For new users of cannabis, dabbing can seem the height of sophistication. It sounds difficult but is actually relatively easy to do. All you need is the right kit and you’re good to go.
And, once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll pretty much be a master.
The elements of how to dab come down to an available concentrate and a high heat source such as a blow torch. Essentially, what you are trying to achieve is a kind of flash vaporization. You only need a very small amount of concentrate for this, of course. They contain a lot more THC than your average dry herb or oil but the actual vaporization process also gives you a cleaner hit.
You might find that your average dried herb delivers around 10 or even 24% THC. Concentrates can have anything up to 80%. For that reason, the quantity is important.
Can you dab CBD? Yes, that’s possible too. If you are hoping to use dabbing to deliver medical benefits, however, temperature becomes very important. We deal with this later in the article when we look at e-nails. At the very least, you will need to invest in one of these to heat up your concentration.
The Main Types of Concentrate
Most concentrates take their name from their consistency. For example, you have:
- Shatter: This looks a bit like a thin, honey-colored piece of glass and when it breaks it shatters.
- Wax: This looks like something you may have removed from your ear and has about the same consistency.
- Crumble: This is easy to break up and is great for dabbing.
- BHO: This stands for butane hash oil. Butane is the solvent used to extract terpenes and cannabinoids.
Over the last few years, other terms for cannabis concentrates have moved into public consciousness including dry sift, full melt, and pull and snap. One of the most recent is live resin. If you’re a connoisseur you’ll probably have a handle on these already.
What you need to know is that these generally have much higher levels of concentrations of THC than standard cannabis products – that makes them a great choice if you want to dab but that does mean you have to be careful about only using small quantities.
Get Together Your Dabbing Tools
You can’t learn how to dab without having the right tools. If you want to do it well, you’ll need several things on your table:
- Your cannabis extract. This can either be either shatter, wax or crumble or some other form of extract. The one thing you shouldn’t do is use one that is alcohol based. That’s because it could ‘explode’ when you apply high heat to it.
- You need a water pipe or rig. This is to filter out the vape from the dabbing process. Our advice is to go for quality if you want to have a smooth vape.
- You need a nail to fit to your rig. This can be either ceramic, quartz or more often titanium. This is going to be heated to a very high degree so it needs to be robust so, again, best to go for a quality product.
- A dome: This should fit over your nail and is used to trap the vapour before you breathe it in through the water pipe. Some nails come as dome-less which means you don’t have to bother.
- A dabber: This is what you are going to put your concentrate on and apply to the nail which has been heated.
- Finally, you need a blow torch to heat up the nail. You can get small ones that are designed for making crème Brule and general cooking in the kitchen and they’re relatively easy and safe to use with nails.
How to Dab: What Quantity?
The first thing you need to be careful about when dabbing concentrates is the quantity that you use. You want a very small amount, not the whole lot. Concentrates generally contain up to 80% THC and you don’t want to overdo things.
If this is your first time, we suggest something that is a little bigger than a breadcrumb. It may not seem that much, but it will certainly give you the hit you are looking for. Anything bigger is just a waste of valuable resources.
How to Dab: Step by Step
Once you’ve set up your dabbing kit and are ready to go, our first piece of advice is to sit down and relax. The initial hit that you get from the vaporized THC can give you a pretty strong high so make sure you are comfortable.
Put a small amount of concentrate onto your dabber and set it down ready to use.
Switch on your torch and light it up. The flame needs to be focused on the nail so that it heats up quickly. Some people will continue to do this until the nail begins to glow. If you are using an e-nail or dome-less nail, then the process is slightly different as we’ll explain below.
It goes without saying that you should be very careful about how you handle your kit at this point because it is so hot.
Turn off your torch and set it aside. Give the nail a few seconds to cool down before you fit the dome above to catch the vapour. Temperature is actually important when it comes to learning how to dab but in this initial first try, all you want to do is get a good hit of vapour.
The final step is to pick up your dabber and place the concentrate on the nail beneath the dome. There is going to be a fairly quick reaction – you should be inhaling slowly once the dab has been applied. To get more out of your dab, twisting your dabber a little to move the concentrate can deliver more vapour.
E-Nails and Dome-Less Nails
Once you’ve tried dabbing for the first time, you may well want to take it to the next level.
Using a dome can be a little fiddly for some. You can buy what are called dome-less nails that have perforations in them. These help draw in the vapour instead of allowing it to escape so you don’t need a dome at all. If you want to reduce the hassle of setting up your dabbing kit, then it’s well worth investing in one.
An e-nail is a relatively recent innovation, but, if you want to become a serious dabber, it’s also worth finding the extra dollars to buy one. It means you don’t have to use a torch and you can heat your concentrate more accurately.
Why is this important? It comes down to terpenes – heating your dab to a certain temperature helps release many of these. If you are using cannabis for medicinal purposes, then this is the way to maximize certain types of terpene in your vape.
Terpenes and Low-Temperature Dabbing
We’re only beginning to actually scratch the surface when it comes to terpenes. These chemicals generally provide the flavour and scent of the cannabis strain but they also have therapeutic applications according to some recent research.
The trouble is that the temperature is extremely important in helping to release these terpenes. For example, linalool which produces a wonderful fragrance and can add to your enjoyment when dabbing starts to boil at 388°F. Most traditional blow torches will quickly get your nail way above this which means you won’t get the effect you are searching for.
Using an e-nail or electronic nail, however, enables you to use a digital display to monitor the nail temperature and thus control when a particular terpene vaporizes. D-Limonene, for instance, which is known to produce relaxing effects and is useful in stress relief, boils at around 349°F. To get the best effect, you want to heat the concentrate up to this and no more.
Obviously, you need to understand a lot about your concentrate and what you are trying to get out of it in the first place. The benefit here is that once you have the knowledge, you can implement a successful vape using the e-nail.
Is Dabbing For You?
How someone takes their cannabis is a matter of personal choice. Most people who are regular users, will at some point learn how to dab. Deciding whether it is for you depends a lot on what you want to get out of your experience. Some people prefer the traditional ways of taking cannabis such as smoking or vaping.
If you are using dabbing for recreational purposes, it’s a great way to use just a small amount of concentrate and get a strong high. For those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes, the introduction of electronic nails now provides a way to better control CBD strains that have been converted to concentrates.