What Is Kief?

You may have noticed the small, crystal-like formations on the exterior of your cannabis flowers. Individually, those formations are called trichomes (resin glands), and it’s where cannabinoids, cannabis’s active ingredients, take shape 

A collection of trichomes is called kief. Kief, sometimes called toppings and pollen, is a concentrated form of cannabis that can give your flower an extra kick. 

In this post, we’ll be talking about all things kief, like: 

  • What is kief? 
  • Where does kief come from?
  • Where does kief get its name? 
  • How do you collect kief? 
  • What is the point of kief?
  • What do you do with kief?

Note: in this post, CBD hemp will be referred to as the more broad cannabis nomenclature.

What is Kief?

To the naked eye, high-quality kief is a blonde color and resembles fine sand. Up close though, kief looks much different:

Closeup of trichomes which turn into kief
Trichomes closeup. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia user Rodzief.

Under a microscope, trichomes appear as mushroom-shaped stalks with bulbous heads. Kief is a collection of these bulbous heads after they’ve been broken off the stalk.

Where Does Kief Come From?

When cannabis is dried and cured, trichome heads become brittle and break off. There are three kinds of trichomes on the cannabis plants: 

  • Bulbous – 10-30 µm (micrometers) The smallest of the three trichome types. These tiny trichomes are also invisible to the naked eye and are the most numerous— covering the entirety of the plant. Bulbous trichomes contain cannabinoids, but their size limits their carrying capacity. 
  • Capitate-Sessile – 25-100 µm. Slightly larger than bulbous trichomes, capitate-sessile trichomes start to take on the more familiar mushroom, stalk-and-ball shape. 
  • Capitate-Stalked – 50-500 µm. Visible to the naked eye, capitate-stalked trichomes bulk up during cannabis’s flowering stage. Because they are the largest trichomes, they can produce more cannabinoids (CBD, THC, CBN, etc.) than the other trichomes. 

Trichomes don’t just produce cannabinoids. Cannabis’s essential oils are also created and stored in the trichomes, meaning that not only are trichomes responsible for a bud’s potency but their unique fragrance and flavor too.

Side-Note about trichomes: 

Many plants have developed their own trichomes for different reasons. Some plants, like the carnivorous Cape Sundew, use their trichomes to capture, trap, and eat small insects. 

It’s believed that cannabis plants developed trichomes as a defense mechanism. Cannabis trichomes deter hungry herbivores with overwhelming aroma and bitter taste. Trichomes also help protect cannabis from wind damage and some varieties of fungal growth.

Is Kief the Same as Hash? 

Kief and hash are not the same. Kief is the precursor to hash. When introduced to pressure (and sometimes heat and/or solvents,) kief can turn into a solid mass and can be anywhere between light brown to near black in color.

Pieces of hash pressed from kief
Wikimedia user Mjpresson

Where Did the Name “Kief” Come From?

The name “Kief” comes from the Arabic word كيف “kayf,” meaning “opiate” or “joy.” 

In Morocco, kief (kif) refers to a bowl of unpressed hash mixed with tobacco which is then smoked from traditional sebsi pipe.

How Do You Pronounce “Kief”

The name “kief” is pronounced like “key-f” [keef].

How To Collect Kief

There are plenty of ways to collect your own kief. They’re all as simple as agitating your cannabis hemp flower. You will need some specialized equipment.

Three chambered grinder pulled apart
A 4-piece grinder. Kief collects in the bottom chamber.

How to Collect Kief with a Kief Catcher Grider 

Many smokers will already have one of these to break down their smokable flower into more manageable material. If you have a 4-piece grinder, you may have noticed that the second to last chamber has a screened bottom. 

When you grind and agitate flower, trichomes will break off from the flower and fall through that screen and collect as kief. It will take some time to accumulate enough kief to enjoy— weeks or months. To collect your kief, unscrew your grinder’s bottom chamber and scoop it out. 

How to Collect Kief with Screens/Kief Box

Some enthusiasts love kief so much they build (or buy) boxes with built-in silk screens in order to shake and tumble the cannabis. The screens inside are generally finer than the screen you’ll find in your run-of-the-mill three-chambered grinder. 

Different screens will yield different grades of kief. The finer the better. If built into a box, go ahead, put your cannabis flowers above the screened section, and shake. You won’t be disappointed with the result. 

How to Store Kief

Whatever method you choose, be sure to store your kief in a cool, dry place. Outside factors like moisture, heat, and UV light can lower your kief’s potency.

What Can You Do With Kief?

Now that you have a nice pile of kief, what do you do with it? Check out our not-so-exhaustive list below. 

Smoke Your Kief

There are a few ways to smoke kief, including sprinkling it on top of your bowl, called “crowning a bowl,” and rolling kief into your joint. 

Many smokers who use pipes and bowls will tell you that a kief-topped bowl is the way to go (and they’re not wrong.) You’ll notice that a crowned bowl will cherry (glow red hot) longer than a normal bowl, and will have more flavor than an uncrowned bowl. 

If you choose to roll a kief joint, be sure to evenly mix the kief in with your other material before rolling, otherwise, you could end up with one big canoe (an uneven-burning joint.) 

Vape Your Kief

If you can smoke kief, you can also vape it. Vaping your kief will not only bring out its full flavor, but it’ll be kinder to your lungs in the long run. Be sure to keep up with cleaning your vape though. Vaping kief can gum up your screens much quicker than using traditional flower. 

Add Kief to Your Coffee

That’s right! You can add kief to your coffee (or tea or hot water if you choose, but the point is that it has to be hot.) To activate the kief and the cannabinoids inside, you have to first decarboxylate it with heat. Adding kief to a steaming cup of coffee will do the trick. Keep in mind that you don’t need much kief to make a potent drink. 

Press Your Kief Into Hash

You can use your kief to make many different cannabis extracts. The easiest to make yourself with no specialized equipment is hash. Fold up your kief with wax paper and apply a lot of pressure. 

Use Kief to Make Edibles

CBD edibles are one of the most pleasant ways to use your CBD kief. Just like CBD flower, you can use infuse your kief into butter or coconut oil. Remember to decarboxylate it first! 

Frequently Asked Questions About Kief

Is Kief Legal?

It depends where you are and where you get your kief from. CBD kief is federally legal assuming it contains less than 0.3% d9-THC by dry weight. Consult an attorney for specifics. 

What Is the Point of Kief?

Kief is a cannabis concentrate that collects automatically at the bottom of grinders. While you don’t necessarily have to use it, why not use the concentrated cannabis that you already have on hand? 

Does Kief Make You Sick?

Assuming you use kief the same way you use your normal cannabis flower, no, kief shouldn’t make you sick. If you have an aversion to cannabis, then kief may make you sick. If you use kief in an ‘off-label’ way, like say you eat raw kief, you may also get sick. 

Is Kief Dangerous? 

Kief contains higher concentrations of cannabinoids than the flower it’s harvested from. When used cautiously and correctly, kief is not dangerous. 

Sunset Lake CBD’s CBD Kief Lineup

If you don’t want to wait and harvest your own CBD kief, no worries— we’ve got you covered. Sunset Lake CBD offers a nice lineup of CBD Kief and pre-rolled CBD Kief Blunts.

Updated March 16, 2022


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