2) Verb. The act of inhaling vaporized cannabis concentrates through a temperature-specific heating method such as a dab rig, e-rig, or vaporizer.
“I prefer using a quartz nail when I dab.”
“Dabbing concentrates is tastier than smoking flower from a bong.”
More About Dabbing
Dabbing has quickly become one of the most popular consumption methods among cannabis users, offering a potent high and flavor-packed experience. Dabbing is usually done with a dab rig — a glass chamber similar to a bong. Dab rigs typically require a titanium, ceramic, quartz or glass nail, also known as a banger. Think of them as the bowl for a dab rig. Consumers use a butane torch lighter or enail to bring the banger to a temperature that almost instantly vaporizes the concentrates.
Dabbing typically offers a more potent high and more immediate effects than smoking flower. A dab will produce a strong flavor and terpene-rich aroma, but the smell doesn’t linger. It also arguably offers more options for discretion, such as handheld vaporizers and portable e-rigs.
The only overt disadvantages to dabbing are the necessity for tools and accessories, and the learning curve involved in achieving the perfect dab temperature. The temperature of the nail at the moment that you take the dab will affect the flavor, ability to clean your nail, and according to recent studies, it could alter the healthful effects of the concentrate.
High-temperature dabs — 340-700 degrees Fahrenheit, or 170- 370 degrees Celsius — will scorch your concentrates, giving the dab an astringent and harsh flavor. They also tend to leave behind residue that is very hard to clean. Dabs at low temperatures — below 340 degrees Fahrenheit, or 170 degrees Celsius — also known as “low-temp dabs,” do not fully vaporize the entire dab, leaving behind a small amount of oil that can be easily removed with a cotton swab.
A study from Portland State University published in September 2017 has also found that vaporizing terpenes at the high temperatures required for dabbing may produce the toxicants methacrolein and benzene. In other words, hot dabs may break terpenes down into toxic chemicals.
How to Dab
The technique, upfront cost, and the number of accessories involved in dabbing may be overwhelming to newcomers. But once you get the process down, using a dab rig can be easy and efficient. The key steps are simple: heat the nail with a torch, place a dab of concentrate in the nail or banger, place a carb cap over the nail or banger, and inhale the resulting vapor.
- Step 1: Heat up the nail with the torch. If it is your first time and you are using a quartz nail or banger, heat it up until it is glowing red. This will ensure that any small particles are burned off and you are starting with the hottest possible surface.
- If you’re using an electric nail, simply set the desired temperature and wait until the nail reaches that temperature.
- Step 2: Wait for the nail to cool down. It may sound counterintuitive, but you want to let your nail cool down so you don’t scorch your dab. The amount of time you need to wait is dependent on the thickness and material of your nail or banger. Your target temperature should be around 300-450 degrees Fahrenheit, or 149-232 degrees Celsius, to get the most flavor out of your concentrates.
- It takes usually 30-60 seconds, depending on the material and thickness of the nail and how hot you have heated up the nail.
- Step 3: Place the dab on the surface of the nail and slowly start to inhale the vapor. Unlike a typical bong hit of flower, dabs require a long, slow inhale as the majority of the concentrate does not vaporize instantly. To make the most out of your experience take a slow, deep breath.
- Step 4: If available, place a carb cap on the nail or banger to better vaporize the dab while inhaling. The carb cap will act as an oven and trap all of the heat in the nail to ensure you get to the most out of your experience.
- Step 5: Exhale the dab vapor immediately.
- Pro tip: You don’t need to hold in your dabs before exhaling. Your lungs do an incredibly effective job of soaking in all of the active terpenes and cannabinoids.
- Step 6: Clean your nail. To prevent residue from possibly changing the flavor of your next dab, always keep your nail clean. To clean between dabs, allow the nail to cool down a bit and then swipe the inside of the warm nail with a cotton swab. For more deep cleaning, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and rub it along the interior of your warm nail.
It may take some time and repetition before you really feel you know how to take a dab. But once you get an intuitive sense of the simple steps involved, it’s an incredibly efficient way to consume cannabis concentrates and use them to their full potential.
The most effective dabbing alternative to a traditional dab rig is arguably using an e-rig or e-nail. The main benefit of the e-rig is the ability to precisely control the temperature of your dabs. Unlike a traditional rig, where you’re at the mercy of the flame and your timer, with an e-rig, you can dial in the precise temperature you prefer and rest knowing the nail will remain within a narrow range of your desired temperature. And because they’re heated electronically, e-rigs don’t require a torch.
The History and Evolution of Dabbing
“Knife hits” were the earliest popular method of vaporizing concentrates. Cannabis users from the 1960s to the ’90s would heat two knives on the stove and place a piece of hash in between them once the blades were glowing red. The resulting vapor was then inhaled through a tube or soda bottle that had the base removed.
The originators of the first pieces that could be called “dab rigs” were from the brother-and-sister glassblower duo Hashmasta Kut (HMK) and GGirl around 2006. HMK’s and GGirl’s design incorporated a titanium swing tied to a titanium skillet that would lower beneath a glass arm. Their pieces were popularized by Toke City, a highly influential online forum in the days before social media.
The second iteration of the “dab rig” came in the form of a glass dome and nail — the first commercially available glass attachment that could turn any bong into a dab rig. Glass artist WBM was one of the first to post about a glass nail for dabbing that fit inside the downstem of a bong, with a dome that was placed above it. Fellow glass artist and Toro Tubes founder JP Toro led the charge in making the dome and nail a commercially viable dabbing device. The nail was heated with a torch, then the dome was placed on top and a dabber, typically a paper clip in the days before proper dabbing tools were around, was used to put honey oil, what we now know as butane hash oil (BHO), on the nail.
The growing popularity of dabbing has caused a boom in one-of-a-kind dab rig pieces. Dabbing has become so integral to the cannabis market that it has its own holiday. July 10, or 710 (“Oil” turned upside down with LCD-style numbers), has become a popular “stoner’s holiday” arguably in league with 4/20. Most dispensaries have 7/10 sales on concentrates and other dab products.
Where dabbing once made up little more than a fringe sector of the cannabis market, It is now at the center of post-legalization cannabis culture.
- Rig: The chamber of a glass pipe. Both bongs and dab rigs are considered “rigs,” or pipe chambers connected to a nail or bowl that holds cannabis products for smoking.
- Banger or Nail: The attachment where dabs are vaporized when heated. There are many different styles that change the rate of vaporization and the amount that can be dabbed at one time. Some bangers have a vacuum-sealed jacket that allows them to retain heat for extended time periods.
- Carb Cap: A glass, ceramic, quartz, or titanium cap with a small hole that covers the top of the nail. A carb cap will lower the pressure in the nail or banger, acting like an oven to trap the heat and reducing the vaporization temperature of all the cannabinoids and terpenes. Carb Caps allow people to dab at lower temperatures.
- Dabber: A tool used for removing a dab from a concentrate container and placing the dab inside the nail or banger for heating.
- Torch: A butane hand torch is recommended for heating the nail sufficiently and dabbing at the right temperatures.
- Quartz Insert: A newer addition to the basic banger or nail. Quartz inserts add additional surface area inside your nail or banger, essentially increasing your ability to get the most out of low-temperature dabs. When inserted into a hot nail, quartz inserts act as internal carb caps, allowing a user to dab at a lower temperature for a long amount of time.
Advanced Dab Rig Tools
- E-nail: E-nails are digital devices that allow for very precise temperature control. E-nails are sometimes called e-rigs and can reach and maintain high temps very quickly.
- Handheld Vaporizer: Similar to handheld vape pens and portable vaporizers for dry flower, but fitted to hold and vaporize dabs.
Finding the Right Temperature
Why Temperature Matters
If you’re new to dabbing, you may be wondering why it requires so much attention to temperature control. It’s because a low-temp dab (“low” meaning optimal dabbing temperature, between 300 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or 177 to 204 degrees Celsius) will ensure you get the most flavorful dab while vaporizing most of the cannabinoids and not scorching your oil. The perfect dab delivers the full taste from the strains’ terpenes and a smooth hit. Dabbing concentrates while your nail is too hot will result in a harsh plume of smoke with a bad flavor. The best way to dab is at low temperatures to avoid scorching the extract.
How to Find the Perfect Temperature
Your ideal dab temperature is going to depend on a couple of factors, namely the thickness and material of your nail, and the type of concentrate you are dabbing. Quartz nails require the least amount of heat while titanium nails require more. Winterized extracts will require much less heat than dry sift, ice hash, rosin, or any other concentrate that contains plant waxes. Winterization removes the fats, lipids, and waxes from the oil, which require higher temperatures to burn off thereby increasing the temperature required to dab your concentrate.
THC is estimated to vaporize at 314 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 156-157 degrees Celsius, CBD at 347 degrees Fahrenheit, or 175 degrees Celsius; and most terpenes vaporize well below those temperatures. The idea is to get these molecules to heat up enough to vaporize them, but not too far above where they can break down into other compounds or reach the point of scorching. This can be controlled if you’re using an e-nail. All you have to do set to the desired temperature. If you are using a regular nail with a torch, you can use a digital infrared thermometer to gauge the temperature of your nail or keep track of the amount of time it takes to cool to the right temperature.
Finding the perfect temperature dab for your nail is a process of trial and error. An ideal dab vaporizes all of the oil without leaving any black or grey residue behind. If the temperature is too hot, you will both taste it in the form of scorched smoke and see it in the form of a black or grey residue in the banger or nail. Using too low of a temperature will fail to vaporize all the cannabinoids and will leave behind some oil.
When applying heat with a torch, the heat can be felt radiating from about 3 1/2 inches, or about 9 centimeters, away from the nail. Wait for the temperature to go down until it can be felt from about 1 or 2 inches, or about 2.5 to 5 centimeters, away. Heating and cooling times will depend on the thickness and general build of your nail. Thermal nails tend to take the longest to heat up, but also retain the heat longer. Monitor your nail’s cooling time with a timer or use a digital infrared thermometer to gauge the interior temperature of the nail. Once you know how long it takes for your nail to reach the optimal temperature, you can set the same timer for every dab.