, they'll likely just end up costing you more in time and wasted product than if you had hired a skilled, experienced hand trimmer to begin with.

Disadvantages of Hand Trimming

Disadvantages of Hand Trimming

In spite of the care and experience of any human hand trimmer, hand trimming is a very imperfect process. It can be a very tedious and time-consuming task that takes a toll on the well-being of the human trimmer if, for example, they have to lean over or arch their back for 8 or more hours each shift. Additionally, producing beautifully trimmed buds for a commercial facility requires enormous amounts of labor both in production and accumulated downtime before a final high-quality product is ready to go to market. Because of this, most hand trimmed product is destined for high-end or boutique dispensaries who may be competing with larger companies that use industrial equipment, making cost a huge factor.

It’s probably obvious by now, that hand trimming is a time-consuming task, even for the most experienced workers, and because this is being performed by a human who needs to be fairly compensated for their time and skill, it’s costly as well. For example, a single human hand trimmer may be able to complete between 1 -3 lbs of product a day. For large harvests, the costs associated with hand trimming can be astronomical and even prohibitive.

Additionally, hiring, managing, and organizing a team of trimmers can be difficult and time consuming for the grower, taking time and resources away from other parts of the operation. This extra management can be particularly consuming when quality of work and dependability of the staff are especially important, such as with high volume or artisan grow operations.

Hand trimming may be a good fit for small and personal grows, but commercial growers typically have huge quantities of product to process. For these large operations it is usually more efficient and cost effective to use automated trimming machines instead – minimizing human intervention which saves both time & money!

What Is Machine Trimming?

What Is Machine Trimming?

The world of botanical trimming has advanced exponentially in the last few years. Newer machines with varying capacities, speeds, power, and cost can handle large amounts at once and quickly cut away all leaves and unwanted plant material, sometimes with only one human operator, making processing much more efficient than before!

With all the advancements in automated trimming machines, large, medium, and even some small grow operations can now increase their trim capacity from 1 to 3 pounds per day for hand trimming to as much as a staggering 3,000 pounds an hour with some of the super high-capacity equipment! Of course, there are affordable options perfect for home growers who want a high-quality product without investing too much time or money into the trim process.

Automated bud trimming machines work by shaving off superfluous leaves and shaping the buds into the oblong, football-style shape we’re all familiar with today. Specially designed rotating blades gently cut the leaves using a wide variety of methods that vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The trimmed plant material is typically collected into containers for use in making other products such as concentrates, topicals, edibles, or other products.

Advantages of Machine Trimming

Advantages of Machine Trimming

The biggest advantage to using an automated bud trimming machine is probably obvious at this point –speed. Bud trimmers have improved dramatically over the last few years and the latest models can precisely, cleanly, and beautifully process tens, hundreds, or even thousands of pounds of plant material per hour without breaking a sweat, making them far more efficient than even the fastest human hand trimmer. This increased processing time is extremely appealing to commercial or larger-scale growers when trying to decide which is best, hand trimming vs machine trimming.

Thanks largely to these improvements in trimming machine design and technology, bud trimmers operate more efficiently while also being able to produce high-quality final product without sacrificing any natural characteristics or vital plant health features. While trichome loss is a concern just as it is with hand trimming, it’s unusual for modern trimmers to problematically damage or waste product. And many users can’t detect the subtle, many times undetectable differences between hand trimmed and machine trimmed buds.

With the push of a button, modern trimming machines are ready to start trimming. No need to mustering a crew early, no need to waste valuable morning time stopping to get donuts, and no more stopping for long lunch or smoking breaks! Trimming machines don't need food or smoke breaks – as long as stalks can get bucked fast enough (bucking is the process of removing flowers from their stems) most machines can run steadily for 4 hours or more before needing to be lightly cleaned.

A trimming machine is a great way to free up resources in your operation. Since most trimmers (barring the massive commercial models) only need one human operator, other staff can work on other tasks, such as bucking stalks and transporting the trimmed product to drying racks or storage instead of sitting with a pair of scissors trimming away by hand! Other staff members who normally would have been assigned to trim duty could be reassigned to other tasks, increasing overall productivity and boosting your bottom line.

Trimming machines offer an affordable and secure alternative to crews of human hand trimmers. In spite of changes in state and national laws, security continues to be a priority for anyone running a grow operation, not only for the sake of your reputation, but also in reducing risks associated with crews of workers coming in and out of your operation. Each new staff member increases risk, which increases costs, and as the industry grows, security concerns will grow with it. By comparison, trimming machines do not talk and they do not have their own agendas.

Of course, we can’t discuss hand trimming vs machine trimming without including a discussion about quality. It’s no secret that hand trimming results can vary from person to person, skill level to skill level, and even from hour to hour as fatigue and other factors weigh in on the individual. Today’s trimming machines deliver quality that is extremely close to hand-trimmed at a much faster rate than ever before. With today's technology, these machines don’t damage trichomes any more than an experienced human hand trimmer would be able to.

Machine trimmed buds are consistent, uniform, and bud trimmers have the advantage of being able to be set to deliver the level of trim you want – and that setting will not change no matter how long the machine runs. Automatic bud trimmers are also very adept at catching and trimming smaller flower clusters that may be missed or ignored by human trimmers.

As long as you keep your trimmer properly maintained and cleaned, the quality of your trimmed buds will remain constant and consistent, unlike human trimmers who experience fatigue, hunger, distractions, and even simple laziness as the day progresses. When it comes to delivering on quality and creating an end product you will be proud of, relying on the work of other people can be disappointing or simply not up to your standards. With a trimming machine, you can control the results you want, and set the machine to your standards without worry or HR drama.

Enhancing your harvest workflow with a trimming machine is an easy and quick way to improve the quality of harvest. Unlike hiring new crew members when your needs increase, adding another bud trimmer can be as simple as buying one! This means that you don't need any extra investment in time or money since it operates as if you had hired a new crew of trimmers that work consistently and quietly. With a bud trimmer as part of your operation not only will yields and your ROI skyrocket but so too does efficiency which translates into more profit in the end.

Disadvantages of Machine Trimming

Disadvantages of Machine Trimming

If you’ve been exposed to trimming machines in the past, you need to know that these precision engineered devices have been dramatically improved over the last several years. Machine trimming has traditionally not been seen as an effective method for producing high-quality product when compared to hand-trimming. Some people complain that machine trimmed buds can end up in a similar shape, with more flower material lost during the process and some users even maintain that their product has been affected by trichomes falling off after being processed through trimmers that changes both its flavor profile and overall appeal.

But as we mentioned above, bud trimmers have gotten significantly more precise, gentle, efficient, and affordable over the last few years. Ground-breaking improvements have been made to the various components and processes resulting in high-quality finished products that produce results on par with human hand trimmers consistently and affordably.

Dry Vs. Wet Trimming

Dry Vs. Wet Trimming

When evaluating trimming methods, it’s important to think about whether you’re going to trim your plants wet, or after they dry as well as hand trimmed vs machine trimmed. “Wet” trimming is when you trim the buds immediately after being cut from the stem. Dry trimming is when you trim the buds after they do through a drying process. Growers have their preferred methods – some prefer to trim wet, others prefer to trim dry, while some will do a combination approach, trimming some leaves from the wet bud then finishing the process once it’s dry.

For most growers, however, wet trimming is the preferred method since the plant is easier to handle when wet. Additionally, many trimmers do better with wet trimming since wet buds aren’t as fragile and are therefore less prone to damage running through a trimmer. Trimming wet buds also makes it less likely that molds or fungus form as the bud dries.

Dry buds are much more challenging to trim, primarily due to their fragility, making them more likely to break or lose excessive material during trimming. On the plus side, dry trimming can be more precise and produces more attractive end product in many cases so some growers prefer dry trimming in an attempt to produce better quality end results.

Conclusion

Conclusion

Machine trimming and hand trimming each have their own advantages for processing your harvested plants. It’s important to consider the pros and cons of both methods before making a decision. We hope this article has helped you better understand what hand trimming and machine trimming entail as well as some benefits that come with both, such as quality, consistency, speed, productivity, and appearance of your final product. If you need more information about which method might be best for your operation, don't hesitate to contact Rightbud at (800) 856-7140.

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