All Cannabis
is not created equal.

Whether novice or connoisseur, knowing how to assess cannabis flower quality is key to having the best possible experience. The S.T.A.T.S. method (Sight, Touch, Aroma, Taste, Sensation) is a five-step process for identifying high quality, remarkable flower, not unlike the multi-step process for evaluating wine. The guide can help consumers evaluate essential aspects of the flower in order to make the most informed and satisfying purchasing decisions.

Sight

Seeing the flower can sometimes be the only evaluation option prior to purchase. It is important to know the visual cues to identify remarkable cannabis. Aspects of the flower to examine are: trichome content, color, structure, size and trim.

@Paul Camacho

TRICHOME CONTENT

The abundance of trichomes on the flower is an indication of high quality cannabis. Tiny crystal-like resin glands covering the flower contain the flavor and aromatic components of cannabis as well the cannabinoids. The most common cannabinoids are THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). Trichomes can make the flower appear crystallized or “frosty” and glisten in the light. There’s an unknown amount of cannabinoids in a trichome.

The broad life cycle of a trichome: The color from clear to amber illustrates age and can affect the cannabinoid profile. This can provide different effects.

@Paul Camacho

Color

Color is one of the most noticeable traits of a healthy cannabis flower. The following colors are strong indicators of a high quality plant: Healthy, vibrant shades of color can range from green, purple and orange. An abundance of trichomes can make the flower look silver-grey to white. When stigma (hairs) are present on the flower they can range from a light yellow to a deep reddish hue.

Size & Shape

Size and shape do not matter. Variety in size of the flower is a good sign. It is difficult to determine high quality purely from size, shape and density due to the characteristics of many different flower strains.

@Paul Camacho

@Paul Camacho

Trim of the Flower

What to look for: Quality of the Trim. Properly trimmed flower reveals the structure and integrity of the flower. Excess leaves without an abundant trichome coverage may lead to a harsher taste. Unwanted leaf material and excess stems are removed. The only portion of stem that should be visible is at the base of the flower from where it was attached to the plant.

What to avoid: Over-trimmed flower. Over trimmed flower has obvious cuts and slashes. Individual flowers may be cut and trichomes may have been broken and knocked off (kiefed) resulting in less trichomes and less of the psychoactive and/or therapeutic content. It can expose discoloration on the outside of the flower. The integrity and structure of the flower can be lost or damaged.

Red Flags

Powdery Mildew

Mildew can be mistaken for trichomes to the untrained eye, but there are visual differences: Mildew is whiter and doesn’t glisten in the light. Can look like baby powder versus sugar crystals. Mildew has a cottony, web-like appearance under a microscope.

@This photo was not taken by Good Chemistry

@This photo was not taken
by Good Chemistry

Seeds

Mature seeds are brown with black “watermelon stripes”, whereas young seeds are a light green or grey in color.
Calyx are often confused for seeds, however a calyx is actually a structure that encloses and forms a protective layer around the flower

Mold / Botrytis

Also known as bud rot or grey mold: It is brown or grey decay on or inside the flower. Mold typically develops from the inside out. You may crack the flower open to see the brown or grey decay/rot/mold starting from the stem outward.

@This photo was not taken by Good Chemistry

Pests

Pests that have infested the flower can leave webbing or appear as little black specks
Spider mites: It is brown or grey decay on or inside the flower. Mold typically develops from the inside out. You may crack the flower open to see the brown or grey decay/rot/mold starting from the stem outward. Fungus gnats/fruit flies - Small gnats will appear black

YELLOW STAMENS OR “BANANAS”

Yellow stamens or "bananas" are a sign of unstable genetics, which can be an indicator of plant stress. Stamens appear when the plant hermaphrodites, developing both male and female flowers.

@This photo was not taken by Good Chemistry

@This photo was not taken by Good Chemistry

Human or Animal Hair

An obvious red flag is the presence of human or animal hair found in cannabis.

Touch

Touching the flower can help with evaluating the cure, moisture and density. The cure is the controlled drying process used to achieve proper moisture content post harvest. Here are some things to look for:

  • Gives when squeezed but bounces back to its original shape when released. MORE DENSE STRAINS MAY NOT BOUNCE BACK AS MUCH.
  • Should have a sticky or tacky (resinous) feel. FINGERS CAN BE LEFT WITH A STICKY FEEL. IF THE FLOWER IS TOO WET, IT HAS NOT BEEN PROPERLY CURED.
  • The internal stem should snap, which means it was well cured. THE STEM IS DRY BUT THE FLOWER HAS A LITTLE BIT OF MOISTURE. WHEN BROKEN IN HALF, THE STEM WILL HAVE A DEFINITIVE SNAP IN THE HANDS THAT CAN SOMETIMES BE AUDIBLE.
  • The flower should be tight in your fingers. DRY, LOOSE FLOWER CAN BE AN INDICATOR OF POOR QUALITY.
  • It is recommended that you keep your product properly sealed at home to help maintain its cure.

Aroma

Each flower strain has different terpene profiles, which can contribute to its unique fragrance. Distinctions can be made between high and poor quality cannabis through aroma. Here are some things to consider:

Some aromas that can be expected from quality flower are:

High Quality
Floral
Fruit
Diesel Fuel
Skunk
Pine
Earthy
Cheese
Sweet
Citrus

Most strains will expose their scent immediately just by opening the container.

Breaking up or grinding the flower can bring out the underlying aromas.

Some aromas from poor quality flower include:

Poor Quality
Mold
Hay
Must
Old Socks
Wet Grass
No Smell

Taste

Different flower strains will have unique flavor profiles. Similar to wine tasting, experience can help to distinguish between different flavors among flower strains.

  • Here are a few things to consider as you learn to distinguish between different flavor profiles.
  • OFTEN, THE AROMA OF THE FLOWER WILL MATCH THE TASTE.
  • The taste should be pleasant and enjoyable, never harsh. It should be smooth and not burn your mouth, throat, or nose.
  • While some flavors line up with the strain’s aromas, others might suggest a different profile. Some can offer a more bold or robust flavor profile. Others can have a smoother, well rounded taste.

Some tastes that can be expected from quality flower are:

High Quality
Floral
Fruit
Diesel Fuel
Skunk
Pine
Earthy
Cheese
Sweet
Citrus

Poor quality flower may leave an unpleasant, harsh taste in the back of your throat and mouth. The seeds may taste like burnt popcorn.

Some tastes that can be expected from poor flower are:

Poor Quality
Hay
Chemicals
Old Spice Cabinet
Lawn Mower Bag
Metallic
Mold

“THE POWER IS IN THE FLOWER.”

  • Smoke flower out of clean paraphernalia to get the most
    accurate flavor profile.
  • Smoking flower achieves the fullest flavor profile. Vaporizing flower can also be a method of consumption, but may not provide an accurate flavor profile.
  • Load just enough fresh cured flower in the bowl for one hit.
  • The first inhale offers the best opportunity to taste the full flavor of the flower. GROUND OR BROKEN UP FLOWER WILL ALLOW AIR TO DIFFUSE EVENLY WHEN SMOKED, PRODUCING ENHANCED FLAVOR CHARACTERISTICS.
  • Hold flame to the flower while inhaling just long enough to ignite the flower. IF USING MATCHES, ALLOW TIME FOR THE SULFUR TO BURN OFF. USING A REFILLABLE LIGHTER COULD AFFECT THE FLAVOR PROFILE OF THE FLOWER.
  • To enjoy the full flavor, inhale briefly before exhaling. TAKE A SMALL “HIT” OR DRAW FROM THE PIPE (LIKE SIPPING WINE).
  • Exhale slowly and completely.

Sensation

There are a variety of sensations that can provide a range of effects from increasing relaxation after a long day of work, to inspiring creativity, providing relief or creating an energized feeling.

No matter the strain, the first sensation that comes from cannabis is the sensation of lift, or of being high. Varying experiences, tolerance levels, and different environments may affect how people feel with each strain and the amount of time people are lifted. The amount of cannabinoids that just entered the body (how much has been consumed) and body chemistry may also play a part in the sensations that come from cannabis.

The sensation of being lifted may include:

  • Warm, Tingly,
    Fuzzy Feelings
  • Sensory
    Enhancement
  • The sensation of
    Feeling lifted
    or "high"
  • What to know about Sensation:
  • START LOW, GO SLOW START WITH A SMALL AMOUNT OF FLOWER, YOU CAN ALWAYS CONSUME MORE ONSET EFFECTS FROM INHALATION ARE IMMEDIATE AND MAY START TO DISSIPATE AFTER 2-4 HOURS EVERYONE’S METABOLISM AND EXPERIENCE LEVEL IS DIFFERENT, VARYING THE AMOUNT OF TIME THE EFFECTS ARE FELT.
  • Some side effects may include: DRY MOUTH.
    A STIMULATED APPETITE.
    INCREASED LIBIDO
  • THE "ENTOURAGE EFFECT" When evaluating cannabis it is critical to take into account the entourage effect. As research continues, we learn more about the interaction between cannabinoids and terpenoids and the entourage effect becomes increasingly important. Entourage effect encompasses combinations of all the cannabinoids and terpenoids working synergistically to provide unique sensations. A high THC percentage doesn’t necessarily mean it will produce the most significant lift. THC percentage isn’t the only factor that contributes to sensation. A lower THC percentage may provide a stronger lift depending on the strain and the cannabinoids and terpenoids within it.
  • Some key categories of sensation that can come from different cannabis strains:

  • Amplify

    Perception, creativity, pleasure MAY HELP YOU FEEL EUPHORIC AND
    ENERGIZED.
  • Relax

    Unwind, connect, chill MAY HELP CALM THE NERVES AND
    ALLEVIATE TENSION.
  • Relieve

    Discomfort, pain, stress MAY HELP TO ALLEVIATE EMOTIONAL
    AND PHYSICAL PAIN.
  • Sleep

    Cool down, rest, refresh MAY MAKE MUSCLES AND BODY FEEL
    HEAVY OR EMPHASIZE DROWSINESS.

Glossary

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) The non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant.
  • Cannabinoid Chemical compounds that act on the neurotransmitters of the brain. The most common cannabinoids are THC (psychoactive) and CBD (non-psychoactive).
  • Cure The process of controlling temperature and humidity over time to achieve proper moisture content, flavor and aroma post-harvest.
  • Entourage Effect: The theory that the combination of multiple, or all, cannabinoids and terpenoids might have a greater impact than isolating one of the cannabinoids. Example: A well-balanced strain might provide a stronger high than one with just a high THC value.
  • Flower The industry term for the cannabis bud. It is the female flower that is harvested for consumption.
  • Pistils Important for reproduction, pistils collect pollen from males.
  • Stamens The male reproductive part of the plant. Female cannabis plants are the most widely used for consumption, so stamens are not attractive features in a cannabis crop.
  • Stigma Tiny hairs on the female flower that can range from white, light yellow, orange or pink to deep red in color.
  • Terpenoids Flavor and aromatic compounds that can be found in plants.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) The psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant.
  • Trichomes Tiny crystal-like resin glands covering the flower that contain the flavor and aromatic components of cannabis as well as the cannabinoids. The most common cannabinoids are THC (psychoactive) and CBD (non-psychoactive).

The S.T.A.T.S. Development Team

Good Chemistry Nurseries founder Matthew Huron developed S.T.A.T.S. as a guide to evaluating the essential aspects of the cannabis flower.

The guide was created in conjunction with Colorado-based master cultivators Duncan Cameron, Scott Toland, Heath Byington, and Stephen Spinosa. The group brings decades of growing expertise and a passion for producing the finest cannabis.

Widely recognized as one of the most experienced marijuana cultivators in the United States, Huron brings nearly two decades of experience to the cannabis industry, and has established one of the nation’s most sophisticated nursery programs, with grow operations that produce world-class products at the highest levels of quality, reliability, and consistency.

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