If you aren't collecting kief, you aren't capturing the full potential of your harvest. If the concept of kief collection is new to you, let's review.
Kief is the magical sticky dust naturally occurring on cannabis flowers. It contains the highest levels of cannabinoids and terpenes in the entire plant.
Here you'll find a detailed guide to all-things-kief including:
- The basics of kief
- The best way to collect kief (or pollen) during trimming
- An explainer on kief decarboxylation
- How to make kief hash and hash oil
- How to make kief butter
What Is Kief?
Kief is the sticky substance that eventually clogs up a grinder, gums up a pair of scissors, and adheres to a trimmers fingers. It's also known as cannabis crystals and sometimes called pollen.
When still attached to the flower, kief is technically a character of the trichomes. Trichomes, are the tiny crystals concentrated at the tips of the plant and naturally produced for protection against the environment and insects.
The entire plant contains cannabinoids, but the flowers contain the highest potencies. Within the flower, it's the trichomes which pack the biggest punch. The potency and chemical make up of kief will vary from strain to strain, and harvest to harvest.
For example, THC-rich strains produce highly potent kief, while mild the THC:CBD combo strains will be a much gentler experience. The flavor profile will also reflect the strain's natural characteristics.
During handling, kief falls off of flowers. It will collect on fingers, scissors, or the bottom of a grinder. The more handling, the more kief breaks from the flower. Because these crystals contain the concentrated essence of cannabis, excessive handling of the flower isn't ideal. In processing, however, it's often required.
If it's inevitable that there will be kief loss, it only makes sense to collect it and put it to good use.
It's why Kief tends to collect at the bottom of grinders (designed with designated kief collector section). In commercial operations, the best trimming machines come with a prefabricated commercially-sized collection component.
What Is the Best Way to Collect Kief?
In the heyday of the annual California trim season, trimmers everywhere used to survive off what was lovingly referred to as finger hash. Because all bud at the time was hand-trimmed, the sticky crystal resin eventually formed a beautiful layer on trimmers hands. Worked gently into balls, trimmers enjoyed finger hash at the end of a long trim session.
Today, many large scale operations have moved away from hand trimming, which is now reserved for craft cannabis and adding the final touches on to premium flowers. Kief collection is now captured through these machines and incorporated into part of the processing.
Even small scale operations or the at-home grower should take a queue from the big-players and start collecting kief. What is the best way to collect kief during trimming?
During trimming, you'll likely spend a lot of time carefully crafting beautiful buds over a table or tray. Using Titanium Trimming Scissors, trim away until only the bud remains. As you trim, the kief breaks free from the flower to cover the table below.
Swap out the table for a Laptop Trim Workstation, which is a portable trimming tray, for laptop or tabletop trimming. It keeps the work area clean, and most importantly, captures the kief and makes it easy to collect.
How to Use Kief Collector Trim Tray
- Using Curved Tip Titanium Trimming Scissors, trim as per usual with the collector tray as your work surface. The tray may be used on a tabletop, or place comfortably in a laptop position.
- Once trimming is complete, and you've removed the finished bud from the work surface, it's time to shake out the remaining trichomes from the shake. Using your hand gently rub the leftover material around the surface of the fine mesh filter. You aren't trying to grind it through the filter, as the crystals are fine enough to fall through naturally. You can also shake the tray gently back and forth, to move the trim around across the filter.
- After a minute or so, remove the filter, to reveal the kief sprinkled over the tray below.
- Use the scraper to collect the kief. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
What to Do With Kief?
To the untrained eye, kief might not look that valuable, but to most cannabis lovers, it's gold dust. Sprinkled in a joint or in a bowl, it's an added layer of potency. It contains a big-dose of flavor and of course, a burst of potency. But it's not just for sprinkling.
Why not turn your kief into value-added products?
Why it's Important to Decarb Kief
Decarbing is crucial yet often forgotten step in creating a concentrated kief masterpiece. Decarboxylation is the process of exposing cannabis to heat, over time, to transform the raw cannabinoids into active ones.
At the molecular level, heat over time removes a carboxyl group to express carbon dioxide. Which means, you transform THCA and CBDA into THC and CBD.
When smoked, vaped, or baked a certain percentage of decarbing is done automatically because the kief (or plant material) is exposed to heat. However, this process is far from perfect. Especially if you plan on baking with kief, you'll want to take the time to decarb beforehand.
How to Decarb Kief
- Preheat oven to 220 degrees.
- Place kief into an ovenproof dish, cover with tin foil or well-fitting lid.
- Place dish in the oven and bake for roughly 45 minutes.
- Remove and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.
How to Make Hash from Kief
When you've scrapped a sizeable pile of kief together from your kief collection tray, use the scraper to lift it on to a piece of parchment paper. Arrange the kief into a neat rectangular or roughly square pile in the center of the paper and tightly fold the sides in to form a compact and sealed envelope. Once you have a neat little package, it's time to make hash.
Making hash with kief requires pressure, and sometimes heat. There are a few common ways people achieve this.
- At-Home Rosin Press for Hash Oil
- For this technique, you'll need a hair straightener, the wider the blades, the better.
- Turn the temperature to high and allow to preheat.
- Place the parchment paper envelope of kief between the blades and press together with as much pressure as possible. You may even wish to place it on a table and use your body weight to force downward.
- After 10 seconds (you may start to hear sizzling), remove the parchment paper.
- Open up, and you'll find the concentrated oils have leeched from the kief. Scrap with a spoon or nail into a sticky mass. Store in a glass container.
- Mason Jar Method for Hash:
- Boil a kettle full of water.
- Pour boiling water into a mason jar, and seal.
- Using oven mitts to handle the jar, use like a rolling pin to press down and roll over the small parchment paper envelope.
- Roll back and forth for at least a minute, with as much pressure as possible.
- Unfold parchment paper to relieve a perfectly packed block of hash.
If both of these methods seem altogether like too much work, invest in a pollen press. Varying in size from small to commercial-grade, a pollen press packs pollen (that's kief) into neat hash packs. No gimmicks, and no heat required.
How to Make Kief Butter
For the edible lovers out there, kief is an excellent resource for potent cannabis butter. Again, it's especially important to decarb before infusing butter or any other fat with cannabis to ensure total cannabinoid activation.
This recipe is very adaptable. Swap out butter for coconut oil, olive oil, or other healthy oil in a pinch. Want a highly potent final product? Increase the amount of kief. Use the butter in sweet and savory dishes, swapping out the regular butter component for the infusion.
- 1 lb unsalted butter
- 1 gram kief (increase for higher potency)
- Add butter to a saucepan over low heat. Melt completely.
- Add kief, and mix to combine.
- Allow to gently simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until completely dissolved. Butter may turn a dark brown to green color; this is normal.
- As the butter is gently simmering (do not let it boil), place cheesecloth over the mouth of a mason jar.
- Pour melted butter mixture through the cheesecloth to remove any impurities.
- Allow to cool, store in the refrigerator for up to 90 days.
How to Get Kief Out of Kief Collector
By using a laptop kief collector tray, getting the kief out of the collector is easy. Using the flexible plastic tool, scrap along the bottom of the tray to form a neat pile of kief. Use the scraper to remove it, and gently place it in a storage container.
What About Getting Kief Out of a Grinder?
How do you get kief out of the bottom of a grinder? Your grinder may have come with a small spoon or scraper, fit to the rounded corners of the kief section of the grinder. Use this to remove the bulk of the product. If you don't have a small scraper, the edge of a credit card is a useful alternative.
Put the grinder in the freezer for 30 minutes. Trichomes freeze quickly and loose their sticky characteristics. They will fall freely from the metal sides of the grinder once frozen. Tap the grinder gently over a tray, and scrap with the small spoon.
Using high-grade alcohol flush the grinder out. This method is a last resort but does thoroughly clean the grinder while collecting kief. Collect the alcohol mixture in a small dish and allow to evaporate completely. Once totally dry, it will be safe to use normally.
Kief is a magical (if often overlooked) ingredient from trimming cannabis, and a shame to waste. Using a kief collector trim tray makes the process as simple as possible, for the most collection. Put your leftover shake to work for you by pressing hash oil, hash, or making hash butter.