What is Kief? A Rundown on its Origins and Uses
Ever grind your cannabis and discard the little sticky flakes that stay behind?
Remember wiping your hands on your blue jeans to clean it off?
You might want to stop being so wasteful.
Cannabis is the gift that keeps on giving, and that gift is kief.
What is Kief?
Kief is the cannabis fairy’s way of granting one last (really good) high.
Today you will learn:
- What kief is and how to use it
- The best ways to collect it
- Plus, a complete guide on making hash out of kief
Table of Contents
What is Kief: a Brief Kiefstory
So, we’ve caught you up to speed with the basics of what kief is, right?
There is a lot more to the story, however.
Sometimes kief is referred to as dry sift or pollen.
Specifically, kief is the tiny little crystals (trichomes) that live on top of the cannabis flower.
They form because the plant’s trichomes—the plants resin glands—secrete these little bulbous crystals.
Inside the glands lie two distinct types of compounds:
- Terpenes - Aromatic compounds with their therapeutic abilities that also give cannabis its distinct, dank scent. These are found in all plants.
- Cannabinoids - Compounds that interact with the endocannabinoid system, which is where your hormones are created, and pain receptors live. Found in only cannabis.
Without this resin, cannabis wouldn’t have THC.
In fact, cannabis produces all of it's cannabinoids in the these trichomes.
So, without them, cannabis would just be a very gorgeous house plant.
The Kief and Trichome Connection
There are three types of trichomes that may grow on a marijuana plant.
- Bulbous - Smallest, about 25-30 microns in height
- Capitate-sessile - More common than bulbous, run anywhere from 25-100 microns in height
- Capitate-stalked (Glandular) - Most common in cannabis, they are 100-150 microns. This type is best for marijuana production because they are long enough to have glands between the stalk and gland, producing a higher quality product.
Trichomes are an evolutionary creation by numerous plant species to better their chances of survival in an ever-changing ecosystem.
In the case of some plants, they use the sticky residue created by trichomes to trap prey such as insects.
However, other plants, such as cannabis, use their odor (created by the terpenes) to repel predators from preying on them.
Those same trichomes that repel insects and rodents are the exact ones that attract bigger mammals such as human beings to it.
Cannabis evolved their trichomes because it produced an intense psychoactive experience for tiny predators.
As they consumed cannabis, predators wouldn’t be able to finish because the trichomes caused too much disorientation.
Ironically, this defence mechanism has lead humans to cultivate it.
Now, we are seeing a new evolution take place in cannabis:
The cannabis with the better cannabinoid and terpene profiles are passing on their genetics thanks to breeders.
Why Save Kief?
You need to break up cannabis to smoke it.
You always end up losing precious trichomes with your grinder, the surface you’re rolling on, and your fingers.
Not to mention, each time you light up, you’re losing THC right off the bat.
Seeing as the trichomes are the outermost part of cannabis, they are the first to combust.
Collecting kief is like breathing a second chance into your cannabis.
It’s the most potent part of the plant, and kief falls off so easily that it would be a shame to not collect it.
Especially given how easy it is to save (more on this later.)
Dispensaries usually sell the kief they’ve collected while harvesting, packaging and rolling their product.
So, if you don't feel like collecting your kief, you can buy theirs.
When your out shopping for kief, you can tell the quality of the product just by looking at it.
The purer the kief is, the lighter the hue will be.
Greener kief means you’re getting a good amount of plant material mixed in.
If you notice that the kief has a bright green color, that means they didn’t sift the product very well.
Cleaned kief tends to have a more off-white hue.
Best Way to Smoke Kief
If you get your hands on kief, there are many ways you can use it.
And just like there is no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, there’s no wrong way to use your kief.
Let’s take a look at the best way to smoke kief and a bunch of other ways you can put kief to use!
The best way to smoke kief is a matter of opinion.
It’s like asking someone if they prefer to roll a joint or a blunt.
There are many ways to enjoy kief, and you'll need to find the right one for you here.
In a Joint
Think about when you are breaking up cannabis.
Notice how your fingers get all sticky?
That’s the resin from the trichomes hard at work on your fingers.
It’s a nightmare to get off.
Now, imagine trying to roll a joint up with that sticky mess.
It could easily rip the joint while rolling.
You wouldn’t be able to hit that thing if you sucked with the lungs of a vacuum cleaner.
Instead, place it into a grinder with some of the flower you intend on rolling up and mix it all up.
Or, better yet, sprinkle some on top of your cannabis right before you roll the joint.
If you want to step up your kief game, get some wax.
Add the wax to the end of the joint.
Now sprinkle some kief on top of the wax.
Now you have a 3-for-1 joint.
In a Bowl
If this isn’t the best way to enjoy kief, it's surely the easiest.
Sprinkle some kief on top of the bowl that you’ve packed into a bong or pipe.
Sprinkle a little of that fairy dust on top.
Instantly, your high is heightened.
That’s because sparking the flower is the least efficient way to get high.
Most of the trichomes get flamed by a lighter, rendering a good portion useless.
To not waste your kief, square off your hits.
Imagine your bowl is a personal pizza, and you are cutting it into four even slices for your friends.
Aim the lighter in each one of the areas that would be a pizza slice.
This allows for the kief to last at least four hits, rather than burning it off in one big opening toke.
I wouldn’t recommend packing a whole bowl of kief.
For one, you’ll use all your kief in an instant.
Secondly, the kief is so finely broken up and minuscule that you'll probably end up sucking a mouthful through the stem as you inhale.
Moonrocks are a great way to use kief and they’re starting to build quite a buzz in the cannabis community.
Heat oil of your choice (BHO or CBD)
Coat fresh bud with the warm oil.
While the oil is still warm, grab the buds with tongs.
Place the tong in a kief bath, rolling it around so that that the moonrocks become caked in it.
Allow the moonrocks to harden.
Once they do, break them up and sprinkle them into a bowl to smoke.
Try to do this by hand.
Using a grinder will break it up too much, making everything you just did pointless.
Mix in with Cannabutter
It never hurts to give your cannabutter a little extra kick.
Stir your kief in with the bud that you plan on using to make your cannabutter.
From there, be sure to decarboxylate the mixture.
Breaking open the membranes within the kief is important so that all of the cannabinoids and terpenes come oozing out.
A popular, albeit the most labor-intensive way to enjoy kief, is to make hash.
Hash is created when you apply pressure to kief.
Whether it be by pressing the dustings or applying heat to it, causing the little hairs to combust creates a brand new chemical composition for the kief.
In turn, it creates hash.
When kief turns into hash, it becomes a dark-greenish ball.
There are many ways to create hash such as:
- Dry sifting and screen pressing the outcome
- Hand-rolling kief between palms
- Blending with ice water
- Making bubble hash
To smoke hash, you put it in your pipe and smoke it for an extra jolt of THC.
Keep reading for a complete guide on making hash with kief.
The Best Way to Collect Kief: All The Methods Side by Side
Now that you know why you should be collecting kief let's look at how to go about it.
There are three main ways of gathering kief.
Let’s take a look at each.
How to Collect Kief with a Grinder
The most efficient way to collect as much kief as possible is to do it during the breaking up process.
Get a three chamber herb grinder.
As you grind, your broken up weed falls to the second chamber.
Taking physics into consideration, as the freshly ground bud hits the second chamber, loose pieces of kief flies off of the bud.
In three chamber herb grinders, the middle chamber has a little mesh screen that leads to the third compartment.
This is where your grinder stores fallen kief.
Some grinders refer to that area as the “kief catcher.”
This is convenient because you can keep your kief all in one place for later use.
You will want to make sure to get the right kind of grinder.
There are two common types of grinders:
- Three-Chamber Grinder (Recommended) - Allows you to finely grind cannabis over a screen while it catches any loose kief in a bottom chamber.
- Two-Chamber Grinder - While these are perfectly efficient for grinding up bud, the kief gets stuck in between the blades. Sure, you can try to bang it out, but you do lose out on some kief in the end.
How to Collect Kief Faster with a Grinder
A few little tips to get the most out of your grinder, try freezing your bud before grinding it.
Think of the hairs standing up on the back of your neck when you’re cold.
As you freeze bud, the hairlike structures bind together to keep warm and then harden that way.
It makes the trichomes more fragile, which causes them to fall off with more ease.
This will make it easier to collect kief.
How to Collect More Kief with Your Grinder
One last trick for getting a larger yield of kief is to clean out the mesh between the two chambers.
An easy to do this is to put a dime coin in your grinder when you are done grinding up flower.
Shake the grinder vigorously.
This will knock any kief clogging up the mesh to the bottom chamber.
Just be sure to sanitize the coin before using so that you don't contaminate your grinder or kief.
How to Collect Kief with a Kief Box
Kief boxes are better for more hardcore kief enthusiasts.
A kief box is also ideal for extracting larger quantities of kief.
As you grind your cannabis over a kief box, screes collect plant material while the kief falls to the bottom.
A sift box is a wooden box filled with mesh screens that have different sized holes.
The holes are classified by their micron size (or LPI), which correlates with how deep into a trichome the screen can filter.
Kief measures 75 to 125 microns.
Therefore, you can get different types of kief depending on which screens you have in your box.
All you need to do is place your cannabis on top of the screen and close the box.
Shake the weed around so that the trichomes break up and fall through the screen.
For added efficiency, add a clean coin into the mix to further chop up your bud.
Continue this for 30 to 60 seconds until you get the quality kief you are looking for.
If you’re not in the market for a silk screen box, you can make a makeshift one yourself.
You would need to get screens of different sizes and layer one over the other, the largest on the bottom.
Place over a clean surface and put shake or flower on top of the first (and smallest) screen.
Shake the screen back and forth until the plant matter stops falling.
Put that screen aside and continue.
You can do this as many times as you want.
However, the first yield will be the most concentrated.
Some Tips on Kief Box Screens
When purchasing screens, keep an eye out for the LPI number or micron number.
LPI stands for lines per inch.
If you’re holding a smaller screen, it will have a larger LPI number.
Larger screen, small LPI number.
The same rings true for microns.
The smaller the micron number, the more lines it will have.
In turn, the more potent the kief will be.
When you’re sifting kief use an LPI between 80 and 270
In micron sizes, around 72 microns to 120 tops.
Best Sift Boxes for Kief
There are many kief boxes out there that are designed to meet many needs of weed enthusiasts.
If you are a big-time traveler and need to sift weed on-the-go, go for the compact, yet stylish, RYOT Solid Top Screen Box.
This walnut sift box has strong magnets that trap odors and a plastic card for scraping.
Are you a one-and-done kind of shopper?
Then the Green Goddess Mini Bamboo Sifter might be the right choice for you.
Green Goddess makes a very durable product that can stand the test of time.
The bottom of the box has tempered glass, making it a better non-porous environment for the kief.
How to Collect Kief with a Dry Sift Tumbler
There's no doubt that a sifting box can be a little labor intensive and exhaustive on the arms.
If it’s too much for you, then you might want to invest in a dry sift tumbler.
This works as if marijuana were a bingo ball.
You need to need to turn on the tumbler, and it will collect the kief that gets extracted from all the action.
Best Kief Tumblers
The Bubble Magic Pollen Tumbler is a heavy-duty dry sift tumbler.
This monstrous machine can sort through 150 grams and deliver you kief within 15 minutes.
The biggest drawback to this kief tumbler is how loud it is.
If you have a lot of money to invest in collecting kief, then spring for the Tom’s Tumbler.
You can trim up to 85% faster as this tumbler collects kief in the nets below.
Whether you need a tumbler for the tabletop or a commercial-grade tumbler, Tom’s Tumbler is a highly efficient way to collect a lot of kief.
The Different Ways to Make Hash out of Kief
If you want to turn your kief into hash, there are a few ways to go about it.
The Hand Method
This is the oldest, cheapest and least labor-intensive way to turn kief into hash.
In fact, you’ve probably done it millions of times before and thought nothing of it.
All you need to do make hash is your hands and a little science.
Take the kief and roll it in between your hands.
It will create sticky, black soot.
Roll that soot into a ball with your fingers.
Our ancestors used to do this when they smoked hash and called these little kief-turned-hash balls “charas.”
While easier, this method creates the low-grade hash.
The oils on your hand are tainting the potency of the final product.
Therefore, you are smoking all the contaminants you came into contact with before making the hash, killing off cannabinoids in the hash.
A pollen press is a great way to turn kief into hash because it’s cleaner than hand-rolling and still less labor intensive some of the other ways to make hash.
With a pollen press, you need to put a weight into the shaft of the contraption.
From there, you take your kief and place it on top of the weight.
Then, you put a second weight on top of the kief.
With your trichomes sitting in a kief sandwich, you grab the T-press and crank it down.
This creates pressure on the kief, changing its composure.
Open up to see the kief has become compacted.
You can add more kief onto until you have a puck that reaches the size you desire.
Making Hash with Heat and Pressure
While pressure does scientifically change the composition of the kief, some argue that using a pollen press doesn’t make true hash.
They feel heat needs to be involved with the process.
To make “true hash,” set the oven to 350 degrees F.
Wrap the kief tightly in cellophane, so the product remains dry.
Package the cellophaned kief in a paper towel and run under warm water.
Place in the oven for ten minutes.
After you remove from the oven, roll over the package with a rolling pin.
Take your flat, hot hash and put in the fridge to cool.
Roll into charas when ready.
This requires a lot of kief.
Place as many bubble bags as you are using into a 5-gallon bucket.
Take 200-400 grams of kief and mix with two bags of ice and 5 gallons of water.
Pour the mixture into the bubble bags.
One by one, pull the materials out of the bag and place on a dry surface.
Now you have different grades of bubble hash.
Dry Ice Hash
Be sure to wear gloves, so you don't come in contact with dry ice.
Using the same bucket and amount of kief as bubble hash, pour the kief and 3 pounds of dry ice into a bucket.
Cover with a 73-micron bubble bag and shake for five minutes.
Flip the bucket over, so everything falls into the bag.
Take off the bag and put material on a dry surface to make your hash.
Collect by using an ice scraper.
So what is kief?
Well, kief is where all of the magic happens.
You should always try and save as much kief as possible, so avoid using your fingers to break up your cannabis.
What is the best way to collect kief?
Truthfully, they are all sufficient.
Use a kief box or a grinder, and then be patient and let it collect.
After awhile you’ll have enough to really enjoy it!
The best way to smoke kief is going to come down to your favorite way to smoke cannabis.
If you like hitting pipes or bongs, load it on top of a bowl.
If you prefer to smoke joints or blunts, roll it up in one.
If smoking concentrates is your thing, roll it or press your kief into some hash.
There is no wrong way to smoke kief, just make sure to keep your hands off it as much as possible so you don't waste any!
Do you know anything about kief that we didn’t cover here?
Let us know all about it in the comments below!