Although the term “dabbing” is relatively new to the cannabis arena, the practice itself has been around for a decade or more. Dabbing refers a method of vaporizing concentrated cannabis oils and extracts. Dabbing concentrates is gaining popularity with medical and recreational consumers in the legal market due to their potency, efficiency, and purity. Dabbing provides larger doses of THC, and other cannabinoids, with a quick onset that can provide almost instant symptom relief for the consumer.
Instead of combusting dry flower and inhaling small particles of burning plant matter into the lungs, dabbing is essentially vaporizing pure extracted hash oil, for a cleaner, smoother way to inhale cannabis. However, the process of dabbing is a bit more complex than just crumbling your bud into a bowl and lighting it with a lighter, and many times the fear of the unknown will cause hesitation. Understanding the terminology can be half the battle.
Cannabis Concentrates – aka “Dabs”
There are many different types of cannabis concentrates that vary based on the extraction and processing methods. Butane extraction is currently the most common method, however, other extraction methods like CO2, or even ethanol may be used. There are also new solvent-less methods of extraction that require much more expensive equipment, but also provide a much safer, cleaner product in the end.
Butane Hash Oils (BHO) – these are cannabis concentrates created with a butane extraction method.
•Shatter – like the name implies, shatter has a glass-like consistency. Generally, shatter will be translucent and amber in color. Various factors may affect the consistency of the product like temperature, humidity, and terpene content.
•Wax – similar in effect to shatter, but the extract is whipped during processing to create a lighter, “fluffy” texture; wax often resembles ear-wax, thus how it got its name. There are multiple textures to wax. Softer, creamier wax may be referred to as budder, where a more brittle wax is often called crumble.
• Live Resin – made by cryogenically freezing freshly harvested plants before the butane processing begins. The process preserves a wider cannabinoid profile and a higher terpene content creating a robust, flavorful product rich in medicinal value.
CO2 Oils – most often found in vape cartridges, but they can also be purchased in a syringe for dabbing.
Solvent-less Extracts – also referred to as “Rosin,” this extraction method involves only heat and pressure to create a product that resembles BHO shatter without the fire and explosion hazards butane processing includes.
Methods of Dabbing
So many different forms of cannabis concentrates; naturally, the ways to smoke them are just as diverse. Just like glass pipes, bongs, and bubblers are designed for smoking bud, dab rigs can range from very simple to super complex depending on portability, convenience, and artistic splendor.
Torch – an essential tool for using cannabis concentrates. Unlike smoking flower, nothing is actually being burned, but whatever device is being used must be heated to high temperatures. (See more about temperature below.)
Glass Dab Straw – a glass tube designed to be heated with a torch on one end; then while gently ‘dabbing’ the heated end in a glass dish containing a marijuana concentrate, the consumer inhales from the other end. These can vary in size and complexity. Some may have chambers for water diffusion, and/or have interchangeable tips in titanium or quartz glass. These may also be called nectar collectors or skeeter sticks.
Traditional Dab Rig or “Oil Rig” – named appropriately as its shape is similar to that of an oil can. This device functions like a water pipe or bong with a heating element, or “nail,” sitting atop a tube leading to a chamber containing water at the bottom and ample space for vapor to collect, which then leads to a tube on the top of the chamber for inhalation. Some other dab rig terms useful to know:
“Nail” – this is the piece that is heated prior to “dabbing” on a small amount of concentrate to vaporize. These can be made of glass, quartz, ceramic, or titanium.
“Dab Tool” – this is a small metal tool used for portioning the hash oil. These may look like small scoops or dental tools.
“Carb Cap” – after applying the hash oil to the nail, using a carb cap helps eliminate waste by forcing the vapor to be redirected into the pipe.
E-Nail – similar to a traditional dab rig, but without the need for a heat source. Powered by electricity, these devices eliminate the negative connotations associated with “torching” a nail or end of a straw. Digital heating also allows for precise temperature control perfect for low-temp dabs.
Portable Options – there are many different varieties of chargeable, portable wax pens and oil vaporizers. Some will have metal heating coils, while others will have a ceramic coil for vaporizing product. These may work well on the go but also may not burn as efficiently as the larger rigs.
Temperature control is a vital part of dabbing. There are two different approaches to what temperature to use, and it really boils down to personal preference or ultimate goal.
• High-Temperature Dabs (around 1000 degrees) – Super hot dabs are intense and act fast. The oil melts quickly and there’s less mess. However, high temperatures will burn more of the cannabinoids and terpenes making the hits less flavorful and more harsh on the lungs, as well as, use more product.
• Low-Temperature Dabs (between 500-600 degrees) – Using a lower temperature leaves more of the cannabinoids and flavor terpenes intact. This allows for a smooth, flavorful vapor that is less abrasive on the lungs.
A Word about Reclaim
Reclaim is the resin that is collected inside the dab rig or straw. If there’s no intention to reuse the reclaim, it can be cleaned out by soaking in alcohol and warm water. However, reclaim can be reused. Most of the terpenes are burned away during the original vaporization, so reclaim is harsher than its original form and will taste less than desired, but it does still contain cannabinoids. Some even collect reclaim to use in edible recipes later.
As with anything in cannabis culture, education and understanding the available options will help ensure your first dabbing experience is a pleasant one.