A concentrate created through the accumulation of trichome glands from cured cannabis. Dry sift, also called kief, is the least expensive type of concentrate to produce, but one of the hardest to make. It is made by sifting cannabis through screens that vary in size, depending on how large or small the trichomes are. Dry sift can be used on its own, mixed with tobacco, or mixed with cannabis buds for additional potency.
“What’s the best method for making a full melt dry sift?”
“I prefer dry sift to other types of hash.”
More about Dry Sift
Dry sift is a concentrate made up of trichome glands, characterized by its soft-sand texture and appearance. It is not considered an extract, because the trichome glands that make up dry sift are mechanically removed from the plant material without the use of solvents. Dry sift can be made at home by hand-sifting and sieving plant material over a screen. Commercial Dry Sift manufacturers employ the use of vibratory sieves in order to process industrial amounts of cannabis.
Trichome glands are the small appendages on the plants surface that produce the terpenes and cannabinoids. You can think of the trichome glands on cured plant material like ripe apples on trees. The easiest way to remove those apples would be to shake the entire tree and to help the fruits fall off. By shaking the tree, you would apply mechanical energy, which would allow the apples to break off the tree and fall to the ground. If you shake the tree hard enough to get most the apples off, it’s likely that some branches might fall off as well. If you were to catch all material falling from the tree using a screen with holes the size of the apples, you would catch any “contaminants” that fell off the tree and ensure that only ripe apples were filtered through.
Dry sift is made the same way. Plant material is agitated over a screen with sizes that correspond with the size of trichome glands; allowing trichomes to fall through the screen while holding back any plant material that would reduce the purity of the sift. Trichome glands are in diameters of 20 to 120 microns, which correspond with the most commonly used screens.
The larger micron sizes capture the entire capillary-stalked trichomes (90- 120 microns), while the smaller micron sizes (20-40 microns) isolate the glands from the stalks.
The purity of dry sift largely depends on the size of the sifting screens, the technique employed throughout the process, and the moisture content of the plant material. Dry sift can be further refined by “carding,” or gently rubbing the sift with a card over smaller screens; or even pressing the lower-melt sift into rosin.
Consuming Dry Sift
Like every form of cannabis concentrates, dry sift has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the biggest advantages of dry sift is that it’s made through a solventless process, which keeps the entire trichome gland in tact and yields a full-spectrum concentrate. The startup cost for making dry sift at home is also relatively inexpensive.
But while dry sift is relatively cheap to make, it’s also labor- and time-intensive. It may also contain larger amounts of plant contaminants than solvent-based extracts. These contaminants are not harmful, but they do reduce the likelihood of producing a dabbable concentrate.
How to Use Dry Sift
Dry sift is a fairly versatile concentrate. The method that is used to consume dry sift is typically associated to its star rating.
It’s fairly easy to press a 5-star or 6-star kief into a dabbable hash by placing it in between two pieces of parchment paper and pressing with your hand. Three- to 4-star dry sift is great for sprinkling on a bowl of flower, or lacing in a joint or blunt. If you like smoking hookah, dry sift can also be added to hookah coals for a big boost in flavor and effect. Any product in the 1-star to 2-star category is usually used for making edibles.
How to Store Dry Sift
Depending on the consistency, concentrates are typically stored in either a glass jar, a silicone jar, or parchment paper. Glass and silicone jars work great for short-term storage of kief, especially when kept in the refrigerator. For long-term storage, kief should be vacuum-sealed and kept in a glass container in the freezer.
How to Make Dry Sift
Hash makers have two main options for making dry sift at home, with either a set of sifting screens or a tumbler. Sifting screens can either be bought on their own or as part of a siftbox — which encases, stacks, and separates the screens for full functionality inside a clean, enclosed box. A tumbler is a mesh cylinder or drum that holds plant material and sifts it when rotated, usually accompanied by a container or flat catch surface for the dry sift to collect.
Making dry sift requires the following equipment:
- A clean glass table
- A sift box or sift screens
- Cannabis trim or cured flower
- A utility blade, credit card, or plastic ID card for scraping the dry sift together.
With the necessary equipment in hand, here is how to sieve your plant material and harvest the precious trichomes:
1. If you are using screens, clean the surface of your glass or table and place the screen on it.
- It is extremely important to ensure that there are no small particulates on the screens.
2. Gently place the trim or lightly ground flower onto the screen.
- Add enough to almost fill the entire surface area of the screen.
- Make sure that most the plant material is making contact with the screen, not sitting on top of other plant material.
- Note: At this point, the most ripe trichome glands may have made their way through the screen. Some processors will lift the screen and scrape that fraction to the side.
3. Gently agitate the material. No excessive force or pressure is necessary.
- You can run your hands over the material, shake the screens from side to side, or even shake the screen up and down, allowing the plant material to bounce off the screen.
- The largest and most ripe trichomes will break off first with little effort. Smaller trichomes and those not on the immediate surface of the plant may require more agitation.
- If it’s your first time making a dry sift, agitate for 30-120 seconds.
- Note: Agitating the material requires a delicate balance. Too much force can increase the amount of particulates that make their way into the final product.
4. Collect your dry sift and repeat.
- Move the screen to the side and use the utility blade or card to scrape the dry sift into a pile.
- This will allow you to separate your dry sift into different grades.
Tips for Making Dry Sift
1. Use cannabis that has been freeze-dried.
- This will ensure the trichomes are very brittle and easily break off of the plant matter. Using freeze-dried cannabis also prevents the development of mold once it is stored.
2. Use three screens of varying micron sizes.
- The openings in a filter screen are measured in microns. Using screens of varying micron sizes is how hash makers capture the trichome heads and separate them from the rest of the plant.
- From top to bottom, the respective micron sizes of the screens should be roughly 140, 100, and 70 microns.
3. If you are interested in separating your dry sift into different grades, break the process into multiple “runs.”
- Start your first run using the smallest micron screen with minimal agitation, then increase the level and duration of agitation with every subsequent run.
- Your first run should be very lightly agitated for a short period of time, about 30 seconds. Try not to use your hands to press the flowers so you don’t break off any plant matter, which will lower the quality of your sift. Consider only slightly shaking the screen from side to side.
- After you are finished, scrape the dry sift to the side. If using properly cured material, this should result in a 5-6 star kief.
- During your second run, increase the micron size to allow the large trichomes to pass through and use your hands to push the plant material over the screens. Be gentle and try not to break down the plant material too much. The more you break up the material, the more likely you are to get plant contaminants in your sift, which will lower its ability to melt and lower its star rating.
- Your third run, and any runs thereafter, will use the largest micron screen and also be the most aggressive. Keep in mind that the purpose of these final runs is to make the most of your material and get every last trichome out. You can be slightly more aggressive as you move the material around.
4. After a third run, your dry sift will undoubtedly produce a 1-2 star dry sift. This sift will not easily press into hash and will not be dabbable. This is typically put to the side and used as food-grade hash for edibles.
- This is not to say that it cannot be smoked. Your cooking-grade dry sift can definitely be used in blunts or joints, but it will not dab very easily. Food-grade sift can also be pressed using the rosin technique to produce a dabbable product.
5. If you really want to make the most of your flower, consider using dry ice to make dry-ice sift.
- Dropping a few dry ice, or solid carbon dioxide, pellets on your screen prior to sifting will make your trichome glands extremely brittle and allow them to break off faster and with more ease. Reducing the amount of agitation will reduce the likelihood of plant particulates making their way into your dry sift.
The 6-Star Melt System
The quality of solventless concentrates, including dry sift, is generally measured by how well it melts. Hash makers use a star rating system to grade hash quality. While there is no universal system, the 6-star rating system is one of the most popular amongst hash makers. It’s also useful for separating your dry sift into different grades of quality or purity. A 1-2 star melt is considered cooking-grade hash, primarily due to the relatively high amounts of plant matter. A 3-4 star melt, or “halfmelt,” is a lower-grade hash that only melts halfway. A 5-6 star “full melt” is considered the purest form of dry sift that can be dabbed on it’s own.
The 6-star rating system is subjective, but it does provide a sufficient avenue to single out pure, quality dry sift. The higher the rating, the better your kief will melt. The lower the rating, the more plant contaminants it will have.