As a cannabis coach and experienced budtender, I get asked this question a lot:
“I’m super new to smoking cannabis flower. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all the cannabis smoking gear and accessories at the dispensary. Right now, I’ve got a small pipe and a lighter (obviously), but do I need anything else? Some of my friends use a grinder for their flower…do you think I should buy one?”
It’s very common to go into a dispensary and feel a knee-jerk reaction to buy everything in the store. Pipes, rolling papers, lighters, stash jars…many people walk into a dispensary and end up spending way more money than they intended. A well-meaning budtender may try to encourage you to buy a rolling tray or a stash jar, but how do you know what cannabis gear you ACTUALLY need?
As far as cannabis smoking accessories go, everyone is different. Some people like to buy every pipe and device they can find because they want to have a variety on hand. I personally think it’s best to buy just a few tried-and-true products that you’re happy with and can get comfortable using consistently—you can always upgrade or buy a different device later down the road.
If you’re looking to venture into the world of smoking cannabis flower, you really don’t need much gear to get started. Flower, pipe, lighter. Many people break up their cannabis buds with their fingers, pack up their pipe, and away they go! But for me, I absolutely always, always, always, use a grinder, and here’s why.
If you’ve ever broken up cannabis buds with your fingertips, you know it can be a labor-intensive process. When I first started smoking cannabis flower, I would spend so long breaking apart the buds with my fingertips. I found that it made my hands really sticky and a lot of the product would end up under my fingernails, which I hated.
If you break cannabis buds up with your fingers, it’s very easy to damage the trichomes, or the hairs that hold a majority of the plant’s THC. This can cause joints or pipes to burn unevenly. Have you ever smoked a joint and found one side of it burned well and the other side didn’t? That’s often because the flower inside is not uniform in shape, so some of the joint burns more easily while the rest of it struggles to stay lit.
Trust me—get a cannabis grinder, put some buds inside, and then rotate the gears a few times so that the sharp teeth grind the flower. The gears are sharp, allowing the buds to break apart easily without being squished. The end result is cannabis flower perfectly ground up and ready for smoking. I find the process fun, as well—similar to grinding up fresh coffee beans before making a special cup of coffee.
Don’t believe me? Try a little experiment. Pack up a bowl or pipe with uniformly ground cannabis from a grinder versus cannabis you broke up with your fingertips. You’ll soon notice that the grinder provides a much more even, smooth smoke sesh.
Another reason I suggest buying a grinder even if you’re a newbie: It can help your cannabis stash last longer…and I know that’s something we all want!
When I first started smoking cannabis and was breaking up the buds with my fingers, I was always astonished at how quickly I would run out. I’d roll a couple of small joints or pack up a couple of bowls, and my whole eighth would be gone. I eventually started working at a dispensary and got a free grinder with one of my purchases, and that honestly was a game-changer for my smoke sessions (as well as my monthly budget).
Grinders break up the plant material evenly and expose more surface area, which is what you want. Think of it like breaking up a sprig of basil. Sure, you can break it up with your fingertips and spread it on your pizza, but you’ll get A LOT more out of it if you chop it up into fine pieces with a knife instead. Similarly, I find that cannabis flower lasts so much longer when I’m consistently using a grinder.
Another reason to use a grinder for your cannabis buds: taste. I’m big on preserving the taste of my cannabis and experiencing the unique flavor each strain has to offer.
When you use a cannabis grinder, you allow all the terpenes, or aromatic compounds that determine a strain’s smell and taste, to come to the surface. This contributes to a flavorful, delicious smoke sesh. Just like grinding up coffee exposes the beans’ aromatic oils and lets us smell its fragrance, the same process happens with cannabis buds.
If you can, it’s best to grind up just enough bud for your current smoke sesh and grind more as needed. I just add it to the ritual of packing a bowl, and it’s the very first thing I do: Grind up my buds using my tried-and-true three-chamber grinder. Then I proceed with packing up my pipe or rolling up a joint.
As far as what grinder to buy? There are a few different options depending on what price-point you’re looking at. I typically always recommend a four-piece, or three-chamber, grinder, because these ones have an extra chamber for the purpose of collecting all the fine, powdery kief that falls off during the grinding process. Learn what you can do with kief here.
If you’re just getting started, a plastic or acrylic grinder will do the trick. These are typically less than $10, and many dispensaries will throw these into your bag as a freebie. An inexpensive grinder like this will help to grind up your bud in a pinch, but be aware that a grinder made of plastic or acrylic most likely won’t last very long and the teeth will become dull over time.
If you plan on consuming flower regularly (a few times a month or more), I’d recommend looking into a non-stick grinder made of aluminum. Think of it like buying cooking equipment for your kitchen—you definitely get what you pay for. If you splurge for a sturdier aluminum grinder, you’ll collect more kief, get a more even grind, and enjoy an easier grinding ritual.
After working with thousands of clients who are new to smoking cannabis, I’ve found that most people are thankful when I encourage them to buy a grinder. Whether you want to have a smooth smoke sesh, save money on your monthly flower purchases, or just make your cannabis as tasty as possible, a grinder is a great way to take your cannabis game to the next level.
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