How to Determine Cannabis Quality – Part 2

Have you ever looked at a cannabis bud and thought, “WOW! It is as if the flower is covered in ice!” Well, that’s all thanks to trichomes. Trichomes are hair-like follicles that form on various plants. These minuscule structures hold biochemical elements related to flavour, aroma, and other chemical compound potencies. They also add a layer of protection against pests and adverse environmental conditions. In addition, trichomes serve as a defense mechanism for plants, as they render their flowers unpalatable to animals and protect them from damaging winds and fungal growth.

In cannabis plants, trichomes can hold 80% of the plants’ moisture, terpene, and cannabinoid content. Another well-known form of cannabis trichome you may be familiar with is kief. Kief is the sand-like part of your cannabis that you may notice at the bottom of a grinder that usually has high potency in cannabinoid content like THC.

Trichomes Determine Harvest Times

Trichomes are used to gauge plant development and harvest time. Growers know when to harvest their crop when trichomes are milky in opacity and slightly amber in colour. These qualities reflect that the plant contains the highest amount of desired cannabinoids and terpenes before they begin depleting from "over-ripening." Unfortunately, when you harvest cannabis at an incorrect time, the dry-curing process can enhance said undesirable characteristics. Because trichomes are so tiny, it is highly recommended to use a form of a microscope to enhance the imagery. Many cannabis experts rely on loops, digital microscopes, and macrophotography to better view their cannabis trichome development.

Undesirables found in cannabis with a digital microscope. Images courtesy of The Different Collective.

Here is a comparison of cannabis harvesting at the incorrect and correct times. Note the increased colour in orange and brown, plus the lack of "frost."

Trichomes hold the majority of moisture content in your cannabis. But how do you check moisture content without seeing lab results? Our favorite method is a squeeze test. You simply place your cannabis between your fingers and squeeze. It has a desirable moisture content if the flower bounces back and holds form without breaking or sticks to your fingers. Say your cannabis breaks or crumbles; it is overly dry. Dry cannabis can result from improper packaging or issues in the dry-curing process.

Types of Trichomes

Amante's Tropicanna Banana usually has multiple buds in each jar. However, this does not affect this flower's potency or quality.

Trichomes come in a variety of forms and can even show deformities with string-like structures. Images courtesy of The Different Collective.

There are three main types of trichomes found on cannabis plants:

  • Bulbous trichomes 10-30 micrometers.
  • Capitate-Sessile trichomes 25-100 micrometers.
  • Capitate-Stalked trichomes 50-500 micrometers (most abundant)

The trichomes known as "Capitate-Stalked" are those that can be seen with the naked eye and are distinguished from other trichome types by their high oil content. Both Capitate-Sessile and Bulbous trichomes are difficult to see with the naked eye, but they both produce cannabinoids. These trichomes are typically found on the plant's less appealing portions, such as the leaves, and stalks.

During the plant's flowering stages, the desirable Capitate-Stalked trichomes become far and away from the most numerous. They generate the most coveted terpenes and cannabinoids, which are perfect for making cannabis derivatives.

The Bulbous trichomes and Capitate-Sessile trichomes are sources of cannabinoids, but a clever cannabinoid extractor will aim to employ as much of their biomass as feasible.

The Most Delicate Part of Your Cannabis

Trichomes are highly volatile components of cannabis, whether they have been harvested or are still intact. However, due to their delicate nature, trichomes run the risk of being destroyed or degraded by a variety of catalysts, including but not limited to:

  • Agitation or physical touch
  • Heat (store your cannabis in a dry, cool location)
  • Light (over exposure to UV rays)
  • Oxygen (oxidization)
  • Time (cannabinoids and terpenes begin depleting 3-6 months after harvest)

One of the most known culprits associated with trichome depletion is agitation. This is why many cannabis connectors and master growers prefer hand-trimmed cannabis over machine trimmed. Machine-trimmed cannabis runs a more considerable risk of losing trichomes through a more aggressive form of preparation. That being said, machine-trimmed cannabis is more efficient for larger batches.

The essential oils contained within the trichomes also risk deterioration when exposed to these factors and the trichomes themselves. By carefully managing cannabis flowers both during multiplication and after harvest, it is possible to slow down the breakdown of trichomes significantly. Trichomes can stay on the plant for more extended lengths if only the flowers themselves are subject to physical touch and stimulation. As a result, trichomes can be kept viable for longer, which will retain the cannabinoids and terpenoids they contain, with the help of proper trimming, drying, and curing processes.

Trichomes and Extractions

Extraction methods are frequently used by people who want to make trichomes last longer than the plants they came from. These techniques include everything from chemical extractions to mechanical dry sifting procedures.

Physical extractions are usually referred to as mechanical (solventless extractions), and chemical extractions (solvent-based extractions)  are the two main trichome extraction methods. Modern medicinal marijuana advancements and current recreational reefer revolutions are based on resin farming, separating trichome resin from the rest of the plant to create cannabis concentrates.

Concentrations such as oil, shatter, and wax are created by employing pressurized butane oil as a solvent to remove trichome resin from the plant. The most contentious cannabis concentrate is butane hash oil, or BHO, which is highly unsafe for beginners to make at home.

EarthWolf Farms Tundra – Bubble Hash

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