The term “kief” comes from the Arabic كيف (kayf) and means “lust, intoxication.” It refers to the resinous glands and describes the manufactured powder sieved or grated from the leaves and buds of the cannabis plant. The resin glands are part of the so-called trichomes.
Kief is highly potent because terpenes (natural organic substances) and cannabinoids are very concentrated. The resin glands contain most of the terpenes and cannabinoids found in cannabis. So, kief includes an even higher concentration of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC than the cannabis flower.
The psychoactive effect of trichomes (plant hairs) is said to disorient herbivores and prevent them from eating the entire plant. Because the terpenes it contains to produce a robust and distinct smell, they attract pollinating insects to help the plant reproduce.
One obtains kief by grinding the leaves or buds of the cannabis plant (using fine stainless steel screen printing or mesh). The glands fall through the sieve, where they are finally collected. After that, it can be heated and pressurized to make hash.
Kief production was revolutionized by the so-called Pollinator, invented by Dutchwoman Mila Jansen. One can process large amounts of leaves with just a few movements. The machine itself consists of a box that encloses a rotating drum made of silk or stainless steel mesh. The drum’s motion causes the plant’s glands to fall off.
In addition to the characteristics of the cannabis plant used for the kief, the production method itself is also an important quality factor.
Traditionally, kief has been pressed into hash cakes for convenience, but it’s often vaporized or smoked in a joint. Other uses with kief include the following:
- Make moon rocks
- Prepare vape juice
- Bake cookies/cakes
There are country-specific differences in composition. In Morocco, for example, kief refers to a mixture of finely chopped marijuana with local tobacco, which is distinctly different from trichome powder. One usually smokes it in a long pipe called a “sebsi.” In North America or Western Europe, kief is often added to cookies, brownies, or other foods. Due to its potency, one usually only uses a small amount of kief.