Ever wonder what to call all those tiny, sticky crystals that cover cannabis flower? They’re called kief, also known as dry sift or pollen.
Kief refers to the resin glands which contain the terpenes and cannabinoids that make cannabis so unique. While marijuana sans kief still contains cannabinoids, the resin glands that develop on flower buds pack the biggest punch.
Kief and trichomes: Built-in protection for cannabis plants
While kief specifically refers to the bulbous, crystal formation on the tip of a gland, the substance itself is just one part of what is called a trichome, or a “hair.”
Many different plants and algae have external trichomes for specific evolutionary purposes. For example, some carnivorous plants rely on sticky trichomes to trap their prey. Other plants, like cannabis, use them as a deterrent to herbivores.
Trichomes on the marijuana plant keep away hungry herbivores by producing an intense psychoactive experience, theoretically disorienting the animal and preventing it from eating the rest of the plant. The resin’s strong, distinct odor also attracts pollinating insects and predators, which might keep herbivore populations at bay.
What is a Kief Catcher?
Many grinders, typically those made of aluminum or stainless steel, come with a kief catcher, which is the bottom chamber of the grinder that uses a screen to catch the trichomes as you grind your cannabis flower. As you grind your flower, the trichomes will sift through the screen and collect kief in the catcher. Once you’ve accumulated a decent amount, you can remove it with a scraper.
If you’re looking to process large quantities at home, you can purchase a kief box, which typically has two chambers — one for sifting cannabis flower and the other for catching kief. Put your cannabis into the chamber, close the box and shake. As you shake the flower, the trichomes fall off, get sifted through the mesh screen, and end up in the chamber.
What is Dry Sift?
On a commercial level, cannabis is sieved in a vibratory sifter over a series of screens to create dry sift. The term “dry sift” is essentially another term to describe kief, only it typically denotes the process of collecting large amounts of kief. Though collecting dry sift is typically a commercial endeavor, there are a couple of options for making dry sift at home, namely through a set of sifting screens or a tumbler — a mesh cylinder or drum that rotates and sifts kief into a catch surface or container.
Making Dry Sift or Kief with Sifting Screens
When making dry sift with sifting screens, hash makers use three screens of varying micron sizes to most effectively separate and capture trichome heads from the rest of the plant. Microns are a measurement for the openings in a filter screen. The sizes of screens should start at roughly 140 microns, then 100, and 70 at the bottom.
Hash makers also use enclosed sift boxes, which encase separated stacks of screens. Dropping dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) pellets onto a sifting screen prior to a sift is a common method of making purer kief. Dry ice will make the trichome glands more brittle, which helps them break off faster and more easily. Sifting will then require less agitation, which in turn reduces the amount of marijuana plant material that sneaks into the sift.
WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THIS KIEF?
Once you have built up a decent supply of kief, it’s time to decide how to use it. This trichome powder can be used in many different ways to provide a potent psychoactive high.
1. LOAD IT INTO A JOINT
Kief can be used as a THC supplement when it comes to rolling joints. If you and your smoking buddies feel like it’s time to blast off, then reach for the kief jar and sprinkle a few pinches inside the joint before rolling. This will add some serious kick, and will be of particular assistance when the flower you’re smoking isn’t as potent as you’d hoped. Alternatively, the more creative joint engineers out there may wish to coat the outside of the joint in kief for an extreme aesthetic appeal. Douse the outside of the joint in wax, or simply lick it and roll it around on a plate full of kief.
2. GET CREATIVE IN THE KITCHEN
Kief can be infused into cannabutter, which can then be used in practically any recipe to provide a potent edible high. Kief cannabutter can be added to cakes, brownies, sauces, dressings, and a whole host of other options. Just remember the golden rule of cooking with cannabis: decarboxylation. Whatever you’re cooking, make sure to expose your cannabis to a temperature of 110ºC for 30–45 minutes first to convert THCA into psychoactive THC.
3. MAKE SOME E-LIQUID AND VAPE IT
Kief can be used to create some homemade e-liquid that can be loaded into a vape pen and used at home or discreetly whilst on-the-go. To make e-liquid, you’ll need to obtain some propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine, along with a coffee filter, a metal or glass bowl, a cooking pot, and some syringes.
Fill your pot with water and place your bowl on top of it to create a DIY double boiler. Then pour a 1:1 ratio of vegetable glycerine to propylene glycol into the boiler. Add your kief to the mix and turn up the heat to a boil. Wait for the mixture to melt and form a thick and smooth consistency. Then proceed to pour the mixture through the coffee filter into a container and let it cool. Fill up your syringes and you’re ready to load up your vape.
4. TURN IT INTO ROSIN
Kief can be used to make your own supply of hash, considering you have saved up a good quantity of trichomes. To make this, you’ll need some parchment paper and an iron (hair straighteners can also be used). Place your kief within the parchment paper and fold it over. Press the paper with the heating device of your choice for a short period of time under heavy pressure, and watch a brown goo ooze across the paper. This resinous substance is ideal for loading into bong bowl or firing up on the dab rig.
5. MAKE A SIFT-HASH STASH
Hash made from kief is also known as dry-sift hash. This substance has a different consistency than normal hash and is more powdery and crumbly. The key to making hash is compressive force. This force can be applied via the use of a pressing machine or with bare hands. You’ll need a fair amount kief to get started on this project, but once you have enough it’s very easy to make. Fill a small plastic bag with your kief, roll it up tight, and tape shut. Next, wrap the package up tightly in 3 layers of newspaper and wet the newspaper once it’s wrapped. Now, use a hair straightener and apply pressure to the package for a few seconds at a time until it’s properly compressed. Unwrap the package to unveil a compressed, clean block of kief hash.