What is Kief?

What is Kief?

Have you ever opened the bottom chamber of your grinder and found some traces (or, if you’re lucky, a whole pile) of what appears to be sand?

Well, good news, it’s not sand. It’s kief!

Kief (also spelled kif, kef or keef) comes from trichomes, the transparent-to-off-white colored bulbous heads with tiny stems that protrude from the cannabis plant.

You can see trichomes when you look at cannabis through a microscope or magnifying glass – try it next time you get a high-THC strain like Ultra Sour and you’ll see something like this:

Cannabis trichomes
Kief comes from trichomes - the microscopic resin glands found on cannabis flowers, leaves, and stalks

Trichomes are where cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) are produced, along with terpenes (flavour compounds)1. As such, they contain higher concentrations of THC, CBD and terpenes than any other part of the cannabis plant.

So, what is kief? Specifically, kief refers to the high-THC trichome heads which accumulate after filtration through mesh screens – typically inside a grinder or sifter box.

How to Make Kief

More good news: kief is the easiest solvent-free extract to make. If you’ve ever used a 4-piece grinder, you’ve made it yourself!

How to Make Kief with a Grinder

Kief collected in a grinder
Kief will collect in the bottom of a 4-piece grinder

If you’ve been wondering, ‘what is kief?’ then you can very easily find out right now – if you have a grinder, that is.

Simply take some bud and grind it up in a grinder. If the grinder has a third chamber, open it up and look inside. If it doesn’t, take a magnifying glass and sift through your ground bud, looking for sparkling translucent spheres amongst the plant matter. This sand-like substance is kief, also known as pollen or dry sift.

To collect your kief – which, depending on how frequently you consume cannabis, may take weeks to accumulate enough to actually use – you’ll want to use a kief scraper, which is often included inside a 4-piece grinder. If you don’t have a scraper, a card or the edge of a pack of rolling papers works just as well.

To extract kief from a grinder, start by scraping the inner side of the grinder’s bottom chamber. Then, scape all the kief against an inner edge of the grinder – just like you would sweep dust into a corner to sweep up.

Collect the pile of kief in your kief scraper or a folded card. To find out what to do with kief, jump ahead to “What to Do with Kief.”

How to Make Kief with a Sifter Box

Kief collected in a sifter box
Sifter boxes are used to separate kief from the rest of the cannabis plant matter

Kief particles are small. Like, really small.

The diameter of a trichome head (called kief after separation from the plant) ranges from approximately 80-130 microns2,3. For comparison, a human hair is about 80 microns thick.

Because of this, sifter boxes (also called pollen sifters) must use very fine mesh filters to separate the finest quality kief from the rest of the plant matter. Sifter box screens are typically measured in LPI (lines per inch), with a larger LPI indicating a finer filter. Screens between 80-270 LPI tend to work best.

To get started, place some finely ground cannabis inside the box in the upper chamber – enough to cover the whole screen. Close the box and gently shake for about 30 seconds. Remove the top chamber and screen; beneath it, you’ll find kief.

If you just want kief, and aren’t too fussy about obtaining the purest kief possible, no further steps are necessary – simply scrape up the kief in the bottom chamber of sifter box.

If you’re a kief connoisseur, on the other hand, you’ll want to use several mesh screens of varying filtration levels. We recommend getting a sifter box with an interchangeable screen, so that you can easily replace it with another screen that has a higher LPI rating.

Keep repeating the process of filling the upper chamber, shaking the box, and replacing the mesh screen with a finer one until you obtain the level of purity that you desire. Ideally, you’ll end up with something called full melt dry sift – highly refined kief that turns into a melty consistency when heated.

What to Do with Kief

How to Smoke Kief Using a Pipe/Bong

In terms of how to smoke kief, you can’t just spark it up by itself. Well, you can… but we wouldn’t recommend it. That’s because kief particles are small enough to get past most pipe filters, so you could end up with a mouthful of kief if you try!

A better option is to top a pipe or bong bowl with it. Also called “crowning” the bowl, a little kief goes a long way. Sprinkle a pinch on top of your ground cannabis and then light it up as usual.

How to Add Kief to a Joint

A joint rolled in kief (churro joint)
A joint rolled in kief is called a churro joint

When it comes to deciding what to do with kief, a popular option is to add it to a joint.

There are a couple ways you can do this. First, you can sprinkle some kief inside your joint before you roll it up. We suggest adding the kief in the middle of the joint, between two layers of ground bud; rather than at the top, where it might cause the joint to burn unevenly.

Or, if you really want to kick things up a notch, you can roll a churro joint.

A churro joint is made by rolling a regular joint, slathering a cannabis concentrate (such as shatter or rosin) all over it, and then rolling it in kief. The kief resembles sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on a real churro; but of course, this tasty treat is for adults only.

How to Make Hash from Kief

Preparing hash to be rolled in a joint
Kief can easily be made into hashish

A common question among cannabis consumers is “how do I make hash from kief?”

The simplest method for making hash from kief involves using only your hands. Using a tray or the bottom of a sifter box, spread your kief around for a few minutes using your hands. Notice the kief starting to accumulate on your fingers? Keep going, and as more kief begins to stick to your fingers, begin rolling the kief into a ball. Eventually, the ball will darken in color and become a mass of sticky goodness. You’ve just created finger hash – also known as hand rubbed hash.

Alternatively, if you don’t like getting your hands dirty, you can purchase a pollen press. Using this device to make hash from kief is a breeze: just insert your kief into the chamber and keep twisting the handle until you can no longer twist it any further. The result is a hard-pressed, puck-shaped version of hash called pressed hash.

How to Make Kief-Infused Edibles

The best way to cook or bake with kief is to first make cannabutter or canna-oil.

You can use this cannabutter recipe and simply substitute dried flower with kief (for super-potent edibles), or add a small amount of kief to the dried flower (for edibles with a little extra potency).

From there, the possibilities are endless – just swap out the regular butter in any recipe for your kief-infused butter. Some popular DIY edibles are cannabis-infused cookies and brownies.

Another way to add kief to food/beverages is to make kief coffee. Despite the online hype, it’s not as easy as just sprinkling kief into your coffee. For one thing, you need to add some fats (for example, creamer or coconut oil) for THC to properly absorb in your body. Also, even if your coffee is served piping hot, it probably won’t be hot enough to decarboxylate the kief.

To get the most bang for your buck, decarboxylate your kief in an oven first. Bake for 20-30 minutes at between 250-290° F, then remove and add to freshly brewed coffee. Stir thoroughly for 30 seconds to ensure the kief is fully dissolved, and make sure to add a tablespoon or so of high-fat creamer, butter or oil for best results.

How to Make Rosin from Kief

Making rosin from kief is very similar to making rosin from dried flower. Place your kief in between a folded sheet of parchment paper, then use a rosin press to apply heat and pressure to the kief (this can also be done using a hair straightener). The sticky substance that oozes out of the kief is rosin – or, more precisely, kief rosin. Collect it from the parchment paper using a dab tool or elongated metal paperclip.

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References:

  1. Livingston SJ, et al. Cannabis glandular trichomes alter morphology and metabolite content during flower maturation. The Plant Journal, Jan 2020;101(1):37-56.
  2. Ebersbach P, Stehle F, Kayser O, Freier E. Chemical fingerprinting of single glandular trichomes of Cannabis sativa by Coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) microscopy. BMC Plant Biol, Nov 2018;18(275).
  3. Small E, Naraine S. Size matters: evolution of large drug-secreting resin glands in elite pharmaceutical strains of Cannabis sativa (marijuana). Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, Apr 2015;254(2).

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