What Is Kief: The Ultimate Guide
What is kief? If you’re a lover of cannabis concentrates, join us as we take an in-depth look at this simple substance, how it is made, where it came from, and how to make it at home.
Been staring into the bottom of your grinder wondering what that sweet, delicate golden powder is? Well, wonder no more.
You’re looking at kief, one of the simplest cannabis concentrates known to man.
In this post, we take an in-depth look at kief, its origins, how it’s made, and share our expert tips on making it at home.
So spark up (or vape away, you hipster), read on, and make sure you sign up to GreenRush today. Better yet, use the promo code at the end of this article and you’ll get $20 off your first FOUR cannabis delivery orders. You’re welcome.
What is Kief?
Kief refers to a type of cannabis concentrate. The term comes from the Arabic word kayf (كيف) which means "to pleasure." It is made by separating the trichomes (the tiny, hairy crystals you commonly see on buds) from the cannabis plant to create a delicate, golden powder.
These trichomes are where majority of the cannabinoids and terpenes that give cannabis its psychoactive and medicinal properties are made.
Many plants have developed external trichomes for various purposes. The Venus Fly Trap, for example, has trichomes on the inside of its leaves to sense for prey, while the tomato plant uses trichomes to sense the presence of predators.
According to an article on Cannabis Culture, scientists hypothesize that the trichomes found on cannabis work as a similar defence mechanism, allowing the plant to:
- Intoxicate herbivores and discourage them to eat more of it.
- Inhibit fungal growth.
- Shelter the plant from environmental changes like high winds or low humidity.
- Attract insects to help spread pollen and possibly even ward off predators.
How is Kief Made?
Kief is made by separating trichomes from the cannabis plant, especially the buds. This is generally done using one of the two following two methods.
- Dry sifting: This involves rubbing dried, preferably frozen cannabis buds against a collection of fine sieves to remove the delicate trichomes from the plant material using friction.
- Dry Ice: This involves placing dried cannabis trim in a fine mesh bag with dry ice and shaking the bag. The friction combined with the extremely cold temperature of the ice allows the trichomes to separate easily from the plant and fall through the mesh to be collected.
The end product is a fine, golden powder with a high concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes. While regular flower tends to reach a maximum of 25-30% THC, good quality kief can contain up to 60%.
Kief can be made from any cannabis strain, including CBD-rich strains such as Harlequin and Cannatonic.
The Origins of Kief:
The exact origins of kief are unknown. The roots of the word lead us to believe that it originated in Arabic or islamic societies, but research suggests that concentrated cannabis stems from ancient cultures in the Indian sub-continent.
Kief is the primary ingredient in hash, which experts believe comes from India.
The first mentions of hash, known as charas in these regions, date back to 1000 BCE. According to various studies, charas played an important role in religious ceremonies, especially among Hindus.
It was made by rolling live cannabis tops between the hands for prolonged periods of time, creating a thick, black resin.
However, the process of dry sifting parts of the cannabis plant (explained in more detail below) to create kief is more common in Arabic and islamic society.
While the first mentions of hashish didn’t appear in islamic literature until the 10th century AD, the fact that Middle Eastern hash is created directly from kief (whereas Indian charas is not) suggests that it may have its roots in parts of modern-day Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.
How to Make Kief at Home:
Making kief at home is super simple.
The easiest way to do so is by using a three-chamber grinder. These grinders allow you to grind your flower while simultaneously catching any trichomes released by the friction in a separate compartment.
Three-chamber kief grinders are available at most good dispensaries and head shops and make for an extremely easy means to make small amounts of kief.
If you’re looking to make larger quantities of kief, however, a three-chamber grinder won’t do the trick. Instead, use one of the following two methods:
How to Make Dry Sift Kief:
What you’ll need:
- Dried cannabis buds. Place them in the freezer overnight or for a few hours for the best results.
- At least one silk screen with a fine mesh of 80-270 lines per inch (LPI)
- A clean, flat surface.
- Place your screen on a clean, flat surface (the kitchen counter or dining table both work well). For best results, stack multiple screens on top of each other, starting with the finest screen on the bottom of the stack.
- Place your dried buds on the screen.
- Move the buds gently around the screen using your hands. This is a very delicate process. Do not apply pressure to the buds or the screen as you will just push more plant material through it, leading to a contaminated final product.
- The trichomes will fall through the screen (or screens) and the kief will gather on the surface below. You should not expect a big yield of kief using this method. Watch the video above to see how much yield you can expect using this method.
- Your kief should have a golden colour. If it is slightly green, this means it has been contaminated by plant material.
- Use a business card or something similar to collect your kief and place it in an airtight container for storage.
How to Make Dry Ice Kief:
What you’ll need:
- Dried cannabis buds or trim. Place them in the freezer overnight or for a few hours for the best results.
- A super fine mesh bag. Alternatively, the Bubble Bag works great for this too.
- A clean, flat surface or container to catch your kief.
- Dry ice.
- Place your cannabis buds/trim and dry ice (roughly 2:1 parts kief to ice) in the fine mesh bag.
- Grab the top of the bag, hold it over your clean, flat surface or container and shake the bag. The low temperatures and friction will cause the trichomes to separate from the plant material and fall through the mesh.
- Shake the bag for roughly 1-2 minutes.
- Use a brush or credit card to collect all the kief in your container and store it in an airtight container.
How to Use Kief:
Now that you know how to create high-quality kief at home, here are four different ways to use it:
Smoke or vape it: Sprinkle some kief in a joint, blunt, pipe, or bong along with some of your favorite flower and spark up. If you prefer vaping, throw some kief into your pre-heated vaporizer along and vape away.
Press and store it: Use a pollen press to press your kief into neat little blocks and store it in an airtight container or bag. You should be able to find a pollen press or something similar at your local head shop or online.
Use it to make hash: Heat and compress your kief repeatedly to create mind-blowing hash. For step-by-step instructions on how to do so, check out our previous post on hash.
Cook with it: Kief has subtle flavor, making it ideal for cooking. You can use it to make butter, brownies, and various other delicious treats. For more information on cooking with concentrates like kief, click here.
To make high-quality kief you’re going to need strains with a lot of mature trichomes. If you’re planning on giving one of the above methods a go, make sure you get your hands on one of these trichome-loaded super strains:
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