Hand trimming vs. machine trimming: Which is best?

  • In the last few years, the cannabis industry has seen amazing technological innovations. These include machine trimmers, which allow growers to trim cannabis flowers much faster than conventional methods.
  • In this article, we’ll compare the traditional method of hand trimming to the results offered by modern machine trimmers. 
  • Read on to find out the pros and cons of each method and figure out which one works best for your setup.

Hand trimming

Most small-scale producers choose to trim their cannabis flowers by hand. This is hardly surprising considering the high cost of machine trimmers, but living pricing issues aside, hand trimming provides a more appealing finish, as scissors allow to make accurate, delicate cuts that lead to well-groomed flowers that retain all their terpenes and resin.

For an optimum result, you should always use sharp-tipped scissors in order to reach the leaflets whose petiole is deep hidden in the flower without altering its external shape. You will also need a bottle of rubbing alcohol (90-95%) or acetone and some paper towels to clean the scissors before and after every trimming session, as well as an unused razorblade to remove the resin that sticks to the scissors during the process.

The rule of thumb is to remove as many leaflets as possible in order to maximise the bag appeal and allow the organoleptic profile to shine through during the tasting. Otherwise, the terpenes could be masked by the excess plant matter, producing a grassy, not very refined taste. The plant leftovers, which will be pretty rich in resin, can be used for making extracts and concentrates.

The time required for the task will vary largely depending on the leaf-to-flower ratio of the strain you've grown, but in return you'll obtain a top-notch product that is entirely handcrafted. On the negative side, hand trimming is suitable only for small gardens, as the method is very labour intensive and thus can prove unprofitable for large cannabis businesses.

Pros:

  • Gentle handling of the flowers
  • Great bag appeal
  • Top-quality flowers
  • Optimum terpene and cannabinoid density
  • High-quality trims for making concentrates
  • Low cost

Cons:

  • Time-consuming
  • Suitable only for small-scale growers

Machine trimming

While using a trimmer requires some investment, which will vary depending on the model and your needs (total production capacity/number of plants to trim), it can save you hundreds of hours as it allows to trim large amounts of plants in very little time, a key consideration for large cannabis businesses.

The initial investment pays for itself very quickly, as not only do trimmers have a long service life, but they allow to reduce the delay between the harvest and marketing of the buds and its derivatives, contributing to the financial stability of the company and, thus, to its long-term survival.

On the other side of the coin, machine trimming can alter certain compounds in the cannabis flower and can also negatively affect its appearance. While it is true that technological innovations are constantly improving how machine trimmers perform, these still fail to outperform humans in the delicate task of trimming a flower.

Of course, someone with, let's say, a 40-acre crop to handle, will have little option but to turn to machine trimming, at least if they don't want their business to collapse, but this does not mean you cannot obtain high-quality flowers with a machine. The finish will in fact be more than decent, but clearly not as good as that of hand-trimmed flowers.

Pros:

  • Optimal productivity
  • Contributes to the economic health of the cannabis businesses
  • Ideal for large-scale setups

Cons:

  • Terpenes and cannabinoids may be slightly altered
  • Flowers may retain some leaflets/bits of leaves
  • Decent but not great bag appeal
  • Less abundant, lower quality trims

In a nutshell, both hand and machine trimming are valid ways to trim your cannabis flowers, so choosing one or the other technique will ultimately depend on the scope of your activity.

Happy harvesting!

20/06/2019

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