What is a cannabis grinder?

Published on January 10, 2022 · Last updated September 16, 2022
What is a Grinder and How Do You Use It for Cannabis?
Grinder filled with nugs. (Leafly)

Why do you need a grinder for weed?

A grinder is a tool used to break down cannabis into small bits so they are a similar size and consistency. Weed is commonly ground down for rolling joints, blunts, and spliffs, but can also be done for packing bowls in pipes and bongs for a smoother, more consistent burn. 

Types of weed grinders

Grinders are usually circular, resembling a puck, so they can be rotated to break down weed (as in the image above). 

They can be made out of a variety of materials:

  • Metal—expensive, but durable 
  • Plastic—cheap, but breaks easily
  • Wood—usually more attractive, but hard to clean

Grinders also come in different sizes, usually ranging from 2” in diameter to 6”. With a small grinder, you’ll have to do multiple loads to break down a nug, but they are portable and easy to throw in a backpack. 

Bigger grinders can break down more nugs in one load and have more leverage, making it easier to break down any amount of nugs, but they aren’t as portable.

The most common type of grinder is a four-piece metal grinder. The four pieces are:

  • Lid—with teeth for grinding
  • Grind section—this has teeth for grinding and holes for weed to fall through
  • Storage chamber—this third compartment of the grinder collects and stores weed and has a screen to filter kief
  • Kief catcher—where kief is collected

Other types of weed grinders

Grinders can also come in two-, three-, and five-piece versions. Two- and three-piece types don’t have kief catchers and gum up easier because the kief isn’t separated out. Five-piece grinders either have two storage chambers or two kief catchers. 

How to use a marijuana grinder

To use a common four-piece grinder:

  • Place nugs in the teeth of the grinder, between the lid and grinder section; avoid the center, as this is where the magnet pivots, and leave out any seeds and stems
  • Grind down the nugs with about 10 rotations until all the bud has fallen through the holes into the storage chamber—there will be some resistance at first, and then it will twist smoothly
  • Unscrew the grinder section and storage chamber to get your ground up weed, and then use it to pack a bowl or for rolling

The screen in the third compartment or storage chamber holds in the ground cannabis, allowing kief to fall into the kief catcher, at the bottom.

You can also store weed for later in the storage chamber.

How to collect kief

Kief can be scooped out and added to the top of bowls, pressed into hash, or infused into butter or oil.

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The best way to scrape kief out of a grinder is to use a kief scraper—this tool looks like a tiny putty knife, about the size of a fingernail.

You can also put a weight in the kief catcher to knock resin off the screen and into the kief catcher. A clean penny or nickel will work.

How to clean a sticky weed grinder

You’ll need to clean your grinder every so often because it will become sticky with kiefy resin and be difficult to rotate. To clean:

  • Rub the sticky parts with a solution of isopropyl alcohol and salt
  • Use a small brush, e.g., a stiff-bristled paintbrush, a toothbrush, or a clean beard brush, to knock loose kief from the screen

You can also put your grinder in the freezer, which makes it easier to pick kief off. 

For irredeemably sticky grinders, sometimes it’s best to replace the grinder altogether, especially if it’s a cheap one.

How to break up cannabis if you don’t have a grinder

If you don’t have a grinder handy or if it’s too gummed up, try one of these methods to break down your herb:

  • Hands
  • Keys
  • Scissors
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Cheese grater
  • Coffee grinder

A coffee grinder is a great way to finely grind weed without using a grinder, especially if you’re grinding up lots of weed.

Keep in mind that weed is very sticky and whatever you use to break up weed will also get sticky. We recommend not using anything that’s nice or that you don’t want to smell like weed. Also, cheese graters and coffee grinders in particular can be hard to clean of resin.

Bailey Rahn, Patrick Bennett, and Pat Goggins contributed to this article.

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