- Breaking up or grinding cannabis flower is necessary for airflow and a pleasant smoking experience.
- If you don’t have a grinder, there are several DIY methods using common household items.
- Ripping flower by hand is fastest, but other methods with tools can be more effective.
At some point or another, every cannabis smoker has found themselves ready to light up but without a weed grinder at the ready. Though you don’t necessarily need to use a grinder, finding some way to break up your cannabis is crucial.
“A grinder is not necessary,” says Julian Webb, a senior lead at Nectar Cannabis in Gresham, Oregon. “It just makes everything so much more convenient and less messy.”
“Grinding or shredding your flower into smaller pieces allows your flower to burn more evenly,” he explains. No matter your preferred smoking method, it’s not feasible to smoke an intact bud. Sticking a whole nug within your rolling paper causes the airflow to be blocked and the joint to burn unevenly. Using unground flower in a bong can work, but Webb says it would still likely obstruct airflow and result in a less satisfying hit.
There are several DIY grinding methods that can work in a pinch, many of which use common household objects that you’re likely to have laying around.
Method 1: Break it up with your hands
This method is the easiest when you’re strapped for resources. “It’s convenient and doesn’t require anything extra.” Webb says. “You might not be able to achieve a super fine consistency, but it will get the job done.”
Simply wash your hands, then separate the flower from its stems, loading them into your smoking vessel as you go. Be as detail-oriented as you’d like to get the smallest possible pieces — the finer your flower is, the easier it is to roll it smoothly into a joint.
Method 2: Use a coffee grinder
Your morning brew grinder can also work for weed — especially if you have a large quantity on hand. “A coffee grinder or any electric grinder shreds flower much too fine for my taste personally, but these are great options if you need to grind a larger amount of flower,” says Webb.
Using a larger amount of flower will help prevent the blades of the coffee grinder from quickly shredding it to dust, so it’s easier to have control over the size of your ground flower. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the coarseness of your ground cannabis — it’s more of a preference than anything else. A finer grind will allow you to pack more flower into the same size joint or bowl piece, so some may prefer this grinding method if they want to smoke more in a single session.
After cleaning your grinder, separate the flower from its stems and load it into the grinding chamber. If your coffee grinder has different coarseness settings, experiment with small amounts of flower to find your preferred consistency. Close the lid, and run the grinder until you get evenly sized, smokable pieces of cannabis. If you plan to use your coffee grinder for coffee, make sure to clean it thoroughly afterwards, as weed can leave sticky residue.
Method 3: Use a cheese grater
Webb says that using a cheese grater can work well in place of a grinder — there are even specially-made cannabis graters on the market. If you’re using a box grater with multiple options, go for the smallest size blade available.
Working over a clean surface, hold each bud against the grater and rub it back and forth against the blades to break it up. This method can be especially effective for folks with dexterity challenges or arthritis, but be sure to work carefully to avoid cutting yourself.
Method 4: Mortar and pestle
While a mortar and pestle isn’t a common tool, it grinds the trichomes in cannabis well.
When all else fails, kick it old school and use a mortar and pestle. This tool is composed of a bowl (mortar) and a blunt, club-like object (pestle), and is used to crush food and herbs into a powder or paste.
A mortar and pestle isn’t a super common tool, so this grinding method isn’t the most accessible on the list, and it tends to work best on drier flower, Webb notes. Though there are some drawbacks, a mortar and pestle is highly effective at breaking up the trichomes in cannabis flower.
Trichomes are the part of the plant that contain cannabinoids and terpenes, responsible for the flavor, aroma, and psychoactive effects of weed. You may recognize it as the powdery kief that collects in the bottom-most compartment of a standard weed grinder. Using this method results in a consistency similar to kief, compared to your typical small pieces of ground flower. Depending on your preferences, that might be a good thing, but keep in mind that you’re likely to lose some weed in the crevices of the tool.
If you have a mortar and pestle laying around and you’re willing to make these compromises, it’s worth giving it a shot. After loading your flower into the mortar, apply gentle pressure to it with the pestle until it reaches a fine consistency.
Pour as much of the ground flower as possible onto a clean surface or directly into your smoking vessel. Clean out the mortar and pestle afterwards — since they can be made from rock, wood, ceramic, and other materials, follow best practices for your particular tool to remove as much of the residue as you can.
Method 5: Shake it up in pill bottle with a coin
Another way to grind cannabis without using your hands is placing flower in an empty pill bottle along with a coin. The coin ricochets off of the walls of the pill bottle as you shake it, separating the bud as it goes.
Although it’s not as effective as other methods, Webb notes that this is the only DIY solution that helps separate kief from flower akin to a traditional weed grinder. “[It] can actually help separate some of the trichomes from the flower. Due to the static charge, the kief will collect around the walls of the bottle,” he says.
Before starting, cleaning the coin to remove build-up or bacteria is a must. Some have also noted that this method causes their weed to diminish in flavor or take on a metallic taste or smell, but cleaning the coin in advance may help mitigate this.
Though a dime or penny will do, nickels or quarters work best because they’re heavier. Unscrew the lid of an empty pill bottle and place a coin at the bottom. Load a small amount of unground flower on top of the coin, leaving space for the contents to bounce around in the bottle. Screw the lid back on, then shake the bottle vigorously to break up your cannabis.
Once it’s ground, use your finger or a small brush to first remove the kief from the walls of the bottle, then dump the flower into your smoking vessel. Note that storing weed in a plastic container isn’t optimal, so you should plan to use all the ground weed right away.
Smoking unground cannabis flower simply doesn’t work, so if you find yourself grinder-less, try one of these DIY methods. Ripping it apart with your hands is the simplest way, but you can also use a coffee grinder, a cheese grater, or an empty pill bottle with a coin inside. A mortar and pestle may also work if your flower is on the dry side.