Not everyone can appreciate the subtle nuances that can elevate the ordinary to new heights. The master cannabis grower gets to know each cultivar’s little quirks and continues heavily feeding vegetative nutrients through the first two weeks of flowering to their Gorilla Glue #4 plants to support the massive stretch of this particular varietal during this time. A less experienced cultivator skips this step and loses out on yield, potency, and terpene production when their plants spend their energy repairing structural damage towards the end of their life cycle instead of producing resin.
A passionate pursuit can produce a far superior product that a fortunate few can fully appreciate.
The team responsible for creating the device sitting in front of me are clearly driven by just such a pursuit of passion. To any cannabis enthusiast, its form factor instantly shares what it is. A closer look reveals that this is unlike any other similar device. The Lift Innovations cannabis preparation tool cannot precisely be called a grinder; this heavy duty, expandable, customizable device doesn't grind cannabis flower with teeth. It slices the material with specially designed blades, engineered to prepare your herb for use in a vaporizer or for more traditional joint and blunt rolling while minimizing trichome (resin gland) destruction, thus preserving a fuller terpene (aroma molecule) profile for the enthusiast to enjoy. And it does all this with far superior ease-of-use than any Space Case, Santa Cruz Shredder, Cali Crusher, Phoenician, Kannastör, or any other similar device I've played with in the premium grinder space.
The standard four-piece unit is 2 1/2 inches in diameter, stands almost as tall at 2 1/4 inches, and weighs-in at a hefty 10 ounces. The food-grade stainless steel blade is housed in a matte black anodized 6061-T6 aluminum shell that feels weighty and smooth in the hand. The strong magnet that connects the spinner wheel to the blade keeps that sucker in place - upside down and all around. The inside of the bottom compartment is nicely rounded so there are no corners for precious kif to get lost in. It comes with a matching ashtray whose three tiny feet serve as the tool to remove and replace the screen for cleaning. Rounding out the kit is a guitar pick-like tool for gathering kif and a stainless steel Lift-branded key fob charm that doubles as a grinder coin.
This device is the brain child of three visionaries from Manitoba. Using shared space at a local business accelerator in 2015, the team engineered and prototyped the device using design software and 3D printers. They then launched an indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to build awareness and the capital to support their first production run.
Greg Moneta, and their team at Lift innovations in Winnipeg seem to have really thought through the problems of traditional grinders and addressed them with aplomb.
There is no fighting with dense material stuck between rows of teeth. The blades, magnetically connected to the spinner wheel, slice through the natural resistance with ease. I'm almost looking forward to developing arthritis.
Without teeth, the folks at Lift were able to engineer a design that avoids all concern with the painful annoyance of getting your hand-flesh accidentally pinched while magnetically attaching the lid to the preparation chamber. What a relief!
The various pieces will never succumb to the dreaded thread lock that has destined so many cheap grinders to the dustbin of failure - there are no proper threads to be found anywhere on this thing. Instead, it uses a quarter-turn locking design that feels solid and is super-intuitive and easy to use.
And then they weren't done improving...
You can customize the size of the cut material for different uses: from coarse for bowls, to medium for joints and blunts, to fine for use in vaporizers by choosing one of the three sifting disc options, each with different-sized holes, to easily attach to the preparation chamber. The roughly seven-second process involves using the included tool to release the retaining ring and screen and then manually inserting the new screen and using the tool again to replace the ring.
You also get three sizes of stainless steel kif screens to choose from (380, 280, and 140 microns.)
If that's not enough customization for you, they also sell additional product chamber rings that can be used to enlarge either the cut material compartment or the kif collection compartment. Or if you're really fancy, you can set yours up like mine, with all three kif screens positioned like hash-making bubble bags, to collect different sizes of the few trichome bits that manage to fall off the flower.
Now... this next-level preparation tool comes with a next-level price. This is not a stocking-stuffer; this is the main event. The standard four-piece unit with all the screen choices included sells for $175. For $150 you can save some money if you think you'll be happy with the just the medium-sized flower and kif screens. They also sell a three-piece, with no trichome sifting screen for $120.
These price points beg an obvious question: is the Lift-Innovations device a good value when compared to its competition?
Answering this question requires taking a deeper look into the options available in this space. A quick search on Amazon for "herb grinder" yields over 20,000 results with price ranges starting at pennies and plateauing in a few spots: around the $15, $30, $65, and $100 price points, with a handful of spendy outliers. For around fifteen dollars you have your choice of hundreds of grinders in a dizzying array of designs and colors, made of acrylic or wood or whatever's the cheapest alloy of the moment. The five more-established brands in this space all have anodized aluminum toothed products ranging from about $30 to $100. And they all work. The Lift even inspired a knockoff product made with cheaper materials and a weak magnet that apparently doesn't keep the spinner wheel in place (Amazon reviewers are not impressed) called the Lincig, available for $60.
So what do you get for the extra ducats, and is that worth it?
With the exception of the inferior copycat Lincig, this is the only device in the space that uses stainless steel blades instead of aluminum teeth to prepare material. I found this gentler treatment to result in a superior, less-damaged, more aromatic cut for smoking and vaping.
The materials are high quality and the build is solid.
Both the spinner wheel and the bottom compartment have easy-to-grip shapes, a welcome design element I appreciate for its form and function.
The quarter-turn locking system that eliminates traditional threads is not unique in category, both Santa Cruz Shredder and Phoenician made similar design choices here, but it is a welcome innovation in the space, executed well. It's intuitive and easy to use.
The options for customizing and expanding the Lift are almost unique and almost perfect. RYOT's latest Kannastör brand grinders are the only competitors I found that offer some similar customization options - but this time in an anodized aluminum toothed framework at $89. The Kannastör GR8TR V2 is slightly smaller than the Lift at 2.2 inches in diameter and also offers the ability to adjust the grind size and switch-out the kif screen. Like the Lift, the GR8TR V2 can also be reconfigured in a few ways, but it is limited to two sizes of ground material compartments, and does not currently support any multi-screen set ups.
The major differences between these customizable devices are that the Lift is bigger, it completely avoids using aluminum teeth to break up material, and it can transform into many more configurations than the GR8TR device. Now, this isn't to say that the Lift's customizability is perfect. It isn't, but it's close. Before assembling the triple-screen set up I'm using now, I added an extra product chamber ring to double the size of the cut material compartment. It worked great until I made a little mess as bits of material littered my table while disassembling it... it was a quick and easy clean up, but there is room for improvement here.
It's important to note here that there is some concern in the cannabis community that toothed grinders made of a variety of mostly-aluminum alloys may pollute smokable material as they chip and otherwise degrade over time. Lift solves this problem in two ways. First, by eliminating the teeth altogether and replacing them with food grade stainless steel blades. And second, by anodizing the high grade aluminum alloy shell, thereby making it less likely to fleck off or otherwise leach into the material. For $100, Space Case sells a titanium-plated aluminum grinder that offers some protection against aluminum pollution. Unfortunately, reviewers report that the plating chips off quickly - hardly an ideal solution. There are also some solid stainless steel grinder options on the market at similar price points to the Lift, but they are all traditional tooth-style choices and are prohibitively heavy.
Does this thing have room for improvement? Yes. The cut material storage compartment could be bigger, the design could potentially be re-engineered to avoid the little messes when disassembling, and this expensive, premium gadget could come with a suitably-tony storage case and a few more useful accessories like a miniature brush for sweeping it clean, a more deliberately engineered kif scoop, and a better grinder coin.
The company's web presence looks okay and is reasonably functional, but their site could do a better job of organizing information and presenting their product. I'd love to see several device setups when I land on their page, to inspire my engagement. Instead I see some nice shots of the tool and a cool, but grainy-quality video of the device schematics. The low-quality video and slightly amateurish looking website don't adequately mesh with the aesthetics of the high-end product the company sells. There is definitely room for improvement here, but this should not weigh-in on any consumer's decision-making process.
So... Do any of these features or considerations combine to make this almost $200 choice a good value?
If it's in your budget and you will use it regularly, this is a unique and excellent tool for preparing your material. Otherwise, this seems like more of an aspirational product.
I am really enjoying mine.