A 2 ounce ball of CBD kief. Text reads "What Is Kief?"

If you’re in the market for potent hemp concentrates, you’ve likely come across the name “kief.” With little explanation about what kief is or where it comes from, you might think that a retailer is pulling a fast one. How can yellow dust contain so much CBD? A good question and one that we’ll address in this post.

We’ll also be addressing a few more common questions about what kief is, and:

  • Where it comes from
  • Where it gets its name
  • How you can collect your own
  • How to use it.

What Is Kief?

If you’ve ever been mystified by the appearance of your hemp flower as this author has, you’ve likely noticed that hemp flowers are covered in small, crystalline formations. Individually, we call these mushroom-shaped formations “trichomes.” On a hemp plant, the trichomes are where cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytochemicals are created and stored. A collection of hemp trichomes is called kief.

To the naked eye, high-quality kief is a golden-yellow color and somewhat resembles sand. It’s this yellowish color that lends itself to kief’s colloquial name, “pollen.” Think about how your windshield looks during the spring when trees release their pollen.

Unlike pollen, kief is nothing to sneeze at. Whereas traditional sungrown CBD hemp flower can reach potency percentages around the low 20s CBD, kief’s potency percentage can range anywhere from the low 20s to mid-50s meaning that on a weighted basis, half of your kief’s weight could be pure CBD.

Where Does Kief Come From?

When hemp flower is dried and processed, trichomes become brittle and break off from the flower. Mature hemp plants produce three types of trichomes: 

  • Bulbous trichomes – 10 – 30 µm (micrometers.) The smallest of the three types. Bulbous trichomes are invisible to the naked eye but are the most numerous— covering the entirety of the plant. 
  • Capitate-Sessile – 25 – 100 µm. Capitate-sessile trichomes are slightly larger than bulbous and start to take on the more familiar mushroom stalk-and-ball shape. 
  • Capitate-Stalked 50 – 500 µm. Capitate-stalked trichomes are so large that they are visible to the naked eye. These large trichomes tend to bulk up and glisten during the cannabis flower’s maturation and because of their size, they can produce more cannabinoids and terpenes than either bulbous or -sessile trichomes.

More On Trichomes 

Many plants, not just hemp, produce trichomes for different reasons. Some plants, like the carnivorous Cape Sundew, use their tentacle-like trichomes to capture and eat small insects. 

It’s believed that hemp plants developed trichomes as a defense mechanism. Hemp trichomes deter hungry herbivores with an overwhelmingly bitter taste. The terpenes within may also have antifungal properties and can protect the plant from various types of fungi. 

Is Kief The Same As Hash?

Kief and hash (short for hashish) are not the same thing. Hash is the processed form of kief. To make hash, one must apply heat and pressure or expose the kief to solvents (see: bubble hash.) Pressing kief into hash will result in a solid mass of dark-brown to black-colored hash like the piece we see below. 

Ten grams of hashish pressed from raw cannabis kief.
One Tolla (10 grams) of rolled Manali hashish

Kief and hash also have different effects on the user. When pressed, the cannabinoids and terpenes present in dry-sifted kief, can oxidize or chemically change into different phytochemicals altogether. For example, there’s a terpene called Hashishene that exists in only a handful of plants naturally but exists in just about every sample of hash. Researchers believe that it’s a photolytic rearrangement of myrcene; a terpene commonly found in most hemp and cannabis cultivars.

Where Did The Name “Kief” Come From?

Kief gets its name from the Moroccan Arabic word كيف “kayf,” loosely translated to mean “opiate” or “joy.” It’s pronounced like “key-f” [keef].

In Morocco, kief is usually mixed with tobacco and smoked from a traditional sebsi pipe.

How To Collect Your Own Kief

If everything you’ve heard about kief sounds intriguing, you may be wondering how to get your hands on some. Have no fear, there are a couple of ways to collect your own CBD kief from hemp flower. You will need some specialized equipment.

Collect Kief With A Four-Chambered Grinder

If you’re an experienced hemp flower consumer, you may already have or know what a grinder is. There are a few different kinds of grinders. To catch kief you’ll need a grinder with at least three chambers (four-piece grinders) the bottom of which sits under a screen that catches ground flower but is still large enough to allow trichome heads through. 

When you grind your hemp flowers, trichomes will collect in the bottom chamber over time. It will take a little bit of time for your kief collection to build— weeks or months depending on your consumption, but have no fear, it will happen. 

Once you have enough kief built up you can use the scoop that comes with the grinder or a piece of paper to scoop up your kief and add it to your hemp flower. 

Dry Sift Kief With Screens

You can also collect CBD kief by agitating your hemp flower or hemp trim over a small-gauge silk screen. This is how we at Sunset Lake CBD collect our larger amounts of kief.  

Different-sized screens will yield different grades of kief. Finer screens will yield a higher-quality final product.

How To Store Your Kief 

Regardless of your extraction method, you should store your CBD kief just as you store your bulk CBD hemp flower. If you want to preserve your kief’s potency and flavor, keep it in a cool, dark, dry place. External factors like heat and UV light can degrade your kief and oxidize the cannabinoids inside. 

Finding The Right Kief For You

If you want to skip all of the busy work of sifting your hemp flower, you can find and buy kief online. Sunset Lake CBD carries a few varieties in our store. Check out Jarred Kief here

Before you buy kief there are a few things you’ll want to look for and do before you pull the trigger. 

Three CBD Kief products stacked on top of eachother

Figure Out What You Want Kief For

Just like picking an appropriate hemp flower for your needs, you’ll want to figure out what you want to use kief for. If your goal is to use CBD kief to get ready for bed, you’ll want to avoid kief from cultivars known for their energetic effects. 

Only buy kief that’s extracted from cultivars that you would use. 

Look At The Certificate Of Analysis 

We mention it on this site time and time again, but before you purchase any CBD or hemp products online, be sure to look at its certificate of analysis. 

While not the most user-friendly document, this certificate should tell you what cannabinoids, terpenes, and possible solvents are present in your product. 

Related: How To Read A Certificate Of Analysis (COA)

Look At Product Reviews

Aren’t sure about a specific product? Read the reviews!

Sometimes the only way to weed out (pun not intended) quality kief products from bad ones is to read about other’s experiences. 

How To Use Kief To Enhance Your CBD Experience

Now that you’re an expert extractor and conscience consumer, how do you use kief? A great question, and one that we’ve written a non-exhaustive list for.  

Smoke it

Mix your kief with hemp flower and spark it up. Many smokers who use pipes will tell you that a kief-topped bowl is the way to go as it tends to stay lit longer and have a more noticeable flavor than a bowl without. If you choose to add kief to your joint, spliff, or blunt be sure to mix your it in with your other material otherwise you could end up with an uneven burn.

…Or Vape It

Vaping will not only bring out your kief’s full flavor, but it’ll be kinder to your lungs in the long run. 

Be sure to clean your vape often if you decide to do this, as kief will gum up your vaporizer’s screens much quicker than hemp flower.

Make Moon Rocks

Moon rocks are small hemp buds covered in hash oil (another hemp concentrate) and then rolled in kief. They are very potent though not very easy to make yourself as you would also need to have hash oil on hand. 

A cup of Sunset Lake CBD Coffee next to a one pound bag of beans.

Add To Your Coffee

Want to spice up your morning cup of coffee or tea? Add kief. Your drink has to be steaming hot for this method to work, as the heat will decarboxylate (activate) the kief’s cannabinoids.

Press Your Kief Into Hash

You can make your own homemade hash with a little heat and pressure. You’ll need some kief and parchment paper, a newspaper, and a clothes iron. Once you have everything, the steps are as follows. 

  • Place your kief inside the parchment paper and fold it until it’s flat. 
  • Roll this parchment paper into the fold of a newspaper and sprinkle a bit of water on the newspaper. 
  • Use an iron on a low setting and press it against the rolled-up newspaper. 
  • Turn the newspaper and press with the iron again until you’ve pressed each side of the newspaper for a few minutes. 
  • When the newspaper is dried, unroll the newspaper and parchment paper and you’ll have a nice piece of hash.

Make Edibles

You can mix your kief with your hemp flower to make potent edibles

Read our guest blog about baking with hemp and kief here

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Legal?

Kief’s legality depends on the state you live in and on whether or not it was harvested from CBD hemp flower or THC cannabis flower. CBD kief is federally legal assuming it contains less than 0.3% delta-9 THC by dry weight. 

THC kief is only legal in states where recreational THC cannabis flower is legal. Consult a local attorney for more specifics.

What’s The Point?

Kief is a cannabis concentrate that collects at the bottom of your grinder. You don’t have to use it, but it is a potent form of concentrate that takes almost no work to collect. 

Does It Make You Sick?

Kief should not make you sick provided that you use it as you would normal cannabis flower. If you’re allergic to hemp, cannabis, or pollen you may have a slight reaction to kief.

Is It Dangerous? 

As a hemp concentrate, kief contains a higher concentration of cannabinoids than your traditional cannabis flower, but as long as you consume it as you would hemp flower, you will be fine. 

Sources

  1. McGarvey, Casey. “Did You Know: There Are Different Types of Trichomes?” Delta Separations, 11 Nov. 2020, https://deltaseparations.com/types-of-cannabis-trichomes/.
  2. Brady, Pete. “Moroccan Hashish Journey.” Cannabis Culture, 21 May 2003, https://www.cannabisculture.com/content/2003/05/21/2860/
  3. Various, “The Readers Digest Gardeners Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers”, Readers Digest Association, 1992
  4. Bennet Patrick. “What are Trichomes and why do they Exist on Cannabis?” Leafly, 28 July 2016, https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/what-are-trichomes-on-cannabis
  5. Livingston SJ, et al. Cannabis glandular trichomes alter morphology and metabolite content during flower maturation. The Plant Journal, Jan 2020;101(1):37-56.
  6. Small E, Naraine S. Size matters: evolution of large drug-secreting resin glands in elite pharmaceutical strains of Cannabis sativa (marijuana). Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, Apr 2015;254(2).
Español