Wet Trim vs Dry Trim: Which is Better?

Wet Trim vs Dry Trim: Which is Better?

Wet Trim vs Dry Trim: Which is Better?

Growing medicinal herbs or other plants can be a complex process that involves several steps between when you germinate your seeds and harvest. For many growers, harvest is the most rewarding part of the growing process, but arguably the most important of these steps would have to be trimming. For many years, trimming a harvest larger than a personal garden provides meant hiring a staff of seasonal workers who spent hours carefully removing leaves from buds to get it ready for use or sale.

Although it may seem like a boring and menial part of the harvest process, trimming your flowers is an important task that will raise your final product to the next level in terms of quality and appearance. The trimming process should be done carefully, with great attention to detail because it can make a huge difference in the end product’s taste and appearance.

There are two options for trimming buds: wet trimming and dry trimming. Each option comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on how much flower needs to be trimmed and the grower’s preferences for the end product. But before we get into how each of these methods works, what method will work best for your harvest situation, and some pros and cons for each method, let's discuss why trimming is even necessary in the first place.

Trimming Your Harvest

Trimming Your Harvest

Trimming is the process of removing sugar leaves from your buds — a huge part of post-harvest work that goes into preparing a crop for consumption. Sugar leaves are the small leaves that grow out of the plant’s buds. Sugar leaves differ from fan leaves in that they only protrude a bit from the bud and their stem is usually not visible, whereas fan leaves are the large leaves with stems that you can trace right back to the stalk. Sugar leaves get their name from the light white coating of trichomes they develop towards the end of the flowering phase. Fan leaves do contain trichomes, but are much less concentrated and therefore, less potent.

Trimming your buds will greatly reduce any chance of mold forming on your freshly harvested plants before they have had time to dry! Leaves have the potential to trap moisture, creating an environment where molds can form, contaminating your harvest. Trimming also helps improve the end user experience by improving aroma as well as the overall appearance and value of your finished buds.

Removing the plant’s superfluous plant material will leave you with a stronger final product but doesn’t actually increase the potency of the plant itself. That may seem confusing so let me explain. Trimming a leaf at harvest doesn’t cause it to create more of the desired active compounds you’re looking for in other parts of the plant. But trimming the excess leaves away reduces the less potent parts of the plant in the final product, leaving you with the strongest, cleanest smoking, most desirable parts of the plant and therefore a stronger overall final product.

Additionally, sugar leaves can be harsher if the end product is to be smoked. While sugar leaves do contain lower levels of desirable active compounds, when smoked, they can be harsher than the potent and trichome-rich buds. Since they do not hold a significant amount of these desired compounds and tend to make the smoking experience less pleasant, it’s not recommended to keep them as part of your final product.

Trimming can deliver a boost to the fragrance and potency of your finished product. When sugar leaves are not there to block these compounds, the terpenes are distinct and give each strain its own particular aroma and effect. A skilled trimmer understands how to prevent damaging the plant, especially so that the trichomes that retain the desirable compounds are not compromised so the final product is clearly jam-packed with those lovely trichomes.

Wet Trimming vs Dry Trimming: What’s the Difference?

Wet Trimming vs Dry Trimming: What’s the Difference?

The differences between wet trimming and dry trimming a plant are found within the names themselves. Wet trimming simply means that you trim the fan leaves and carefully manicure the buds immediately after cutting down the plant at harvest. It is referred to as “wet” trimming because the plant is still fresh with a high moisture content when the trimming process takes place. Once trimmed, the trimmed plant material is allowed to dry. By contrast, dry trimming requires a bit more patience. Dry trimming is when you harvest the plant, allow it to dry until it reaches the desired low moisture content, then carefully trim the dried flower.

Each of these methods has its own list of pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages that make them each preferred by different growers. There is no “right” choice between wet trimming and dry trimming. Each grower has his or her own particular preferences and reasons for what method they choose, but each can produce extremely good results when done properly. Let’s look at how each method works and the pros/cons of each so you can determine if dry trimming or wet trimming is best for you.

What is Wet Trimming?

What is Wet Trimming?

As we mentioned above, wet trimming is simply the method of trimming the excess plant material such as sugar leaves from the buds immediately after the plant is harvested but before being dried. Even though the two methods rely on vastly different moisture contents, the process for each is virtually the same.

First, cut each branch near the node that connects new stem offshoots with older, more established growth. Remember to not lay the freshly cut branches onto flat surfaces to prevent the buds from flattening out and becoming misshapen. Next precisely trim the small sugar leaves from each bud individually. Begin at the bottom of the bud and trim your way up to the top in a circular pattern so you get a nice even and rounded shape. There will be some sugar leaves that will be almost entirely hidden by the main body of the bud, but that’s ok (it’s almost impossible to completely trim away all the sugar leaves embedded in a bud). Trim as much as you can, being careful not to damage the flower. Once the sugar leaves have been removed, the buds are ready for drying and curing.

Another advantage of wet trimming is that when you trim first, then dry, the buds a chance to fluff up and visually expand, giving you the more aesthetically pleasing plump buds that are desired by many consumers. This is ideal for production of flower meant for smoking or retail, as opposed to flower that will be processed for concentrates and other secondary products.

Generally speaking, wet trimming is more compatible with most trimming machines since the plant material is fresh and not as fragile as dry flower. The fragility of dry flower makes dry trimming in a machine more challenging, however there are several excellent trimming machines on the market that do a great job of gently handling dry flower for trimming. Some manufacturers even make dual purpose tumblers to handle both wet and dry material.

Advantages of Wet Trimming

Advantages of Wet Trimming

As you can probably guess by now, one of the biggest advantages of wet trimming is that’s it’s simply easier. When working with freshly harvested plants, the sugar leaves stick out away from the buds, making them easier to trim away, the stalk is more exposed so it’s easier to cut off, and the sugar leaves aren’t as apt to stick to the flower like they can do when they dry and curl up against the flower.

Wet trimming also decreases the chance of mold developing during the drying and curing process, so it’s an especially good method for those without a lot of experience with drying and curing. When you remove the leaves from around the flower, there’s less plant material there to capture moisture, which allows the flower to dry faster. Removing or lowering that environment for harmful molds to grow is especially helpful if you live in a more humid climate.

An important advantage of wet trimming is that trichomes - those beautiful, shimmering crystalized specks on your flower that indicate a high number of desired compounds such as terpenes – remain more intact and fewer will be rubbed or knocked off your flower during the trimming procedure. This means you get more of those precious trichomes and their wonderful effect from your final, finished product.

If you’re tight on space for drying and curing, wet trimming is the best way to go. Removing the sugar leaves, stems and stalks from your plant before you dry, means you don’t need as much space on your drying racks for drying and curing. This also means you’ll be able to dry more flower in the space you have, making more efficient use of your drying area.

Finally, wet trimming provides a simpler and more straightforward workflow, which is particularly helpful for large or short-staffed operations. Wet trimming makes the process streamlined, going from harvest, to trim, to dry, to cure, for a simpler and easier to manage finishing process.

Disadvantages of Trimming Wet

Disadvantages of Trimming Wet

One of the great advantages of trimming wet can also be a disadvantage. While trimming away the sugar leaves reduces the chances of mold by minimizing spaces where moisture can accumulate, reducing that moisture means that your flower dries out faster. This may seem like a good thing – speeding up the drying process – but connoisseurs recommend a low and slow approach to drying flower, so the plant retains as much of the flavor, aroma, terpenes and other desirable compounds as possible.

Another disadvantage of trimming wet is the extra time it takes to do the job. Not only will you have to be ready to trim as soon as the plants are harvested – no waiting around if you’re trimming wet – but freshly cut plants, especially various strains of medicinal herbs, become very sticky right after harvest due to their high water content. This becomes a bit of a problem due to the mess that ensues as the plant resin sticks to your hands and trimmers. To deal with this you have to regularly stop and clean your trimmers, machine blades, gloves, and anything else that frequently touched the wet flower. All of this takes extra work, time, and energy even with non-stick blades and trimmers.

What is Dry Trimming?

What is Dry Trimming?

Dry trimming is the obvious alternative to wet trimming. With dry trimming, buds are trimmed after they’ve had a chance to dry, but before they’re cured. To dry trim, the freshly cut plant branches are hung upside down until they reach the desired level of moisture content. Drying can be done in a dedicated drying room or space, and the process generally takes anywhere from 10 – 14 days. Once they’re sufficiently dry, the trimmer very gently begins to manicure the flower, removing the sugar leaves from each bud individually and oh so carefully, in a circular fashion starting from the bottom and working their way to the top of the bud. When finished being trimmed of sugar leaves and excess plant material the buds are moved to containers to begin the curing phase as the trichomes and other desirable compounds mature to their best flavor and potency potential.

It should be noted that dry flower is a bit more challenging to trim using a trimming machine than wet. There are dry trimming machines on the market (referred to as “dry batch trimmers”) that have been specially designed and engineered to handle trimming dry bud, so if that’s your intention, ensure you invest in the proper type of machine for the trimming method you choose. For dry trimming with a machine the buds should be around 80-90% dry (a moisture meter is helpful for getting accurate readings of your plants moisture content) so that the fan and sugar leaves will still be a bit supple and flexible. If they are too dry, they will be brittle and the machine won’t be able to perform the clean cuts you want. Most growers trimming dry will shoot for an 11% moisture content to get the cleanest and best results.

Advantages of Dry Trimming

Advantages of Dry Trimming

The biggest advantages to dry trimming are to control the speed of drying and for medicinal herbs, to create a finished product that’s smoother for consumption when smoked. When you dry before trimming, you have the time to allow the plant material to dry “low and slow” which is generally considered to produce better flavors and higher potency because the terpenes are given time to harden so more are retained during trimming and the other active compounds within the plant are allowed to mature at a more ideal pace.

The longer drying times also give harsh tasting chlorophyll time to diminish, leaving you with better tasting finished buds with a more pleasing aroma and the slower drying time helps buds to finish much denser and tightly compact, for a more attractive end product that consumers prefer.

Dry trimming is also easier because the drying process allows the plants to lose a significant amount of their moisture content, so the sticky resins and trichomes harden which makes handling and trimming the flowers much easier, with fewer breaks to clean equipment, trimming shears, gloves, and anything else that comes in contact with the buds as you trim.

Disadvantages of Dry Trimming

Disadvantages of Dry Trimming

While the slow drying process prior to dry trimming allows precious trichomes to harden so they’re easier to handle, the downside of this is that those hardened compounds become more vulnerable to coming loose from the plant and falling off during trimming. Yes, those fallen trichomes can be collected in your trim bin and used for other products, but that doesn’t help the buds.

Plants that have been dried before trimming create buds that are much more compact and the leaves tend to curl up and adhere to the bud. They are also more brittle and prone to break when handled. This means the process is more time consuming because your trimmers have to take extra care when handling these delicate dried plants and attempting to manicure the small leaves from the buds.

The dry trimming process also requires much more space for the actual drying process. It takes much more space to hang whole plants or large branches as opposed to trimmed buds, many times necessitating a dedicated drying room or closet for this step.

Wet Trimming vs Dry Trimming: Is One Better Than the Other?

Wet Trimming vs Dry Trimming: Is One Better Than the Other?

Whichever method of trimming you choose, each is striving to accomplish the same goal – eliminate unnecessary plant material and get the remaining buds ready to be cured. Wet trimming is the method of choice for those looking for the most efficient and simplest way to finish small harvests or when a smooth workflow is a priority.

By contrast, dry trimming will yield a higher-quality finished product with a better aroma and flavor profile. Dry trimming is also preferred by many large commercial producers who process large numbers of plants per harvest and the longer drying time helps preserve those precious trichomes, flavors and aroma. Some cultivators even opt for a mixed method where the larger fan leaves are trimmed off while wet at harvest while leaving the sugar leaves and small trichome-rich leaves intact to go through the drying process.

What method is best for you? Hopefully the information provided here can help you make an informed decision that is perfect for you and your plants.

Tools Needed for Trimming

Tools Needed for Trimming

The good news is that it doesn’t require a tool bag full of specialized or expensive tools to trim your harvest. The process is straightforward – you’re simply manicuring and trimming away unwanted leaves and plant material. But you don’t want to grab the scissors from the kitchen junk drawer and start hacking away. The tools listed below are really all you need to make trimming easy – whether you’re trimming dry or wet.

Trimming scissors

Trimming scissors

This is the main tool you need for trimming either wet or dry. Ensure your scissors are sharp to make clean cuts to the sugar leaves, stems, and stalks. Scissors with narrow and pointed tips are preferable so you can get into the tight structures of the bud to remove leaves without damaging the flower. For best results, choose curved trimming scissors to make trimming around the curved shapes of the buds easier and more accurate.

Trim Collection Tray

Trim Collection Tray

When trimming, always work over a trim collection tray of some sort so nothing useful is wasted. There are specially designed collection trays on the market, but honestly, for small jobs a serving tray, large bowl, or large platter would be sufficient. No matter which method of trimming you choose, there’s no good reason to waste hard-earned goodies from the garden. Even though sugar leaves and other excess plant material don’t have the same levels of desired compounds as the flower, the fallen trim can contain enough terpenes and other active compounds to create concentrates or other secondary products.

Gloves

Gloves

Especially when working with freshly cut or wet plants, good, tight-fitting gloves can be a real benefit. Gloves aren’t absolutely necessary when trimming, but freshly cut plants, especially medicinal herbs, can produce a lot of sticky resin that is a pain to remove from your hands and will begin to stick to other plant material so you have to stop and wash continually.

Conclusion

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s no answer to which is better, dry trimming or wet trimming. What works for one grower may not work for another. You have to evaluate the pros and cons of each and determine which is best for your harvest situation. For beginners, it’s probably a good idea to use the wet trimming method first since it’s simpler and faster than dry trimming. Many experienced and large growers choose the extra time and trouble that it takes to do dry trimming in exchange for the enhanced flavor and aroma the final product usually possesses. Whichever method you choose, follow the best practices laid down by other growers and be patient for beautiful, finished buds.

Previous article Machine Trimming vs Hand Trimming: Which is Best for You
Next article The Top 5 Best Selling Portable Rosin Presses of 2021