Kief: Often spoken of with a slightly reverential tone, kief is a powdery substance gathered from the marijuana bud and known for having an incredibly strong, concentrated amount of THC within. Kief is a delicate thing and, while not rare, is pretty much the richest and most highly desired part of the marijuana plant. Think almost like cream rising to the top of fresh milk – Both still valued (and tasty) dairy products with good uses but one is just a bit… more so. Simply put, kief is The Good Stuff™. But what is kief? How do you collect it? And, most importantly, how do you use it? We’ll answer these questions and talk a bit more about the science behind kief in our article below.
What is Kief?
When you’re looking at a nice, crystal-covered bud of cannabis, “kief” (don’t spell it “keef”) is, well, the bits that make it look so pleasant – The little sparkling bits of resinous trichomes that contain the majority share of a marijuana plant’s THC output. When we smoke or otherwise ingest marijuana these naturally-sticky parts of the plant do a lot toward giving the full effect of the cannabis, meaning that on its own, kief can deliver a very potent dose of cannabinoids without having to smoke actual plant matter (or at least much of it).
Most kief, unless it is processed to be of the highest quality, is usually a mixture of plant material, trichomes and small resin glands. Trichomes are glands that grow up and away from the plant as the flower bud develops; at the tip of these glands are little bulbous formations of sticky resin, which is what most people are looking to collect when gathering kief from their buds.
These kief crystals are very delicate and sensitive to a variety of external dangers such as heat or even skin contact – Touching your marijuana flower with bare hands, for example, can cause the glands to burst and for kief to rub off and onto you (losing valuable THC in the process). And though there’s no mandate saying you have to separate your kief from your marijuana there are a few reasons that might make you consider going that extra step.
Why Should I Collect Kief?
Like we mentioned earlier, kief really is the “cream” to marijuana’s “milk”, in being a more concentrated, richer version of the marijuana it came from. And, in truth, if you’re just looking for your daily smoke & chill session there’s little point to collecting the kief off of a bud of cannabis – All you’re really doing at that point is weakening the potency of the plant you’re about to smoke.
However kief can be used in a variety of ways that plant matter cannot, and most cannabis extracts begin with a process that essentially strips the kief (and other cannabinoids) from the flower. Kief can be processed into hash, making for a very concentrated and portable smoking substance, or can further be turned into wax, shatter, oils, etc. etc. For people who need to take their cannabis with them hashish can be a great alternative to carrying around a plastic bag filled with bud.
Kief is also an excellent substitution to smoking plant material for people with higher tolerances, particularly medical marijuana patients; the high concentration of cannabinoids & THC means that less needs to be smoked to achieve the desired results, also making it more likely to be effective.
How to Collect Kief
So you have a big bag of marijuana and are interested in trying this whole “kief” thing out. Before you get too excited make sure the cannabis you’ve invested in is a good fit for gathering kief from; some buds, typically younger or from lower-quality plants, will lack that sparkly, powdery look to the outside. This doesn’t mean there aren’t trichomes or THC present, just that you’ll likely get this particular marijuana’s best benefit either from smoking it or another extraction method. Same with weed that hasn’t been properly dried & cured – If your flower feels “wet” collecting the kief may be a bit difficult. In this instance we recommend giving your cannabis a little time to breathe in a slightly-open container in a dry part of the house (keep your weed away from humid areas at all costs, as this can lead to mold & rot).
Once you have some nice, well-dried, crystal-covered buds it’s time to choose your collection method. There are several ways you can go about it, with varying difficulty levels and results alike – There is no one “best way”, as each has its pros and cons. We’ll go over several below, starting from the easiest and working our way down to some methods that require more specialized equipment but can deliver great results.
Kief From Your Hands
In our article on “How to Make Hash” we talk about making hash the traditional way, using your hands – This is essentially just another method of kief collection, though it usually results in a compressed hash rather than the powdery substance most associated with kief. Details are in the article linked above but it’s worth mentioning that this is a glove-recommended method; using your bare hands to collect kief can not only decrease its potency due to absorption and body heat but also makes it a vector for germs, oils and other nasty things hanging around on your skin.
Kief From a Grinder
If you’re reading something on our website I think we can safely assume you’re familiar with the concept of a weed grinder – A small, usually hand-held container that uses twisting torsion to tear apart plant matter enclosed within. Grinders usually come in what are called “stages” or “chambers”, these being their separate parts; a simple two-piece grinder, with only an enclosed top and bottom component, is known as a “two-stage” grinder. If you’re looking to gather up some kief, though, you’ll need to consider an upgrade.
Grinders with more than two stages are easy to find and usually one of the cheapest ways of collecting kief without causing a lot of waste. A three-stage grinder has a grinding chamber with teeth, followed by a bud collection chamber in the middle. The ground-up cannabis in this chamber then sits on a fine mesh screen, leading to the kief collecting chamber below.
When using one of these grinders “collecting” the kief from your cannabis is practically an automatic process. As the marijuana is ground up and falls into the second chamber it rubs against the screen, causing the kief to fall off of the buds and into the collection chamber below. In this case, collecting kief is as easy as grinding the weed you were going to grind anyway. That said this isn’t the most controlled method, and little particles of cannabis flower will likely end up inside your kief chamber; the odds are you won’t notice them but if you’re going for purity you’ll need to look into another method.
Kief From a Dry Sifter
A dry sifter unit for marijuana works a lot like the second stage in a multi-stage grinder, without all the grinding bits. After having broken up your plant material your weed is placed in an enclosed container resting on a fine-mesh screen, similarly again to the grinder.
Where most dry sifters differ is that they will often contain multiple screens/stages of their own, with several different chambers designed to filter out the kief to different levels of purity. We mentioned a moment ago that kief collected via a grinder likely still contains some plant material – A multi-stage dry sifter will filter your kief even further.
Dry sifters can come in a variety of different types; some are solid boxes, some are bags, and some have more stages than others. Each stage has a different mesh size (measured in microns) that will filter out different parts of the kief as it travels down the sifter. In a multi-stage sifter like this the bottom chamber can either (A) hold the highest quality kief the sifter will allow or (B) hold powdery detritus that is mostly just leftover debris and plant material (though can still be smoked/made into concentrates); in the case of option B the kief will be located in the chambers above this final chamber. Either way we recommend shaking your filters over a non-porous surface; marble, glass, or metal would be nice, but parchment paper works just as well.
One thing to note: With the way that trichomes are structured, with the bulb of resin at the tip of the hair, a lot of processes for making kief recommend you keep your bud and your work area cold; this helps make the resin more brittle and likely to break away from the plant matter as you sift. This also segues us into….
Collecting Kief with Ice Water
Similarly to the method of hand collection, getting kief off of a marijuana bud using ice & water means said kief is likely destined to be turned into hash. We go into methods involving water, ice and and even dry ice in our “How to Make Hash” article, and recommend giving it a read if you’re OK with not having a dry, powdery kief as your end product.
What Do I Do With Kief?
Enjoy it! Or at least that’s the simple answer – Kief is a very versatile substance, and can be smoked just like regular cannabis or easily be turned into budder, tinctures, hashish and the like.
If you’d just like to smoke your kief using it is simple, though perhaps best done indirectly. Kief is very delicate stuff, and can be torched by high heat very quickly, destroying its potency. Our recommendation is to use it as an additive to your usual marijuana smoking routine; sprinkling a bit of kief onto a joint or a loaded pipe can make for a much harder and noticeable hit. Kief is also a prime candidate for dabbing or vaporizing, as the regulated temperature of a vaporizer will help prevent wasting any of its goodness.
Most common is turning the kief into a type of hash, also known as “pressed kief”. Pressing kief at home is fairly simple and can best be done with a small gadget known as a pollen press – Again, we talk about this more at length in our “How to Make Hash” article, and definitely recommend heading over there for a quick read if you’re looking to get the most out of your kief.
No matter how you choose to ingest it, though, we’re pretty sure you’ll agree that kief is great stuff once you’ve tried it – Assuming a few puffs don’t see you lost to the couch lock, that is. We hope you enjoy the results of all your effort!