If you’ve ever looked at a bud of premium cannabis up close, you’ve seen the dusting of sugary crystals across the flower and felt the sticky resin on your fingerprints. That sparkly coating, called kief when it falls off the flower, is far from just ornamental — it’s an essential component of what makes cannabis work.
But what exactly is kief, and what can you do with it?
What are trichomes?
Those crystals that cover cannabis flower — and the exterior of countless other plant species — are called “trichomes.” Viewed under the microscope, they actually have an otherworldly, almost alien appearance, like little gelatinous mushrooms with round caps and thin, narrow stalks.
On cannabis, trichomes are resin glands that contain most of the cannabinoids and terpenes in the plant. One of the purposes of trichomes on cannabis is to produce resin that protects the plant from the extreme weather and fungi, and create a strong psychoactive effect that scares off herbivores. They also attract human predators, who know how to put cannabis resin to great use.
When trichomes dry up and fall off the dried buds and leaves of the cannabis plant (especially the frosty “sugar leaves” that grow out of the cannabis flower) they become what is known as “kief” — the dried-up powdery resin crystals that can be used to make all types of concentrates.
How to harvest kief from your weed
When you break up a bud of perfectly-dried and cured cannabis flower, you may find resin sticking to your fingers and a dusting of kief on your rolling tray. The greatest source of kief though, is arguably your grinder.
Multi-chamber grinders that have a fine sifting screen and separate, built-in compartment are best, as they sift out the kief and contain it while you grind up the bud. But even the simplest grinder will accumulate kief if you use it regularly and never clean it.
The kief will stick to the teeth and walls of the grinder, but you can easily remove it with a variety of simple methods. If you have a multi-chamber grinder, put a small coin (like a dime) inside the compartment where the weed falls and shake it up, allowing the coin to dislodge the kief.
Another trick is to place the grinder in the freezer overnight, as trichomes become brittle in the cold, allowing them to be easily removed. Simply remove the grinder from the freezer and shake it like no one’s watching, give it a few good bumps on the counter, and voila, you should have a nice bounty of cold kief that you can put to good use.
Use a sifter or pollen box to get kief
If you’ve been in a headshop any time recently you may have encountered sifter screens, which you can also buy in the form of a “kief box.”
Kief sifters are fine mesh screens that are used to separate kief from cannabis flower. The idea is quite simple: Take the sifter screen and place it over a rolling tray or similar surface. Take cannabis flower and gently rub it back and forth on the screen allowing the kief to sift through the screen to the tray below. You can try various sized screens, though the smaller the gauge, the finer the quality of kief it produces.
Another method is to use a kief box (also known as a “pollen box”). Typically made of wood and resembling a small stash box or humidor, they have a built-in sifter screen in the middle and a separate compartment below. The idea is to place the buds in the top container and shake, allowing the kief to sift to the bottom section, which often has a pull-out drawer for easy kief harvesting.
You also don’t need cannabis flower to scrounge up some kief. If you have a good amount of cannabis trim on hand — especially the trichome-rich “sugar leaves,” you can also sift these for kief. If so, make sure to place the trim or the cannabis buds in the freezer until they get nice and crisp before sifting.
Use a Moroccan kief drum
One of the all-time world capitals of hashish production is Morocco, especially in the mountainous Rif region in the country’s north. A traditional Moroccan way of making hash is to stretch a silk screen over a bucket, place dried cannabis flower on the fabric, cover it with a tarp or another layer of fabric and beat it like a drum to allow the kief to fall through.
In fact, this is probably a good time to note that the word kief is believed to come from the Arabic word for pleasure.
What can you do with kief?
Make hash or rosin with kief
The most famous, time-honored use of kief is for making hashish. Kief isn’t the same thing as hash, though hashish is made by taking kief that has been extracted from the plant and pressed into a concentrated form.
There are all types of methods for making hash, and they’re all pretty simple. One of the most popular methods is to make “bubble hash,” which involves using a number of micron filter bags and a bucket of ice and water to extract the kief. You then let it dry, and press it into blocks.
Bubble hash is a method used for when you haven’t already removed the kief from the cannabis.
If you already have a pile of kief from your grinder or pollen box, you can easily make your own DIY rosin wax. Simply place the kief between two baking sheets or pieces of parchment paper and use a hair straightener (set to around 300℉ / 150℃ ) to heat it and press it into a block.
Just throw some kief on a bowl or sprinkle it in a joint
You don’t really need to do that much work with kief, however. It works great sprinkled on top of a bowl of cannabis flower or placed inside a joint with some fresh herb. In both cases, it can really kick the potency of your session up a notch, and it tastes great too.
If you don’t want to roll it into a joint, another method is to moisten the outside of a pre-rolled joint, and then roll it in kief until you have a nice fine layer of the good stuff.
Make edibles with kief
Because of its consistency and potency, kief can easily be used in the preparation of edibles, though it will still have to go through decarboxylation first.
How to decarboxylate kief:
- Preheat an oven to between 220-245℉ (105-120℃)
- Take your kief and place it on parchment paper on a baking sheet
- Bake for around 30-45 minutes, keeping a careful eye to make sure it doesn’t scorch.
After you decarboxylate the kief, you can add it to some melted butter to make a batch of cannabutter or use it to infuse some coconut oil, both of which can be used to make all sorts of edibles. You can also just sprinkle it directly into all types of recipes. And it can definitely go a long way. If you don’t have time to infuse your kief, you could add as little as 1/8th or ¼ of a teaspoon to a batch of cannabis chocolate chip cookies instead of using cannabutter.
Can you dab kief?
Technically speaking, you can dab kief, though it doesn’t melt the same way because it doesn’t have the same consistency of other concentrates. You simply need to heat up the dab nail like you would with wax or butter, and then drop in some kief. Keep in mind, because it’s a powder, things could get a bit messy, and you may lose some kief in the process. You could try to form the kief into a tight ball if possible before dropping it in. In a sense, dabbing kief will be somewhat similar to the “hot knife” method of smoking hash, which is definitely effective. You may find it’s a bit tough to clean the dab nail afterwards, though.
The best part of waking up — is kief in your cup?
So, you’ve called in “sick” and you’re asking yourself, can I put kief in my coffee?
You absolutely can. All you need to do is decarboxylate some kief, and then put just a pinch in your coffee — well under half a gram, even just a quarter gram should be more than enough (though this may vary depending on the THC concentrations of your weed).
And if you’re not the coffee drinking type, have no fear — a piping hot cup of tea will work just fine.
Make your own moonrocks with kief
If you have a lot of cannabis on hand, and some spare hash oil and kief, you can make your own moonrocks and launch your own space program of sorts.
Simply take a dense, good-sized nug, coat it with hash oil (you can make this easier by holding the nug with tweezers in one hand, and then using a syringe full of hash oil to carefully coat it with oil), and then sprinkle the nug with kief or roll it around in a pile of kief if you have enough. Let it dry for a few hours or overnight, and you’re all set.
Does kief get you higher than bud?
This is a bit of a trick question. Unless your kief came from a cannabis chemovar with no or very little THC, kief will usually have much more THC than cannabis flower gram for gram, though you’re probably not going to smoke an entire gram of kief in one sitting like you would a half- or one-gram joint.
That said, smoking kief — or hash — can have a stronger, more narcotic effect than cannabis flower, producing a high that’s more enveloping and perfect for the nighttime. This is what makes it perfect for topping off a bowl or taking a joint — and your entire session — to a whole other level.