Have you ever wondered what the small, sticky, crystal-like pieces that speckle marijuana flowers are called? It’s referred to as “kief”, or a marijuana flowers pollen (also known as dry sift). People have been collecting kief (also spelled “keef” or sometimes incorrectly “keif”) for thousands of years, as it accumulates the most potent part of the plant, and using it as a highly concentrated, cannabinoid-rich powder.
Since kief contains significant more cannabinoids than the weed flower itself, if you’re interested in getting high doses of cannabinoids, using the powder is an excellent option. Even if you aren’t particularly concerned with your cannabinoid intake, kief is great, as it can be used in a variety of ways, making it a highly versatile way to consume cannabis. If you’re interested in learning more about kief, keep on reading!
Below, you’ll discover more about this multipurpose marijuana product, including its history, how it’s collected, how you can use it, and more. Get ready to discover one of the most unique, potent, and beneficial parts of the miraculous cannabis plant.
What is kief, anyway?
As explained above, keif is a powder that accumulates on the exterior surface of the quality marijuana flower (lower quality not as much, hence the price differences in weed). To further explain, it comprised of the brilliant resin trichomes that collect on the leaves and buds of the cannabis plant.
Trichomes are small, round, swollen glands that poke off of the surface of the leaves and buds of advanced weed plants. Kief can be removed from the plant, producing a highly concentrated, powerful, cannabinoid-rich powder.
>Want to know more about trichomes? Check out our guide to trichomes if you really want to geek out!
The word “kief” is Arabic for “pleasure” or “intoxication”. It is jam-packed with cannabinoids (naturally occurring chemical compounds) and terpenes (the compounds of the cannabis plant that is responsible for the flavor and aroma); both of which offer a long list of therapeutic benefits. Because it’s so rich in cannabinoids and terpenes, kief is more potent than the flower alone; albeit, the powdery residue isn’t as powerful than the concentrates that are extracted from the plant, such as weed wax or shatter.
Kief is also commonly referred to as “pollen” or “dry sift”, and it looks like powdery iridescent crystals. Typically, top-shelf kief has a light tan or blondish color and it generates a powerful, unmistakable scent. There is green kief, too, and those varieties tend to be mid-grade or lower quality, as it usually contains extra plant matter, and as such, it’s not as pure or as concentrated as the lighter colored cannabis-based powders.
Does kief offer any unique benefits?
People have long enjoyed kief for the many benefits that it provides. Because it is comprised of a super-potent concentration of terpenes and cannabinoids, the high that it delivers is much more powerful than a lot of other weed products.
Though the potency of the powder does vary and depends on the cannabis plant that is was sourced from, on average, kief has a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level of more than 50%; the compound that is responsible for creating the psychoactive effect (or “high-like” feeling) that marijuana is famed for. The amount of THC kief contains is significantly more than the amount that the plant’s flowers contain, which, on average, is about 12 to 25%, closing in on 30% for the top shelf louder strains.
Kief powder is a fast and efficiently way to ingest several of the natural compounds that marijuana contains, including the aforementioned THC, cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), terpenes, among other compounds, without having to deal with the plant matter itself. If you’re someone who isn’t partial to smoking, yet you want to enjoy the benefits that weed provides, kief is an excellent alternative.
In terms of the benefits, kief can be used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Medicinally speaking, it dry sift is great for alleviating aches and pains (including chronic), easing anxiety and depression, and even minimizing the side effects of cancer and cancer treatments.
Recreationally, pollen offers a great high, and just makes you feel mellow and chill. In other words, kief can do wonders for your overall health and well-being, although because of its high THC content, it may not be the best for focusing (although we’ve got a list of good focusing strains too).
Adding kief to your joint or spliff is usually a way to turn the volume knob up a bit if you’re itching for a bit more higher of a high. If you’re simply looking to add complexity to your session without tweaking we recommend mixing in a bit of CBD flower in your kief joint/bowl to help keep the anxiety-type effects down (if your a novice/intermediate smoker at least).
How do you collect kief?
In order to collect kief, there are several different methods that can be used. Some of the most popular dry sift collection methods include:
Option 1) A Quality Three Piece Grinder’s “Kief Catcher”
Considered the standard and certainly the most popular kief collection method is the use of a three piece chamber herb grinder. As the name suggests, this device is comprised of three separate chambers that are usually separated by fine stainless steel screens, and have a separate chamber that is used to catch the powder that breaks away from the cannabis flower.
The flower is placed in the top chamber of the tool and is ground down, and as it is ground, the plant matter is collects in the second chamber, and the tiny trichomes (what kief is made of) pass through a screen that is situated at the bottom of the grinder. While there are two and one piece grinders, they aren’t as efficient, and in fact, can be quite complicating and frustrating to use.
The nice part about 3-piece grinders is that you are essentially recycling and using every bit of the plant as you consume. You grind your whole flower to smoke, and your kief catcher catches any of the lost/remaining kief that is shed during the high-friction grinding process, to be consumed later, so that nothing goes to waste.
Option 2) Pollen Box aka Pollen Sifter aka Kief Box
Another method that can be used to extract kief is with a pollen box. While this process can be a bit time consuming, especially if you want to gather a large amount of kief, if you have the patience, a pollen box will do the job; however, with that said, a pollen box is best for collecting small yields.
In order to use this method, you just need to place a few marijuana buds on the top of the box and shake it. As you shake, the trichomes separate from the flowers, and they collect in the bottom of the box.
One of the most notable benefits of using a pollen box is that it keeps the cannabinoid- and terpene-rich powder neatly contained. As such, you won’t have to worry about a wind gust wafting the powder out of the box, or a moment of clumsiness tipping the box over and spilling the fruits of your shaking all over the place.
*Unlike a 3-piece grinder where you are catching kief as a byproduct of grinding your own flower to smoke, the pollen box approach is designed to remove and catch as much kief as possible. So, this isn’t something you generally run your top shelf diamond tier dank through, more something you run home grow/surplus buds through if you have the volume for it to be economical to de-kief all your flower.
Option 3) Silk Screening aka Budget Pollen Boxing
If you want to collect large yields of kief, a silk screen is a highly effective way to do just that. With this method, you’d use a silk screen, just like those that are used to print a design on a T-shirt. These devices can be purchased at your local arts and crafts supply store, and they are LPI (lines per inch) rated; a screen that has an LPI between 80 and 270 is highly recommended.
If you’d like, you can use a collection of screens, one placed over the other, with each screen having consecutively smaller holes. With this approach, the kief will be further refined as it passes through each screen, and you’ll have less green plant matter in your cannabis powder.
This is a great DIY option if you’re an intermediate home-grower who has a surplus of flower, more than you can smoke or gift to friends, and need to do something with it before it goes bad.
Option 4) Hashish Drum Method
The most traditional and classic method of collecting kief is with a hashish drum. The first people to collect the cannabis powder used this approach to do so. You’ll need to create a hashish drum yourself, which can be easily done by stretching a silk screen over a basin (which can be an actual drum, or it can be something as simple as a plastic bucket or bowl).
Once stretched over the basin, buds are placed on the top of the screen. A tarp is then placed on to and secured in placed with a rope or a rubber band, locking the plant matter between the tarp and the silk screen.
Next, sticks are used to beat the top of the hashish drum, which sifts the plant matter, separating the kief from the buds, and the powder passes through the silk screen.
When silk with an appropriate micron-gage (a unit of measurement used for small particles) is used, this method can be highly effective and can produce a significant amount of cannabis powder.
This is a more commercial-oriented method of kief collection and is mostly used by those looking to simply produce hash.
>Looking for an even more automated less labor intensive solution for producing hash? Well, we’ve got a guide for you on bubble hash machines that might be up your ally!
Option 5) Freezing & Friction
Lastly, you could try the freezing method. This approach involves science. Since THC isn’t water soluble, it doesn’t dissolve in water. As the buds are frozen, the trichomes become brittle and will easily fall off the plant matter. Any freezing method can be used to collect kief in this manner; dry ice and even your freezer, for example.
The objective is to cool the marijuana flowers until the kief can be shaken off and collected in a vessel, such as a glass jar or a plastic container.
This method is more for high volume commercial kief extraction, which is usually then further refined, sometimes to pure THC “crystals”. Given the complexity you need a freezer capable of extremely cold temperatures required to freeze plant material solid and you need enough material to make the kief extraction worth it because once the flower thaws it’ll become moist and useless for smoking (although you could still extract rosin by pressing it in a rosin press machine).
How do you use kief?
So, now that you know what kief is, the benefits it provides, and how to collect it, you’re probably wondering how to actually use it. There are several different ways that you can consume it; hence why we said that it’s so versatile; however, it’s important to note that the high amounts of cannabinoids that kief contains need to be heated in order to be activated so that it can generate a psychoactive, “high-like” effect.
Some of the most popular methods of kief consumption include the following:
- Solo smoking. One of the easiest, most popular, and oldest methods of using dry sift is simply smoking it by itself, just like you would smoke your bud. It’s important to note, however, that due to the very fine nature of the powder, if you’re going to pack it in a glass pipe, it could slip through the hole and you could end up inhaling it. In order to avoid this, if you plan on using a bowl, the use of a screen is highly recommended. It’s flammable, so once it’s lit, it usually remains lit until you extinguish it.
- Combo smoking. Another popular method of kief use is combo smoking. With this approach, as you can probably imagine, the powder is sprinkled on top of your bud before it’s smoked or vaped. You can sprinkle some on top of a packed glass pipe or bong, or in the weed inside a joint or bowl. With this method, the potency of the marijuana bud is increased, so you can preserve your weed, as you’ll need to ingest less in order to experience the results you desire. Some people get creative and sprinkle kief ono the exterior of their joints or blunts. In order to do this, you can use cannabis oil to lightly dampen the outer layer of the joint or blunt, and then roll it in the powdered kief (aka moon rocks). This will create a fuzzy effect that looks kind of like moss on a log or the hair on a spider’s leg (hence why it’s been dubbed “the tarantula joint”.)
- Mix it in your food and drink. Another great way to use kief is by simply adding it to your food and drink to enhance them. You can sprinkle some in your morning cup of coffee or mid-afternoon cup of tea, or pre-bedtime herbal tea. You could add it to a cup of hot chocolate, too. Alternatively, you can mix it into your food; make homemade kief butter, or mix the powder into oatmeal.
- Make your own hashish. Lastly, you can use kief to make your own homemade hashish. In order to do so, you’ll need to apply pressure and heat, which fuses the fine powder into a solid block-like chunk. An easy way to do this is by sprinkling the powder into a folded piece of parchment paper, and shift it around so that it collect in a pile, which will allow it to completely fuse together. Next, press a hot iron on the parchment paper, using care not to overheat either the paper or the powder. Since the process of heating and applying pressure to the kief bursts the oil-filled glands, hash tends to be dark in color and it feels stickier than kief. You can then smoke the hash.
Which method is the best? The truth is, they’re all good, and it really comes down to your own personal preference. We suggest giving a variety of different methods a try to determine which one yields the best effects to suit your particular needs. Of course, you could end up liking a variety of different methods, which is great, because you can switch it up and keep things fresh.
Herb CEO Summary
We think of kief as the caviar of the cannabis plant. Just like with real caviar, there is no denying the delicious flesh of the fish itself, particularly raw, like in sashimi. The fish eggs though, one small part of the whole fish, are just a beautiful, smaller, condensed, flavor jewel of the fish. Kief is the flavor jewels of the cannabis plant.
Personally, we like smoking trichome encrusted buds and the more trichomes intact the better the smoking experience, so we don’t usually purposefully try to extract any kief. But we just buy 1/4ths from dispensaries and don’t want to waste money.
Now one day, if everything goes peachy and we have a home grow operation producing pounds of flower every year, then looking to specifically extract this nectar of the canna-gods will become worth it and that’s where sift boxes and rums come into play.
So, unless you have the yield, we’d recommend sticking with 3-piece grinders and emptying them on special occasions to collect and consume the kief that’s accumulated over dozens if not hundreds of flower grinds. Emptying your kief catcher for a double strong joint or blunt with friends is one easy way to cement stoner friends for life..
Frequently Asked Kief Questions
Below we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about kief from our readers. If you have questions about kief or just want to share some magical or trippy experiences let us know in the comments section!
Does kief get you higher than bud?
Yes because kief THC content is usually 50% or more, which is almost double most recreational buds.
What is the point of kief?
Think of kief as the cherry or sprinkles on your ice cream. It’s the good stuff that makes your experience special. Add extra kief and have an extra special smoking session.
Is kief illegal?
Kief is regulated the same way cannabis is, meaning if cannabis is legal in your state then so is kief. If cannabis is illegal then so is kief.
How long does kief take to hit?
Kief hits within a couple minutes of smoking, just like bud, if not a little faster because it is very quickly burned and kief contains much more THC so the sensation of impact is quicker/stronger.
Does kief smell when smoked?
Yes, kief smells when it is smoked, just like whole cannabis plant, although given it’s condensed nature it can smell even stronger when smoked.
What’s the best way to store kief?
It’s fine just chilling in your kief catcher but if you’re grinding big volumes then regularly emptying your kief catcher into an airtight container stored out of the light is the best way to collect or preserve your kief over longer periods of time.