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What Is a Grinder and How Do You Use It for Cannabis?

November 3, 2016
What is a Grinder and How Do You Use It for Cannabis?
If you’re new to cannabis, you may have a few questions about grinders and how to use one. Grinders can be purchased at almost any smoke store or head shop, or you can order one online from a variety of retail outlets. They can be as simple as a grinding card (like a cheese grater for cannabis) or a more complex multi-chamber device. In this tutorial, we’re going to teach you how to use the most common type of cannabis grinder: a 4-piece grinder with a kief catcher.

But first, let’s go over the basics.

What Is a Grinder and Why Do I Need One for Cannabis?


what is a marijuana grinder
As you might have guessed, a grinder is the tool you use to break your cannabis up into small bits for smoother-hitting bowls or for wrapping in rolling papers and blunt wraps. There are a number of ways to grind cannabis if you don’t have a grinder, but grinders speed up the process and offer perks like kief catchers.

A kief catcher refers to the bottom chamber below the screen that gathers all the potent crystal kief knocked off the buds in the grinding process. You can scoop the kief out and add it to the top of your bowl, or use it later to press your own hash or cook edibles.

marijuana grinder with a kief catcher
Above the screen, you’ll find the grinding chamber with “teeth,” or the blades that do all the work. The lid of the grinder attaches to this part, and metal grinders typically have a magnet to help keep things secure as you grind.

How to Use a Marijuana Grinder

Step 1: Take off the top lid. Use your fingers to break bigger buds up and place them in between the grinder’s teeth. Don’t bother putting any bud in the direct center–this is where the magnet pivots, so nothing in the center will get shredded.

Step 2: Replace the top of the grinder and give it about 10 rotations, until all the bud has fallen through the holes. You can remove the top and tap it against the grinder’s side to help loosen up any sticky pieces stuck in the teeth.

Step 3: Unscrew the chamber with the teeth to find the basket layer holding all your freshly ground cannabis. Load it into your pipe, joint, or blunt and enjoy!

Step 4: Once you’ve collected some kief in the bottom chamber, scrape some out with a piece of paper or the scraping tool provided (not all grinder purchases will include one, but they’re definitely handy). Again, you can sprinkle kief onto a bowl to make it more potent, or save it for something else. Be careful with metal scrapers, as they can scrape aluminum particulates along with your kief!

Some people like to put a weight in the kief chamber to help knock resin from the screen into the bottom dish. A cleaned penny or nickel works perfectly for this.

Find Your Favorite Cannabis Grinder

How to Clean a Sticky Grinder

One day, you’ll have used your grinder so often that it will become sticky with kiefy resin. The threading on the sides where pieces screw together will become gummy, making it difficult (or impossible) to twist open. Avoid having your grinder lock up on you by keeping it clean; here are a few tips for keeping things running smoothly.

  • Rub the sticky grinder parts with isopropyl alcohol and salt. This is a go-to cleaning method for pipes and bongs, but it works just as well for getting rid of the stickiness on grinder pieces.
  • Use a small brush (e.g. a stiff-bristled paintbrush, or a clean beard brush or toothbrush) to knock kief loose from the screen.
  • Freezing your grinder makes it harder for kief to stick to surfaces. Consider putting your grinder in the freezer before cleaning up the kiefy mess if it’s being particularly stubborn.
  • For really irredeemably sticky grinders, sometimes it’s best to just replace the thing altogether, especially if it’s a cheap grinder.

What other grinder tips and hacks do you have to offer those new to cannabis? Leave any questions or advice in the comments section below!

Bailey Rahn's Bio Image

Bailey Rahn

Bailey is a senior content manager at Leafly, specializing in strains and health. She's spent 7+ years researching cannabis products, spreading patients’ stories, and exploring healthy ways of integrating cannabis into daily life.

View Bailey Rahn's articles

  • Excellent article. There’s no silly question when it comes to Cannabis. Learning how to grind your Cannabis and properly cleaning your Cannabis grinder is very important.

  • Suren Avetikian

    Honestly this helped me narrow down my search and ended up getting a 4 piece design grinder by greengrinders.net thanks guys for this article.

    • Johnny M

      Thanks Suren, I ordered mine and got mine today and its so far the best weed grinder i owned.

  • Allie

    Here’s how to easily clean a metal grinder.. Take your 4 piece grinder apart, and put it all the pieces in a small glass container with either rubbing alcohol (if you don’t plan to use the liquid) or everclear (which you can save, to get you started with homemade tinctures or extractions). Make sure that each piece of the grinder is covered by the alcohol. The first time I left that soaking overnight, I couldn’t believe how bright green the liquid was. After that it is really easy to clean off any remaining plant material.

  • Viki Banaszak

    What do you do with the little bits of twig? I have been saving them as I am sure they must be good for something.