A Quick Introduction to Dabbing
From an outsider's perspective, taking a dab may seem confusing, dangerous and even unnecessary. Using a torch to heat a piece of glass until it is red hot and then dropping cannabis concentrates on it with the sole purpose of getting higher than a giraffe is not for everybody.
True connoisseurs know that a dab hit is much stronger than any traditional smoking method like a bong or flower. And it is a great way to preserve the quality, flavor and terpenes of your concentrates.
What is a Dab and How do Dabs Work?
Dabbing is the process of using heat to vaporize your cannabis concentrate or "dab." Dabs are made by extracting cannabinoids and terpenes from weed plants. The exact methods for extracting concentrates vary greatly, and an entire article could be written on that topic.
Dabs have different names such as: wax, shatter, oil, diamonds, batter, rosin, live resin etc. The most important thing to keep in mind is that they are incredibly concentrated and potent. This is why dabs are known to be fast-acting and extremely powerful. Just one fat dab rip can leave the average user zooted for hours.
Temperature guide for Dabbing
The temperature that you heat your nail can alter your dabbing experience. From more flavorful vapor to a stronger hit, it is important to dab at a temperature that fits your specific needs.
Low temperature dabs - perfect for a cooler, smoother and more flavorful hit. Using lower temperatures is also a great way to preserve the terpenes and cannabinoids from your concentrate.
Although there is some argument about what exact temperature falls into a "low temp dab," I believe that any dab taken under 400 degrees Fahrenheit are sufficient to experience the majority of the flavor in any concentrate. Using a lower temperature is also a great way to ease into a long sesh, and its also my personal favorite way to use a dab rig.
High temperature dabs - dabs taken over 400 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the concentrates are instantly vaporized. High temp dabs are known for being much harsher but also much more potent since you can burn more concentrate in one hit. They can also leave leave behind a residue that is very hard to clean.
"High Temp Dabs" are also known to reduce the amount of flavor in your vapor, and some studies have found that higher temperatures will release more toxins into your vapor. All in all, a scorching hot dab has serious consequences, but it provides a one way ticket to the moon.
Benefits of Smoking Dabs
Although most people won't entertain a dab rig for daily use, there are some distinct benefits that dabbing provides over other consumption methods
Stronger Flavor Profile
Using a dab rig is a great way to experience the full flavor of your "dab" or concentrates. Since the THC is much more concentrated in wax compared to flower, a dab rig enables a much more flavorful hit compared to a traditional bowl or joint.
Reduced Carcinogens and Toxins
Since taking a dab doesn't require burning any other materials, it is generally considered to be a cleaner smoke. Dabs contain way less plant materials, so your inhaling more THC and less resin in every hit. A word of caution is that very high temperature dabs can create toxins in your smoke.
Maximized Potency and Intensity
Concentrates can contain 2-3x the THC of regular flower. They provide a much faster an intense high which can be a benefit users who prefer a highly elevated state.
A Warning before Dabbing
Jokes aside, a dab rig is one of the strongest ways to use cannabis, so it should be treated with extreme caution and respect.
Hits Extremely Hard
Although it is not possible to overdose on cannabis concentrate, it can be dangerous and outright unpleasant to be too high. If it is your first time taking a dab, start with a very small amount at a low temperature so you can taste the concentrate and ease into the dabbing sesh.
Once you are more experienced in using a dab rig, you can start dabbing with bigger globs to make sure you get your head just right.
Torch and Nail Get Extremely Hot
A dab torch is made to get extremely hot (over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit). An accident with a dab torch or a hot nail can leave serious burns and trauma. It is imperative to be fully aware of your surroundings when taking a dab. Stay away from flammable objects and use with extreme caution.
What are the Parts of a Dab Rig setup?
A dab rig is a water pipe that is very similar to a bong. The only difference is that there is a banger or nail at the end of it instead of a bowl. Technically, a piece can be used interchangeably between a dab rig and a bong if you have both attachments.
Dab rigs are typically smaller than a bong but they can vary greatly in color, size and features. They can range anywhere from $25 to hundreds of dollars on the high end.
Banger or Nail
A banger is the bowl for a dab rig. They are more than a handful of different variations of bangers and nails but they all serve the same purpose. This is the piece that the dabs are dropped into. Dab nails are usually made from quartz or titanium which allows them to handle extreme heats.
This is an optional part of the dab rig setup, but it will definitely enhance your experience. A carb cap covers the nail or banger acting like an oven for your dabs. It lowers the pressure within the dab nail and traps the temperature to create a more stable dabbing experience. The carb cap also prevents THC vapor from escaping the nail, so it preserves more of the dab.
Dabbing Tool or Pick
This is a tool for loading your concentrates into your nail or banger. They come in various different shapes and are used to prevent you from burning your fingers when loading a fat dab.
There are also electronic dabbing tools that heat up and melt the concentrate right off the tool and into the nail. They are more expensive than a regular tool but can be very convenient if you are struggling with an extremely sticky dab.
Butane Dab Torch
A butane dab torch is needed to heat the nail to a sufficient temperature so you can start dabbing. Butane dab torches can run out quick, so if you enjoy dabbing it is a good investment to buy a butane canister to refill your torch.
A regular lighter typically does not produce enough heat to get to a good dabbing temperature, and a propane torch may get too hot and damage your banger or nail.
Terp Pearls, also known as dab pearls or terp balls are another optional part of your dab rig set up. They are basically little balls that spin inside your banger that help distribute heat and prevent concentrates from clumping up. They have a similar function to a carb cap since they also help to preserve temperature during low-temp dabs.
E-Nail (If you're Fancy)
If you don't want to use a torch and have a slightly higher budget then an electronical dab nail may be right for you. They may also allow you to set a specific temperature so you can dab exactly the way you want. E-nails are definitely an expensive part of the dabbing setup but they can be worth the investment.
This picture shows the G-Pen Connect, a very popular electronic dab nail.
Q-Tips, Alcohol or other cleaning supplies
Proper cleaning of your dab rig ensures for maximum flavor intensity and the best quality experience. Say tuned for our full guide on how to clean a dab rig.
How to Use a Dab Rig Step by Step
Taking a dab may seem like an overwhelming process to someone who has never done it before. Once you master these simple steps, you will be ready to take a dab like the pros.
Step 0: Prepare your Schedule and Tools
Choosing to light up your dab rig and inhale some strong concentrates is not to be taken lightly. If you are new to dabbing, make sure you have cleared your schedule and will not be driving in the next few hours. Also make sure you have cleared all flammable objects from your dabbing area. You may also ask someone to help you throughout the dabbing process.
Make sure to gather all the essential parts of your dab setup that we mentioned earlier in this article. Grab your dab rig, nail, torch and concentrates. A bottle of water will also help if you have a tendency to cough or are new to dabbing.
Step 1: Add Water to your Rig
Just like a bong or water pipe, you must add water to your dab rig. This will help cool the vapor upon impact and provide a smoother hit.
Step 2: Secure the Nail
Make sure the nail or banger is securely attached to the dab rig before using your dab torch. A loose nail could cause a variety of annoying and dangerous problems, especially when you are high.
Step 3: Heat the Nail
Now for the fun part. Grab your butane torch and aim it directly where the concentrates will be placed. Keep your torch steady for 20-30 seconds or until your nail is red hot. If you are using an e nail, set it to the appropriate temperature.
Step 4: Wait for Nail to Cool
Using a quartz nail that is red hot will scorch your dab and give it a nasty taste and a harsh vapor. Make sure you wait 30-60 seconds after heating your nail before dropping your dab. Every combination of nail and torch will heat and cool differently, make sure to test yours out to find the temp and time that is right for you. If you would like a more accurate reading of your dabbing temp, you can try an e nail or a temperature reader.
Step 5: Drop your Dabs and Inhale
Use your dab tool to carefully drop your dab into the nail and begin inhaling through the mouthpiece. Twist the dab tool to make sure all of the concentrate has fallen into the nail. The dab will start to vaporize instantly, but getting a complete hit will require a long and slow inhale. A dab can take a while to burn, so patience is key when dabbing.
Optional Step: Place the Carb Cap
Now is the time to add a carb cap if you have one. This will help preserve the heat from your nail.
Step 6: Exhale the vapor
Blow out the dab vapor and enjoy the beautiful effects of a proper dab hit. Repeat steps 3-6 as many times as necessary until you have reached the level of elevation you desire.
Final Step: Clean your Dab Rig and Nail
For the best tasting concentrates, clean your entire setup after every sesh. It may seem unnecessary, but that is what it takes to experience the full flavor of some of those higher end concentrates such as diamonds or shatter.