Since the 2018 Farm Bill, millions of Americans have been introduced to the benefits of smokable hemp flowers, and many of them have been left confused over what they should be looking for.
Not only are there many different strains, each offering a different cannabinoid, terpene, and flavonoid profile, but there are also several different grades. Unlike throwaway terms, like “Premium” and “High-Grade” used by the food industry, these grades actually mean something and tell you a lot about the quality of hemp flowers.
Special Reserve Hemp Flowers
Special reserve or private reserve flowers are the pick of the bunch, as they’re the high-grade flowers that have been set aside because of their color, flavor, purity, and potency. These flowers are available in much smaller quantities and offer the best experience for the most discerning of customers.
All flowers are high-grade, and the special reserve tag doesn’t always add any extra value. It simply means that the dispensary has paid special attention to them and given them pride of place.
High-Grade Hemp Flowers
Also known as “Top Shelf,” these flowers begin at around $7 per gram and can cost up to $15. Everything labeled in this category has been grown organically using the most meticulous methods. The flowers must be no more than 1-year old and should have strong flavors and aromas.
A top-shelf flower should tick all the following boxes:
- Vibrant colors, including greens, purples, and reds
- A pungent, pleasing aroma
- Lots of white or clear trichomes
- Few, if any, seeds
- Dense and plump
- Moisture content of around 65%
Mid-Grade Hemp Flowers
Mid-grade flowers are middle-of-the-road—not premium but not low-grade. They offer some of the best value for money and generally cost around $5 to $6 per gram, although it all depends on the retailer and strain.
Most of the flowers being sold online fall into this category, as it’s much easier to grow, produce, and store them. What’s more is the average smoker likely won’t notice much difference between a good mid-grade flower and a super-premium high-grade one.
Mid-grade products may present with:
- Few seeds
- Dry flowers
- Vibrant but fading colors
- Medium levels of trichomes
- Strong but not overpowering aromas
Low-Grade Hemp Flowers
The phrase “bottom shelf” is often used in place of “low-grade,” as it sounds a little less depreciating, but these are often the cheapest and lowest quality flowers that you can buy.
You can purchase bottom shelf hemp flowers for less than $4 a gram and they may still provide high levels of CBD, albeit with less of the aroma, flavor, and overall quality provided by middle- and top-shelf flowers.
Low-grade flowers may possess the following traits:
- A grassy, earthy aroma without the sophistication of higher grades
- A dull and faded color
- Very dry or wet, lacking the optimum moisture levels of high-grade flowers
- Very few trichomes
- Lots of seeds
That doesn’t mean that low-grade hemp flowers are bad, and they certainly shouldn’t be dismissed altogether. That said, if you want the smoothest smoke and the most bang for your buck, you’re better off giving them a miss.
Which Grade is Right for You?
Your budget, preferences, and needs will dictate which grade is right for you, but we recommend trying all of them to see if you notice a difference. If you’re smoking a lot of hemp flower and don’t notice much of a difference between high-grade and mid-grade, you may be better off going with the latter to save money.
You can also use a mixture of all three, opting for low-grade when you need to pack a few cheap joints and high-grade when you want something smoother and more potent to add to a bong or pipe.