Hand Trimming vs Machine Trimming: What’s the Difference?

hand trimming vs machine trimming

Cannabis is now a commercial plant in many US states. The demand for both marijuana and CBD keeps growers busy year-round. Growing quality cannabis requires many steps, one of which is trimming. If you’re a new grower trying to learn how to trim marijuana plants, then this article is for you.

While trimming cannabis buds may seem like a no-brainer, there are different ways to trim. Hand trimming is the traditional method, where people trim the buds manually. Machine trimming is a more modern invention, removing the need for human labor.

Choosing the trimming method for your grow operation is necessary to ensure your business is as lucrative as possible. Furthermore, hand trimming vs. machine trimming can impact the quality of your cannabis.

To determine which method will be better for your grow operation, you must understand the difference between the two.


Benefits of Hand Trimming over Machine Trimming

Overall, small-scale cannabis producers tend to prefer hand trimming. Here are some of the benefits of hand trimming your cannabis plants.

  • Hand trimming comes with a lower start-up cost, as machine trimmers are on the pricy side.
  • Hand-trimmed cannabis buds look more attractive to customers. This is because using sharp-tipped scissors allows for the cuts to be more delicate and accurate. They can reach deep into the flower and give each bud a unique shape. Cannabis connoisseurs can always distinguish between bud that has been hand-trimmed vs. machine-trimmed.
  • Hand trimming is precise. As such, there is very little bud accidentally tossed out in the process.
  • Hand-trimmed buds are often higher quality than machine-trimmed buds. Hand trimming ensures the product retains all of its resin and terpenes.
  • Hand trimming requires real people who can check the quality of the cannabis as they go. They can keep an eye out for mold and pests and remove any bad buds immediately.
  • Cannabis companies who opt to hand trim provide many jobs in the industry, making this method great for the economy.

Disadvantages of Hand Trimming

Trimming cannabis by hand has some definitive disadvantages as well. These should be noted before making the decision to run a cannabis business that uses hand trimmers.

  • Hand trimming is a time-consuming process. It takes time to cut flower out of cannabis plants using scissors, after all. The time it takes to trim a pound of bud is generally between one and two days.
  • The labor-intensiveness of hand trimming cannabis is no joke. Trimmers have to sit, arching their backs over a table, for hours and hours. Their hands also get achy and sore from such meticulous work trimming those freshly harvested sticky buds.
  • While hand trimming comes with a lower start-up cost, the long-term costs tend to be more than using machine trimmers, especially for commercial growers. Paying all those people to do the tedious work of trimming by hand is not cheap and can end up being unprofitable. For these reasons, hand trimming is usually reserved for small-scale growers or premium products only.
  • Because of how labor-intensive hand-trimming is, hand-trimmed weed often costs more. As a result, the customer base excludes those looking for lower-cost product.
  • Hiring hand trimmers is a job and can be a hassle, as it means dealing with more people potentially complaining or getting injured on the job.
  • Hand trimming isn’t always the most sanitary way to get the job done. Trimmers might come in sick, and since their job is being in close contact with the product, they can easily contaminate the buds.

Benefits of Machine Trimming over Hand Trimming

Machine trimming your cannabis comes with plenty of advantages too. That’s why it often depends on the style of grow operation when choosing between the trimming methods. There are two main kinds of machine trimmers: ones with blades and ones without. The bladeless trimmers are newer and have even more advantages than their bladed counterparts. Here are the benefits of machine trimming overall.

  • Machine trimming is fast. A machine can trim about 24 pounds of marijuana in the same amount of time that a hand trimmer produces just one pound.
  • Because of how quickly machine-trimmed bud is produced, the time between harvest and sale is cut down drastically by machine trimming. This means the profits start rolling in quicker.
  • Machine trimming is cheaper in the long run, especially for commercial growers. It involves an initial investment in the machines instead of paying hand trimmers all the time. Plus, the machines have a long service life, so they won’t require replacement for a long time after buying them. For this reason, machine trimming is more lucrative.
  • Machine trimming usually means your company can sell the product for cheaper than hand-trimmed weed, widely expanding your customer base.
  • Machine trimming can be more sanitary than hand trimming, as it eliminates the human element. Hand trimmers can come to work sick and contaminate the product. On the other hand, machine trimmers are sanitized and cleaned on a regular basis.
  • Bladeless trimmers, which are a relatively new invention, provide a higher quality product. The buds are tumbled in a mesh net, allowing the resins and trichomes to remain intact.

Disadvantages of Machine Trimming

Trimming cannabis with machines has some drawbacks as well.

  • Machine trimmers are expensive. They are a huge investment that smaller cannabis companies often can’t make when they’re just starting up.
  • Over-trimming is a problem with machine trimmers. Precious bud is wasted when machines take off more than they’re supposed to and create irreparable damage to the product. This can negatively impact the potency of the product.
  • Under-trimming is also an issue. Machines are not very meticulous, and not trimming enough means hand trimmers will have to re-do the work, cutting away what the machine missed.
  • Machine trimming can reduce the quality of the product by cutting away trichomes and resin.
  • Machine-trimmed cannabis isn’t as attractive as hand-trimmed cannabis. It’s uniform in shape, making it less appealing to some customers.
  • Between the mistakes made by machine trimmers and the unattractive uniformity of the buds they produce, opting for machine trimming can easily cut into profits. Many small-scale growers stay away from machine trimmers for this reason.

Which Trimming Method Is Better?

As both have clear pros and cons, the question of hand trimming vs. machine trimming ultimately comes down to each individual cannabis business.

For the most part, small-scale growers tend to choose the hand trimming method. Despite being more labor-intensive, it has lower start-up costs and produces higher-quality bud. Plus, small-scale operations don’t have that much product they’re dealing with, so managing and paying hand trimmers isn’t a big deal.

Machine trimming is the method of choice for the majority of commercial cannabis growers. In order for large-scale businesses to profit, they need the efficiency machine trimmers provide. The drawbacks of things like over or under-trimming that can cut into profits ultimately don’t end up mattering.

Still, the decision of whether to hand trim or machine trim is a matter of personal preference to each grow operation. That’s why there is no simple answer on which method is better. Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of each method is invaluable in making the smartest decision for your business. Good luck and happy growing! If you found this article helpful, please share it.


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