The Differences Between Hash vs. Kief
Hash and kief are two types of extracts from the cannabis plant that can be added to joints and bowls or used to make cannabis concentrates. However, while these two products are similar and the terms are often used interchangeably, they are not, in fact, the same thing.
Cannabis consumers and entrepreneurs alike who are interested in making their own solventless cannabis concentrates should understand the differences between the two in order to make the best possible extracts.
The Main Difference Between Kief vs. Hash
The main difference between kief and hash is that “kief” refers to the unrefined, loose cannabis trichomes and leaf matter, whereas “hash” refers to kief that has removed impurities. Sometimes extractors confuse matters even more by using “hash” to refer exclusively to bubble hash and “kief” to refer to dry sift.
The fine powder obtained when you separate the trichomes or resin glands from cannabis buds, typically through agitation, is considered “kief”.
The word “kief” comes from Moroccan Arabic كيف kīf, meaning “joy, pleasure.” Kief is usually greenish-brown in color because it still contains some of the cannabis plant material in addition to the resin glands.
Many flower grinders have a separate collection layer at the bottom of the grinder, separated from the main chamber by a mesh screen, called a “kief catcher.”Many cannabis enthusiasts collect kief from cannabis flowers using this multi-chamber herb grinder and simply consume kief as it is.
Kief can be used in many ways, such as: rolled into balls called “charas,” sprinkled on top of a bowl, added to a joint, or stuck to the outside of a joint using water or saliva. However, for commercial purposes, better flavor and a cleaner high can be obtained by purifying kief into dry sift hash.
How Kief Becomes Dry Sift Hash
Kief can be purified into dry sift or dry sift hash by separating the plant material in the mixture from the trichome resin glands. This can be achieved through a variety of means but is most commonly done by sifting the kief through several layers of food-grade stainless steel mesh screens. These screens are extremely fine—for a high-quality dry sift, you’re looking at 80, 130, and 180-micron mesh screens.
After refining the kief through sifting, the resulting dry sift should be tan or almost white in color and contain around 50-60% THC (depending on your starting material). Food-grade, clean, dry sift can be used in edibles, topicals, joints, pressed into cakes, or used to make specialty products like “moon rocks” (cannabis buds covered in hash oil then rolled in dry sift).
Bubble Hash vs. Kief
If you have access to fresh-frozen flower, hash can also be made using ice water,but in this case it’s referred to as “ice water hash” or “bubble hash.” Like dry sift hash, there are several differences between kief and ice water hash, including the starting material, the resources required to make it, and the quality of the final extract all of which we will explore below.
Starting Material for Dry Sift vs. Ice Water Hash
To make dry sift, you must start with dried, cured cannabis. The sifting technique won’t detach the trichome heads from fresh cannabis flowers, frozen or otherwise. In contrast, ice water hash is made with fresh frozen cannabis, which has a different cannabinoid and terpene profile compared to the cured buds.
The atmosphere needed for the two techniques is also different. Kief crystals for dry sift need to be separated from the resin glands of the plant material in a dry place (preferably a place with cold air, like a walk-in freezer). In contrast, for ice water hash, the trichomes are separated from the cannabis flower inside the water itself and collected with bubble hash bags.
Anyone can extract kief at home inexpensively with herb grinders that have a kief catcher at the bottom. To purify this into dry sift, all you need is a set of mesh screens, which are generally very affordable. For a commercial setup, the Alchemist 420 by GreenBroz can sift 8 to 10 pounds of trim at a time, depending on density.
In contrast, ice water hash requires more specialized equipment to produce—unless you’re using the DIY bucket method, which we don’t recommend. High-quality commercial ice water hash washing equipment can run a few thousand dollars, but it ensures a premium product and the potential for commercial-level yields.
Producing High-Quality Solventless Extracts Is Worth the Effort
High-quality dry sift that’s used in edibles (after decarboxylation), topicals, infused joints, and moon rocks often produces good financial returns as a clean, solventless extract. However, if you want to make a top-shelf cannabis concentrate, ice water hash will give you the most premium result.
In both cases, it’s important to ensure the highest-quality starting material and use high-quality food-grade equipment. Then, you can start making your own solventless extracts for home or commercial use and enjoy the rewards.