What is kief and how can you use it?

Published on January 10, 2022 • Last updated November 21, 2022

What is kief?

As the cannabis plant matures, its buds develop resinous glands called trichomes, which contain THC, CBD, terpenes, and other compounds that contribute to cannabis’ psychoactive effect and healing properties. Trichomes look like tiny crystals—think finely-milled sugar or salt. When these trichomes dry and break off of the plant, they become kief.

Kief, because it has oxidized and loses its freshness when separated from the plant buds, usually has a darker color than trichomes, ranging from light gold to brown. It has a powdery appearance and a texture that is somewhat sticky, though less so than trichomes on a bud. Another name for kief is “pollen,” and sometimes it gets spelled like “keef,” but kief is the correct name.

Kief can be added to vape chambers, bowls, or joints for an added kick when your bud is lacking. It can also be pressed into hash if you have enough kief in your grinder.

When buying kief at a dispensary or retail store, keep in mind that purer and more potent kief will have a lighter color, often slightly yellow or off-white. Kief that looks dark or green still has a bit of plant matter mixed in, whereas kief that has been cleaned well tends to be more of a bright, eggshell color.

How to collect & make kief

While kief naturally separates from buds with time and agitation, most people use grinders to collect the powder, which break down and shred cannabis buds into small, even pieces for rolling joints, vaping in a flower vaporizer device, or packing pipe and bong bowls.

Grinders usually have a separate chamber at the bottom, called a kief catcher, for this purpose. It makes the whole process a lot easier and less messy.

How to use a kief catcher

Stainless Steel Weed Grinder Image #6
Kief catchers in grinders. (Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

To collect kief crystals, you’ll need a grinder with a kief catcher, usually a 3- or 4-piece one. Ask your local budtender or smoke shop employee for recommendations.

When you grind weed in a grinder, the force and teeth work together to force the trichomes to fall off of nugs and into the bottom chamber of the grinder, where it is collected and stored as kief. The buds stay in an upper chamber, so they don’t get mixed up.

Patience is a virtue when it comes to kief. It will take time to collect kief crystals, likely weeks or months if you want a significant stash. Once you’ve saved up enough, just unscrew the kief catcher chamber and scoop out the kief. Some grinders even come with a special scraper tool to better distribute the kief so it doesn’t stick to your fingers.

How to collect kief with screens

Lost your grinder? You can also collect kief by rubbing cannabis plant material onto a silk screen, if you have one laying around. This is a great method for extracting large quantities of kief if you have a large amount of cannabis. These screens come in different sizes—between 75-125 microns (a unit of measurement to determine the screen permeability) is best.

For the best results, home extractors put kief through multiple screens of different sizes, stacking them in order from largest mesh to smallest, to refine the product and filter out plant matter or anything that might make the kief harsh to smoke.

Does kief get you higher than bud?

Because trichomes contain the majority of cannabis cannabinoids, kief has a much higher THC content relative to whole plant matter. One hit of pure kief will likely feel more intense than one hit of full bud, but kief works best when mixed with something else. Pure kief has high THC content, but will often feel harsher than flower and the high won’t last as long without the other compounds found in the whole plant.

Kief also lacks the terpenes and unique flavors that only smoking the whole plant can provide.

How to use kief

(Grant Hindsley for Leafly)

Now that you have a pile of kief, or weed pollen, what to do with it? Here are a few ways to amplify the potency of flower and refine the consistency of kief.

Sprinkle kief onto a bowl of cannabis and smoke it

Also known as “crowning a bowl,” this is the most common way to use kief, and it will increase the potency of any bowl.

Corner your hits to get the most out of a kief-topped bowl, which entails burning only a small quadrant of the bowl at a time as opposed to the whole thing, so you can enjoy multiple hits without wasting any kief.

Sprinkle kief into a joint or roll a twax joint

When rolling a joint, blunt, or spliff, you can pepper your mix with a healthy pinch of kief. This is a great way to use pollen for an extra kick. Make sure to add the kief evenly throughout, as it can cause the joint to burn unevenly.

You can also “twax” a joint—dampen the outside of a joint with a lick, and roll the top 1/3 of the joint in some kief.

Make hash from kief

Hash is one of the oldest forms of cannabis extracts. To make hash, collect kief pollen and press it into bricks. You can use your hands, but we recommend using some parchment paper to avoid gooping up your fingers.

You can also roll kief into balls, called charas, and smoke it directly in a pipe or bong.

Pressing kief usually darkens its color, and the more pressure you apply, the darker the hash becomes. A dark brown or black consistency is ideal.

Can you dab kief?

While it might seem like a good idea to drop some kief in your dab nail, keep in mind that kief still contains a lot of plant matter. Concentrates made for dabbing have very little plant content in them to ensure they vaporize smoothly and produce a good flavor without burning when exposed to heat.

Because kief has plant pollen and residual matter in it, dropping some in a dab nail will burn it and ruin the nail before you can get a good dab off it.

Are kief joints a waste?

A joint made of pure kief sounds like a perfect way to blast into space, but will more likely have you coughing up a storm. Kief smoked directly burns a lot faster than flower and lacks the plant matter to keep an even burn. A pure kief joint will likely burn away, and burn harshly before you can enjoy its full THC potential.

Sprinkling in some kief when rolling a joint or adding some to the outside of the joint paper is a much better way to use it and get the full experience.

Can kief go bad?

Yes, kief can go bad. Just like the cannabis plant, kief is a natural substance that oxidizes, dries out, and goes bad after a period of time. Storing your kief properly will extend its freshness.

Like with flower, we recommend keeping your kief in a cool, dark place out of direct sunlight. This can be in your grinder chamber or a separate container.