A quick intro to dabbing

The words dab and dabbing have a few different, but closely related, meanings. Dab can be used to describe any type of cannabis concentrate. These include products like wax, shatter, budder, crumble, sauce, or any other concentrate. Dab can also be used to refer to an actual dose of concentrate. While dabbing refers to the process of consuming a dab by vaporizing it and inhaling the vapor.

Dabbing refers to the process of consuming a dab by vaporizing it and inhaling the vapor. (Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

How do dabs work?

Dabbing has quickly become one of the most popular consumption methods among cannabis users, largely because it offers powerful highs and a flavor-packed experience.

 

Dabs are made by extracting cannabinoids and terpenes out of plant matter. The final product is, therefore, incredibly concentrated and potent, consisting almost entirely of cannabinoids and terpenes, which is why dabs deliver very fast-acting and hard-hitting effects.

 

The key to tapping into the unique qualities of dabs is consuming them the right way. To do this, you need to vaporize your dabs using a set of specialized tools collectively known as a dab rig.

You need to vaporize your dabs using a set of specialized tools collectively known as a dab rig. (Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

The most obvious reason people like dabbing is because of the powerful effects. Specifically, dabbing offers a more potent high and more immediate effects than smoking flower. It will also typically produce a strong flavor and terpene-rich aroma, which are both attractive to many dabbers.

 

The overt disadvantages to this consumption method are the necessity for tools and accessories, and the learning curve involved. Achieving the perfect vaporization temperature at the moment you take the dab will affect the flavor, your ability to clean your nail, and it could alter the desired effects of the concentrate. 

The overt disadvantages to this consumption method are the necessity for tools and accessories, and the learning curve involved. (Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

High-temperature dabs — 340-700 degrees Fahrenheit (170-370 degrees Celsius) — will scorch your concentrates, giving off an astringent and harsh flavor. Those temperatures also tend to leave behind residue that is very hard to clean. Additionally, a study from Portland State University published in September 2017 found that vaporizing terpenes at high temperatures may produce the toxins methacrolein and benzene. In other words, if you dab weed concentrates at high temperatures, it may turn terpenes toxic.

 

On the other hand, dabbing below 340 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius) tends to produce cooler, smoother, more flavorful vapor. Low-temp dabs, as this technique is commonly called, also means that the concentrate is not fully vaporized, leaving behind a small amount of oil that can be easily removed with a cotton swab.


What is the bowl of a dab rig called?

The bowl used in a dab rig is actually a specialized piece of equipment called a “nail” or a “banger.” As opposed to a regular bowl, in which you ignite dry herb, when you dab you apply heat directly to the nail, not the concentrate. A nail must therefore be able to withstand very high temperatures. Nails also have a hole through which the vapor travels down into the base of the rig.


What is a dab rig?

A dab rig is the combination of tools and accessories needed to vaporize cannabis concentrates. A dab rig typically includes the following components:

Rig

The foundation of any dab rig is a glass water pipe. Both dab rigs and bongs are considered rigs. In addition to containing a water chamber, a rig must also connect to a nail or bowl.

The foundation of any dab rig is a glass water pipe that also connects to a nail or bowl. (Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

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. Bangers are made out of glass, quartz, titanium, and ceramic, and each material has its own unique set of slightly different qualities. Some bangers have a vacuum-sealed jacket that allows them to retain heat for extended time periods. 

A banger or nail is the attachment where dabs are vaporized when heated. (Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

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 reduce the vaporization temperature. 

A carb cap is a glass, ceramic, quartz, or titanium cap with a small hole that covers the top of the nail that will lower the pressure in the nail or banger. (Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

Dabber

A tool used for removing a dab from a concentrate container and placing it inside the nail or banger for vaporization. 

A dabber is a tool used for removing a dab from a concentrate container and placing it inside the nail or banger for vaporization. (Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

Torch

A butane hand torch for heating the nail. Propane torches burn a hotter flame that can damage the nail.

A butane hand torch is used for heating the nail. (Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

E-nail

Instead of heating your nail or banger manually with a blow torch and waiting for it to settle to the correct temperature, you can use an e-nail. This device lets you dial in a precise temperature and then electronically heats the nail to the exact temperature you chose.

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.


Are dab rigs legal?

Yes, dab rigs are legal. There is nothing criminal about owning the equipment in and of itself. However, the dabs themselves may or may not be legal depending on where you live. If you live in a weed-legal place where cannabis concentrates are allowed, then it’s fine to possess dabs. But if you live in a place where marijuana is not legal, or where cannabis concentrates are not allowed, then it is illegal to own dabs. With all that said, there is always the chance that a dab rig with residue in it could be considered illegal drug paraphernalia. Your best bet is to check the specifics of your local laws.


How to use a dab rig

The technique, upfront cost, and number of accessories involved in dabbing may be overwhelming to newcomers. But once you get the process down, using a rig can be easy and efficient. The key steps are simple: 

Step 1

Heat 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.

Heat the nail with the torch until it is glowing red. (Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

Alternatively, if you are using an e-nail, use the interface to input your desired temperature and wait until the device heats up the nail.

Step 2

Wait for the nail to cool down. It may sound counterintuitive, but when you dab weed concentrates, 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 (149-232 degrees Celsius) to get the most flavor out of your concentrates.

  • As a general rule, it usually takes 30-60 seconds for a nail to cool, depending on the material and thickness and how much you heated it.
  • To dial it in even further, you need to figure out exactly how long it takes for your nail to cool to your desired temperature. To do this, you’ll need an infrared thermometer and some sort of dab timer. You can use either a stopwatch or download a specialized app for your smartphone.
  • If you’re using an e-nail, you don’t need to wait for it to cool down. The e-nail will heat the nail to the precise temperature you tell it to.

Step 3

Place the concentrate 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. 

Place the concentrate on the surface of the nail and slowly start to inhale the vapor. (Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

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 the most out of your experience. When you’re ready to clear all the vapor out of the rig, lift the carb cap.

Place a carb cap on the nail or banger to better vaporize the dab while inhaling. (Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

Step 5

Exhale the vapor immediately.

Step 6

Clean your nail. To prevent residue from possibly changing the flavor of your weed, always keep your nail clean. Allow the nail to cool down a bit and then swipe the inside of the warm nail with a cotton swab. For a deeper clean, dip a cotton swab in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and rub it along the interior of your warm nail.


How to dab CBD

As CBD continues to become more and more popular, many people are getting into dabbing CBD concentrates. The processes for making THC and CBD concentrates aren’t all that different, and many of the textures available for THC concentrates are also available for CBD concentrates. Here are a few examples of CBD concentrates that you might see on a dispensary menu:

  • CBD isolate: CBD isolate comes in the form of a crystalline solid or powder, and typically contains 99% pure CBD. Following the use of an extraction process to remove all the active compounds from the cannabis plant, the remaining extract undergoes a refinement process that eliminates THC and all other phytocannabinoids, resulting in the purest available form of CBD.
  • CBD extract: Unlike CBD isolate, this oily CBD extract contains the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes present in the cannabis plant. CBD extract should first be winterized to remove fats and other plant matter from the concentrate before it can be dabbed. 
  • Terpsolate: Terpsolate is commonly used to describe CBD isolate that is combined with liquid terpenes after the extraction process. 
  • Shatter: CBD concentrates can also come in shatter form, extracted as a slab and infused with terpenes. 
  • Crumble: CBD crumble is a malleable concentrate that tends to break apart when handled. To make it, the oils are purged after the extraction process, leaving a substance that has a crumbly consistency. 
  • Wax: This term is used to describe concentrates that have a sticky, waxy form. For both CBD and THC, wax concentrates can be produced from full-spectrum and isolate extraction methods.

Consuming CBD concentrates is the same as consuming regular THC concentrates. You’ll need your dab rig and all accessories. From there, you’ll dab your CBD concentrates in the same way, bringing the nail to the right temperature, dropping the dab onto the hot nail, inhaling the vapor, and cleaning the nail after you use it.

Keep in mind that the optimal temperature for dabbing CBD lies somewhere around 320-356 degrees Fahrenheit (160-180 degrees Celsius) as higher temperatures will destroy whatever terpenes are in the concentrate.