What Is Kief?

You may have noticed that your cannabis buds are covered in small, crystalline formations. Individually, these formations are called trichomes and it’s where cannabinoids, cannabis’s active ingredients, are created. A collection of these trichomes is called kief. 

By the end of this post, you’ll know what kief is, and: 

  • Where kief comes from
  • Where it gets its name 
  • How you can collect your own kief 
  • What you can do with kief
  • And more…

What Is Kief?

Kief, sometimes called “toppings” or “pollen” is a solventless cannabis concentrate that can give your traditional cannabis flower an extra kick. 

Whereas traditional cannabis flower can reach potencies of up to 25% CBD (or THC depending on your flower,) kief’s potency percentage can range anywhere from the low 20s to mid-50s. 

To the naked eye, high-quality kief is a golden-yellow color that resembles sand. Under a microscope, the individual components of kief, trichomes, look much different.

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

When we magnify trichomes, we can clearly see that they have a mushroom shape— long stalks and bulbous heads.

Where Does Kief Come From?

When cannabis flower is dried and processed, trichome heads can become brittle and break off from the flower. There are three main types of trichomes that grow on cannabis plants:

  • 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 cannabis, produce their own 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 cannabis plants developed their trichomes as a defense mechanism. Cannabis trichomes deter hungry herbivores with an overwhelmingly bitter taste and can also protect the cannabis plant from some varieties of fungi.

Is Kief The Same As Hash?

Kief and hash are not the same. Both are cannabis concentrates, but hash is kief that’s been heated and pressurized (and sometimes introduced to solvents.) The result is a solid mass of hash that can be anywhere between light brown to near black in color.

Pieces of hash pressed from kief
Wikimedia user Mjpresson

Where Did “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 Kief

There are several ways to collect your own kief. You will need some specialized equipment.

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

How To Use A Kief Catcher

Many cannabis flower users will already have one of these to break down their buds. If you have a four-piece grinder, you may have noticed that the bottom chamber sits underneath a screen that catches your flower.

When you grind your cannabis down, trichomes will break off from your flower and fall through that screen and collect as kief. It may take some time for kief to collect in this chamber— weeks or months depending on your consumption. 

Check this chamber every once in a while and scoop out your kief. Some grinders will even come with a special scraper to make collecting your kief easier.

How To Collect Kief With Screens

You can collect kief by rubbing your cannabis plants against a small-gauge silk screen. This is generally the preferred method of extracting large amounts of kief. 

Different sized screens will yield different grades of kief. Finer screens should yield higher-quality kief.

How To Store Your Kief

However you choose to extract your kief, be sure to store it in a dry, cool place. Moisture, heat, and UV light can harm your kief’s potency.

How Do You Use Kief?

Now that you have a nice pile of premium cannabis concentrate, how should you consume your kief? Check out our not-so-exhaustive list below.

Smoke Kief

The most simple way to consume kief— smoke it with your cannabis flower. Many smokers who use pipes will tell you that a kief-topped bowl is ‘the’ way to go. You notice that a kief-topped bowl stay lit longer than a normal bowl and has a bit more flavor. 

If you choose to add kief to your joint, spliff, or blunt be sure to evenly mix your kief in with your other material otherwise you could end up with an uneven burn.

Vape Kief

If you can smoke it, you can probably vape it. The same is true for your kief. 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 vape kief as it’ll gum up your screens much quicker than cannabis flower.

Make Moon Rocks

Moon rocks are small cannabis buds covered in hash oil (another cannabis concentrate) and then rolled in kief. They are very potent and easy to make yourself

Add Kief To Coffee

Want to spice up your morning cup of coffee? Tea will also work, but it has to be hot. To activate the kief and the cannabinoids inside, you have to decarboxylate it with heat. 

A steaming cup of coffee will do the trick, but keep in mind that you don’t need much kief to make a potent drink.

Press Kief Into Hash

With the right amount of heat and pressure, you can make your own homemade hash. All you need is:

  • A piece of parchment paper. Place your kief inside the parchment paper and fold it over 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.

Use Kief To Make Edibles

You can use kief in addition to your cannabis flower to make potent edibles. Remember to decarboxylate your kief first.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Kief Legal?

Kief’s legality depends on the state you’re in and on whether or not it was harvested from CBD flower or THC 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 about kief’s legal status in your state.

What Is The Point Of Kief?

Kief is a cannabis concentrate that collects at the bottom of your grinder. While you don’t necessarily have to use it, it is a potent form of cannabis concentrate that you don’t have to work too hard to collect.

Does Kief 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 cannabis or pollen you may have a slight reaction to kief.

Is Kief Dangerous? 

Kief isn’t dangerous. As a cannabis concentrate, kief contains a higher concentration of cannabinoids than your traditional cannabis flower.

Where Can You Get Kief?

If you don’t want to harvest your own kief— Sunset Lake CBD has you covered. We offer a small lineup of jarred CBD kief, harvested from our premium CBD hemp flower and pre-rolled CBD kief blunts.

What Is Kief: The Bottom Line

Kief is an easy-to-use and convenient cannabis concentrate. While it may be a little too potent for some novice cannabis users, kief is a great option for medicinal cannabis users who are looking for a little extra relief.

Updated Aug. 2, 2022


  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).