How to take low-temp dabs

If you're looking to experience terpenes and cannabinoids at their purest, concentrates are arguably the best way to consume cannabis. But for those still navigating the world of dabs, the whole process can come off as overly complicated and alarmingly flammable.  

Historically, dabbing required torches, nails, glass straws, and a certain level of comfort with the theater of freebasing. Dabs were traditionally reserved for the most rarified of varsity stoner, but today dabs are as ubiquitous in the culture as the flowers they're derived from. And the practice itself has evolved beyond the messy science of torch and nail and straw. 

heating up dab rig with torch
Historically, dabbing required torches, nails, and glass straws, but today the practice itself has evolved beyond the messy science of dabbing. 
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

These days, consumers can choose between a number of rig options both analog and digital. So the question is less frequently, “Should I dab?” and more commonly, “What temp should I take my dab?” 

Savvy users will answer, “Low.”

Why dab at a lower temperature?

The most common mistake novice dabbers make is overheating their material. Why? Dabbing at too high of a temperature can:

  1. Burn away the delicate cannabinoids your concentrate worked so hard to isolate
  2. Turn a similarly delicate balance of terpenes acrid
  3. Introduce unwanted carcinogenic compounds

Handheld torches are a super common heat source for dabbing — particularly with glass rigs — but using them increases the risk of incinerating cannabinoids before they've had a chance to activate, which kind of invalidates the entire process of dabbing.

Legacy cannabis smokers may think there is an innate association between higher temperatures and being more intensely stoned, but that is simply not the case. Dabbing at lower temperatures not only eliminates carcinogens from the puff-puff-pass norm, but it also activates a far higher percentage of cannabinoids and has the same fast-acting effects as higher-temp combustion.

Bottom line: Ditching the torch to dab at a low temp will not only preserve your concentrates, but it will also drastically improve the comfort, cleanliness, and psychotropic experience of your dab without sacrificing an intense high.

What is the lowest temperature dabs melt at?

Any temperature above 350 degrees Fahrenheit is sufficient to melt a concentrate, but exceed 455 and expect cannabinoids and terpenes to begin burning off. The low-temp dabbing sweet spot is a widely agreed upon 380 - 420 degrees, depending on the composition of the cultivar. For comparison, flower combusts at around 460 degrees, a gas station lighter burns a packed bowl to about 950 degrees, and the fat cherry of a blunt might exceed 1300 degrees. 

All major cannabinoids and terpenes have disparate boiling points and optimal temperatures, but they rarely veer far from the concentrate's melting point, with very few exceptions boiling at under 200 degrees. A great example of low-temp activation in action is the efficacy of edibles, in which the flower is typically decarboxylated at around 250 degrees Fahrenheit and then baked inside a batch of brownies or cookies at around 350 degrees. 

Try having some in-depth chats with your budtender about the optimal temperature for each strain of concentrate. The fingerprint of your chosen strain will inform where inside of that 380 - 420 degree range the cannabinoids will activate and the terpenes will bloom rather than burn off entirely. 

Bottom line: Melt occurs around 350 degrees, and most cannabinoids activate at between 380 and 420 degrees. Neither cannabis nor concentrates have to combust for cannabinoids to activate.

Do you need any special equipment to dab at lower temps?

Electronic nails, or e-nails, are the most common non-torch heating tool for dedicated glass rig dabbers. A basic e-nail can be purchased for around $100 and consists of a car-stereo-sized controller box and a coil that delivers heat directly to the oil rig's nail. It works usually by fitting around an existing nail or by dropping directly into the rig's female joint with its own nail. Since e-nails feature an exposed and heated metal coil, dabbing with them requires the wherewithal to turn the control box off before taking that dab and launching into oblivion. 

dab e-nail
A basic e-nail can be purchased for around $100 and consists of a car-stereo-sized controller box and a coil that delivers heat directly to the oil rig's nail.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Another popular option is electronic rigs, like the Kandy Pen Oura, Puffco Peak Pro, and the more modest Puffco Plus. These rigs are inclusive, rechargeable dabbing units that, with price points often exceeding $300, teeter on the verge of luxury items. The electronic rig has a far more universal appeal than an e-nail or a torch and thermometer setup. These pieces are modeled as personal water pipes, and temps can be adjusted via an app or simple push-button controls. With electronic rigs, users can reliably explore the difference between low-temp effects and higher temp effects and see for themselves what works best. 

The equipment necessary to dab at lower temps is just as readily available as handheld torches. Considering e-rigs don't require infinite butane refills and separate digital temperature readers, it may be surprisingly easy to justify the upfront price. 

Bottom line: If you're hopelessly committed to your torch, you'll need a digital thermometer to regulate the temperature. Otherwise, an e-nail or e-rig is your best option. 

OK, so how do you do a low-temp dab?

Once you've either secured your e-rig or fastened your e-nail to your existing rig, it's time to rediscover your favorite strain. Check the cannabinoid and terpene profile to figure out what flavors and feelings resonate most with your endocannabinoid system, and begin at the higher end of the low-temp spectrum, around 420 degrees. This will ensure your product melts and activates some satisfying vapor. 

dab rig e-nail
Once you've fastened your e-nail to your rig, begin at the higher end of the low-temp spectrum, around 420 degrees.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Low-temp dabs do not produce bushy opaque exhales, nor do they sink red hot into the dense meat of your lungs. Depending on the strain, the onset can be brisk and effervescent or thick and insulative. Don't be alarmed if your lungs fail to produce deep, thunderous coughs. 

Most e-rigs have pre-calibrated settings for low, medium, and high-temp dabs. With these devices, you can further explore the nuanced differences between a white-hot and low-temp hit. Aside from disparities in comfort, distinct effects can be associated with each temperature range.

Bottom line

E-rigs and e-nails are generally simple to manage. Once you get the hang of setting different temperatures, you'll officially have a new range of dabbing tools at your disposal. At the end of the day, only you can confidently decide at which temp your dab hits best, but it's certainly worth trying low-temp dabs.

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on November 17, 2020.