Cannabis Trimming: By Hand Versus By Machine

February 19, 2020

Those who have been introduced to cannabis for the first time in a legal setting, may not fully understand just how much work goes into the growing, harvesting, prep and packaging that occurs before you pluck it from a retail shelf as easily as you would a bottle of wine or frozen turkey. 

What you see when you open your package of cannabis dry flower (or at least what everyone hopes to see) are expertly manicured, large, cured buds, jam-packed with the terpenes and crystallized THC you crave, free from the extra, low-potency foliage and fan leaves, and ready to be broken down and consumed — and this requires careful attention to the trimming process.  

Trimming takes place after the full buds are pulled from the branches and manicured before sale. The process is very hands-on and time-consuming, which is why many large-scale producers are looking for efficient ways to reduce the trimming workload. As a result, machine trimming has become more widely accepted as a way to reduce costs and labour, but many growers refuse to adopt machines as a solution due to their general poor reputation for over-trimming buds, producing generic football-buds and cutting off valuable Trichomes. 

All of this can have a negative effect on the appearance, potency and flavours of the buds.

Hand Trimming

When it comes to hand-trimming cannabis, this tried-and-true method treats every bud and every strain uniquely, and only requires a good set of trimmers, and a lot of patient focus. It may take more time, but the results are precise and beautiful, and create less waste. 

At Stigma Grow, we believe each strain has a different appearance and each should be trimmed to feature its most appealing qualities, calyxes and bud structures. The look of the buds should be as consistent as its other characteristics, and its natural state should be complemented and celebrated. To do this properly requires a trimmer with an eye for detail, an understanding of the goal for the finished product and the ability to root out stems, seeds and crow’s feet. 

Hand trimming also provides a final set of eyes on the lookout for anything that could deteriorate the quality of the buds. Undiscovered traces of mould or evidence of insects can’t be identified by a machine trimmer. 

The human eye can also inspect the quality of every bud for crow’s feet, seeds, and stems, allowing the trimmer to shape each individual bud. A person can also spot more serious issues like mould or insects. Hand trimming also ensures that a minimal amount of product is lost, whereas machines can trim off too much of your buds.

One of the bigger challenges for larger producers is finding the time and budget to ensure mass quantities of cannabis are trimmed in a timely manner. While trimming can be done by beginners (as a great way to introduce them to cannabis cultivation), beginners or average trimmers can only get through about a pound of cannabis a day. On the other hand, advanced hand trimmers may be able to cover up to three pounds, or more. If you are a company that is harvesting thousands of pounds of cannabis, organizing hand trimming that keeps you on schedule for production contracts, can quickly become an impossibility. 

As a result, hand-trimming is often reserved for small crops or for cannabis with characteristics and aesthetics worthy of the royal treatment — especially when high-quality cannabis generally comes with dense colas and minimal leaves, making for quicker, easier hand trimming. 


Machine Trimming

For those producing at a mass scale, who are restricted by timelines and the need for operational efficiencies, machine trimming cannabis offers the quickest way to get your cannabis into curing packaging. After the initial expense of the machine is covered, the process becomes relatively painless, regardless of quantity, and offers an excellent source for the collection of trimmings that can be used in concentrates and other cannabis-infused products. 

Furthermore, unlike the trimmers of ten years ago, legalization has paved the way for improvements to the quality of machine trimmers, and can now better protect the final resulting product’s appearance and potency. 

However, even though these machines are faster and more protective than before, extra stems, crows feet and seeds have an easier time making their way into the final product without help from a watchful human eye. 


Why Not Do Both?

You certainly can. 

Some producers, like Stigma Grow, have determined the ideal mix of efficiency and attention to detail via trimming processes that consider the best fit products for each method; machines for quantity and hand trimming for quality. Or, delicate machine trimming can take the bulk of the leaves away, without disrupting the trichomes too much and allowing for hand trimmers to finalize the process. 

Looking for a job in cannabis – check out these listings for the chance to work with Stigma Grow. 

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