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Hand vs Machine Trimmed THCA Flower: What are the Differences?

Trimming cannabis THCA flower is a sign of exceptional quality and attention to detail, but there are two methods that can get the job done: hand-trimming and machine-trimming.  We are going to take a look at both methods to help you figure out which one yields the very best outcome.


A Quick Refresher on THCA Flower

THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) flower refers to the raw cannabis flower that contains THCA, which is the acidic precursor to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). When a cannabis plant is growing, it primarily produces THCA, not THC. It’s only when THCA is exposed to heat (a process called decarboxylation), i.e., smoking, vaping, or cooking/baking, that it converts to THC, the psychoactive compound most commonly associated with the effects of consuming cannabis.

Is There an Actual Reason for Trimming THCA Flower?

Not all cannabis flower is trimmed, and not all that long ago, it was unusual to buy trimmed flower.  Trimmed cannabis THCA hemp flower is something that has become more popular as a result of dispensaries popping up, as companies want to offer better quality than what’s available on the black market.  

Trimming cannabis THCA flower buds is done prior to the dry-curing process, right after harvesting.  It serves a few purposes.  For instance, it removes the stems and leaves from the flower buds, as these components do not serve any purpose, possessing none of the cannabinoids and terpenes that customers are looking for.  As cannabis flower is sold by weight, you don’t want stems and leaves making up a chunk of what you’re paying money for, when those components are ultimately discarded.

By trimming cannabis THCA buds, you’re also ensuring that they dry-cure evenly, and you’re creating a uniform shape and size that looks more aesthetically pleasing.  A lot of companies also trim the buds to exaggerate certain qualities distinctive to a strain – like a strain that already has a conical, tree-like shape may get trimmed to have even sharper angles.

Understanding the General Process of Trimming THCA Hemp Flower

Trimming THCA flower doesn’t differ significantly from trimming other cannabis flower types, but here’s a basic overview:

  1. Harvesting: When the cannabis plant reaches maturity, it’s harvested by cutting down the primary stalks or individual branches.
  2. Buck Down: This refers to removing the larger branches from the main stalk, leaving individual THCA buds or small clusters of buds attached to smaller stems.
  3. Wet Trimming vs. Dry Trimming: There are two primary methods of trimming cannabis that each provide a bit of uniqueness to the final product:
    • Wet Trimming: This method involves trimming the excess leaves off the buds immediately after harvesting while the plant material is still fresh (or “wet”).  Many growers prefer this method because it can be easier to handle and see what you’re doing, but it can also increase the risk of mold during the drying process if not done correctly.
    • Dry Trimming: With this method, the harvested cannabis is hung up and allowed to dry for several days to a few weeks before trimming.  This can be a bit trickier since the plant material becomes more brittle, but it can reduce mold risk, and some cultivators believe it preserves terpene profiles better.
  4. Trimming Process: Using small, sharp scissors, the trimmer will carefully cut away the sugar leaves (small leaves covered in trichomes) and any other extraneous plant material protruding from the bud.  The primary goal is to reveal the dense, resinous part of the flower while retaining its shape and structure.
  5. Curing: After trimming, cannabis THCA flowers typically go through a curing process, where they’re stored in airtight containers and periodically aired out.  This process helps improve the flavor and smoothness of the smoke/vapor.

Hand-Trimmed THCA Hemp Flower vs. Machine-Trimmed THCA Flower

Now that you’ve a better idea of why trimming is done with THCA flower, as well as what the full process entails, you are wondering which of these options below is better.  Well, let’s find out.

Hand-Trimming THCA Hemp Flower

As you’ve probably guessed, this is trimming that’s done by human hands and eyes.  It’s also quite a labor-intensive process, as you can imagine, and typically yields about 1-3 pounds of trimmed flower per day.  Trimming flower by hand is typically associated with “boutique” THCA flower companies, and thus, gives an artisanal approach to the product.

Main Pros:

  • Preservation of Trichomes: Trichomes are the tiny, crystal-like structures on the surface of cannabis flowers that contain cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.  Mechanical trimmers can be more aggressive and may break off or damage these trichomes.  Hand-trimming, on the other hand, is gentler and preserves the integrity of the trichomes, which can lead to a better THCA product in terms of potency and flavor.
  • Attention to Detail: Hand-trimming allows for individual attention to each bud.  This ensures that the bud is trimmed to perfection, taking into consideration its unique shape and size.
  • Quality Control: Hand-trimming provides a closer inspection of the buds.  Trimmers can spot and remove any imperfections, mold, or pests that might be present.
  • Better Bag Appeal: Hand-trimmed THCA flowers generally have a better aesthetic appeal.  The buds look cleaner and more desirable when the excess leaves are meticulously removed by hand, compared to the often rougher appearance of machine-trimmed buds.
  • Employment Opportunities: Hand-trimming creates jobs.  Many cultivators employ a team of trimmers, especially during harvest seasons.  This provides a source of income for many in the cannabis industry.
  • Less Waste: Hand-trimmers can make judgment calls about which parts of the bud to keep and which to remove.  Sometimes, small sugar leaves that are covered in trichomes might be left on a hand-trimmed THCA bud, whereas they would be removed by a machine.
  • Catering to Premium Market: Some consumers specifically seek out hand-trimmed cannabis flowers because they associate the method with higher quality.  By offering hand-trimmed THCA products, producers can cater to this premium market segment.
  • Less Mechanical Contamination: Machines can introduce contaminants like lubricants or metal shavings.  Hand-trimming eliminates the risk of such contamination.

Main Cons:

  • Labor-Intensive: Hand-trimming requires significant manual labor, especially compared to mechanical trimming.  This can lead to higher production costs and longer processing times, which may result in higher prices for consumers.
  • Consistency Issues: Human trimmers may vary in their trimming techniques and precision, potentially leading to inconsistencies in the final product.  This contrasts with machine-trimmed THCA buds, which usually provide a more consistent appearance, although some argue that the quality and appearance suffer.
  • Time-Consuming: Hand-trimming is slower than machine-trimming.  For large-scale growers or those under time constraints, hand-trimming may not be the most efficient option.
  • Increased Costs: The need for skilled laborers to perform hand-trimming THCA flower can drive up costs, which might be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.
  • Potential for Human Error: Hand-trimming can lead to inadvertent damage to the flower’s trichomes, which house many of the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes.  Trichome damage can reduce the potency and overall quality of the final product.
  • Limitations on Scale: For very large operations, it might be logistically challenging to maintain a hand-trimming approach due to the sheer volume of the THCA product.

Machine-Trimming THCA Hemp Flower

Machine-trimming can yield up to 20lbs of trimmed flower per day.  Trimming by machine makes each THCA bud uniform more effectively, and there are various types of machines that can do the job of trimming, so that small and large cultivation facilities can find a system that works for them.  

Main Pros:

  • Consistency: Machines can provide a consistent level of trimming that may be hard for human trimmers to match consistently over long durations.
  • Efficiency: Machines can trim large amounts of flower quickly.  This means that producers can process more THCA hemp flower in a shorter amount of time, leading to quicker turnaround times and potentially more revenue.
  • Labor Savings: Machine trimming can significantly reduce the need for manual labor.  This can translate into savings for producers, as they don’t need to hire, train, or manage as many human trimmers.
  • Safety: Human trimmers use sharp scissors or shears which can lead to accidents or repetitive strain injuries over time.  Machines eliminate this risk.
  • Uniformity: For brands or products that require a very specific and uniform presentation of the THCA flower, machines can offer a level of uniformity that might be challenging for humans to replicate.
  • Reduced Contamination: With fewer hands touching the flower, there’s a reduced risk of contamination, which is particularly important for medical cannabis products or in markets with stringent product safety and testing requirements.
  • Cost-effective: In the long run, using machines can be more cost-effective than hiring a team of human trimmers, especially for large-scale operations.
  • Storage and Shelf Life: Properly trimmed THCA flowers can have improved storage characteristics, leading to a longer shelf life.  Machines can ensure that this trimming level is consistently achieved.

Main Cons:

  • Trichome Damage: Machines might be more aggressive than human hands, leading to the potential loss or damage to trichomes, which house the majority of the cannabinoids and terpenes.  This could result in a reduction in THCA flower potency and flavor.
  • Less Precision: Machines might not be as precise as a skilled human trimmer, meaning, they might miss leaves that should be removed or inadvertently remove parts of the THCA flower that should remain.
  • Quality Variation: Not all buds are the same size or shape, and machines might not adjust as well as a human to these variations. Thus, leading to inconsistencies in the quality of the trim.
  • Loss of Jobs: One of the major criticisms is the potential loss of jobs for those who hand-trim THCA cannabis.  Especially in regions where the cannabis industry has become a significant source of employment, this is a legitimate concern.
  • Residual Contaminants: Depending on the machine and the process, there’s a potential for machine oil or other contaminants to come into contact with the flower.  This could compromise the purity of the product.
  • Quality Perception: There’s a prevailing sentiment among many cannabis enthusiasts that hand-trimmed THCA flower is of higher quality.  As a result, machine-trimmed flower might be perceived as inferior, regardless of its actual quality.
  • Potential for Over-Trimming: Machines can sometimes over-trim buds, removing more material than necessary.  This can decrease the overall weight of the product and may also reduce the aesthetic appeal of the flower.
  • Cost of Machines:  For growers, the initial investment in trimming machines can be significant.  Also, there’s that not-so-little thing called “cost” associated with maintaining and repairing these machines over time.

Note: As technology advances, many of these above concerns may be addressed.  Some modern trimming machines are becoming more precise and gentler on the flower, in turn, minimizing trichome loss and delivering a product that is closer in quality to hand-trimmed THCA hemp flower

Premium Hand-Trimmed THCA Flower is Where It’s At! 

It’s simple: hand-trimmed THCA flower shows off finer craftsmanship, and with such meticulous attention to detail, ensures that each and every bud looks its absolute finest, and even retains the ideal amount of trichomes without any leaves or stems getting in the way.  Still, while it offers many advantages, each user and even grower needs to weigh the pros & cons we covered based on their specific needs, production scale, and the market they cater to.

Bloomz THCA Hemp Flower products are primarily grown indoors to offer full control over every aspect of the growing process, while offering the best aroma and flavor possible.  We’re proud to employ expert trimmers who go above and beyond to provide our customers with the absolute best THCA flower, with quality levels that you can see for yourself as soon as you open our jar and examine the buds with your own eyes.


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