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What is kief and how can you use it?

October 15, 2014

Ever wonder what to call all those tiny, sticky crystals that cover cannabis flower? They’re called kief, also known as dry sift or pollen.

Kief refers to the resin glands which contain the terpenes and cannabinoids that make cannabis so unique. While marijuana sans kief still contains cannabinoids, the resin glands that develop on flower buds pack the biggest punch.

Kief and trichomes: Built-in protection for cannabis plants

The white hairs covering this cannabis flower are trichomes, or resin glands.

While kief specifically refers to the bulbous, crystal formation on the tip of a gland, the substance itself is just one part of what is called a trichome, or a “hair.”

Many different plants and algae have external trichomes for specific evolutionary purposes. For example, some carnivorous plants rely on sticky trichomes to trap their prey. Other plants, like cannabis, use them as a deterrent to herbivores.


What are trichomes and why do they exist on cannabis?

Trichomes on the marijuana plant keep away hungry herbivores by producing an intense psychoactive experience, theoretically disorienting the animal and preventing it from eating the rest of the plant. The resin’s strong, distinct odor also attracts pollinating insects and predators, which might keep herbivore populations at bay.

How to separate kief from the cannabis plant

Without a three-chamber herb grinder to sift and collect kief, the kief is wasted because it just sticks to the grinder itself.

If you like the experience of concentrates but don’t want to break the bank buying expensive wax or extraction equipment, sifting kief might be a great alternative. Due to the high concentration of terpenes and cannabinoids in resin glands, separating kief crystals from plant matter is a great way to consume cannabis while reducing the amount of charred material you take into your body.

Extracting kief is simple. Using a three-chamber herb grinder will help you finely grind your cannabis while letting kief crystals fall through a screen and collect into a small compartment. While two chamber grinders are nice, they often let potent kief go to waste since crystals fall off of the dried herb and just stick to the inside of the grinder.


What Is a Grinder and How Do You Use It for Cannabis?

For extracting larger quantities of kief, using simple silk screening materials will allow you to separate kief from plant matter with the ease of sifting flower.

Framed Speedball screen printing screens.

Many people create makeshift sifters using layered screens similar to the ones pictured above. Because kief tends to measure between 75 and 125 microns, it can be difficult to separate all of the resin from the plant materials. To make sure you’re collecting the cleanest kief without unwanted plant matter, stack three to four layers of fine mesh screen one on top of another.

For the best results, home extractors use consecutive sizes of screen and stack them in order from largest to smallest. When buying screens, the number of wires or threads per inch, or the LPI (lines per inch) number is an important thing to remember. The larger the screen, the smaller the LPI number. When it comes to sifting kief, mesh between 80 and 270 LPI tends to work best.


Explore the Diverse World of Cannabis Oil and Concentrates

When buying extracted kief at a dispensary or retail store, keep in mind that the purer the kief, the lighter the color will be. Kief that still looks fairly green means that there is still quite a bit of plant matter mixed in, whereas kief that has been cleaned well tends to be more of an off-white color.

What to do with kief

A compressed hash brick. This hash has a dark color because it has been heavily pressurized.

Now that you know what kief is and how to collect it, what should you do with it? There are many ways to make good use of your stockpile of unrefined cannabis concentrate. Here are a few suggestions that can amplify potency and refine consistency.

Sprinkle it onto your packed bowl of cannabis

Also known as “crowning a bowl,” this is the first and most obvious use for kief. Overall potency can increase dramatically with a generous dusting of kief on top of your bowl. Corner your hits to get the most out of a kief-crowned bowl, corner your hits, which entails burning a quadrant of the bowl at a time so that you can enjoy multiple hits.


How to pack and smoke a bowl of cannabis

Sprinkle kief into a joint or roll a twax koint

Freshly ground cannabis is just sticky enough to make rolling a joint fairly easy. Pepper your ground cannabis with a healthy pinch of kief and mix well. The extra trichomes should more or less stick to the ground leaves, adding potency to the interior of your joint.

For those of you who want a more advanced experience, dampen the outside of your joint with a lick or your preferred wax and then roll the top 1/3 of the joint in kief. This kief-coated joint is often call a “twaxed” joint.


How to roll a joint

Make hash

Hash is one of the oldest forms of refined cannabis. One of the first steps of making hash is extracting kief, as hash is basically just kief that has been heated and pressurized to form a soft, green ball. Applying heat and pressure to kief changes its composition by rupturing the resin glands. Once the kief ruptured, the overall taste and effects of the product are slightly different. Pressurizing kief also darkens its color; the more pressure you apply, the darker the hash becomes.


What Is Hash and How Does It Relate to Cannabis?

Make moonrocks

Moonrocks are top-quality nugs covered in oil and rolled in kief. These glorious glitter cannabis specimens are very high potency and can be considered a quick DIY concentrate. Moonrocks are relatively easy to make if you have the materials. Gently heat your oil of choice and liberally coat your buds. Sprinkle kief over still-warm buds, or dredge buds in a kief bath using tongs. Let harden, then enjoy them by breaking them up by hand and sprinkling them into your bowl (avoid using a grinder if possible, as a grinder will break them up too finely and defeat the purpose of creating your lovely moonrock).


What Is Charas Cannabis Concentrate?

Press rosin

Rosin is a rising star in the world of cannabis concentrates for its solventless extraction methods and preservation of cannabinoids. This process is usually done with flower, but higher yields and potency can be achieved by pressing kief. The at-home method involves a hair straightener and a vice, while professional methods incorporate high-pressure presses.


How to Make Rosin Dabs

Add potency to cannabutter

Cannabutter has so many great applications, and kief is an easy way to boost potency that doesn’t add any extra steps to the cannabutter creating process. Just remember, no matter if you decarboxylate your cannabis in the oven or in your crockpot, make sure your kief is intermixed with your flower for best results.


Recipe: How to make basic cannabis-infused butter

Try these kief-heavy strains

What is Kief?: White Widow is a kief-heavy weed strain 

A cross between a Brazilian sativa landrace and a resin-heavy South Indian indica,  White Widow has blessed every Dutch coffee shop menu since its birth in the 1990s. Its buds are white with crystal resin, warning you of the potent effects to come. A powerful burst of euphoria and energy breaks through immediately, stimulating both conversation and creativity.

What is Kief?: Hash Plant is a kief-heavy marijuana strain 

Hash Plant’s tight, resin-drenched flower clusters develop a brittle surface when dried and give off a deep, rich Afghani aroma that’s undercut with a hint of hashish. When consumed, her dominant flavor is the spicy-sharp bite of smouldering resin glands. The instant vaporization of those layers of sparkling trichomes accelerates Hash Plant’s rapid, blissful and breathtakingly powerful body-stone.

What is Kief?: Chemdog is a kief-heavy cannabis strain

Between its mysterious origin, ambiguous genetics, and the plethora of successful crosses the strain has produced, Chemdawg has practically secured itself a permanent place in the cannabis hall of fame. The original source of powerhouse strains like Sour Diesel and OG Kush, Chemdawg is known for its distinct, diesel-like aroma. Pungent and sharp, you’ll be able to smell this hybrid from a mile away.

photo credits via photopin cc: header: wonderlandforever; trichomes: prensa420 

  • DBG

    I need a book just to understand what this article is about !

    • C.m. Knox

      Basically, kief is the precursor of hash. All you do is add heat & pressure to make hash.

      • terry208

        What type of pressure, pressure from a pressure cooker or pressure from sticking it in your back pocket and sitting on it for an hour or two?

        • C.m. Knox

          Medium compression (from a press) and apply medium heat

          • terry208

            Thanks C.m. Knox! I only use White Widow and I’ve got three grinders over-flowing with this material I had no idea was even there. Thanks again.

        • Andrea Meccas

          dundundundundundun dundundundundundun under pressure

  • davidaquarius

    I love kief, it’s easy to smoke with more of the goods and less of the plant matter. Also, I make a concoction called ‘kief kake’. I take a half gram of say, Blue Dream wax or shatter and melt it in a small glass dish. Into the melted wax, I add a gram of kief, like Super Lemon Haze. I mix the two together until a nice paste or ‘dough’ forms. While still warm, I press and fold it in my palm until it is totally blended. The result is kief kake. Place a pinch in your bowl and fire away. Best hold on to your poo poo’s!

  • carolina Abah

    get kief from for better use

  • Jacob S

    Honestly I used to have trouble picking up Weed Grinders, I really was missing out on the keif cause i was using shitty grinders, but i checkouted out and it explained everything u guys should check it out

  • Two Bears

    What i did was get a stsinless steel shaker they add cinnamon or sugar to espresso and removed the screen.

    I boughg a yard of 43T silk screen on eBay. It is 125-150 microns.

    Grind 1/2 oz or so of buds and put in the shaker and stick in tge freezer for about an hour.

    Take the shaker out of the freezer put a piece of silk screen over the shaker abd put the ring over the silk screen and tighten the ring.

    Flip shaker upside down abd shake over a mirror ir piece of parchment paper.
    The Kief falls on murror or parchment paoer leaving the plant material behind.

  • Martin T

    Trichomes on the marijuana plant keep away hungry herbivores by producing an intense psychoactive experience, theoretically disorienting the animal and preventing it from eating the rest of the plant. The resin’s strong, distinct odor also attracts pollinating insects and predators, which might keep herbivore populations at bay.

    Can I ask how this is possible when the THCa hasn’t been activated through decarboxylation yet?

    • Andrea Meccas

      hmm is the THC secreted by the gland? Could it be TCHA is slightly decarboxylized because of it being in a field with sun baking it slow for a long time vs. 220 degrees real quick? and maybe animals dont really need that much to know its making them feel some typa way? I know i dont wanna sit and chew on it in a field already, i was thinking it may have a lil bitter sting to it ..Do the hairs prick microscopically? Is this like nettle?

      • Vincenzo

        Probably not the heat per se, but rather the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is high enough energy to break relatively weak bonds such as those attaching the carboxyl group to the carbon backbone.

    • Donald Adiska

      There is both THC and THCa in the plant. It does not need to be decarboxylized to have THC, it will have MORE THC after being decarboxylized.

  • tiki123

    I had no idea what keif was and bought a joint laced with it in Amsterdam a few years ago. I had no clue what planet I was on for several hours. Never have I been that high and never want to again. But I do plan on going back… 🙂

  • Barry Manson

    “A puff of kief in the morning makes a man as strong as a hundred camels in the courtyard”–old hippie poster.

  • Barry Manson

    “A puff of kief in the morning makes a man as strong as a hundred camels in the courtyard”–old Haight-Ashbury poster.

  • Gary

    How long is kief good? Does it spoil or go bad? What is the best way to keep it fresh?

    • Jay

      Boveda packs to preserve and keep it hydrated. Overtime THC will break down to CBN which is a good pain reliever but not psychoactive

  • Sofa king we taught it

    I baked my keif at 250 degrees for 30 minutes it turned into a sticky substance is this right? I figure I just melt it into what I eat.

  • Sheila Hylton DeToro-Forlenza

    This is not exactly accurate. And this misinformation is exactly why I just did a video on kief. Kief from your grinder will not make good pressed hash. You’d be lucky if it presses at all. The contaminant (plant matter) prevents the trichomes from melting and sticking well together. There is just too much of the “other.” Pressed hash does not in fact become darker because of the pressure. It becomes darker because of the heat. I press hash very regularly and rather than using an inordinate amount of pressure, I allow the heat source (in my case a bottle) to flatten my pile of hash. The resin darkens as the THCC is decarbed to THC and also from the oxidation that occurs while pressing the hash.

    It IS indeed true that if kief is further cleaned, it will be a superior product. However, at that time, it is no longer kief. It is dry sift. Trim bin kief, already devoid of giant chunks of matter (sine the rim bin is 150 micron), is a great starting point for a good many High Times solventless cup winners.

  • Elizabeth Steinbacher

    All right, I admit, I started as a Kief virgin. I had no clue. I heard it mentioned once when someone told me I was going to get excellent Kief with the grinder I bought. I was clueless. Until this article and string of discussion. Then I went to my grinder, rolled what I discovered was a crapload of Kief, took one small hit, and I do mean SMALL, and I was flying great for about 4 hours. I realize there’s so much more I can do. But I honestly have to say, a good pain killer and excellent mood were the mainstay for 4 hours; it made a difference for me!!!

  • Jonathan Kaschak

    Wow! Very informative! I remember installing Leafly on my Android when it first came about – Wow what a change! Its grown into its own Entity in the cannabis industry!!