Grow Opportunity

How aroma and flavour in the cannabis production process impacts ROI

Understanding moisture content and quality preservation

April 11, 2022  By Jarred Marsh

To achieve your goal of creating more profit without growing more crops, investment must be made in the post-harvesting stages of the process. Photo: PsychoBeard/Adobe stock

The cannabis industry is evolving as the demand for craft/connoisseur products continues to grow. People are becoming more educated. They search for cannabis with a unique aroma and flavour, like finding a fine wine. 

As a result, cannabis growers realize it’s time to start changing the way they produce their products. It’s no longer just about creating a unique aroma and flavour. Moving forward it’s also about preserving them now and in the long-term. Meeting this new demand has prompted some growers to start changing where they invest in their process. 

Changing focus
Traditionally, growers have invested their time, money, and muscle in pre-harvest activities for aroma development. That need is still here, but product consistency, stability, flavour, and health have also grown in popularity. 

Growers moving forward want to learn more about process and production techniques. They also want to grow less and get more out of what they already produce and become more profitable businesses. 


Aroma and flavour
Every strain of cannabis has its own unique aroma and flavor profile. Creating a customer-preferred aroma and flavour, requires some investment initially, but it will pay for itself with preference, leads, sales, and repeat customers all the way through the supply chain. 

Keeping trichomes and terpenes in an optimum environment where they are hydrated and healthy leads to a higher product quality and sales. If trichomes are over-dried, terpenes will evaporate along with aroma, flavour, and your bottom line. Overhydration can lead to mold growth, potentially putting customer health at risk. 

There are several variables that affect trichome (and therefore, terpene) health, quality, aroma, flavour during curing and storage. Two key ones are moisture content and water activity (aW). Managing them not only enables growers to get more out of every crop, it ensures the product is safe for consumption. 

Inhibiting water activity has been established as an effective way to hinder the growth of microbes and metabolism of microbe associated toxins according to ASTM D37 D8197 from the American Society of Testing & Materials (ASTM). 

Moisture content
There are two types of water present in plants: free water and bound water.

Free water is the water within the plant that can be extracted by squeezing, cutting, or pressing your product. Bound water is water that is found within the plant cells and is bound to the cell walls. It cannot be easily removed without incurring damage to the trichome and terpene. 

The two combined are called moisture content of the cannabis. Moisture content is how most cultivators test their product. 

While it works to a point, it is not the most precise way to manage cannabis efficacy. Using it can result in having a contaminated product not safe for consumption. 

Water activity (aW)
A more precise way to determine moisture content is Water Activity (aW). Monitoring aW is the industry standard set in ASTM D37 D8197, and endorsed by the American Cannabis Institute. It states for consumption safe cannabis you need to maintain an aW between 0.55 aW – 0.65aW 

The aW relates directly to the water available (in liquid form) to microbes. An aW measurement tells you how much water is not chemically bound within the product. Monitoring it is important to keep trichomes and terpenes healthy. 

If kept too high, mold and fungus can begin to grow, compromising customer safety. Kept too low, aroma, flavour, and your bottom line will evaporate and leave you with a low-quality product. 

Creating the best environment
The marketplace is getting more and more competitive, with new growers everyday entering the market. A new approach to environmental control is the only way for growers to increase demand and sales without growing more cannabis. 

Incorporating technology that keeps cannabis within recommended storage guidelines delivers a higher quality product with your unique aroma and flavor sealed into the terpenes. For the customer this it’s a more unique and memorable experience. 

The two approaches used most often during the curing and storage stages of cannabis production are called one-way and two-way RH Control. The one-way approach either adds too much water or removes too much water.

Two-way humidity control
A more precise advanced way to approach cannabis environment control is by 2-way RH Control. The idea, technology, and system of 2-way RH Control was created and patented by our friends at Boveda. By creating the new system, the issues with 1-way humidity control have been solved. 

These packets provide environmental control by allowing water to go two ways. The packets either add or remove water to maintain the optimum RH. 

The product controls RH so precisely, it strengthens the aroma and flavor by producing a monolayer of water on the trichomes. This in effect creates a shield around the trichomes and terpenes present inside. When this shield is broken, the terpenes are released when a person uses the product. 

The patented design allows water vapour to pass through a special film very quickly. While it moves through, moisture is added or removed as needed to reach equilibrium. This approach keeps the environment at the ideal RH, whereby terpenes are preserved. 

The packets will reach its designated RH within 24-48 hours, depending on the container (we highly recommend an airtight vessel). How does it work? Inside the packets is salt, pure water, and a food-safe thickening agent. The salt- based solution is sealed in Boveda’s patented vapour phase osmosis membrane. 

As water vapour is released from or absorbed into the membrane, the water to salt ratio changes. The salt dissolves when more water is absorbed. The salt precipitates or becomes a solid again when more water is released. 

As water vapour is released from or absorbed through the membrane, Boveda dials-in and precisely maintains your container’s humidity levels, much like a thermostat. Boveda may cost a little more than traditional methods, but in the long-term, it will pay for itself by increasing the amount of saleable yield and locking in your unique aroma that leads to preference. 

In summary, to achieve your goal of creating more demand, preference, sales, profits without growing more crops, changes will need to be made along with investment in the post-harvesting stages of the process. 

Techniques used in your process will also need to focus on better preventative control to improve trichomes and terpenes’ health. The combination will lead to a better return on your investment and the highest quality possible. 

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