What Is Kief?

Scott Jones

Picture this. You’re somewhat new to the cannabis game. You’re about to have a sesh with a friend who is a little more seasoned, and your friend says, “Hey, unscrew the kief trap, let’s crown this bowl for an extra good time.” One of the more underrated aspects of participating in the world of cannabis is getting familiar with the vernacular, but for the uninitiated, it can be intimidating. What is kief? Where does it come from, how do you collect it, and what does it do? Once you’re done reading this article, you’ll have all the answers you need to become a kief chief. Let’s get started.

Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant

What is kief? Simple, kief is a collection of trichomes. Did that help? I didn’t think so. If we want to understand exactly what kief is, and why people who like to get high value it so much, it is helpful to have a general understanding of the anatomy of the cannabis plant, from seed to flower. You can get a detailed break down here, but we’ll go over the major structures and their functions.


A mature cannabis seed is usually brown or beige with dark stripes across a rigid, tough outer casing that protects it from damage. This hull has a seam down the outside where the seed will split once the embryo is germinated. The embryo itself will remain dormant until it is exposed to the proper soil, light, and moisture conditions.


The stalk of the cannabis plant has two primary functions: to support the vertical growth of the plant so that it can produce more nodes and reach more sunlight, and to serve as a route for delivering nutrients such as nitrogen, starch, sugar, and water throughout the plant to support healthy growth. 

Fan Leaves

As the stalk grows skyward, fan leaves extend out from the stalk horizontally. These leaves will often grow more leaflets with each successive level of leaf, with those closest to the ground having the lowest number of leaflets and those near the top having the most. Fan leaves are the photosynthesis powerhouse of the cannabis plant, gathering sunlight to synthesize carbon dioxide and fuel the plant’s growth.


The nodes of a cannabis plant grow at the base of where a lateral branch meets the stalk. Nodes are where the plant’s hormones are generated, so we use the nodes to determine the gender of the plant. While male cannabis plants are important for pollination, it is the flower of the female plant that we dry and cure to create the buds we love to smoke. 


Male and female cannabis plants both generate flowers, but as we mentioned earlier, we are primarily concerned with the flowers of the female plant when it comes to recreational or medicinal use. Flowers have a complex anatomy of their own, so we’ll look at the most important features.

  • Cola – A cola is the cone-shaped body of the female cannabis flower. A large, primary cola grows at the top of the cannabis plant and smaller colas will grow around the ends of the lower branches. These flowers grow vertically so they can receive as much light as possible.
  • Bract/Calyx – Surrounded by what are known as ‘sugar leaves’ are the bract and calyx structures, which house the female reproductive structures of the flower.
  • Stigma/Pistil – Stigma are hair-like strands that grow out of pistils, starting out white before darkening into an orange or amber color. These hairs are important to the reproductive properties of the plant and greatly enhance the aesthetic appeal of buds.
  • Trichomes – Hey, remember these? Trichomes are bulbous, sometimes mushroom-shaped glands that produce resinous essential oils that contain high concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes, which are the compounds that give a cannabis plant its distinct smell, taste, and physiological effects. While on the flower, trichomes start out as translucent or white before aging into a green, orange, or amber color. Once separated from the flower, these glands are what is known as kief, but can also be called crystals, dust, or pollen. 

Does Kief Get You Higher Than Flower?

We know now that kief is a bunch of cannabinoid-dense glands that grow on female cannabis flowers. This begs the question, is kief going to get you higher than flower? Because kief does have a high concentration of cannabinoids, including THC, smoking it is going to be a more intense experience. 

There are things to be considered when smoking kief, however. By itself, or in a high concentration, kief smoke is going to be very harsh on the throat and lungs. Also, because kief is only one very specific element of the cannabis flower, smoking kief by itself will likely lead to you missing out on the “entourage effect”. When all the cannabinoids and terpenes present in cannabis flower are allowed to work together, it can create a richer and longer lasting experience. This is why, generally, it’s a good idea to use kief as an additive rather than as the star of the show.

How to Collect Kief

Collecting kief really highlights the functionality of a good grinder. Trichomes are sticky, resinous, and coat the outside of your nuggets. This means that if you’re breaking your buds down with your fingers, you’re going to lose a good amount of that sticky goodness. This is where a grinder comes in. There are a wide variety of grinders on the market, but if you’re looking to gather kief, you’re going to want one with a kief catcher. 

How to Use a Four-Piece Grinder

The best grinders are typically made of metal and have four pieces that make up the three chambers used in the grinding process. This is how you use a four-piece grinder.

  • Add buds to the grinding chamber – The area between lid and second piece of the grinder is the grinding chamber. These two pieces have teeth that are used to break apart the buds by twisting the lid back and forth. The second piece has holes that allow the broken pieces of the flower to fall into the next chamber.
  • Collect weed from the storage chamber – once the buds are ground, they fall into the storage chamber, which is between the second and third pieces of the grinder. This chamber holds your ground flower until you are ready to smoke it. The bottom of the third piece of the grinder also has a mesh screen, which allows kief to be separated into its own chamber.
  • Gather kief from the kief catcher – the last chamber, also known as the kief catcher, is between the third and fourth pieces of the grinder. Here, you can see how much kief you’ve built up over time and use some to add a little extra punch to your next session.

What to do With Your Kief

You know what kief is, you know what kief does, and you know how to collect it. All that’s left is to decide the best way to use. Sure, you could pack yourself a bowl of kief, but there may be better ways to incorporate it into your smoking experience. Let’s look at a few popular options.

Crown Your Bowl

Arguably the most popular way to use your kief is to “crown” or “top” your bowl or bong. Once you’ve packed your bowl, you just open your kief catcher and scoop some up to place on the top. Keeping the kief on top helps you avoid accidentally pulling it into the pipe before it has a chance to burn and adds a power-packed punch to your smoke. 

Add to a Joint or Blunt

Maybe you prefer to roll your buds rather than pack them. Not to worry, kief makes a great additive to a joint or blunt. If you’re adding kief to a joint or blunt, you do want to do your best to make sure the kief is more evenly dispersed throughout because if it is concentrated on one side, the burn is likely going to be uneven. You can also try to “twax” your joint or blunt. This means moistening the paper after it’s rolled and coating the top with kief. If rolling your own isn’t yet in your repertoire, we’d be happy to teach you about rolling joints and blunts.

Beef Up Your Butter

If you like to make your own edibles, kief can help take your cannabutter (or oil) to the next level. It’s important to make sure the kief is added to the cooking process at the same time as the flower is added, because it needs to be decarboxylated. Adding kief will make your butter much more potent, so make sure you exercise caution when trying a fresh batch of edibles if kief was involved in the cooking process. Never made your own edibles? You can read our tips and tricks for how to get started here.

Can Kief Go Bad?

You aren’t going to want that kief collector at the bottom of your grinder to get too full. Because kief is an organic compound, it is going to go through processes like drying and oxidation over time. This means that eventually it will degrade. To get the longest lifespan from your kief, it’s best to keep it in an air-tight container that is stored in a cool, dark place.

Topping It All Off

You’ve added another piece of cannabis vocab to your ever-growing arsenal, and it’s safe to say you probably know more about where kief comes from than most. You even know the best ways to use kief to add some extra oomph to your bowls, blunts, or baked goods. If you have any additional questions about kief and how best to use it, we’d be happy to hear from you through our contact page. Or maybe you have a favorite way to use your kief that we didn’t mention (moon rocks, anyone?). Tell us how you like to get the best out of your kief in the comment section below. 

What Is Kief?
What is kief? Once you’re done reading this article, you’ll have all the answers you need to become a kief chief.
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The Green Dragon CBD
What Is Kief?
April 22, 2024
THC Education