Whether you’re new to cannabis, or you’ve been on the internet a little too long to think of anything other than the popular dance move, you may be unfamiliar with what a “dab” means in the context of cannabis use. Don't worry - we've gathered everything you’ll need to know about dabs and dabbing, along with the key tips you’ll need to know for the best experience.
What is Dabbing?
Heating cannabis activates THC and other cannabinoids. Inhaling the smoke or vapor produced allows THC to reach the brain, producing psychoactive effects. Dabbing, smoking, and vaping are simply various ways to achieve the same effect. The differences between them are the types of cannabis product used, the heat involved, and the method used to inhale it. Here are a few key details that are unique to dabbing.
The temperature needed to activate cannabinoids like THC lies somewhere around 325 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just short of the temperature necessary for combustion. However, dab rigs and torches are capable of producing temperatures between 600 and 700 degrees Fahrenheit, or 300 degrees Celsius. This is hotter than most people would expect, and hot enough to immediately turn cannabis extract from a solid to a gas rather than burning it. For that reason, dabbing must make use of special equipment, which helps you not only achieve the right temperature and inhale the ideal amount of the concentrated extract, but do so safely.
The cannabis extracts used while dabbing are important, too. These extracts are a more concentrated source of THC than cured cannabis flower and are produced to isolate the most desirable compounds in the cannabis plant. There are many extraction methods, including ice water and carbon dioxide extraction. There are just as many cannabis extracts, which can be known as wax, shatter, budder, and more.
To safely and effectively heat a cannabis dab, you can’t rely on just any bowl or pipe. In fact, if you’re looking to start dabbing at home, you’ll need a lot of supplies to get started, as well as a safe, controlled environment. The dab rig in particular is a unique piece of equipment you’ll want to get right before you get started on your dab adventure.
What Do You Need To Dab?
As mentioned, you’ll need some unique supplies to begin dabbing. Here are the essentials.
The dab rig is the most essential tool for a dab outside of the cannabis extract itself. This glass appliance resembles a classic glass bong and is what you’ll actually use to inhale the cannabis vapor. A rig usually consists of a glass chamber for water, a recycler to route the vapor through the water and to the user, a large glass arm to bring the vapor to the user, and a smaller glass arm designed to hold the implement that carries the dab itself. However, unlike a bong, which holds a bowl made to carry dried cannabis flower, the dab rig is not complete without its partner, the nail.
Usually constructed of glass, quartz, or metal, the nail sits in the glass bowl and is the object you’ll heat to then heat and vaporize your dab. The nail is designed to heat up quickly when exposed to a torch. After heating, when you place your concentrate onto the nail, it will vaporize almost instantly. The resulting vapor is then routed through the rest of the rig so you can inhale it. Nails and dab rigs often come as a set, but nails can be purchased on their own. Together, the set can also be referred to as a rig.
A dabber is needed to transfer the concentrates onto the nail so the heating process can begin. This prevents you from needing to move dabs with your hand, which is not only sticky but also potentially dangerous once the nail gets hot. Dabbers can be glass, ceramic, or metal, and are typically inexpensive and easy to purchase.
As noted, you’ll need to heat the nail to an extremely high temperature, which requires equipment with a bit more sophistication than a regular lighter. For dabbing, you'll need a torch. Like regular lighters, torches use butane to produce a flame. However, unlike a lighter, torches use air to propel the butane and create a direct, consistent flame that can be held in any direction. This flame can reach temperatures of up to 1200 degrees, ideal for heating a dab nail quickly and effectively.
Aside from the necessary supplies, there are also some optional accessories that make the dabbing process easier. These can be skipped if you’re experienced or want to reserve your cash for some high-quality concentrate.
A newer, but nevertheless useful, tool to the world of dabbing, the carb cap blocks the airflow atop the dab nail. This makes it easier to vaporize the concentrates, avoid wasting vapor, and get a tastier and more potent product. Carb caps are recommended if you want the best possible result.
If you’re looking for short-term storage, small silicone containers can save your dab for up to a week. The ideal silicone container is tiny, cheap, and keeps your dab in good condition. However, if you want longer term storage for unused dabs, consider parchment paper and a mason jar.
If you’re new to the cannabis and dabbing world, it can be challenging to dab without making a mess. The dab mat is meant to keep your supplies and extracts in place while sliding neatly under your dab rig. They’re environmentally friendly, and those made of silicone are resistant to sticky dabs as well as the heat of your torch.
A timer can help you regulate how much you heat your dab by taking the guesswork out of timing yourself. Many people heat the nail for about 30 seconds and let it cool for 60 seconds, which can be tricky to do on your own while focused on using a torch and handling the extract.
Choosing Your Dab Product
In general, the effects of your dab will be different depending on the type of cannabis you’re consuming. For instance, if you want to relax, an indica-heavy strain is what you’re looking for. Meanwhile, sativa-heavy strains can leave you feeling focused and help you with creative endeavors.
Still, the most important question here is, what sort of cannabis products can you dab? Extracts are concentrated forms of cannabis designed to separate the resinous cannabis trichomes from the combustible plant material, and many are prime for dabbing. These can come in many different textures and are often named as such.
Shatter is BHO that has reached a stable, glass-like consistency. As you might expect, it is fairly clear and brittle, and will shatter into dabbable pieces. This form of cannabis extract is often very pure and thus a desirable compound for dabbing.
Rosin is extracted from cured cannabis flower or water hash, and like other forms of dab concentrate, isolates the resinous trichomes from the rest of the plant matter. Unlike many other cannabis concentrates, it does not employ solvents to perform the separation. Instead, heat and pressure are all that’s needed to create an amber substance prime for dabbing.
Budder is a cannabis wax so named because it resembles butter, with its creamy, whipped texture and lighter yellow color. It is often high in THC content and dabs easily.
Like budder, badder is wax that has a whipped texture. However, it is denser and stickier than budder and has a consistency similar to a thick cake batter.
Crumble is wax that has been whipped or aerated. As it dries, it becomes softer than shatter and denser than wax. When the product has developed a texture that crumbles into large pieces easily, it is known as crumble and is ideal for placement on a dab nail.
Sugar is a semi-crystallized version of budder with a consistency that resembles wet brown sugar. This form of concentrate is extremely easy to dab due to its looser nature
Sauce is a concentrated mixture of terpenes and cannabinoids that form a thick, resinous, liquid. This liquid often contains diamonds, which are pure, crystalized, isolates of a single cannabinoid or terpene. Diamonds and sauce can be dabbed alone, but are usually left in a mixture.
Hash is dried trichome resin that has been extracted from cannabis flower, processed, and compacted. Less frequently, dry hash itself can be dabbed, though it is often reserved for smoking. Similarly, bubble hash, ice hash, and water hash—extracted with water or ice versus a dry extraction method—can be dabbed or smoked.
Look out for new solventless hash products by Verano:
Light Press Hash
Full Melt Hash
For thousands of years, Temple Balls have been crafted using traditional methods. Made from trichomes collected from dried and cured cannabis buds, this kief is then compressed with heat and pressure to release THC and terpenes. Hand-rolling produces the protective outer shell for these extract balls, trapping the precious terpenes and cannabinoids within for a truly authentic experience. Whether you prefer to smoke, vaporize, dab or even eat your Verano Temple Balls, these potent extracts provide a unique nostalgia that cannabis lovers long for.
RSO is also a common concentrate so people often wonder: can you dab RSO?
RSO, or Rick Simpson Oil, is a potent, THC-rich extract named for its creator and widely touted as a cancer-fighting substance. As dabs are also high in THC, it might seem like using RSO is a no-brainer when it comes to dabbing. However, it’s advised that you do not inhale RSO, as it’s full of lipids which can create an unpleasant experience when smoked or turned into vapor. In addition, RSO is extracted with the use of solvents, which may present a risk when applied to a hot dab nail. If you want to use RSO correctly, it’s best to stick to ingesting it or using it as topical.
How Do You Dab?
Now that you’ve learned all you can about what you’ll need to dab, it’s time to get started. Follow these steps for the ideal dab experience.
1. Apply Heat
Using your torch, direct your flame at the bottom of the nail. Heat for about 30 seconds, or until the nail begins to turn red.
2. Let Cool
Once your nail is hot enough, remove the heat and let it cool. For a metal nail, cool for about 10 seconds. For glass or quartz, cool longer, about 60 seconds.
3. Apply Your Dab
After the nail is cooled, use your dabber to apply the dab to the nail. Be sure to get every last bit of the dab from the tool, and begin inhaling as soon as you can to ensure you get all the vapor produced.
If you have a carb cap, cover the nail to trap the vapor. Then, continue inhaling slowly until the vapor is gone.
Exhale slowly, and enjoy your dab.
Other Dabbing Tips and Tricks
Now you know the basics of dabbing. Here are some expert tips to help streamline the process.
Don’t Go Too Big
Dabs are potent and you don’t need to use too much, especially if you’re a novice. Start with a dab size as small as the head of a pin, and use more later if you think you can take it. Remember that, while it might seem small, you’re still inhaling a highly concentrated amount of THC and a little can go a long way. Don’t push yourself—concentrate can be up to nine times stronger than an edible or normal flower.
Because dabs are so strong and everyone reacts differently, it's important to get comfortable before dabbing. Find a safe, soft, comfortable spot and remain seated while you dab.
It’s OK to Cough
Coughing is a natural reaction to inhaling smoke or vapor, and coughing is normal when dabbing. If you want to minimize coughing, try inhaling some fresh air before you go for the dab. You should also make sure the nail is cooled down a bit first to avoid the type of fast and furious vapor production that can cause coughing.
Make Dabbing A Part of Enjoying Cannabis
Dabbing is a great way to enjoy cannabis if you're looking for something stronger than smoking flower. It's important to choose the right product and start with a small amount, but once you've got the hang of it, dabbing can be a fun and easy way to get the most out of your cannabis concentrates.
So what are you waiting for? Head over to your local Zen Leaf dispensary and ask our friendly budtenders about which concentrates are right for you.
- Butane hash oil and dabbing: insights into use, amateur production techniques, and potential harm mitigation. (2018, November 2). NCBI. Retrieved December 30, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6220730/
Digital Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.
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