Hand-Trimmed vs. Machine-Trimmed Cannabis: Which Is Better?

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Trimming is one of the last steps of the growing process, when prized buds are finally pulled off their branches and shaped before sale. One of the more monotonous parts of growing, producers always look for ways to make the trimming process easier and more efficient, with machine trimmers becoming more popular in recent times.

Money, labor, and quality factor heavily into your decision to trim by hand or to use a machine. Here’s a guide that spells out both sides of the argument so that you can figure out what process works best for your setup.

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The Pros and Cons of Hand Trimming

Trimming cannabis by hand is the tried-and-true method and was the only option available for generations. Accomplished with a pair of trimmers, some focus, and a bit of patience, this method is celebrated by connoisseurs for its beautiful results.

Pros

Quality hand-trimmed cannabis is the most precisely trimmed cannabis on the market. Every bud gets a custom cut to ensure that the strain’s particular characteristics shine through, and this method also protects the precious trichomes that hold the terpenes and psychoactive properties of the plant.

Each strain has a different appearance and each should be trimmed in a particular way to bring out its qualities—valuable calyxes and unique bud structures should be protected and celebrated. Some strains can be fluffy or dense, tall or stout, fragile or sturdy, and each should be trimmed accordingly, using human judgement.

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The human eye can also inspect the quality of every bud for crow’s feet, seeds, and stems, allowing the trimmer to shape each individual bud. A person can also spot more serious issues like mold or insects. Hand trimming also ensures that a minimal amount of product is lost, whereas machines can trim off too much of your buds.

Lastly, hand trimming provides entry-level jobs in the cannabis market. It’s easy to do and requires little training. All you need is a pair of trimmers to get started.

Cons

Hand trimming cannabis is expensive and takes a lot of time. Each trimmer needs to be compensated while they help complete the tedious process, so you’ll need money to pay them ahead of time. Average trimmers can get through about a pound of cannabis a day, while advanced trimmers can tackle 3 or more pounds a day.

If you’re trimming your own personal harvest, you’ll require far less labor and this might not be a big deal. You may even be able to talk your buddies into giving you a hand as a favor. But if you have a large crop to process, hand trimming is costly, time-consuming, and difficult to organize. Getting trustworthy trimmers who are willing to put in the time and effort to get the job done can be easier said than done.

Best For

Top-shelf cannabis deserves the royal treatment so that its characteristics can be accentuated and the product can be enjoyed in all of its glory. Quality grown cannabis generally has large, dense colas and minimal leaf material, making hand trimming quick and easy.

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The Pros and Cons of Machine Trimming

The high demand for cannabis has paved the way for new technologies and a whole range of machine trimmers. Highly efficient upper-level systems like the Twister T2 (~$12,000) can trim up to 19 lbs per hour. Lower-priced systems like the Trimpro Rotor ($1,750) have been developed for smaller gardens with a lower output, and even machines for the homegrower, like the iPower ($120).

Pros

The quickest method to get your cannabis from the drying room to curing jars, machine trimming cannabis saves growers time and money after the initial price of the machine. Machine trimmers turn the daunting process into a painless procedure, all while collecting trim in a sterile environment for concentrate processing later on.

The quality of machine trimmers has improved drastically over the last decade, cutting labor and costs while also protecting the end result of your product.

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Cons

Generally speaking, machine trimmers have a poor reputation. They’re known for over trimming buds, turning them into a generic football shape and cutting off valuable flower material. Tricomes can get knocked off in a machine trimmer, negatively affecting the potency and flavor of the product, as well as its overall bag appeal.

While machines have improved over the years, crows feet, extra stems, and seeds can still make their way into the finished product without the close eye of a person.

Best For

These trimmers do an incredible job of processing product quickly, so they’re mainly used by large-scale growers producing for the low end of the market.

Combining Both Methods

You can combine both hand and machine trimming to optimize your grow and to balance out some of the negatives of each process. Machines can be used to handle quantity and people can check for quality—staff can perform checks on buds after they’re processed by a machine and remove any last imperfections before packaging.