I’ve heard in Mendo that they are pretty quick to jump on you for even using an aluminum grinder in public. Between the miniscule (microscopic) shavings of aluminum which are deposited in joints over the course of years, to the abuse the flower and trichome endures; aluminum grinders are frowned upon.
Personally I find great quality increase in rolling joints without using a grinder. It is a bit time consuming, and so it becomes a ritual of sorts, but I prefer to use fine-pointed scissors to individually cut out each bract, so that it falls directly onto the rolling paper. The chunky texture of all-bract joints is distinct. The airflow is great, and I know that very few of the trichomes I’ve grown were ruptured and their compounds were not volatilized prematurely.
The quality increase in flavor and potency is clearly noticeable since I stopped using a grinder entirely. My same flowers, when ground up by family members, taste worse than when whole bracts are carefully tucked into a joint. There is something about the physical way heat passes over these complex shapes. Broken plant material has edges which expose the chlorophyll to air. When you burn the jay, that exposed chlorophyll is heated up and affects the taste. But whole bracts allow the heat to roll over them, and the trichomes and terpenes are vaporized and inhaled. It is entirely more flavorful to smoke a joint of entirely unbroken plant material–whole bracts. Especially this is the case in cannabis which has not been fully cured (3-9+ months). If there is any chlorophyll left in the plant material you are smoking, by maintaining the floral bracts in whole form, you will reduce the chlorophyll flavor you experience.
I am reminded of popular movies: an explosion in a tunnel full of cars, as analogy for combustion of a joint full of bracts. The aerodynamic shape of the vehicles effectively sheds/deflects passing heat energy. A whole car may have flame pass over it, leaving it charred and chemically altered–but afterward, the car may still stand whole; for its shape has ensured a lower maximum temperature is reached. Whereas the same car if it had been chopped up in pieces, has a greater surface area exposed to the wave of heat which passes it, and thus more of the car is exposed/burned at a higher temperature and converted from solids to gases. If your lungs are at the other end of the tunnel, you probably want to inhale as little “burnt car” as you can hope to. You’d much rather prefer to only smoke the paint coating that was burned off, rather than the whole car that was incinerated; or rather, that we enjoy a joint more when the smoke we inhale is a greater proportion of oils/terpenes (car paint) than plant matter (entire car frame+wheels).
It may all sound fanciful, but the evidence is on the tongue. In my youth I once had an older friend who was mentally not all there. He had been in and out of hospitals and homelessness and the like, and was a rather peculiar fellow all in all. But he insisted: every joint must be hand-picked and rolled. No scissors or grinders, ever. I took a when-in-Rome approach, and simply chalked it up at the time to obsessive compulsive ritual. I eagerly admired the newest grinders on the market and enjoyed my modest collection as it was. I felt great impatience in waiting for these joints of his to be rolled, and always sought to roll my own three or four with my grinder, while waiting for him to maybe roll a single one. Because of this man’s known mental capacity, I held prejudice and was internally dismissive of his notions that “my joints taste bad” (as he said).
I had simply at that time not developed the palate to identify the specific taste of burning chlorophyll, and could not then perceive (because of my expectations and prejudice regarding the individual) any of the benefits to quality which he claimed. I simply wrote it off as another one of his delusions. (For he was perhaps schizophrenic and made often mention of the many agencies and organizations which tracked and oppressed him, and the multiple microchips and vague alien technologies which had been installed in his body since childhood.)
Take from that what you will. But today I know: if you grind it up into mulch, it tastes like mulch. There is a certain real and tangible difference in enjoyment and effect which comes from hand-picking bracts. Or in my case, with my large inarticulate thumbs which crush wholly any delicate bract they seek to pluck, I have used the tip of fine-pointed bonsai scissors to shear bracts from the stem by their base, as if using a butter knife to remove kernals of corn from a cob individually.
Plus I took a look at my 10+ year old aluminum grinders, and saw all the thousands of scratches and chipped teeth. I couldn’t remember smoking any aluminum specifically. But I suppose I had. I mean there are literally thousands of scratches, and a scratch is evidence of sheered particulates. And from what I gather, it is not a great idea to combust aluminum and inhale the vapors. I doubt these microscopic shavings have had difficulty being volatilized in 400-600+ degree combustion. (Depending on how hard you pull the cherry.) I think exposure to aluminum is acutely correlated to alzheimer’s, if I am not mistaken.
Overall smoking aluminum is something to avoid–if you can conceptualize the possibility that you are exposed to it. But if you’re the kind of smoker (and no judgement here) that doesn’t mind poking a hole in a beer can with his car keys and burning a bud with a bic, I don’t think these imperceptible aluminum shavings are going to garnish serious attention or consideration.
So my stance is: If you smoke 36 or more joints in a day (as Bob Marley does), might as well use a coffee grinder and make up some pre-rolls for the day; you can always add in some kief if you lose trichomes in the shredding process. But if you have the time in your lifestyle to hand roll some nice joints with individually removed bracts, you’ll enjoy it all the more. For both potency and flavor improve–quite noticeably if you are accustomed to smoking it.
I do agree, though that the Mendo Mulcher is a wicked grinder. They used to make them out of stainless steel I think I heard someone mention in a podcast. But that’s what I’d look for in a hand grinder: stainless steel. I also prefer pins over teeth, as I am always selectively pollinating my headstash grows, and thus always finding seed in my “sensi” flower; which the pins do not crack or knick so often as sharpened teeth.
Don’t worry about it, though. In the future robots will pluck our bracts and roll our joints for us. Or maybe nano-tech will take over the hash game, and a legion of flying nanoscopic robots will harvest from our live plants every trichome as it ripens optimally, to be delivered straight to our ever-heated bluetooth vape helmets.