Vintage Cannabis: Explained

In today’s California cannabis market, most dispensaries have a three-month shelf-life limit for flowers. That is three months from packing date—not from harvest. The reason given is that customers don’t buy “out-of-date” weed. 

Maybe the retailers are not storing the flowers under the proper conditions, or maybe the flower was bucked and trimmed or packed in a hot room. So, after three months in the store, the product has deteriorated to a point that it is no longer sellable. Perhaps the real reason is improper handling along the route of the supply chain. Maybe the retailer just wanted to move it off the shelf. Some buyers won’t even buy flowers more than four months after harvest.

Whatever! To my mind cannabis flower isn’t really ready to smoke until four or five months post-harvest. And most of the OG growers I talk to in Nor Cal agree. Frenchy Cannoli would have agreed, too. We often talked excitedly about making hash from aged or vintage cannabis, how it had a different flavor and different effect. 

Swami smoking. PHOTO David Robert Elliott

Back in the Hippie days, we never got fresh green weed—even after it was dried and trimmed, it always took several months to get here from Mexico, Colombia or Thailand. By the time you bought your lid and smoked it, the pot had aged for many months. Granted, we had to separate the stems and seeds, but it was still great smoke to inspire or chill out, like the best Panama Red, Acapulco Gold, Santa Marta Gold or Thai sticks.

Fast forward to 2022 and we are drying our own cannabis flowers for two weeks to a month in our wooden timber frame barn. The barn is nestled under towering Doug fir trees which keep it in cool shadow all year long. The autumn air here in the Emerald Triangle tends to be dry, especially during drought years, and that helps maintain an ideal temperature and humidity inside the barn.

The normal two-to-four-week drying period is just the beginning of the sequence which leads to vintage cannabis. This all is a rather complex process, not yet fully understood. 

The Benefits of Well-Aged Cannabis 

Fresh, dried flower will have definite spikes of pungent aromas, which can obscure the subtler layers underneath. The best small batch craft cannabis is carefully slow-dried, aged slightly and brought to a point of stabilization, under proper climate control. The slow aging process broadens out the aroma profile, rounding off the spikes and allowing other subtler fragrances to appear. Under the proper conditions, this biologic stabilization process takes about four to five months from harvest and in some cases even longer. 

For the next six months to a year, something mysterious and magical happens within the buds, such that the flower realizes the full breadth of its potential and reveals its true nature. The sacred herb has now become Vintage! Ready to bring its full benefits to those who consume her.

The flowers best suited to be aged for Vintage cannabis, are biologically—not chemically—grown in living soil, out under the sun, the way the Gods and our ancestors intended them to be. And they must have been harvested at their peak, then dried, manicured, aged and packaged, as well as shipped and stored in optimum, climate-controlled conditions. 

If packaged in a proper container and stored under ideal conditions, the flowers can maintain full vintage quality for at least a year, if the jar is not opened.

The Changing Compounds of Cannabis

Strawberry Cheesecake buds. PHOTO Brian Parks

How does this magic come about? and why does it take so long to create Vintage cannabis?

Mature cannabis flowers can produce as many as a thousand compounds. However, we focus on just a half dozen of the 150 cannabinoids possibly present in the flower, because those few are the most abundant, most potent and they are the only ones the testing labs report. 

In the living plant, the main cannabinoid is the so called precursor CBGA molecule, which transforms into the other cannabinoids, such as CBD, presenting in the mature female after harvest. Technically, the harvested plant is dead, but it’s biologically active for some time, as there’s still a great deal of moisture in the leaves, stems and flowers, which causes many compounds to undergo changes.

One of these changes is from CBGA to THCA in the harvested flower, but THCA can also change to THC through age and light, as well as heat. In addition, as time increases from harvest, the amount of CBN is said to increase, which is usually thought to come about through the degradation of THC. More probable, however, is the slow change of many different cannabinoid molecules degrading in the direction of CBN.

There are also numerous volatile or aromatic compounds. Some are only produced by the living plant and begin to evaporate or fade as soon as the plant is cut. Most prominent are a half dozen terpenes out of a possible 50, which produce the loudest smells and therefore are the only ones being tested. Nevertheless, scientists have found numerous other volatile compounds in cannabis, which together create the “nose” of the flower. 

In addition to terpenes, which account for perhaps 25% of the fragrance, there are other “aromatics” such as flavonoids, phenols, thiols, esters, ketones, benzaldehydes, alcohols and one of the more recent discoveries: volatile sulfur compounds. Sulfur compounds have been proposed as the volatiles that produce the gassy and skunk odors in cannabis.

As the moisture in the flower evaporates, many things happen. Some of the mono terpenes off gas, and others polymerize into longer chains and become bi-terpenes or sesqui-terpenes which do not volatilize as easily. The slow drying and aging aims to stabilize the changes in the terpenes. Many aromas can be preserved or sealed in by proper drying and stabilization of the harvested flower.

Another change taking place is the “oxidation” of the chlorophyll molecules, which break down through the opening of carbon links in the top of the ring allowing two molecules of oxygen to attach themselves. This a three-step process, taking some time, after which the chlorophyll no longer is said to “fluoresce,” meaning it no longer glows green. This is what happens to the fall leaves every year, and to cannabis after harvest.

The True Potential of Genetics

The point is, that if it is known that chlorophyll, terpenes and the main cannabinoids are slowly changing during and after drying, one must also assume that most of the other hundreds of compounds are also changing, especially the volatiles. As the residual moisture slowly decreases, this biological activity likewise decreases until the flower reaches a point of stabilization, three to five months after harvest.

Only at this stage have the flowers fully realized the potential of their genetics in response to their terroir. Only Vintage cannabis flower truly reveals and fulfills its destiny to serve, heal, entertain and inspire those who consume her.

So, choose some of your favorite most aromatic flowers, stash them away for a year in a dark glass container in a dark, cool place. Now your Vintage cannabis is finally ready to smoke.

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How to Prepare Cannabis Plants for Harvest

Once the “girls” in the garden ­begin to cluster up to become flowers, it’s time to think about harvest. Up here in the Mendocino Highlands, that change in the plants usually starts at the end of July or in the first week of August, depending on the cultivar. In this article, we will review how to prepare cannabis plants for harvest time.

Adjusting Compost Tea

One of the first things to do when preparing cannabis plants for harvest is to alter the compost tea brew. We do this by decreasing the nitrogen containing ingredients and increasing the phosphorus containing ingredients to arrive at a 50/50 ratio for several feedings. Then, as the days go on, reduce the nitrogen factor even more and increase the phosphorus factor. More nitrogen is needed for vegetative growth and more phosphorus is needed for flowering or fruiting. The potassium needs are more or less constant throughout the   plant’s life.

If there is a great deal of heat at the end of summer, keep supplying plenty of water through August. But in early September, it is good to cut back on the water, which along with the increasing nighttime hours, signals the plant to finish its growth and put the energy into the flowers and seeds.

Be Vigilant

It’s a time to be extra vigilant, because once the female plants notice that there are no longer any male plants in the garden, the drive to reproduce can cause hermaphrodite, or male branches to develop. These trans individuals need to be removed or cut off immediately because they could seed the whole garden. Vigilance extends to daily monitoring each plant for pests and pathogens right up until harvest. The threat of these plant enemies increases as it gets closer to cutting—some only reveal themselves on the mature plants.

Trellising Options

Vanilla Frosting bud reaching for the sky. PHOTO Nikki Lastreto

Trellising is another major part of preparing cannabis plants for harvest. The branches are getting longer, and as the buds get bigger, the branches get heavier. Come a heavy dewfall, fog in the early morning, or even rain, the lower branches are at risk of breaking off. There are many methods of trellising, depending on the size of the plants, and each farmer has his or her preferred method.

We use green, plastic-coated 8-foot metal poles for the verticals, which can be reused for many years. The horizontals are bamboo, five or six feet long. They are held on with high-test nylon zip ties. If they are kept dry during the winter, the bamboo poles can also be reused for many years. We dip the bamboo in dilute hydrogen peroxide in August to disinfect them before attaching them to the verticals.

Many people use monofilament line or nylon twine netting strung horizontally from “T” posts (a metal fence post) to hold up the branches. I prefer not to use the netting because in order to harvest cannabis, it usually needs to be cut away, producing a lot of waste, which means you only get one year out of it. Others use “T” posts and actual fencing, or even the woven wire mesh used to reinforce concrete sidewalks.

“Yellow Leafing”

Raspberry Parfait with one yellow leaf. PHOTO Brian Parks

As watering is cut back, the big fan leaves on most plants will turn yellow. Some people leave them on, but we snap them off to allow more airflow and give more energy to the plants. After yellowing, the leaves will brown and become crispy. But if there is heavy dew fall or rain, the brown leaves will absorb water and become soggy, possibly leading to PM or mold.

As it gets closer to cannabis harvest time, we continue “yellow leafing” and begin to remove some of the large fan leaves even if they are not yellow. On the day before cutting, we often remove most of the big leaves because it helps the drying process and is easier to do while still on the live plant.

Arranging Your Drying Space

Simultaneous with these operations, late August into early September is the time to prepare the drying space. We have a large wooden barn in a Douglas-fir forest for this purpose. Wooden buildings, in my opinion, do the best job of drying, kind of like a giant oak wood barrel for wine.

Whatever the space, it needs to be emptied out and thoroughly cleaned. If there have been any problems with mold or other contaminants in the past, a total disinfection might be necessary. Spraying dilute hydrogen peroxide or diluted bleach are options.

Fans and dehumidifiers need to be checked, repaired or purchased, along with thermometers and hydrometers for monitoring temperature and humidity. Windows need to be covered with black plastic, and the system for hanging the plants must be checked, repaired or installed. Keep in mind that it takes nearly as much space to hang cannabis to dry as it does to grow it.

Late August is the time to order cannabis harvest supplies: storage tubs, rolls of brown paper, marking pens, masking tape or labels, packaging tape, scissors, headlamps and batteries, sanitary gloves, pruning shears, zip ties and anything else needed for harvest, such as tarps or buckets for transporting harvested plants. And, if you are a licensed grower in California, you need to get the County Ag Commissioners Annual Seal for your weigh scales.  

Now that you know how to prepare cannabis plants for harvest, stay tuned for our next post in which we will review how to harvest and hang your crop.

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See, Taste and Touch the Difference with Cryo Cure Cannabis

Cryo Cure is changing traditional cannabis drying and curing techniques with its revolutionary freeze-dried technology that removes water content to preserve cannabis at an optimal moisture level. The drying and curing process is arguably one of the most critical steps for all cannabis cultivators—from home growers to large-scale corporate operations.

This phase ensures that the fragile trichomes and terpene potency are preserved for maximum taste and efficacy. If not performed properly, those beautiful buds are at risk of developing mold and degradation. With Cryo Cure, cultivators can expect perfectly preserved, premium cannabis or hemp that dries in 12-16 hours and is completely ready for packaging or retail in just 24 hours. That’s a fraction of the time that the weekslong drying and curing process traditionally takes.

Not Your Typical Freeze-Dried Weed

A macro shot of Cryo-cured Lemoncello. PHOTO Courtesy of Cryo Cure.

The basic principle of freeze-drying removes water from a product as a vapor via a high-pressure vacuum. During the process, the product is solidly frozen, eliminating or minimizing shrinkage and resulting in near-perfect preservation. This novel approach to drying and curing cannabis has various advantages: It keeps fresher for longer; it inhales smoothly; and the fluffy buds have great aesthetic appeal. 

However, traditional freeze-dried cannabis is not without its drawbacks. The amount of moisture that freeze dryers remove is detrimental to the cannabis flower’s integrity—in terms of both looks and potency.

Cryo Cure is different. Utilizing proprietary freeze-drying technology in its cannabis and hemp curing machines, the right amount of moisture from flower or trim is extracted. This revolutionary cannabis drying and curing process perfectly balances moisture levels for terpene and phytocannabinoid preservation, creating a “fresh from the farm” feeling that’s a delight for the senses. This process can take as little as 12-16 hours, shaving weeks off the typical hang drying phase.

The Cryo Cure Process

Cryo Cure high capacity machine.
Cryo Cure’s high capacity freeze-drying machine. PHOTO Courtesy of Cryo Cure.

By dialing in the ideal measurement of time, temperature and pressure, “Cryo Cured” flower is far superior to freeze-dried cannabis in terms of quality and experience. Cryo Cure’s patented machines don’t merely zap moisture away and call it a day. They keep cannabis aromatic, tasty, strong and euphoric. Let’s review how. 


The first step in the Cryo Cure process is to freeze the cannabis or industrial hemp to -20 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit for no less than 10 hours. This preserves the flower’s shape and integrity. Select Cryo Cure models have a built-in freezer for this purpose, or you can use a separate freezer that’s the right size and meets specifications for sub-critical temperatures.


The now-frozen product is placed into the material chamber under vacuum pressure in order to facilitate sublimation.


Sublimation is a process during which a solid is turned into a gas, skipping the liquid stage in between. Controlled radiant heat is applied during this process, converting the frozen moisture in the product directly into vapor.


The vapor is condensed back into a solid and collected in the ice bank.


The ice in the ice bank is melted and drained from the ice bank in the form of a hydrosol liquid. Any terpenes lost in the sublimation process can be reclaimed from the hydrosol to be used in other processed products such as vape pens and oils.

Cryo Cure has developed different sized cannabis freeze-drying machines that cater to all curing needs. The bestselling models are the CC360, which can hold between 66 and 132 pounds of wet weigh-in per cycle, and the HC10 which can hold 1,000 pounds of wet weigh-in per cycle. There are also two commercial walk-in freezer options available in both 10’ x 10’, and 10’ x 20’ models.

The Cryo Cure Difference

Cryo Cure cannabis
Cryo-cured cannabis is ready for packaging or retail in just 24 hours. PHOTO Brie Brewer.

With Cryo Cure, the color, taste and texture of cannabis that are typically lost during traditional processes are perfectly preserved, resulting in higher yields and less time between harvest and product distribution and sales. In other words, you can expect more money in your pocket sooner. This is a game-changer for commercial grow ops, as top-shelf cannabis customers will notice the vibrant, fluffy, aromatic buds that have up to 95% terpene retention. 

Currently, Cryo Cured top shelf cannabis and hemp brands are available at limited dispensaries in Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Michigan and Massachusetts. Additionally, there are planned rollouts in Washington State, California and Rhode Island, Maine, Canada and Jamaica by the end of 2022. Look for the Cryo Cured seal of approval.

Ed Rosenthal, the Guru of Ganja, said, “Cryo Cure is a revolution in curing technology that keeps terpenes trichomes and THC content more intact than any other process.” 

In a market of good weed, Cryo Cure will make yours stand out for being great.

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