What Is Kief and How Can You Use It?

photo of a woman's hand as she rolls her joint in kief, photo helps answer the question

Moroccans know kief as a mix between cannabis and tobacco smoked in a traditional and narrow pipe with a clay bowl called a sebsi. Some people suggest the term kief originates from the Arabic kayf meaning pleasure, intoxication, and good times. The Arabic term has been adopted by Russian and Hebrew languages to denote positive emotions and sensations. Kief has been spelled as "keef" or "kif" and called "dry sift" or "pollen." All of this confusion leaves people wondering: “what is kief?” No matter what it's called, kief is one of the most sought-after parts of the cannabis plant 

What Is Kief? a close-up photo of a big ball of kief sitting on a table

Kief is the collection of tiny, resinous hairs on cannabis flower nugs known as trichomes. Sticky and amber-colored trichomes contain a high concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes. Trichome hairs can be found on cannabis leaves and stems, but are primarily found on the flower itself. Although trichome levels vary by marijuana strain, there are three different types of trichomes found on the cannabis plant: 

  1. Bulbous trichomes can't be seen with the naked eye. Bulbous trichomes are small and bulbous, specifically, between 10 to 15 micrometers or microns. For reference, a human hair is between 40 to 40 microns wide.
  2. Capitate sessile trichomes are more abundant than bulbous trichomes and have a slightly longer stalk. 
  3. Capitate-stalked trichomes are the most plentiful trichomes ranging between 50 to 100 microns wide. Capitate-stalked trichomes contain a basal cell stalk and a gland head. 

Since kief is comprised of cannabis trichomes, and trichomes contain precursor cannabinoids like THCA and CBDAkief is very potent. Through various methods and techniques, kief is collected by manually removing the trichomes from the cannabis flower. Growers separate trichomes when the plant has matured and more than half of the trichomes have turned an amber color. 

How To Collect Kief 

Now that we’ve answered the question, “what is kief,” we can talk about how to collect kief. As an alternative to high-cost concentrates and extraction equipment, kief can provide cannabis consumers with a potent way to medicate without smoking as much organic, plant material. There are multiple ways to collect kief, some more efficient than others. Since trichome colors vary, kief can range from a light green to darker green colors, the latter meaning it might contain some plant matter.  

Cannabis Grinder photo of a grinder that has a kief collector, with someone lifting kief out to show what it looks like

The easiest and most accessible way to collect kief is to use a three-chamber weed grinder. When using a weed grinder, a person puts flower bud in between the teeth of the grinder, closes the top, and twists to grind the flower. While not as effective as other methods, weed grinders may have a kief catcher in the bottom compartment where kief is stored. However, using a marijuana grinder can cause trichomes to stick to the inside of the grinding chamber making it difficult to remove. 

Dry Sift 

Dry sifting for cannabis trichomes is far more effective than simply using a grinder, especially for large quantities of cannabis flower. Consumers can buy multiple pollen-catching screens of varying sizes to improve the collection process. Dry sifting requires layering the screens from largest to smallest and hand-rubbing nugs across screens to remove as much plant matter as possible. Kief ranges between 75 to 125 microns wide. For dry sifting kief, experienced consumers recommend using screens between 80 and 270 lines per inch (LPI). 

Dry Ice 

Dry ice kief separation is one of the most convenient and efficient ways to remove trichomes from the cannabis plant. For example, dry ice kief separation requires a clean surface, parchment paper, cannabis flower, dry ice, and a micron bubble bag between 90 or 120 microns. After pouring the marijuana and dry ice in the bubble bag, consumers can shake the bag multiple times over a clean surface to remove as much kief as possible and then collect it. 

How To Use Kief 

Kief can be used in a variety of ways from adding it to your cannabis flower to introducing it into your daily meals. The most straightforward way to consume kief is to simply smoke or vape it. Since kief tends to burn faster than any other part of the cannabis plant, consumers use it sparingly. For one, consumers can incorporate kief on top of bowl of ground-up flower to increase its potency. Kief can also be added into a joint to amplify the desired effects. For a larger dose, consumers can add wax to the outside of the joint and coat the sticky part or the entire joint with kief. 

Hash 

Hashish, or hash, has been used for centuries across ancient Persia, the Middle East, and India. Today, cannabis consumers can apply low to high tech methods to make hash. Applying intense heat and pressure to collected trichomes breaks apart the resin glands leaving a brick-lick substance. The pressurized process decarboxylates the kief to activate the psychoactive THC. Depending on the technology and process used, hash can range between green to brown color. 

Moon Rock image of a marijuana moon rock with a white background

Kief can be used to top off the extremely potent moon rocks. Moon rocks feature a flower bud covered in oil and sprinkled or drenched in kief. While messy to make, moon rocks can be made by heating up a cannabis oil and applying it over any marijuana strain. While still warm, consumers can sprinkle kief or roll the wax-covered nug into kief using tongs. After the concoction has hardened, consumers can break it down by hand and smoke it in a bowl. Avoid using a grinder since it can undo the process and grind the weed too much. 

Cooking or Edible 

Kief can be introduced into a meal or edible. Because of its subtle aroma, kief doesn't alter the taste of a recipe or edible. Before adding it into an oil or butter like cannabutter, kief must be decarboxylated. This can be done in an oven or while cooking at low temperatures.  

Coffee or Tea 

Many cannabis consumers add kief to their cup of coffee or tea. The heat from the drink can be enough to decarboxylate or activate the cannabinoids in the kief for 15 to 30 minutes. While this method may take some time, kief-infused coffee can add an extra level of stimulation and effects. The more kief is added, the more potent the effects will feel.  

What About CBD Kief? 

CBD flower can contain as much as 20 percent CBD with trace amounts of THC. Made from hemp plants, CBD flower can't be efficiently collected through traditional manual separation. For patients looking for an alternative to CBD kief, they may consider a distillate form of CBD. CBD distillates, or CBD isolates, are made from hemp oil and contain up to 99 percent crystalline CBD. Molecular distillation to make isolates removes the waxes, chlorophyll, mold, residual solvents, heavy metals, and THC. 

Compared with other extract forms, kief can provide medical and recreational consumers with all of the cannabinoids and terpenes found in a specific strain. Using all of the cannabinoids can enhance the effects due to the chemical's synergistic behavior. Kief consumers can avoid the potentially harmful solvents and byproducts of modern cannabinoid extraction methods. Because of the fine consistency of kief, it can be difficult to dose but is a noticeable and worthwhile addition to a packed bowl or meal.