Kief: An Introduction

Kief is a term for dried and cured cannabis trichomes that have become disengaged from a cannabis plant. It is a cannabis concentrate derived by non-chemically assisted means that has a particular reputation as a fine way to flavor-up your bag-ends and leftovers. PotAdvisor humbly suggests you consider kief. Company coming over and your nephew ripped through the closet stash? Crown a bowl of mostly outer leaves with a dusting of the kief gram he missed and you’ve just averted catastrophe. That is not to say it is exclusively appropriate to reclamation projects. It makes for an excellent enhancement to any bowl, joint or blunt of top-quality ground flower.
Kief goes by a few other names, most commonly “chief.” Because of its appearance, “dust” is sometimes used, but its proximity to PCP’s nickname makes it PotAdvisor’s least-condoned sobriquet. Dry sift and pollen are also used. We’ve gotten a laugh out of “hippie crack.”

What Exactly Is Kief?

Trichomes are the crystals that form on the outside of buds, leaves and flowers. Once off the plant and gathered, they are collectively called kief. While still on the plant, trichomes have the appearance of tiny translucent mushrooms. They are what sparkle in the sun when the plant is growing outside, and they are what gives a good-quality bud its coated appearance.

Trichomes are loaded with THC, CBD and a variety of terpenes, and have a lot to do with the specific psychotropic effects of any plant. When you separate the pure trichomes from the rest of the plant, it has a separate perceptual signature. Most pot grinders have a lower chamber that will collect up to a gram of kief over the course of an ounce. It is slow going. Kief is also commercially available, usually produced through a bulk temperature process. In shopping for kief, look for it to be more yellow, less green.

In the early to middle growing stages, trichomes are visible only with magnification, but shortly before harvest, they are quite discernable to the naked eye. After harvest and drying, these trichomes—now become kief—resemble a finely milled sugar with a yellow to brown or green tint.

From an evolutionary standpoint, trichomes are among the cannabis plant’s chief protectors. They refract UV light so it is less intense for the leafy material, and also protect against wind, disease and some pests. The pests it does not deter are seekers of its unusual properties.

What Is It Like?

Kief’s cannabis content (say that that three times fast after couple of kief rips) is about twice that of a potent flower. It is also dry and milled, which makes it burn more quickly than flower. More potent + faster burn = kablooey. Still, it is usually about half as potent as most concentrates. If more common concentrates such as shatter, crumble, diamonds and rosin are too intense but you still want a product with no plant material, kief may be just the thing for you.

Its extraction process is commonly gentler than that of many concentrate processes, usually using a temperature-based derivation rather than a chemically assisted one. In the good old days, the heartiest villagers would take the most laden of the cured plants, and grabbing them by the main stalk, slam them against a rattan screen. Kief season would then have begun and most transactions were agreeable.


Because kief is ground so fine, it would quickly find its way down the hole of a glass bowl if you attempted to smoke it by itself. You can vaporize it in a dab rig, though it does leave more residue than other concentrates. If common concentrates are too much, dabbing kief may serve as a good halfway point between flower and concentrates. There is also the school of thought that says if you’re bothering with the nails, percolators and blow torches, you may as well break out the shatter, diamonds or rosin. In for a penny, in for a pound as they said in Dickens’ time, which was of course many centuries after Moroccans and Persians had been enjoying kief.

Caution should be taken in preparing kief joints, especially if you are old school and roll them yourself rather than filling the premade cones. Mix the kief in with the flower rather than simply sprinkling it on top. PotAdvisor does indeed enthusiastically condone kief in joints—what we are potsplaining to you about here is ratio. Exercise caution in how much kief accompanies your ground flower. Draw gently and make sure it’s not running up the side. We’ve seen kief joints loaded to the gills burst open like the Hindenburg. Oh, the humanity!

Overall, the winning deployment strategy seems to be crowning a bowl. Whether you’ve got an end-of-stash bird’s nest that needs to be rescued or the prime bud from your last satchel that seeks a cherry on its sundae, kief is the chef’s kiss for either occasion. Get a good-drawing bowl and sprinkle the substrate loosely into it so as to retain the good draw. Don’t pack it. Sprinkle the kief on top and bring it to flame.