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Better Taste, Better Smell


by Nebula Haze

Professional-quality cannabis buds look, taste and smell great

How can I get home-grown cannabis to taste and smell as good as professional-quality bud?

In addition to making sure the potency is there, many growers want to produce buds that taste and smell great.

Now before you get started, it’s important to understand that one of the best things you can do to ensure a better taste and smell to your buds 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.

But there’s still a lot more you need to know.

When it comes to taste and smell, there are three very important things you must take care of...

Today you will learn exactly what you need to do:

3 Steps To Improving Taste & Smell

  1. 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 bring out the best taste and flavor of your cannabis.
  2. Avoid common mistakes - some growers are accidentally ruining the taste or smell of their buds and they might not even know it.
  3. Get the right strain - learn about easy-to-grow and potent strains that are also flavorful and smell great.

 

1.) Increase the Terpene & Terpenoid content

You can dramatically improve the taste and smell of your buds by increasing the levels of terpenes and terpenoids they contain.

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...

Slightly stress your plants regularly

For advanced growers ONLY! Never attempt to stress your plants intentionally until you’ve already made it through a couple of grows and feel “dialed in” to your setup. Too much stress will kill or slow down your plant’s growth. However, regularly applying a small amount of stress to the plant throughout the flowering stage, especially in the week or two before harvest, may 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) and supercropping
     
  • slightly damage the lower leaves (for example crushing lower leaves between your fingers or creating small tears)
     
  • light defoliation of leaves to expose bud sites - some indica strains do not respond well to defoliation, so start very slowly if you don’t have much experience removing leaves. Some advanced growers gor 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 will allow roots to get slightly too dry mid-flower - be careful as you can kill your plant if roots are permanently damaged!
     
  • give plants 2-3 days of complete darkness right before harvesting
     
  • water plants with ice water 2-7 days before harvest
 

Restrict nutrients towards end of flowering

Many growers choose to lower nutrients as harvest approaches. It is most important to restrict nitrogen as too much nitrogen has been shown to slow down bud formation.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by “flushing” your plants (giving them only plain water) for 1-2 weeks before harvest. 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.

 

Keep temps under 80°F (26°C) throughout the flowering stage

Higher temperatures not only can cause plant problems, it can also 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.

Optimal temperature range for the cannabis flowering stage

 

Give plants slightly colder 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 freezing temps!

For example, many 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.

Bonus! 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. Most strains will only grow green buds, but if your plant can produce other colors, cooler night temps is one way to bring them out!

 

Grow in composted soil

If you grow hydro, sorry this tip will not work for you but there are many others! Now for soil-growers, there is some evidence that soil-grown cannabis (especially cannabis grown in composted super soil) will tend to have a better terpene profile, and therefore smell and taste better.

Greenhouse Seeds has been leading the way in this type of 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. See some of their results here.

Growing cannabis in composted soil may give it a more complex terpene profile

 

Never harvest buds early!

Greenhouse Seeds has 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 they’ve 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, this leads me to believe that many strains will 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 are helping to ensure that your plants produce all the terpenes they are capable of.

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.

For example,  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.

 

Grow under LED grow lights (Indoors)

Growing cannabis under LED grow lights can give it a more complext terpene profile (so your buds smell and taste better)There are growers that 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 some growers believe that indoor plants that are supplemented with LED grow lights have a better quality than ones grown just under a standard HPS light.

For example, I’ve noticed it’s becoming increasingly popular to supplement HPS grow lights with one or two LED panels during the flowering stage.

A few growers have made that claim that growing with a mix of both HPS and LED grow lights during the flowering stage can help imitate the complexity of terpenes found in buds grown under the sun. There have also been some informal tests by growers which indicate that using a mix of LEDs and HPS together also increases the trichome production and smell of cannabis buds.

Many growers believe that outdoor-grown or greenhouse-grown bud has a better taste and smell, and 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.

See a complete grow journal with under a Pro-Grow X5, one of the few LED grow light systems that is tested on real cannabis plants.

Cannabis plants growing under a powerful LED grow light

 

Be gentle with your buds

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 will need to touch buds at time, but avoid touching them when you don't need to. (This is hard for me but I try)

 

After harvest, dry buds slowly in the dark before jarring buds
(for the curing process
)

The slower you dry your buds the better, up to about 2 weeks, 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 (though this means that you will have to deal with leaves after the buds are already dry).

The 7-7-7 rule is a good general rule for drying cannabis: dry the buds for 7 days at 70°F (21°C ) in 70% humidity. However, that is not always possible, so there are more detailed instructions below.

Cannabis buds drying in living room

  • Avoid drying too quickly and especially over-drying your buds!
     
  • Better to have cooler drying temps than warmer ones as heat can burn off terpenes.
     
  • Never jar buds that feel damp on the outside.
     
  • It’s important that buds are dry but not over-dry when you put them in jars to begin the curing process.
     
  • Learn exactly how to dry and cure your buds like a professional right here: http://growweedeasy.com/curing

Dried cannabis buds are now curing in quart-sized jars

 

2.) Avoid common taste/smell mistakes

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 can and will change the taste/smell of your buds, especially Ona products, which are extremely powerful odor neutralizers.

 

Avoid Mold / Bud Rot

If a grower harvests a bud with mold (such as white powdery mold) or bud rot, the buds will be “harsh” and cause growers to cough. 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, better safe than sorry! Throw away moldy buds immediately!

Learn about White Powdery Mold

Learn about Bud Rot

 

Flush your plants if needed

If growers are lowering the amount of nutrients given to the plants by the end of the flowering stage, then sometimes there isn’t any need to flush the plants.

However, if you suspect that you may have fed too many nutrients recently, or if you’re worried about nutrient-buildup in the plant altering the taste of your buds, then many growers 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 use up any extra nutrients that may be contained in the buds themselves.

 

Stinky cannabis bud

 

 

3.) Grow a strain known for its smell

These strains have been hand-picked by me because they are ultra-potent, have strong medicinal qualities, and have proven to be easy to grow.

These strains produce buds that taste and smell delightful. Most of them are multiple cannabis cup winners.

Indica Dominant

  • Aurora Indica (by Nirvana) - Diesel smell almost like gasoline
    Note by Nebula: “Stoney” strong indica I would describe as "couchlock,” great for relieving nausea, tends to grow short with fast flowering time. Typical indica growth pattern and she responded very well to training.

Here's our harvest last time we grew an Aurora Indica plant:
(she was very short, pictured here on the left, and produced 5.3 ounces)
Aurora Indica buds - harvest from one plant

  • Sensi Star (by Paradise Seeds) - Smell is usually lemony, but certain plants will produce an odd sweet peanut butter or butterscotch smell.
     
  • Pineapple Chunk (by Barneys Farm) - Smells sweet, sugary, hints of fresh nuts. Many plants produce pineapple undertones, which is what gives this strain its name.
     
  • LA Confidential (by DNA Genetics) - Smell sweet & spicy, and certain plants have been described as having a smell like cookie dough. Can be good for reducing both anxiety & pain.
     
  • Hashberry (by Mandala Seeds) - Fruity and floral buds that will make people stop and think.
     
  • Bubblelicious (by Nirvana) - Always smells sweet & fruity, and certain plants smell just like bubblegum.
From an LED grow featuring Bubblelicious:
 

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)

Blue Cheese cannabis buds (strain by Big Buddha Seeds)

  • Larry OG - Smells of fuel plus lemon, and in some plants this creates a mouth-taste almost like menthol
     
  • Critical Jack - Smells sweet and fruity, often almost tropical. Sometimes buds will smell just like lemon or citrus
     
  • 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)
A fat and heavy Wonder Woman cannabis cola - grown in hydroponic DWC tub under a 600W grow light
View full grow journal here

Sativa Dominant

  • 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) - Unique spicy smell that is pretty unique to this strain, certain plants will smell just like sandlewood
     
  • Vanilla Haze - Smells sweet & fruity, and most plants will have strong hints of either vanilla, blueberry, or both
     
  • Sugar Punch - Smell sweet & pungent, I plan on growing this strain in the near future!
     
  • Chocolope (by DNA Genetics) - This strain is famouse for its fruity-sweet that can resemble the smell of chocolate or dark chocolate. Grows big with big yields. Some people find this a good strain for anxiety-relief.

 


 

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7 Tips to Growing Professional-Quality Buds

Cannabis Terpenes & Terpenoids

Odor Control in the Grow Room

Learn more about LED grow lights