Distinguishing the quality of cannabis: An art and a science

In the world of cannabis, one of the most valuable skills that any enthusiast can master, whether just a user or a grower, is the ability to distinguish between good quality cannabis flowers and those that, let’s say it like this, could be better. While legalization and regulation have raised the quality of products in many areas, there are still notable differences in the quality and potency of cannabis flowers available on the market. In this article, we will guide you through the aspects and keys to help you identify the difference between real green gold and low-quality weed.

It is not just about consuming better or worse weed, but about knowing how to appreciate a series of aspects (such as the presence of fungi in the buds) that your health will appreciate if you take into account, whether you plan to smoke, vaporize, or do any type of resin extraction with those flowers. Let’s see what qualities you should look for in a bud to be able to evaluate it as “top weed”.

Knowing how to judge the quality of buds is important for any consumer (Image: Jeff W)

Visual observation

Logically, the first thing you notice about a bud is its visual appearance, something that can already give you a few clues about its condition and whether it is a flower that you should discard. Let’s look at some of the aspects that you can evaluate already at this early stage:

The general appearance of the flower

A first glance can tell a lot. High-quality cannabis flowers tend to have a healthy and attractive appearance. Look for buds that are well-formed, dense, and covered in trichomes (the small crystals that contain cannabinoids). Of course, avoid any flower that may have traces of fungi such as botrytis (brown or gray spots on the calyxes) or powdery mildew (looks like a white powder on the leaves). A close look at the leaves can also give clues as to whether the plant has suffered from any pests during cultivation (you can literally see feces or corpses of insects such as whiteflies, thrips, or red spider mites).

Of course, a flower containing too many leaves will have less bag appeal than a well-trimmed one, regardless of its actual quality. The same thing happens if you observe the presence of seeds in the bud, something not desirable for those who want to consume it. Regarding these two topics, the main question is: if you are in a dispensary or club and you want to purchase flowers, make sure that they are correctly trimmed and that they do not contain seeds, after all, you are paying for them and you do not want to get the unpleasant surprise of “finding” a seed while smoking a joint!

Bud color

High-quality flowers often have rich, vibrant colors. Shades of green can vary but also look for pistils (hairs) that may be colors such as orange or red, indicating proper maturity. A flower full of white pistils will probably have been harvested too early and both its flavor and potency will be noticeably reduced. As we have mentioned, discard buds with brown or grayish spots, as they are probably fungi.

During cultivation, problems can occur that ruin the quality of the flowers, such as pests, fungi, excess nutrients or miscalculation of harvest time (Image: Spencer Gray)

During cultivation, problems can occur that ruin the quality of the flowers, such as pests, fungi, excess nutrients, or miscalculation of harvest time (Image: Spencer Gray)

Flower density

Quality flowers are usually dense and compact. However, there are high-quality varieties that are characterized by forming more airy and/or spongy buds than others. Be that as it may, a dense and compact flower is always a sign of good cultivation and drying. If the flower crumbles just by handling it, it has probably been dried in a hurry or has too low a humidity level.


Good quality flowers are usually sticky and resinous, although there are also very good quality ones that do not have the sticky feel that is so characteristic of some (a sticky feel can also be a symptom of an unfinished drying process). Similarly, if when you break up the bud it looks like sawdust, it will indicate a level of humidity that is too low, which will negatively influence the quality of the experience.


Trichomes are the tiny crystals that cover cannabis flowers. High-quality flowers have an abundant layer of trichomes, which look like small drops of dew or sugar and which you can easily see with your phone’s camera. If you can observe the trichomes with a magnifying glass or microscope, look for milky or amber-colored trichomes. These indicate a higher concentration of cannabinoids and a harvest made at the optimal point. Of course, the trichomes must have a clearly distinguishable foot and head, similar to a lollipop; If you see headless trichomes, the buds may have been run through a dry extraction machine like Pollinator before reaching your hands, so you should discard them.

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Aroma, flavor, and effect

Once you have evaluated your sample visually, it is time to delve into the examination of the flowers with three of the parameters that interest consumers the most: aroma, flavor, and potency.

Introduction to cannabis tasting


The scent is one of the most distinctive features of cannabis flowers and a good sign of good or bad quality. Good quality cannabis flowers often have a strong, intense aroma, with a wide range of nuances that can range from sweet, fruity, or citrus notes to earthy, floral, fuel, or woody notes. The range of cannabis aromas is enormous! However, there are a series of aromas that can reveal poor quality of the buds, such as the smell of humidity or mold, or even hay or straw. These odors are usually signs of problems in cultivation or during drying or storage.

Flowers with brown tones and signs of mold like the one you see in the image should be discarded

Flowers with brown tones and signs of mold like the one you see in the image should be discarded


As it could not be otherwise, the flavor is the definitive test to evaluate your buds. Quality flowers must have an intense flavor, rich in nuances and complex, which reflects their fragrance and contributes to their own personality. They should be smooth to smoke and have no unpleasant flavors. Likewise, if the smoke scratches the throat when inhaling, it may be a symptom of an excess of nutrients during cultivation, something not pleasant for the smoker, who also sees his joint go out practically after each puff.

As with the aroma, if you notice a moldy taste you should discard the flower without thinking twice, as it is probably infected. The flavor of a quality flower should fill your mouth, and it is desirable that it last a long time on the palate.


The body’s response to flowers is a key indicator of their quality and how the crop has been carried out. Good quality flowers should produce the desired effect typical of the variety you are consuming. Flowers harvested too early will not produce the expected effect, in the same way as if they have been harvested too late. If you notice symptoms that you do not associate with those of having consumed cannabis, it may be that the flower you are consuming has been treated with synthetic cannabinoids, so we would recommend discarding it.

Distinguishing good-quality cannabis flowers from poor-quality ones is a skill that develops with observation and experience. A thorough visual examination, accompanied by a calm and patient evaluation of aroma, flavor, and effect, will allow you to judge a sample and see if it is worth it or not. Remember that quality can vary between different varieties and producers, so it is always interesting to research and try different varieties to find what best suits your preferences and needs.

The post Distinguishing the quality of cannabis: An art and a science appeared first on Alchimia blog.

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