Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Kief refers to the collection of loose cannabis trichomes — the amber and white hairs that grow on cannabis flower and leaves – accumulated from sifting cannabis flowers with a mesh screen or sieve. Kief is the resin gland of the cannabis plant. Kief is also known as “Dust,” “Chief,” or “cannabis crystals.” Grinders with a mesh screen and a collection compartment are popular for kief-catching.
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What Is Kief?
Trichomes are the cannabinoid and terpene “factory” for the cannabis plant. As kief refers to plant trichomes with much less plant matter than bud or flower, it contains more cannabinoids and is quite potent. Where cannabis flower can reach a THC content of up to 30%, kief ranges from 50% to 80%. Depending on tolerance, the effects can last up to four hours if smoked or vaped.
Kief is often pressed into hashish but is sometimes used in its loose form, usually on its own or mixed with cannabis flower. In Morocco, kief does not refer to the trichomes of cannabis but a mixture of chopped cannabis and tobacco smoked through a pipe called a “sebsi.”
How to Extract Kief
There are several ways to extract kief from cannabis flower. Some are simpler than others, but different extraction methods can give different types and qualities of hash when pressed together. Blonde-colored hash is a purer product, whereas green-colored hash still has plenty of plant matter and is less refined.
Silkscreens – Dry Sifting
This is where cannabis flower is laid on top of silkscreens and covered before being pounded or shaken around, allowing the trichomes to fall through the silkscreen. Silkscreens have different mesh sizes, meaning some have smaller holes than others. Smaller holes tend to capture the most potent trichomes and less plant matter but yield smaller results.
3-chamber grinders are perhaps one of the most popular ways to extract kief at home. Most people do not consume industrial quantities of cannabis, so making huge quantities is not usually viable. Using a well-made grinder is a simple and approachable way of collecting kief.
This is where you line a clean bucket with cannabis bud or trim and place “bubble bags,” which are durable mesh screens designed to extract trichomes using dry ice, over the top of the bucket. The ice-cannabis mixture is then vigorously shaken over a collection plate or parchment paper, where the trichomes will fall through onto. Bubble bags come in different “microns,” meaning the holes in the screen are larger or smaller. Most start with a micron size of 160, then repeat the process with a 220-micron bubble bag to get a purer, more potent kief.
This is where butane, propane, or carbon dioxide are used to separate the trichomes from plant matter, resulting in a highly purified, thick, and viscous “cannabis oil,” “canna wax,” or “canna honey.” When it cools, the extract can harden. This is called “shatter.” There isn’t much difference between canna wax and canna shatter. Their appearance and consistency and texture result from how the extracted cannabis oil is heated and agitated.
Solvent extraction can also result in “cannabis crumble,” which has a dry, powdery consistency reminiscent of kief. However, the texture is very different – it’s still waxy, and it’s more of a yellow color associated with high-quality hash. Solvent extraction can produce much purer end products than solventless extraction methods, but they are not quickly or safely made at home.
Benefits and Risks of Kief
When trying any new form of cannabis, it’s essential to understand the benefits and risks to find the consumption method that best suits your needs.
- Removes plant material, making vaping a smoother, less harsh experience.
- Potent is a large hit of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids and terpenes.
- Versatile — can be used in many different ways.
- It can be too potent for some.
- Keeping trichomes can be tricky — they need to be appropriately stored, as trichomes are so tiny, they can easily be blown away.
- Solvent extraction is best left to the experts, and they must be tested for residue.
How to Use Kief
Press kief into hashish
This is one of the most common uses of kief. A mixture of heat and pressure, and you can make your own homemade dabs. All you need to do is:
- Place kief on parchment paper (baking paper). Roll up the parchment so it’s flat.
- Roll up the parchment into a newspaper.
- Wet the newspaper strip a little bit – damp rather than soaking.
- Press and heat the rolled-up parchment newspaper using an iron on a low setting.
- Turn the strip of parchment newspaper, heating and pressing with an iron for a few minutes on each side. Do this until the newspaper is dry.
- Once the newspaper is dry, unroll the newspaper and parchment paper, and you will be left with a piece of hashish, often brown or black.
As hash made in this manner still contains plenty of plant material, it is not necessarily as potent as some of the higher grades of hash. However, the results are often very flavorful, and many enjoy the smoothness of the vapor compared to vaping flower.
Mix kief with flower or vaporize it on its own
You can vaporize kief as you would flower, but many prefer to mix it with bud or flower to make it easier to use and provide an extra-potent hit.
Bake into edibles
One of the advantages of kief is that it is an excellent way to disperse cannabis in whatever dish you’re making if you’re cooking with it. However, as kief is more potent than its flower counterpart, you must also be careful how much you use. This is especially the case when it comes to edibles.
Another advantage of using kief for edibles is that, as there’s less plant material, the taste of cannabis isn’t nearly as overpowering (although there’s still plenty of flavor from the terpenes and flavonoids in the cannabis plant). This makes kief an excellent choice for making pot brownies or other edibles.
However, you will still need to decarb (remove the carbon dioxide) your kief just as you would flower to activate the cannabinoids. All you have to do is:
- Spread the kief on an oven-safe dish.
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (approx. 120 degrees Celsius).
- Place the dish in the oven and bake it for about 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, and that’s it! You have decarboxylated your kief and converted acidic cannabinoids like THCA and CBDA into THC and CBD.
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Add kief to your tea or coffee
Once you have decarbed your kief, infuse it with your milk or cream (just heat the two together for a few minutes) and add it to your tea or coffee.
Infuse kief into olive or coconut oil to make canna oil
There are many ways to make canna oil. Perhaps one of the simplest ways is to decarb the kief (see above) and leave it to infuse in some olive or coconut oil (olive oil is easier to work with at room temperature, but coconut oil is perhaps better for topicals) for two to three weeks out of direct sunlight. Strain out any leftover plant matter, and you have a canna-oil that lasts up to two years if kept in a cool, dry place.
The Bottom Line on Kief
Kief is undoubtedly a helpful product and is used to make a variety of cannabis extracts. Kief may be too potent for some, but it provides others with the relief they may need – especially if they’re in extreme pain and need an alternative to opioids. Without kief, we wouldn’t have concentrates, and concentrates have a wide variety of uses. Kief might not be for everyone, but it’s a highly worthwhile product for many people.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is kief illegal?
Kief is illegal in states where cannabis is illegal. In states with a medical marijuana or adult-use program, kief is considered “concentrate.” While laws on concentrates differ from state to state, kief is generally legal in states that have legalized cannabis for medical or adult use.
How strong is kief?
As kief refers to the trichomes (resin glands) of the cannabis plant, it is often more potent than flower. However, it does matter how much plant matter is in the kief. Kief can range from around 50% to 70% THC, with some as high as 80% and some as low as 30%. In general, though, kief is much stronger than flower.
Is kief dangerous?
Kief is not dangerous, especially when extracted using solventless methods. Perhaps the most challenging way of using kief is by smoking it in a pipe or bowl or as a “twax” joint (a mixture of cannabis flower, a paper soaked in cannabis oil extract, and covered in kief). We do not recommend this method of ingestion.
What are moon rocks?
Moon rocks are cannabis buds/flower dipped in hash oil and then rolled in kief for an extra-potent mixture of flower, cannabis oil, and kief.
Are there any cannabis varieties that contain lots of kief?
Varieties bred with hash-making in mind may produce more kief than average, but this is by no means a guarantee. Those looking for a kief- or resin-heavy variety may want to try Hash Plant, G13, White Widow, White Russian, Hashberry, OG Kush, Hindu Kush, Sharksbreath, Power Plant, Sour Diesel, Chemdawg, or Grape Ape.