One of the most fascinating aspects of the cannabis plant is the multitude of ways it can be consumed. Humanity has spent millennia devising creative yet practical ways to make the most of this powerhouse plant. As a result, there’s a varied and often fun vocabulary that covers the diverse strains, delivery methods and parts of the plant.
One of those terms is kief. Kief, also called dry sift, dry sieve hash, or pollen, refers to a by-product that is formed after cannabis has been dried (or frozen) and ground. In this article, we’ll explore what kief is, how it can be used, and highlight some of its unique benefits.
What Is Kief?
Kief is a fine powdery substance formed when the dried trichomes of the marijuana plant are ground or agitated. Trichomes are the resin glands of the cannabis plant where terpenes and cannabinoids are found. Most grinders (especially those made of aluminum or stainless steel) come with a kief catcher below the screen to collect this valuable powder. Kief is potent and can be incorporated into joints, blunts and edibles to give an extra kick.
Kief ranges in color from gold or brown. Pure kief is usually lighter in tone (think off-white) and has a super pleasant aroma, whereas darker kief is less refined and has some plant material still present. It’s near impossible, however, to refine kief to the degree that no plant material is present. All kief looks like a crystally, slightly sticky dust–but is not as sticky as the trichomes on the cannabis bud.
Where Do You Find Kief?
You’ll find kief when nugs of weed have been shaken up, moved around, or ground up. Beyond your grinder, expect to also find a fine dusting of kief at the bottom of mason jars or containers where you store cannabis buds. While kief is fairly common, it can be challenging collecting this ultra-fine, potent cannabis powder.
How Do You Collect Kief?
It takes time to collect cannabis kief as it’s the by-product of weeks or months of grinding or shaking.
Collecting kief from a three-chamber grinder is fairly straightforward. When you think you’re ready to gather your kief crystals, simply undo the kief catcher from the grinder and scoop the kief out. Some grinders even come equipped with a scraper that’s ideally suited to gathering this fine product.
You can also use a kief box that’s designed to optimize kief collection. Kief boxes contain two chambers. Cannabis buds are placed in the top of the box above a fine mesh sifter screen and shaken, so that the kief can collect in the bottom compartment. Kief can be left to accumulate there, or removed and added to joints or other products immediately.
You can also collect kief by rubbing dried weed across a silk screen. This is a highly efficient way of extracting kief. Screens come in different sizes, with finer mesh screens processing a purer product. For the best results, home extractors often run kief through screens of different sizes to refine the product to try to attain 99% pure dry sift. The end product is almost solely pure terpenes and cannabinoids.
Finally, if collecting your own kief sounds like too much work, you can just buy it. Kief is available in a range of variations, including a live resin format that’s ultra flavorful and fresh.
How to Use Kief
Kief is all about adding an extra kick to your cannabis hit. Think of it as spice in a dish–it adds that extra potent dimension of je ne sais quoi.
When it comes to using this super refined product, the possibilities are endless: the only limit is your imagination.
Here are some popular ways of incorporating kief into your session:
1. Make some moon rocks
Moon rocks are considered by many to be the creme de la creme of the marijuana world–partly because they’re super potent (think around 50%-70% THC). Take a nugget of dry flower, dip it in concentrate or dunk it in hash oil or cannabis oil, then gently roll in kief. Moon rocks can be broken up and smoked in a joint, bowl, vape or pipe. It isn’t easy to keep a moon rock lit, though, so using a bong or pipe may be easiest.
2. Create some cannabutter
If you’re a fan of cannabis cuisine, cannabutter is one of the best ways to enjoy kief. Cannabutter is made by decarboxylating cannabis through heat then infusing it into melted butter for several hours before straining it. When creating cannabutter with kief, mix it in with the marijuana bud and then decarb it. You’ll end up with a THC-rich kief butter that’s perfect for baking brownies, cookies, or other tasty edibles.
3. Go retro and make hash
Hash is essentially an old-school cannabis concentrate. Hash is formed from kief powder that has been pressed into brick shapes by using heat. Alternatively, kief can also be rolled into balls called charas that can be formed by rolling kief between your thumbs or fingers.
A more common way of preparing kief involves paper. Collect pure kief (no flower) and place it in folded parchment paper. Run a clothes iron or hair straightening iron gently over the paper, applying heat and pressure, but not so much that the paper starts to burn.
The combination of heat and force encourages the kief to change its composition and become compressed. The more pressure you apply, the darker the hash will be. Vaping hash allows you to enjoy the benefits of your kief, without any of the negative effects of smoke.
4. Sprinkle kief into a joint or spliff
A conservative or generous sprinkle of kief into a joint or spliff represents a super easy and near-instantaneous way to use it. Simply add a dash of kief to your mix before rolling, then smoke and enjoy.
5. Press some rosin
Rosin is a super flavorful, solventless cannabis concentrate that can be made at home using kief. It’s a slightly tricky process, but yields a high quality concentrate that can be used in diverse ways. Place the kief in a fine rosin mesh screen or mesh bag (this helps to filter out plant material that can detract from the purity of the finished product.
Using heat resistant gloves, place the bag or mesh screen between the two heated plates of a hair straightener and gently press to release the hot oil. The freshly pressed oil will cool to become soft and malleable. If making rosin with hair straighteners isn’t your thing, you can also get rosin plates that are designed specifically for pressing rosin.
6. Crown your bowl
‘Crowing a bowl’ is one of the most popular ways of smoking kief. Add flower to the bowl of your pipe or bong, filling it ¼ or ½ of the way. Add your desired dose of kief and then top with flower, then repeat. Adding the kief in gradual layers means the concentrate isn’t burned all at once, so you can enjoy more than one hit.
7. Twax the end of your joint
Finally, you can “twax” a joint. Simply lick the outside of the joint to moisten it, then roll the top third in kief. Easy!
The Benefits of Kief
As a unique weed product, kief comes with a range of benefits. Here are the top three:
- Purity. While kief can be refined into differing levels or purity, it is, by and large, a product that is free or low on plant matter such as the lipids and waxes present in cannabis flowers. This relative purity makes for a smooth, non-harsh, flavorful experience.
- Potency. Kief provides a much stronger experience than regular marijuana flower. This terpene and cannabinoid-rich pollen has a THC concentration that’s way higher than regular weed (often around 50-70%). Besides higher levels of THC, kief also has higher levels of CBD, minor cannabinoids, and terpenes. This means you enjoy a far more powerful effect using way less weed.
- Versatility. Finally, one of the most noteworthy benefits of kief is its versatility. As explored in the section above, kief can be sprinkled into joints, pressed into rosin, infused into butter, or pressed into hash bricks. This versatility means you can enjoy this ultra-fine, high-quality product in the way that appeals to you most!