How to Cure your Cannabis to Perfection with Cole Ducey

cole ducey of autocure

What is the difference between drying and curing your cannabis and why should you care?

Great question. Turns out that it’s a really big deal to dry and cure cannabis right. If you do it wrong you can get nasty mold, if you do it right you have a beautiful flower with all its terpenes intact.

Learn how to master drying and curing your cannabis in this episode with Cole Ducey the founder of AutoCure.us

Key Takeaways:
[3:02] – What is Auto Cure
[4:40] – The making of Auto Cure
[9:37] – What’s the difference between drying and curing
[12:20] – Risks of not curing cannabis properly
[13:47] – Most common ways to dry and cure cannabis
[16:27] – How does Auto Cure work
[20:21] – Cole defines burping
[23:04] – What is RH Threshold
[25:14] – What does Auto Cure look like
[30:04] – Auto Cure’s data logging feature
[34:24] – Is the dashboard user-friendly
[37:46] – Cole talks about most common customer feedback
[41:08] – Cole answers some personal development questions
[48:40] – Cole’s contact details

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years? Find out with your free guide at: https://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

Note: Just a quick note that the audio quality of my microphone is not the best in this interview because I accidently used the microphone on my computer instead of the one I was holding in my hand. So my apologies about that and I’ll be back to better audio quality from my microphone in the next episode.

In an effort to continue to highlight the entrepreneurs that are making the picks and shovels for the cannabis industry I am pleased to welcome Cole Ducey founder of Auto Cure on to CannaInsider today to discuss an often misunderstood but extremely important topic, Curing Your Cannabis. Cole, welcome to CannaInsider.

Cole: Hey thanks Matthew. I really appreciate you having me on today, and I look forward to our conversation.

Matthew: Me too. Give us a sense of geography. Where in the world are you today?

Cole: So I am currently in San Diego, California at the Auto Cure facility. It is a beautiful day here, nice, sunny and clear and a great day to be speaking with you and discussing a little bit about Auto Cure.

Matthew: And I’m in Edinburgh, Scotland where it’s already getting dark and it’s very cloudy. So kind of the antithesis of what you’re doing down there in San Diego right now. Thanks for joining me early in the day.

Cole: Yes, yeah, you’re welcome. Yeah thanks for having me again.

Matthew: So tell me what is Auto Cure at a high level?

Cole: Auto Cure is a professional drying and curing technology. It is really one of its kind, and it is comprised basically of two components. The first being a robotics system that is run by software. The second component being a series of chambers or housing for the robot where flower contents are put into the chamber as well. The way that it functions basically is that the robot will activate or deactivate itself. During the activation phase air will be blown through the chamber system. New air will be blown into the chamber. When the robotic system is deactivated the system will close itself off to create an airtight environment so there is no air movement.

Matthew: Okay so we’ll get into the weeds on why that’s and idyllic scenario for curing your cannabis, but before we do how did you come about creating Auto Cure? Did you wake up one morning and just visualize this and say I must build it? What’s the origin story there and what was your background?

Cole: So it’s been a number of years actually. About seven years ago right out of college I was growing, cultivating and in order to compete with the dispensaries in the area in the San Fernando Valley where I was at, I knew that I needed to cure my flower. I knew that that gave the flower the best quality and it’s just the most desirable and highest value when it is cured. So as I was growing, I soon realized how monotonous and inexact of a process the curing process actually is so at that time I had the initial idea that I knew there needed to be a solution in the curing process.

So after my days of growing were done I actually went into studying to be a mechanical engineer which is what I currently do. So I run CNC machining equipment and I have a full shop. So basically after I learned the skills to manufacture such a device my initial idea came back to me and I basically put it together and I said wow I can actually make this now. I then started on the path of designing the product about two years ago, and that was a process in and of itself in fabrication and software development. Now we are at the place where everything is dialed in and we are making them in production. So that is very exciting.

Matthew: That is great. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve met in the cannabis community that have created really cool products that have an engineering background. I mean it makes sense because you have this idea in your head and you’re like oh I know how make this but it’s really remarkable how many mechanical, electrical, structural engineers are just making some really cool stuff. I’m so glad people of that background are getting into it. Go ahead.

Cole: I was going to say you’re exactly right. It’s very interesting that point how mechanical engineers and machinists are transferring their knowledge into this budding industry that we got that’s the next huge growth industry. That’s really how I saw it, and so it was really an easy decision for me and I know that it is for a lot of other mechanical engineers also. So that’s a very good point.

Matthew: Yeah I mean a lot of problems that have no solutions still so it’s kind of this green field opportunity where it’s like hey there’s nobody doing this. I could just do it and there’s a lot of people making a lot of money with cannabis cultivation so they’re happy to throw money at you if you can solve their problem.

Cole: Correct yeah. Just kind of an aside, the funny thing is that the machines that I have and I run are the same exact machines that Boeing uses for the aerospace industry. So they’re made for building jet aircraft components, satellite components, highly highly precise pieces of equipment. However, I took that and other engineers alike have took that technology and implemented that precision into this new industry that really needs and desires this type of innovation. So it’s a very nice mesh that’s happening.

Matthew: Cool, some space age technology there.

Cole: Yeah exactly, exactly.

Matthew: Okay well let’s just get kind of into the bread and butter of curing, but before we do I want to just ask a very simple question. What’s the difference between drying and curing?

Cole: That’s a very good question, and basically curing is a longer more slowly controlled evaporation process than the drying process. It occurs secondarily after the drying process so just timeframe, approximate timeframes. Usually drying takes about five to seven days and that occurs right after the live plant is cut and harvested. Family foliage is typically wet trimmed off at that time and then the plant is either hung whole or in sections on strings upside down. That will take place for about five to seven days like I mentioned.

Then secondarily the curing process will occur when the flower has reached a certain level of dryness. So when the curing process starts what you are trying to do is get the innermost moisture released out of the flower in a slow enough process so that the medicinal oils and terpenes do not evaporate off with the moisture, the remaining moisture.

Matthew: Okay so it’s giving a pathway for the water to leave or the moisture to leave the plant by keeping all the terpenes and compounds that you want to keep. So it’s kind of the art and science of doing that in the most efficient way possible.

Cole: Correct, and if in the curing process if the evaporation process is too quick, then as we mentioned the valuable terpenes and oils resultantly get evaporated off with the moisture and they are lost. So the value in curing is retaining those oils while releasing the remaining moisture.

Matthew: Now I see a lot of growers, especially new growers, obsess about the soil and lights or these different growing inputs, but not spend a lot of time thinking about drying and curing. What’s at stake if a cultivator doesn’t cure his/her cannabis properly? What are the risks?

Cole: There is tremendous risks actually and very highly detrimental risks. On one side, like we discussed, if airflow is too much, if the rate of evaporation is too high in the curing process, then what you’re going to do is you’re going to over dry your flower. You’re going to lose too much of the oils. It’s just going to be dried out. You’re going to lose the smell, the taste, and it’s really just going to have that dried out grass feeling which loses end value. On the other end if airflow is too restricted, then what happens is you risk mold forming which can destroy your entire harvest if it spreads to grossly.

Matthew: Okay. How do most growers dry and cure now? I’ve been in grows and I see the plant hanging from a clothesline or in buckets and things like that. What’s the way most growers do it? Is that the way they do it or how does it typically work?

Cole: So the way I learned to do it and the most typical way that hear through our customers, we’ll start with drying. As I mentioned, touched on previously. In the drying process that occurs right after the plant is cut, the live plant is cut. So after the plant is cut from the stock there is an initial wet trim that’s done to get fan leaves and other excess foliage from the flower and the bud. Then either the whole plant or parts of the plant are hung upside down from strings, as you alluded to, and what that upside down hanging does is it pulls all the flower. Basically gravity pulls the remaining leave and the flower down so you get your typical nice bud structure. That lasts for about five to seven days, and in that time the plant drying in exposed ambient conditions which is the atmosphere within the room that its drying in.

So that’s important to understand because after that five to seven day drying period when you move to curing what you’re doing is you’re taking the flowers and you’re putting them in either buckets or jars and sealing off the jars. What you’re doing there is you’re creating a new environment for the flower that is actually protected from the dry, ambient conditions that you were previously hand drying in.

Matthew: Okay. How does Auto Cure work differently for the drying process than the curing process?

Cole: So that’s just touch screen settings that on the Auto Cure unit there is a touch screen display and there are sliders that control the venting parameters of the unit. So how often or less often the unit will actually vent itself. In drying, the unit will be set to vent itself much more frequently or in a continuous manner so there’s air constantly flowing on to the flower to dry. Whereas when you reach the curing stage you’re going to dial back the settings. It’s very easy, as I explained, on the display. So in curing when the settings are dialed back the unit will vent itself much less frequently so much less fresh ambient air is being blown onto the flower because you are slowing down the rate of evaporation during the curing process.

Matthew: Right. You don’t want that rate of evaporation to be too quick. That’s why you’re closing the vents intermittently. Is that correct?

Cole: Correct. So when the vents close the fans turn off. So at that point the unit is a airtight system. During that time the flower inside that is curing is releasing its moisture into the surrounding air inside the chamber. As that’s happening, the digital sensors that are placed inside the chamber of the Auto Cure read the increase in moisture in the air which is caused by the transference from the flower to the air via evaporation.

Matthew: Okay. So Auto Cure does measure moisture then?

Cole: Correct. So we have to be clear on exactly what type of moisture it is registering. What it is registering is actually the lost moisture from the flower that has been transferred into the surrounding air inside the chamber. So that’s different than the actual leaf moisture content inside the flower.

Matthew: So it’s measuring the ambient environment in the chamber as opposed to the plant.

Cole: Correct, and more specifically it’s measuring the change in the ambient level of humidity and that change that you’re seeing is actually coming from the release of moisture from the flower which indicates that the flower is drying or curing because it is losing moisture into the air.

Matthew: Okay. Let’s talk about burping and what that means because these are kind of terms that are thrown around and sometimes we don’t have an opportunity to stop and define that. Can you define what burping means because I’m about to burp right now myself as a human.

Cole: Yeah. So burping is an industry term for what I referred to earlier as venting. How the Auto Cure vents itself another word for that is burping. Where burping comes from is in the traditional methods of curing you’re either using buckets or some type of a jar that becomes sealed, just like the Auto Cure seals itself off. Burp a bucket or a jar what you’re doing is you’re taking off the lid of the bucket or jar to clear out the saturated air that was inside each of the chambers and replacing that saturated air with new drier air and then sealing it back off so that the process of moisture transference from the flower to the surrounding air can occur once more. So it’s process that happens over and over. When you’re using buckets or jars that process gets extremely monotonous and when you get to a certain level of cultivating it becomes almost impossible, practically impossible to burp so many buckets or jars in a day.

Matthew: Yeah I can see where that would be time consuming and a pain to do that.

Cole: Yeah and that’s, as I mentioned, that was my initial idea in creating the Auto Cure is because the Auto Cure vents itself automatically whenever the computer knows that it’s time to. The compute knows it’s time to vent relative to the settings that user sets on the touch screen display.

Matthew: Okay. Let’s talk about a different term here. What is RH threshold and why is that important to understand?

Cole: So the RH threshold is one of the settings on the Auto Cure that I just alluded to which causes the unit to vent and when to went. The RH threshold is one of the three toggle sliders that we have on the display, and what it does is it sets the maximum RH level, the maximum humidity level that is allowed within the Auto Cure chamber during the curing process. So as we discussed, when flower is put into the chamber and the chamber is sealed off so it’s not in a venting process what’s going to happen is the relative humidity inside the chamber is going to rise, and it’s going to rise until it hits the RH threshold value that you set on the display.

Typically that is around 60-65%, it could go as low as 55%, but the way that we use the Auto Cure and the way that most of our customers use the Auto Cure they set the RH threshold at 62 percent. So again once the internal RH hits 62%, the unit will vent itself completely, bring in new air which is then much lower than 62% right after the vent cycle is complete, then the humidity will rise again until it hits the RH threshold.

Matthew: If we were standing in front of an Auto Cure machine right now, how large is it? What could you compare it to so we can get visualization?

Cole: So the technology that we have is completely scalable so we have multiple sizes which I’ll go through right now. The smallest size that we have in production right now is our medium and that holds ten to twelve pounds. It could also hold as little as one pound because it is an air tight system so you’re not restricted to a minimum amount in that unit. Size wise that unit is two feet wide by three feet deep by three feet tall. So it’s basically the size of a large box. It could be easily carried with two people or placed on a roller table for easy accessibility, but it is designed as a tabletop unit. So it has feet on it. It rests on a table or platform of some kind.

Our next largest unit is the large. That unit is configured a bit differently from the medium in that it is on wheels. So it’s a floor unit that you’re able to easily roll around your facility. That unit holds 25 pounds. It’s two feet wide, by four feet long, by four feet tall. Our extra large holds 50 pounds. It’s configured the same way as the large and it’s double the size of the large. So it’s four feet wide, by four feet deep, by four feet tall.

Matthew: Okay. So it really depends on the size of your harvest on what size machine you’re going to get.

Cole: Correct and those are our individual units, our individual production units. From there we also make large scale production units which are actually walk-in chambers. One style of the walk-in chamber we make is actually retrofit into an existing dry room. The smallest chamber we make that’s walk-in is eight foot by eight foot by eight foot. It’s framed and lined in acrylic so it’s completely air tight. It utilizes our same technology. So basically it’s a walk-in room that burps itself. That is great for large quantities. We can fit over 200 pounds in one of those chambers and we can custom configure that for whatever type of racking the facility uses. So they’re great for the large producers.

The last style of walk-in chamber that we make is actually retrofit. It comes all in one in a prefab, insulated shipping container. So if you picture a shipping container that is completely insulated, it has full climate control inside to control the ambient. Then within that shipping container we build our Auto Cure chambers which then burp or vent the ambient that is controlled by the HVAC system of the shipping container.

Matthew: Okay so is that preconfigured then, the shipping container option or how does that work?

Cole: Correct. So that’s preconfigured and those are shipped to the customer preconfigured. They’re completely structurally sound. You don’t need to put them inside. They can be placed outside. They are very secure. They can be completely locked up. They just need a power supply hooked up to the shipping container as it doesn’t have its own generator. So it needs power hooked up to it.

Matthew: Okay. Tell us a little bit about data logging and how the Auto Cure logs the data so you can follow the progression of the curing process.

Cole: Yeah so that’s really exciting. That is something that we see has such far reaching implications for (1) the facility that’s using the product and (2) for the development of cannabis itself because what our data logging does is that we have a portal on our website where each owner of an Auto Cure has a username and password that they sign in to. In that portal you’re first going to see a graphical representation, a line graph of the current humidities registered by the Auto Cure over a period of time. So you’re going to see trends happening in your drying or curing flower which (1) allows the user to see in real time what they’re drying and curing flower is actually doing, (2) gives the user peace of mind. They know that the unit is working perfectly and they’re not even there.

They know that their flower is curing actively and they’re not even in front of the unit. (3) The data, when it’s interpreted or analyzed by the user, they’re going to be able to compile that data over multiple cures to know exactly when the flower is done curing strain specific.

Matthew: So it’s kind of like a journal where you’re saying hey this is exactly what happened and we love the outcome when this is what the log produced so let’s make sure we do that again and repeat this over and over once we dial in what works the best.

Cole: Correct. So the quantitative data, the raw data that is registered from the Auto Cure is sent to our portal and then the user will add their own qualitative data to the quantitative. So basically they see strain specific. They say Blue Dream is curing in X number of days at X RH percentage and we got the highest sales price when using those Auto Cure settings. So obviously they’re going to want to save the data so that they’re able to repeat the quality that they got when they received their highest sales price for that specific batch.

Matthew: Yeah so batch logging. That makes sense. You can then go back and see what you liked about it and what you didn’t. That makes a lot of sense. I guess people are doing it because they have to track the seed to sale stuff so this isn’t really that much of a stretch to go this far in logging the curing process. So that’s interesting.

Cole: It is.

Matthew: There’s a lot of people listening that might be saying hey this is very interesting stuff. I want to cure really well and make sure it’s all optimized but I don’t want to get a PhD in curing. Is the dashboard pretty easy to understand and is it pretty easy to learn? How long does it take to get up to speed would you say?

Cole: The learning curve is minimal to be completely honest. We made the (audio cuts) very straightforward. As I mentioned there’s three sliders that determine the venting parameters. So you’re either going to base it off a time threshold which means that if you set the slider to 24, the unit will vent itself once every 24 hours. The second slider that we already mentioned is the RH threshold. So that’s set typically to around 62 percent. The unit will also vent itself when the threshold hits 62% even if that’s before 24 hours which you set on the time threshold slider. So it’s an either or that’s going on with those parameters. So the Auto Cure is either going to vent when the RH threshold or when the time threshold is hit, whichever happens sooner.

Matthew: Okay. What about infused products companies? We’re talking about cultivators and everybody is getting their flower or trim from cultivators, but is there any unique type of needs or desires that infused products companies have or their careabouts when curing?

Cole: So instead of curing flower the Auto Cure can also be used for pre-processed drying of trim or other type of cannabis material. So pre-processed drying before it becomes extracted into oils or concentrates. So in the pre-process drying you’re actually not going for curing necessarily because the product will then be extracted into oil. You’re actually just trying to get the material as dry as possible before the extraction process. So when the Auto Cure’s settings are set to continuous venting then it’s very good to be used in the pre-process drying.

Matthew: Okay. So after a customer is onboarded with Auto Cure, they’ve had it for a couple of days, they’ve started to use it, what’s their immediate feedback to you in terms of benefits and in terms of what they like? What do you hear the most?

Cole: So the number one thing that we hear is the automation. We hear back it’s just so much less labor intensive than burping buckets. Along with that comes the precision and consistency of Auto Cure because during Auto Cure’s venting process inside the chamber a completely uniform laminar airflow which is from bottom to top, side to side completely uniform airflow flows through the chamber so that the contents inside dry and cure at a completely uniform rate. So along with the automation what our customers see is standardization and consistency which is something in the curing process and in the drying process is something that is a bit difficult to achieve is standardization and consistency because mainly in curing the manual burping process is so labor intensive and monotonous it just can’t be done on a precise or consistent level as compared to when a computer does it, i.e. the Auto Cure robot.

Matthew: Sure. What about for the people that are like hey I just want to set this and forget it? Can you really get that level of hands off? Let’s say if my mom was doing curing for my plants. Is this something where she could just throw it in there pretty much and set it and forget it?

Cole: Yeah so that’s how it’s designed.

Matthew: No offense mom if you’re listening.

Cole: Yeah so if your mom were to be curing your flower, then it would be as easy for her. She wouldn’t even have to touch the settings if you already preset them. So in the context of a grow facility the master grower or the head of drying or curing can set the settings and then the employees can come and load the device without touching any settings. They just close it right up and then the Auto Cure will vent from there. So it really is a set it and forget it piece of technology. On top of that we have the portal that you can login to on your smartphone or computer so you can check it remotely from there as well.

Matthew: Okay. That’s great. Cole, I’d like to switch to some personal development questions to let people get a better sense of who you are personally. With that is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share with listeners?

Cole: Yeah you know the book that had the biggest impact on my life in the moment that I read it was, I actually listened to it on tape, I didn’t read it, but it is called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.

Matthew: Sure, it’s a great book.

Cole: Yeah just an amazing, amazing book. It just really turned on a light in my mind and in my heart more specifically, and ever since then I’ve just really had a much more open outlook on life and humanity.

Matthew: Yeah he has this concept of watching the thinker. You kind of stand behind your thoughts and watch your thoughts kind of race and think about things like hey I’m hungry. What am I doing later? Did I make my bed? You can just watch all these things and you realize the entity that’s watching the thoughts is not the same entity that’s having the thoughts. When you separate those two things kind of go wow, then what am I. What’s going on here? It’s pretty deep but it really does open you up in a way that nothing else I’ve read has. It’s kind of very Zen or Buddhist like in that way.

Cole: Exactly and just to be sure that is really the biggest enlightenment that I got from that book. It was a book on tape that my mom just gave to me kind of out of nowhere. I’d never heard of it before and when I was listening to it in my car on a road trip when he got to that part it was just like I said a light went off and I was just like wow there’s a lot more to each and every one of us than just the monotonous voice in our head.

Matthew: Yeah and if you watch Eckhart Tolle, the author and video and stuff like that, it’s as close as you can see to someone that really has minimized their ego into a tiny, tiny, tiny thing because he has no affectation. I don’t know how to describe it, but you could do a YouTube video and listen to him talk. I think he’s German so he has a bit of an accent, but it’s just interesting to watch him talk, how long silences are between when he says things and he seems to feel no pressure to come up with the next word to spit out of his mouth. He’s a fascinating character. He looks like he could be a Star Wars character, kind of like a Jedi coming out with little one liners to make you think about things.

Cole: Yeah it’s really an art form. I’ve watched multiple of his YouTube videos so I know exactly what you mean. That state of consciousness is really an art form and he seems to have mastered that pretty well so he is seemingly our earthly Yoda. I like to refer to him as that.

Matthew: Yeah. Is there a tool web based or otherwise that you would consider indisposible to your day to day productivity other than Auto Cure?

Cole: I would just say just basic meditation. I work in a machine shop that is very loud and there is a lot of stuff going on and I find that stepping away for even a minute or two and just clearing my thoughts and getting back to my breathing is something that always, always benefits me. So that’s what I keep a lot of my focus on throughout the day.

Matthew: Cool. I have a lot of entrepreneurs or people who want to be entrepreneurs in the cannabis space and when they email me I read between the lines how much doubt they have in their selves and I don’t know where it comes from. Sometimes we’re kind of programmed by the people in our life or the school system or we’re just not raised with much confidence about ourselves. I try to pass along that it’s okay to have doubts or you don’t need to be this perfect, fearless person and have 100% confidence. Is there a time you can tell us about where maybe you didn’t feel sure, but you went forward anyway to push Auto Cure forward?

Cole: It’s basically the entire process of Auto Cure.

Matthew: That’s what it’s been the whole time. It’s been doubts and I pushed through.

Cole: I mean obviously this is an invention and it’s something that we developed from ideas in our minds. So with that there’s more of a sense of lack of confidence when you’re just starting out, but as you’re focus remains more and more on what you actually feel in your heart is true, then that level of lack of confidence actually starts to fall away more and more as what you’re working on becomes more and more materialized which is an awesome learning experience in and of itself because now I look back on times when I was first starting with the product and I think a lot of that of worry and insecurity was completely useless and it was actually detrimental to what I was doing at the time. In short it’s really I feel about knowing in your heart what you truly want to do and what you truly feel like you have talent at doing and then maintaining focus on that over an extended period of time. So that is the implementation that I have done in my process and I feel like it is a great open mindset to have.

Matthew: Agree. Well Cole I know that listeners can find you on a beach in San Diego pondering Eckhart Tolle passages, but if they want to find you online, where would that be?

Cole: That would be on our website. It is www.autocure.us. That is www.autocure.us. We’re very easy to get a hold of. We have our email and contact number on our website.

Matthew: Cole, thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today and help educating us on the curing and drying process. I learned a lot today and I know the listeners will too so thank you.

Cole: I appreciate it Matthew. Yeah really appreciate you having me today and I hope you have a wonderful day.

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