What is Kief and Why do I Want it?
Kief, keef or keif is the fine powder made from the dried resin glands found on the cannabis plant. The resin glands, or trichomes, as they are known, contain two classes of organic compounds, i.e., terpenes and cannabinoids. It is the terpenes and cannabinoids that make cannabis so unique. Kief is effectively made by removing the trichomes from the dried cannabis plant.
Derived from the Greek word trikhōma, which means “growth of hair,” trichomes are nearly microscopic, mushroom-like protrusions from the surface of the buds, fan leaves, and, in lower numbers, even on the stalk. While relatively complex, trichomes are comprised primarily of a stalk and a head. It is within the head that the actual production of cannabinoids and terpenes occur.
There are three types of trichomes
Bulbous: This type is the smallest of the three resin glands (15 to 30 micrometers). From one to four cells make up the ‘foot’ and ‘stalk’, and one to four cells make up the ‘head’ of the gland. Head cells secrete a resin, presumably cannabinoids, and related compounds that accumulate between the head cells and the cuticle. When the gland matures, a nipple-like protrusion may form on the membrane from the pressure of accumulating resin. The bulbous glands are found scattered about the surfaces of the aboveground plant parts.
Capitate-Sessile: The capitate-sessile gland is larger (25 to 100 micrometers) and more numerous than the bulbous glands. They are called capitate, which means having a globular-shaped head. On immature plants, the heads lie flush, appearing not to have a stalk and are called capitate sessile. They have a stalk that is one cell high, although it may not be visible beneath the globular head. The head is composed of usually eight, but up to 16 cells, that form a convex rosette. These cells secrete cannabinoids and related compounds that accumulate between the rosette and its outer membrane. This gives it a spherical shape.
Capitate-Stalked: The capitate-stalked resin gland contains the highest concentration of cannabinoids and can range in size from 150 – 500 microns. The capitate-stalked glands consist of a tier of secretory disc cells subtending a large non-cellular secretory cavity. During flowering, the capitate glands that appear on the newly formed plant parts take on a third form. These capitate-stalked glands appear during flowering and form their densest cover on the female flower bracts. They are also highly concentrated on the small leaves that accompany the flowers. The male flowers have some stalked glands, but they are smaller and less concentrated than on the female.
These mature trichomes can vary in size from 25 to 220 microns, depending on environment and genetics. To attain the most potent concentration of resin, via natural methods, only the mature resin gland heads can be collected. This is somewhere in the 60-100 micron range for hybrids. Kief is basically a collection of decapitated trichome heads.
When it comes to dry-sifted trichomes, i.e., the production of kief, it is very difficult to completely separate the resin heads from the stalk and other waste product of the plant. Therefore, selecting the right number of screens and the screen size is crucial to obtaining the highest quality of kief.
Kief can be used in a number of ways. The more popular ones are:
1. Pressing kief into hash
2. Smoking kief in a joint
3. Turing kief into eCig juice
4. Making kief tea
5. Smoking kief in a pipe
6. Add to a cup of coffee
7. Making kief butter
8. Cooking with kief