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Cannabis Concentrates - Dry Sift

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JoshuaHolt JoshuaHolt
Added 15 December 2020

Cannabis Concentrates Dry Sift

Of all the ways there are to make hash, dry sifting is one of the most common methods. This popular technique is easy to perform and produces a high quality cannabis product. Let's dive in to find out more about dry sift and how to get started making it at home.

What Is Dry Sift?

Making Dry Sift

Dry sift, also known as 'kief', is the result of shaking dry cannabis buds and trim on a fine screen, through which the trichomes fall and collect in a container. The agitating motion combined with cold temperatures and the roughness of the screen separates the trichomes from the plant material and allows them to pass through the mesh.

Making dry sift has been done for centuries in countries where hash is produced regularly, such as Morocco or Afghanistan. The technique has been refined over the years and now hash makers commonly use concentrates like dry sift for making even stronger extracts like rosin.

Dry sift looks like a golden brown powder with a sparkly hint to it. It consists mainly of trichome heads and no plant material. Although the flavour is not normally as intense as it is with some 'live' extracts, dry sift remains to be one of the simplest way of making hash.

The Quality Of Dry Sift

Trichomes Passing Through Screen

As with most cannabis extracts or concentrates, the higher quality the original product, the better the final outcome. If you're looking to test the quality of a particular dry sift, first check its colour. A high grade sift has a golden colour and collects as a very fine grain.

Good dry sift smells potent and similar to how it would while still on the bud. The terpene profile should be noticeable if the weed was well dried and cured beforehand. The conditions under which the trichomes are sifted also affect the final quality. 

Like with other types of hash, the quality can be tested through the way it melts or vaporizes. Kief is considered the lowest grade of sift and tends to contain a whole range of trichome head sizes, plus maybe some plant debris. Kief does not melt as much and is more likely to burn with heat.

Full Melt Dry Sift

'Full melt' hash, on the other hand, is a top shelf concentrate, leaving no trace when heated on a nail using a dabbing rig. This grading system refers to the potential residue left behind after vaporization, which could signify there is still impurities in the hash.

A breakdown of the grading system now commonly used to determine the quality of hash:

Kief1-2 Stars
Half Melt3-4 Stars
Full Melt5-6 Stars

Screens

Dry Sift Screens

Screens for making dry sift come in different sizes so a hash maker can separate the trichomes into levels of quality. Measured in microns (μm), the screens usually range from 20-220 microns. Anything smaller may produce too low of a quality and if the micron size is too big plant material begins to fall through.

Tip: Screens with an average micron size of 70-120μm are recommended as the range that produces the best quality dry sift.

How To Make Dry Sift

How To Make Dry Sift

Without the use of machines, making dry sift requires a fair bit work, especially when you have a lot of plant material to get through. Each batch you put onto the screen needs working for around 5-10 minutes before moving onto the next batch or screen.

Depending on how many screens you end up using, you can process the batch of weed multiple times. You may choose to sift everything with one screen, refreeze the material and move onto the next screen. Or, you might prefer to work a batch consecutively through various screens and repeat until you've gotten through all the frozen buds. Every hash maker will have their preferences.

The challenge here is also making sure the buds are agitated thoroughly while they are still cold. As the trichomes warm up they become oilier and won't pass through the screen as effectively, meaning you'll have to sift for longer or re-chill the plant material. This is why it helps to work in cold conditions, if you can.

Materials and Preparation

Materials For Making Dry Sift

Making dry sift at home requires just a few materials. The screens can be bought for around 20-30$ each and the rest of the materials can be easily picked up for cheap, if you don't already have everything at home. Remember to choose high quality bud or if you're using trim, your best sugar leaves.

Things you need to make dry sift:

  • Gloves
  • 2 plastic cards
  • Dry cannabis and/or trim (frozen)
  • Sifting screens
  • Collection tray

To prepare your weed for dry sifting, it is recommended you break up any large buds into smaller popcorn-sized nugs, place them in a ziplock bag, and keep the bag in an airtight container in the freezer for 24-48 hours. The colder it is, the more brittle the trichomes will be, allowing them to break away from the plant more easily.

Sifting, Collection and Storage

Dry Sift Micron Screen Size Layering Example

Most hash makers use several screens to separate their trichomes into different sizes. We recommend you use at least 2-3 sizes of screen so you end up with a minimum of two grades of dry sift. This is good for both comparison purposes and also so you can experiment further with your end product. Yields tends to be around 10-20% of the original product. 

How to sift buds and trim:

  1. Put on the gloves.
  2. Set up your collection tray. Sterilise it beforehand and make sure it's completely dry.
  3. Layer the screens on top of each other over the collection tray. Place the smallest screen (e.g. 70μm) at the bottom.
  4. Add frozen buds/trim, being careful not to overfill the screen. The results may be more effective if you work in smaller batches so the plant material doesn't need to be worked for as long (and have longer to warm up).
  5. Start to work the material on the screen with the card. Thoroughly work and move the trim around on the screen for at least 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the weed from the screen and store it in a separate bag and container. Put it back in the freezer.
  7. Give the screen a gentle flick to dislodge any trichomes caught in the mesh.
  8. Lifting off the screen, you should see a fine layer of golden powder on the next screen. This can then be worked with the card to push smaller trichomes down to the next screen, and so on.
  9. Using the clean card, collect the trichomes off each screen as you move onto the next and store them in an airtight jar (label the jar with the strain and micron size).

Collecting Dry Sift

As we mentioned earlier, you'll find your preferred way of making dry sift. Experiment to see what works best for the amount of material you have. Bear in mind, you can often put the material back though the same screen once it has re-frozen and harvest more trichomes that didn't fall off due to warming up.

Tip: Work in a clean environment with no dust and minimal air movement.

Using bubble bags to make kief by PrairieFrostGrow from GrowDiaries.

Conclusion

Making dry sift is a great way of taking advantage of your trim and small popcorn buds. Of course, the quality is very different when you use frosty, trichome-rich top buds, but either way, dry sifting is the way to go for those looking for an easy way to get experimenting with cannabinoid and terpene concentrates. 

If you found this article useful, feel free to share your thoughts about dry sift down below in the comments section!

External References

Accumulation of Cannabinoids in Glandular Trichomes of Cannabis (Cannabaceae). Journal of Industrial Hemp. - Mahlberg, Paul & Kim, Eun Soo. (2004).

Characterization of the Cannabis sativa glandular trichome proteome. - Conneely, Lee & Mauleon, Ramil & Mieog, Jos & Kretzschmar, Tobias. (2020).

'Bubble Hash', Cannabis Culture Magazine. - Brady, P (2003)

Cannabinoids: Extraction Methods, Analysis, and Physicochemical Characterization. - Ramirez, Cris & Fanovich, Maria & Churio, Sandra. (2018).

This article was updated November 2020.






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