What Is Kief?

A guide to kief: how to extract and decarboxylate kief, its uses and its powerful effects.
Author: Jason Oliver

Kief, also known as dry sift, is a collection of the trichomes, or resinous glands that grow all over the marijuana plant. To be specific, kief is technically only the bulbous tip of each trichome, which is the most potent part of the plant. But not everyone knows this fact, so when someone is talking about kief, they’re probably talking about a collection of various parts of the trichomes.

When marijuana plant material dries out, the trichomes dry out and begin to break off. This is why marijuana flowers should be handled minimally before they’re consumed. It’s a natural result of grinding cannabis flower, but kief is also targeted and collected by growers with large amounts of trim. Kief can be consumed by itself or combined with other forms of marijuana to create a more intense high.

Marijuana kief may help medicate consumers or get them high, but the tiny trichome glands also serve a purpose for cannabis plants growing in the wild. In addition to attracting pollinators, they also intoxicate herbivores (a strategy that hopefully results in the potential marijuana plant-eater forgetting what they were doing and wandering off.)

Kief Extraction

People can purchase kief from cannabis dispensaries, but for those on a budget, kief is a cannabis concentrate that’s a natural result of grinding the flower they already have. This can be done by using a three-chamber weed grinder. These allow herb to be inserted into the top chamber; it falls into the second chamber after it’s ground. Meanwhile, the kief collects in the very bottom chamber for later use.

For large-scale kief extraction, people use multiple layers of silkscreens to filter the kief from the marijuana trim. Extraction methods vary; sometimes plant material is packed on top of silkscreens and covered in plastic before being pounded to separate the pollen; other manufacturers simply move the trim around until the kief falls off. Other methods of extraction involve using dry ice or ice water to freeze the trichomes and separate them (the latter is how bubble hash is made). Successful kief extraction results in a product that’s light-colored and free of green plant material.

What To Do With Kief

For those wondering how to use kief, most find that it’s an incredibly versatile cannabis product. The things do do with kief include putting it inside smokables and edibles, as well as using it to make concentrates such as hash or rosin.

Sprinkle It In

Some argue that the best way to use kief is simply to sprinkle it into smokable cannabis or combine it into edible recipes. This is no doubt the easiest way to use it. Kief can be sprinkled into a bowl of bud (“crowning a bowl”) or rolled into a joint with ground flower. Another popular way to use kief is to mix it into recipes to make marijuana-infused treats. This works for brownies and baked goods; it’s also easy to add a pinch of kief to a beverage to make a soothing hot chocolate or cannabis tea. In order to activate cannabinoids such as THC, it’s important to decarboxylate kief before using it in edibles.

Coat Joints with It

In addition to being rolled inside of joints, kief can also be used on the outside of them. Adding any sort of concentrate to the exterior of a joint is known as “twaxing” it – and it’s an easy way to add potency to a run-of-the-mill joint. To twax a joint, simply lick the exterior and roll it in kief. For extra potency, coat the joint in honey oil before rolling it in the dry sift.

Make Hash

Hash, or hashish, is made when the kief resin is pressed together into a mass. This can be accomplished by hand (rubbing the kief until it begins to stick together and form a ball.) Larger amounts of kief hash can be made using a hash press. The difference between hash and kief often causes confusion with cannabis novices; the important fact to know is that hash is more potent than kief because it’s made of a large amount of kief pressed together.

Make Rosin

Another option for utilizing cannabis kief is to make rosin from it. Rosin is a marijuana concentrate made without the use of solvents. The process involves using some type of a heated press; commercial rosin manufacturers use large, specialized presses, while at-home rosin makers can use simple items such as a coffee filter, hair straightening iron, and parchment paper to heat and squeeze rosin out of batches of kief to create potent dabs.

Produce Moon Rocks

Also known as “cannabis caviar,” moon rocks are triple-impact marijuana products that contain three ingredients: whole marijuana buds, honey oil, and kief. Making moon rocks involves taking a full nug of your favorite strain and coating it in honey oil before rolling it in a layer of kief. After the bud dries, it’s ready to be broken up by hand and smoked by itself or added in with other products.

Kief Effects

When it comes to different forms of cannabis, kief is incredibly potent. In fact, it’s considered the original THC concentrate. Cannabis strains that contain significant amounts of THC might run anywhere from 12% to as high as 25% on average. Meanwhile, an average batch of kief can rate at nearly 70% THC. This means that THC-rich kief will cause all of the classic THC effects, from a euphoric high to an increased heart rate and hunger.

High-CBD kief collected from hemp is growing in popularity. Unlike marijuana kief, it’s not psychoactive and can calm anxiety, create a sense of relaxation, lower blood pressure, and cause drowsiness. Whether the product is high-CBD kief or kief with a significant amount of THC, the effects from consuming it will be much more pronounced than consuming marijuana flower.

Storage of Kief

Many people allow kief to collect in the bottom of their weed grinders, gathering it up and consuming it as soon as there’s a significant amount. For those who would like to collect kief for later use (or who have purchased kief from a dispensary), store kief in an airtight container away from heat and light sources. This will help it keep its potency.

Kief FAQ

While many people are familiar with marijuana flower, novice consumers often aren’t sure how to use kief; some haven’t even heard of it. Here are some of the questions people commonly have about kief:

What’s kief?

Often spelled keef or kief, it’s the trichomes and resin that dry and break off from the exterior of cannabis plants. Because kief is the source of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids, it’s incredibly potent and is typically sprinkled in with smokable products or mixed into edibles.

What’s the best way to use kief?

The easiest way to use kief is to simply sprinkle it in with the flower in a joint, a bowl, or a dab. When heated and inhaled, kief provides an immediate and intense high. Kief can also be decarboxylated and mixed in with food or beverages for a more gradual effect.

How strong is kief?

Because kief is the resin and glands that produce marijuana’s cannabinoids (or its active ingredients), kief is significantly more potent than marijuana flower. If an average strain of marijuana bud contains between 12% and 25% THC, an average batch of kief will contain 70% THC.

What’s the difference between kief vs hash?

Hash is made from kief that’s been compressed. People can make hash at home by hand or for larger-scale hash manufacturing, by using a hash press. Because hash contains a concentrated amount of kief, hash is a lot more potent than dry sift kief.

Does kief go bad

While kief doesn’t go bad, per se, the cannabinoids in it can lose their potency if they become oxidized. Like all forms of marijuana, kief should be kept in an airtight container. Avoid exposing it to heat and light to keep it as fresh as possible.

Can you snort kief?

While any sort of powder can be snorted, inhaling kief into the nostrils won’t create a high. This is because it won’t be absorbed through the mucous membranes. To create an effect, kief must be smoked or decarboxylated (heated) and ingested orally.

Getting the Most Out of Marijuana with Kief

Because it’s essentially a marijuana byproduct that falls off when the flower is ground or handled, it’s easy to overlook kief as being useful. Cannabis consumers who take the time to collect their kief insist otherwise, as they know the potency this cannabinoid-packed powder. Understanding how to use kief is an excellent way for recreational as well as medical marijuana consumers to truly get the most out of their cannabis flower.

Jason Oliver - CNBS Author: Jason Oliver
Jason is our master grower. He has been growing cannabis for almost 10 years and working in a commercial cannabis cultivation business as an external consultant for more than three years. Helping us with getting all the facts right, Jason shares his insights via in-depth grower’s and buyer’s guides which are advanced but yet easy to read and understand.
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