Kief, the white, powdery substance collected by agitating cannabis plant matter over a screen, is one of the oldest, cleanest extracts cannabis enthusiasts use to give their flower or edible an extra kick today.  High-quality kief is loaded with cannabinoids, but it’s not like a traditional concentrate. You don’t have to use a solvent to collect kief because it's gathered through the use of motion rather than chemicals.  Easy to extract, potent, and safe to consume, kief is a powerful concentrate you might already have at your disposal. 

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How to collect it

Cannabis is covered in sticky, crystal-like formations called trichomes. Cannabinoids and terpenes are packed in these trichomes, and they’re surprisingly easy to collect.  If you use a grinder to break up your nugs, we’ve got great news for you: you’ve probably already got a stash ready to go.  Whether you mean to or not, you collect kief in the bottom chamber of your grinder. As your grinder tears through dense buds, the cannabinoid-rich trichomes covering the flower fall through your grinder’s screen to the machine’s bottom. 

A hand holding up the Kief catcher of a grinder with a joint and rolling tray in the background Source: Shutterstock
Most extracts are created by soaking cannabis in some type of chemical—often, butane is used. The amazing simplicity of kief collection is that you get to extract potent cannabinoids from cannabis plant matter without using any solvents.   You can collect kief using these strategies:

  • Put a coin in your grinder. Place a thoroughly cleaned and disinfected coin in your grinder’s middle chamber. This will help push even more kief through your grinder’s screen. 
  • Freeze your flower and grinder before grinding. When cannabis freezes, its trichomes become very brittle. This makes it even easier for them to snap off during the grinding process. Put your weed-loaded grinder in the freezer for 10 minutes, then grind as usual. You’ll be surprised by the increase in collected kief. 
  • Use a pollen box. These boxes are designed specifically for separating pollen from herbs and lots of brands make them with cannabis consumers in mind. 
  • Get a silk screen. Take a medium sized silk screen and place it over a container. Gently rub the cannabis plant matter across the screen and watch it gather in the container below. 

How to consume

As with most concentrates, there are a few ways to use kief. Here are some of the most common consumption methods plus one tip that makes a huge difference in the quality kief exhibits. 

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Smoke it

For immediate results and maximized convenience, take a small amount of kief and add it to the top of your bowl, the inside of your joint, or mixed in with  the bud you’ve placed in your herbal vaporizer’s flower chamber.  You can also make moon rocks with kief for an especially medicated experience. 

A moonrock marijuana bud mixed with bho and kief on a black background Source: Shutterstock
If you choose to inhale kief, keep in mind the same warning you hear about smoking any concentrate: take it low and slow.  THC enters the blood stream rapidly when inhaled, so smoking kief is likely to produce a quick medical effect. Make sure you’re in a safe place before you smoke kief.  In addition to providing immediate relief, smoking kief allows the heat of combustion to activate the cannabinoids locked in those tiny trichomes through a process called decarboxylation.  You don’t have to decarboxylate kief before you smoke it. If you plan to use kief differently, though, make sure you decarboxylate it first. 

Decarboxylate your kief

If you have more creative ideas than smoking kief in mind, you’ll need to decarboxylate your kief if you want to feel any effects. 

Cooking cannabis buds in oven to activate psychoactive effects Source: Shutterstock
When you empty your grinder, the cannabinoids contained in your kief stash are still mostly in an acidic state. So if you were to add raw kief to your hot tea or smoothie, you’d be ingesting CBD-A and THC-A, not CBD or THC.  Although CBD-A and THC-A do have therapeutic effects, they are much less potent than THC and CBD. Moreover, THC-A does not cause psychoactive effects, unlike its decarboxylated variant, THC. Consuming raw kief won’t hurt you, but quality kief must be decarbed if you want to experience the full medicinal effect.  Decarbing kief is pretty simple, it's the same way you decarb regular flower: put it in the oven at a 225 degrees F and bake it for about 30 minutes. Learn more about how to decarboxylate your weed here

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Make edibles

Once you’ve decarbed your kief, you can really add it to anything that sounds appetizing. And the good news is that you can expect those dishes to taste just as delicious as they sound.  One of the reasons kief makes such a good edible ingredient is that, for a solvent-free extract, it has such a tiny amount of plant matter. When you use high-quality weed, you don’t have to worry about eating a medicated treat that tastes like freshly mowed grass. 

Closeup of cookies and marijuana buds Source: Shutterstock
Some people like to add kief to hot beverages like tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. The benefit to consuming it this way is that the cannabinoids can be absorbed sublingually, or through the tissue beneath your tongue. When cannabinoids are absorbed in this way, they hit your bloodstream quicker than they would if absorbed by the digestive system only.  You don’t have to limit your kief edibles to hot drinks, though. Since your it's already decarbed, you can also add it to smoothies or cold juices and teas.  If you want to add it to a recipe that involves cooking, consider mixing decarbed kief into the dish after you’ve removed the food from heat. While decarboxylation is required to activate the cannabinoids it houses, exposure to too much heat for too long can actually degrade the quality. Excess heat deteriorates THC, the cannabinoid most responsible for weed's psychoactive effects.   Play it safe and add your decarbed kief to a syrup, sauce, or dressing for a medicated and delicious finishing touch.