Hand Trim vs. Machine Trim: Which Is Right for You?

After growing a vibrant, robust crop of indoor cannabis, it’s time to harvest and process your flowers. If your buds are destined for vaping or smoking, you’ll need to trim off the sugar and water leaves to ensure an aesthetically pleasing product and a clean experience that’s not too harsh or abrasive for the user.

Cannabis Flowers

In the cannabis industry today, there are two ways to trim your buds—by hand or by machine. We’ll explore both of these popular options, the methods used, and the pros and cons of each when it comes to your cannabis farm.

Hand Trimming

It might seem strange nowadays to do anything by hand. After all, can’t machines do almost anything quicker, cheaper, and better?
Interestingly, when it comes to buds, hand trimming still holds its owneven if it takes more time.

In the hand-trimming process, the cannabis stalks are cut close to the ground and either hung up to dry or taken directly for “wet trimming.” Trimmers will then separate the water leaves and trim off the smaller sugar leaves, preserving the trichomes as much as possible.

Trimming bud by hand is so time-consuming that most growers hire help or invite a group of friends to assist. With some good entertainment and the promise of free product, a rather monotonous job can be made into an enjoyable experience.

Machine Trimming

Introduced in the early 1970s, cannabis trimming machines take care of the entire trimming process. After harvest—and before or after drying—the plants are placed in rotating drums with mesh that chop off the fan and sugar leaves while trimming the buds. Buds can then be touched up and packaged.

Hand Cranked Trimmer

More recently, bladeless trimmers have also entered the market. Instead of spinning and shaving the buds, these trimmers work by tumbling untrimmed product in a mesh net, allowing friction from the flowers rolling against each other to trim instead of blades.

The buds themselves come out with the trichomes intact without being under trimmed.

This option is quickly becoming more popular since it does not adversely affect the flowers like bladed machines do.

Hand Trimming Pros

Hand trimming has been around for a long time, and it doesn’t appear to be going out of style anytime soon. Many users swear that hand trimming produces the cleanest, most flavorful, most terpene-rich result and can be customized for different strains.

With hand-trimming, laborers can identify and remove any buds that are afflicted with pests or mold and dispose of these damaged buds appropriately. It’s also a low-cost way for beginners and small farms to process their buds.

Hand Trimming Cons

If perfect buds aren’t your goal or if you don’t have time to trim by hand, there is no reason to subject a large group of people to backbreaking work unless your aim is to create more jobs.

Trimming bud by hand is sticky, time-consuming, and can lead to back and hand injuries. Potential downtime can also cost your business significant sums of money.

Machine Trimming Pros

Machine trimming can cut (no pun intended) your trim time from days to minutes with no need to get sticky from wet postharvest processing. A much faster processing time plus a significant reduction in human labor is a sure way to increase capacity and boost your profits.

Machine Trimming Cons

Over-trimming and under-trimming as a result of using a standardized blade-based process can be a huge threat to your operation’s profits. Over-trimming can cause irreparable damage to your buds, creating a low-quality product. On the other hand, under-trimming requires the user to have to go back to hand trim what was missed.

Selecting the Method That’s Best for You

As a cannabis grower, you’re constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of your flower while making the process more efficient. For boutique enterprises and novice growers, it’s advisable to start by hand-trimming cannabis to get a feel for the quality that’s possible.

Once your canna-business starts to grow, you might consider moving to machine trimmingeither bladed or bladeless. Many manufacturers offer small systems as well as large ones, so experiment until you find the method that works best for you and brings the most satisfaction to your customers!

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