If you’re a denizen of the cannabis community, you’re likely acquainted with the dabbing phenomenon. For the uninitiated, dabbing is often perplexing and daunting. With an array of foreign tools required, dabbing can leave even the most seasoned patients scratching their heads. With this article, we hope to provide the cannabasics to help you gain clarity and comfort with the dabbing process.
What is dabbing?
Dabbing is a method of ingesting cannabis concentrates using flash vaporization. The concentrates used to dab are often higher in potency than cannabis flowers. Dabbing can provide swift and powerful relief from nausea, stress, appetite loss, pain, insomnia, and numerous other conditions. It is especially helpful for patients with a high tolerance or severe symptoms.
Dabbing relies on conductive heating and when done right, this process can provide the health benefits of vaporization. However, due to the inability to precisely monitor the temperature the nail is heated to, dabbing can result in some combustion. To avoid combustion and preserve those tasty terpenes, familiarize yourself with the appropriate cool down time for your dab nail (titanium, quartz, etc.). Many terpenes vaporize at lower temperatures than cannabinoids. In general the ideal temperature to vaporize both without combustion is approximately 356 to 392°F.
Aside from conductive heating, vaporizers such as the Volcano use convective heating. With convective heating, an electronic mechanism monitors the ideal temperature to vaporize the material without burning and charring, a telltale sign of combustion.
What’s an E-nail?
Electronic nails or “E-nails” use a small electric heating element connected to a coil that wraps around a dab nail heating it to a specific temperature and keeping it there. These setups usually have a digital screen allowing you to zero in on a precise temperature and avoid overheating, which can be difficult to avoid with the standard torch method. E-nails remove the need for using these torches or buying butane providing a safer and more refined dabbing experience.
Some companies also offer quartz or even sapphire “dishes” that rest above the nail itself. When an extract is placed on the dish and covered by a “carb cap”, it simulates a convective heating process using the hot air above the nail to begin vaporizing the concentrate, rather than placing the concentrate directly on the nail itself.
Though E-nails require wall power and aren’t very practical on-the-go, several companies have been experimenting with all-in-one portable dab systems that use battery power to heat a nail. Many of these system also include a small glass water pipe attachment to simulate that cooling process of an at-home dab experience.
These portable systems are not to be confused with smaller lower powered vape pens and cartridges. Vape pens/carts can usually only vaporize thinner CO2 extracts in small amounts. Dabbing systems are much higher powered and can handle even the thickest concentrates. No disposable cartridge is involved in dabbing systems and the concentrate must be hand placed or “dabbed” onto the dab nail.
Which concentrates are safe to dab?
Cannabis concentrates, also called cannabis extracts, come in a variety of forms and potencies. Determining which concentrates are safe to dab can be tricky due to the various names used for dabbing extracts. The most common dabbing concentrates are CO2 extracted oil, clear concentrates, or solvent-less extracts such as rosin. Bubble hash that has been very finely filtered, often called Ice Wax, is another safe possibility. Other dabbable concentrates include wax, shatter, honeycomb, BHO, and crumbles, but these are often made with dangerous solvents which are difficult to purge and often leave residue.
It’s important to note, not all oils are safe for dabbing. Do not dab alcohol-based extracts, such as RSO, ISO wax, or tinctures. These extracts are to be ingested orally, not smoked or dabbed. If you’re unsure if a particular concentrate is okay to dab, always ask your budtender.
What you will need:
- Cannabis concentrate: as described above.
- Water pipe: Most water pipes can easily be made into a dab rig by replacing the glass bowl with a dab nail.
- Nail: Find a nail that fits your water pipe. Nails may be ceramic, quartz, or titanium (most common). Some dab rigs also require a dome. This is a glass hood that’s placed over the nail to collect the vapor before it’s inhaled. “Dome-less” nails don’t require a glass dome.
- Dabber: A small ceramic, glass, metal, or silicone spatula-like tool, used to apply a dab to the heated nail.
- Torch: Mini-torches such as those used for crème brûlée are adequate. Many upgrade to a larger propane-fueled torch for faster heating. New flame-less methods of dabbing, such as electronic nails, are gaining popularity, but the original torch method is most cost efficient.
How to dab:
- Prepare your dab. Scoop a small amount of concentrate onto your dabber tool. Remember, concentrates are more potent than flowers! Start small, we recommend a half grain of rice or less.
- Turn on the torch lighter, aim the flame at the nail on your water pipe. Different types of nails and torches will vary in heating time, be patient.
- Once the nail begins to turn red-hot, turn off the torch. If using a dome, place it over the nail. It’s recommended to allow titanium nails to cool for 10 seconds, quartz nails for 45 seconds to avoid combusting any of the material.
- Grab your dabber tool and apply the concentrate directly to the nail, inhaling slowly. Rotate the dabber tool around the nail to heat any oil stuck to the dabber.
*Caution: The nail (and dome) become extremely hot and should be handled with great caution. Always be sure to wait for all pieces to cool before touching.
How much should I use?
While flowers typically test from 10 to 25% THC, concentrates are often in the neighborhood of 50 to 80% THC. This enhanced potency means that only a small amount of concentrate is needed to produce a strong effect. For this reason, it’s always recommended to start with a small dose and increase as your comfort and tolerance allow. A reasonable starting dose is the size of a crumb, or roughly half a grain of rice.