When you purchase your cannabis, it most likely will come in a package filled with nugs – tightly clumped cannabis flowers. Before consuming it, you’ll need to break that material down. Whether you're smoking, vaping, or baking, breaking down your weed properly will ensure you get the best experience possible.
While there are several ways to go about this process, like using scissors, some methods may result in losing many of the beneficial trichomes. Even basic handling of cannabis nugs will leave behind a sticky residue on your fingers. Using a weed grinder is the most efficient method since it preserves the maximum amount of resin and trichomes.1
A grinder allows the cannabis to break into a fine grind, exposing a consistent surface area to the flame when smoking. It also allows your pipe, joint, or bong hit to burn quickly and evenly, resulting in a smoother smoke. As a result, there’s less chance of your bowl clogging or joint burning unevenly.
Grinding your weed is a fast and easy process. However, finding the right grinder can be overwhelming with so many options to choose from. Some designs are cheaper and basic, while others are more expensive and somewhat complex.
When you know what features to look for and what to consider, choosing a grinder can be a straightforward process. So, how do you choose the grinder that’s right for you? We share pro tips and some of our favorite options to explore.
What is a Cannabis Grinder?
In 1905 an industrial device known as the centerless grinder was introduced, creating a more efficient way of pulverizing material. Essentially, it uses wheels with abrasive teeth-like edges to grind plant-based substances.
Since then, the cannabis grinder technology has been adapted and improved to include special screens and multiple collection chambers (though it still utilizes the same basic principle).
What are the Different Types of Weed Grinders?
The basic – and often the cheapest – type of grinder is a two-piece tool with a top and bottom piece, each with teeth that match up and allow you to glide and twist them back and forth. It’s as simple as placing a few smaller nugs in between the top and bottom and rotating the pieces back and forth until it slides easily. Then you’ll open it up and empty the ground cannabis onto a rolling tray.
Three-piece cannabis grinders are almost the same as the two-piece ones, but they have a second lower chamber to catch and store the ground nugs, making three-piece grinders more user friendly.
The most popular option is the four-piece ginder, with an additional chamber known as the kief catcher. Here, the grinder collects the high-THC crystal resin (it looks like light green dust). Five-piece grinders offer an additional kief catcher.
Which grinder is suitable for you may depend on the scenario you’re using it for.
- A two-piece chamber is light and straightforward, making it excellent for sessions on the go. It’s also lovely when grinding up cannabis for making edibles, as it will preserve more resin with the flower material.
- The larger cannabis grinders may be better for at-home sessions or for people who like the second chamber's convenience and the ability to collect kief to enhance their next joint or bowl.
Grinders are made from various materials, including plastic, wood, aluminum, steel, and titanium. Electric and hand-crank grinders are also available for a more interactive and entertaining experience.
Why Use a Weed Grinder?
Grinders offer the convenience of keeping your hands free of sticky residue while quickly and easily breaking down your nugs evenly. Regardless of the material they’re made of or the number of chambers, they are also generally pretty portable. Those with kief catchers offer the additional ability to create and store concentrate that may be used to enhance future consumption sessions.
Although it’s not an absolute necessity and plenty of people get by without a grinder, there are several benefits to utilizing a cannabis grinder to make your consumption experience easier and more enjoyable.
Ground weed burns better. The even surface exposes the flame to more material, allowing it to burn faster (so start light with the flame) and create a smooth, more accurately dosed flow of smoke.
Ground cannabis is better for edibles. Cannabis is the key ingredient in edible recipes, but the herb isn’t known for its flavor-enhancing qualities. Adding ground flower and/or kief to edible recipes minimizes the distinct cannabis taste, which most people would rather not have. Also, finely ground weed allows the cannabinoids and terpenes (like myrcene and limonene) to be more easily absorbed by the butter, oil, or extract medium you are cooking.
A little ground cannabis goes a long way. Breaking down the cannabis nugs extracts and conserves all of the plant’s psychoactive compounds into different chambers, meaning each ground gram will deliver the maximum potency. Since the flame can hit more cannabis material, it will theoretically create a richer experience. So you’ll need less cannabis to get your desired effects, thereby extending the use of your cannabis stash.
Ground cannabis is a greater bang for each hit. Each joint, bowl, or bong hit filled with broken-down flowers and/or kief allows for more evenly distributed essential cannabis compounds that might otherwise be squandered by trying to burn the whole bud at once. Whole buds can also be difficult to burn or may even clog your glassware, which can be wasteful. Ground cannabis creates a better airflow, maximizing each hit's potential.
Using a grinder may even make your consumption experience healthier. Since you won’t need as much cannabis to reach your ideal experience, you may, in turn, reduce your exposure to the harms of smoking.
How to Use a Weed Grinder
The great part about cannabis grinders is that they are simple and effortless to operate. Of course, different brands and models can differ significantly in quality, but no matter the quality or the number of chambers, these steps remain the same for nearly all manually operated designs.
First, remove the lid, and place a few small dime size nugs into the teeth. Don’t overstuff it, and avoid filling the center area because you’ll want to ensure you can still place the lid on and move it a little to start the grinding.
Place the top lid back on, lock in the teeth, and move the top and bottom pieces back and forth.
Initially, you should feel some resistance, but after several twists and turns, the resistance should gradually lessen. You’ll know you’re done when you can easily turn the cap.
If you have a two-piece grinder, you’ll dump your material onto a rolling tray or paper. You’ll open the second chamber to reveal your material for the three, four, or five-piece options. Repeat for the kief-catching sections.
An additional tip for grinders with kief catchers is to add a coin on top of any part in the upper chamber and gently shake the grinder from side to side. The weight of the coin and the gentle shaking motion will help push the kief powder down through the screen and into the lowest chamber while leaving your ground-up buds in the top chamber.
Electric grinders are also an option and reduce the stress on your hands and wrists. Each design will have its own user instructions, but the process is generally the same regarding loading and unloading the chambers.
How to Clean a Weed Grinder
Just like cannabis glassware and other tools, it’s best practice to clean your grinder occasionally. Electric grinders will most likely require special cleaning listed in their manual, so check before proceeding. The following instructions are for manual grinders.
- Remove any remaining cannabis material. Trichomes and little leftover flakes of nug start to build up over time. You can take a toothbrush and remove any of this material. It can be used to consume later! Don’t forget to clear the kief catcher if your grinder has this compartment.
- Freeze it. That’s right, place your grinder in the freezer. This step can be skipped if you just need a quick cleaning, but is well worth it if you have the time (or a backup grinder to hold you over). You can leave it there for 30 minutes, but several hours is best. Take it out and repeat step one to remove more usable cannabis material.
- Soak it. Place your grinder in a ziplock baggie, and pour 91% isopropyl alcohol over it. You’ll need to pour in enough alcohol to ensure all the parts of the grinder are submerged. Add in some coarse salt, and give the bag a gentle shake. Let it soak for at least 30 minutes to several hours, depending on how dirty your grinder is. Note you may not need to clean each part. Some people prefer not to touch their kief catcher. Usually, the most important element that needs cleaning is the grinding wheel.
- Remove the remaining residue. Once you pull the grinder from the alcohol, use more alcohol to give it another quick rinse.
- Rinse it. Once you rinse the grinder with alcohol, you may not need to run it under water. But if you choose to do so, we recommend using hot water.
Pro Tip. Before your first grind with your freshly cleaned grinder, coat the outer rim of the first chamber with a small amount of hemp, coconut, or olive oil. This will ensure your grinder glides smoothly on the first grind back.
How often you clean your grinder is up to you and may depend on how often you use it. Some people say it should be cleaned once a month, and others say every few months. Either way, taking this step can preserve the quality and usability of your device.
How to Choose the Right Weed Grinder
There are an array of factors that can help you choose which weed grinder is best for you.
Budget is usually one of the first things to consider. As a general rule, most cannabis connoisseurs believe you get what you pay for when it comes to grinders, but this isn’t always the case.
Typically, inexpensive grinders range from $5 to about $20, while higher-end grinders tend to go for $30 to $90. These prices may be determined by the number of chambers, the type of materials it’s made of, and the brand that sells them. Electric versions will also cost a bit more than the traditional manual options.
Functionality is another deciding factor for many consumers. The four chamber grinder is one of the most popular choices because of the kief catcher. Kief is an easy concentrate to add to bowls or joints, making them more flavorful and potent. Plus, it extends the use of your cannabis. Kief can be purchased in some dispensaries but is generally difficult to find, so having a grinder with the ability to create and store your own is well worth it for many consumers.
Quality and consistency are also worth considering. Some grinders do a better job than others, so choose one with the ability and reputation for creating the consistency you like. Remember, you want a nice, evenly ground, fluffy pile of material to work with.
The Best Weed Grinders: Our Picks for 2023
There are endless options for grinders, and what’s best is a matter of personal preference. However, to get you started on your search for your best weed grinder, we’ve provided a few of our top choices in popular varieties.
Aluminum is arguably the most common and best material that a grinder can be made out of, and Santa Cruz Shredders are the most notable, long-standing top choice for this category. They are on the pricier end, starting at $35 for a two-piece, but many people have attested they are well worth it.
Marley Natural’s has an exquisite four-piece wood grinder. At $90, it may be considered a splurge, but it’s an excellent option for consumers looking for an aesthetically elevated design.
COOL KNIGHT Herb Grinder is an excellent choice if you want an electric grinder. At only $23 and boasting over five-thousand 4-star reviews, it’s a quality choice for convenient and quickly-ground cannabis.
Five piece cannabis grinders are a little harder to come by, but the SharpStone 5 Piece Herb Grinder can be ordered online. This option has that extra kief catcher to extend the use of your cannabis material. It has rave reviews from customers and is reasonably priced, starting at $40.
These are just a few of hundreds of options you may have access to at your local dispensary, smoke shop, and online. It’s not uncommon to try a few out before you find the perfect one for you. Happy grinding!
1. Hansen SH. An Efficient, Robust, and Inexpensive Grinding Device for Herbal Samples like Cinchona bark. Scientia Pharmaceutica. 2015;83(2):369-376. doi:https://doi.org/10.3797/scipharm.1410-14
The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.