In the past couple of years, dabbing has exploded in popularity over traditional cannabis due to its tasty terpene profile, rich aroma, and straight-to-the-moon potency, making it a quick path to the effects that users seek—but beginners beware. When we say straight-to-the-moon, we’re not kidding.
So maybe you’ve heard the word “dab” floating around, maybe it’s brand new to you, or perhaps you may have even seen your friends blow massive plumes of smoke after hitting their dab rig and you want to learn more about this new technique. Well, you’ve come to the right place my friend—we’re here to break down the basics of dabbing and show you step by step how to dab like a pro.
What is a dab?
Generally speaking, a dab describes a tiny bit of cannabis concentrate, like shatter, live resin, wax, budder, or butane hash oil (BHO). These concentrates are extracted straight from the cannabis plant (through various chemical and physical extraction processes) in order to isolate the THC. You are left with a sky-high level of THC (we’re talking 50%+ THC compared to the 10-30% found in most flower) and not so much of the other boring plant matter. In other words, concentrates are designed to get you high AF.
While dabbing, on the other hand, describes the act of smoking a dab. Unlike flower, you don’t light it on fire and inhale—this process is a little more precarious. To smoke a dab, you need to place just a tiny bit of concentrate on what’s called a “dab rig” (which can take several different forms, so we’ll get into that) and heat the surface. Once it’s hot enough, the dab will begin to turn into a vapor that you can then inhale.
For anyone wondering if dabbing is legal, the short answer is yes. Anywhere cannabis is legal (like Michigan and Arizona), dabbing should fall under that same umbrella. Be sure to check your local laws and regulations before taking the dab plunge.
Now that you have an understanding of the basics, let’s get more into the specifics of dabbing.
What dab tools are needed?
If you think dabbing might be right for you, you will need to invest in a few dab specific tools to get you started on your way.
- Dab Rig: As dabbing becomes more popular, a dab rig can take many different forms. It can be a water pipe designed specifically for concentrates, you can grab the right dab nail (or banger) for your current water pipe, or if you’re feeling fancy, get a new piece of technology, like a Puff Co, that does all the hard work for you.
- Dab Nail: Sometimes called a banger, this is similar to a bowl that you place cannabis flower in, only it’s made for dabs. The usual go-to for today’s standards is a quartz banger, which is marked by its bucket shape, but there are also ceramic and titanium options and even e-nails are becoming more commonplace. Just be mindful to get the correct joint size (where the nail slides into the dab rig so that everything fits snug) and the correct gender—you need a male nail for a female rig, and vice versa.
- Dabber: Concentrates can often be sticky or hard to handle so you need a dabber to apply your shatter, wax, or resin onto the dab nail. They can be metal, glass, or ceramic, and have many shapes so pick a shape that will work best with the texture and consistency of your dab of choice.
- Carb Cap: While this piece is not entirely necessary, we highly suggest one of these to help regulate airflow keep all your precious concentrate safe and sound.
- Torch: Traditional lighters don’t get hot enough to heat the nail so you’ll need a torch to do the job right. Usually used in kitchens for desserts like creme brulees, you can easily find a mini torch to heat your nail if needed. If you opt for an e-nail that heats itself, you won’t need one of these.
- Cannabis Extract: Last but not least, head on over to JARS and get some cannabis concentrate. Our budtenders will be happy to point you in the right direction.
And that’s pretty much it! If you want to avoid the safety risks of open flame, you may want to consider a dab pen or an electronic dab rig, which uses metal or ceramic coils to heat wax enclosed in a sealed metal or glass cap. Whatever you decide, you’re bound to get lit.
How do you dose cannabis oils and extracts?
Due to its out-of-this-world potency, dabbing may not the best way to kick off your cannabis journey. That being said, giving yourself the right size dose will help ensure that you get exactly the kind of high you’re looking for.
As with edibles and many other cannabis consumption methods, start low and go slow. Different extracts can contain different amounts of THC, so it is important to know how potent it is before you start. As the saying goes, “a little dab will do ya”—or something like that. What we’re trying to say here is, you may think a teeny-tiny scoop of cannabis concentrate may not be enough to get you high, but trust us, a little goes a long way. Besides, you can always take another dab if your first was too small for your liking.
Now for the fun part: let’s smoke!
How to Dab Like a Pro
Always remember, safety comes first. Make sure you are not around anything flammable since dab nails can get as hot as 900℉ and you may be using a torch. Once you have a handle on your surroundings, let’s get started.
- Check your nail. Is it correctly fastened to the rig? Make sure it’s super secure with no wobble as you don’t want to have to adjust mid-dab and risk a burn.
- Heat the nail. Use a torch to heat the nail from underneath, making sure to apply some heat to the sides too. If you are using an e-nail, make sure you have given it plenty of time to warm up. It can take anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute of continuous flame to get the nail red hot.
- Wait. Let the nail cool down for about twice as long as you heated it so that the heat has enough time to disperse throughout the nail. Do not check the temperature with your finger which can result in painful third-degree burns. It might be tempting to take a rip from an extra hot nail, but this can actually cause more harm than good. While hotter dabs do result in more smoke, it’s not worth risking permanent lung damage. Cooler dabs also offer a smoother smoking experience where you can actually taste the terpenes.
- Use your dabber tool to place the concentrate on the nail. Tilt the dabber so all of the cannabis oil reaches the nail. If it’s heated properly, you’ll see the concentrate bubble and evaporate quickly.
- Cover with a carb cap, if using, twisting, and turning as you go to regulate the airflow.
- Inhale slowly, being careful to not irritate your throat and lungs. If you find yourself coughing more than you’d like, it is possible that the temperature might have been too high when you applied the dab to the nail. Wait for the dab nail to cool off a bit before hitting again—if you’re not already high as a kite. Expect the effects to kick in fairly quickly, so just enjoy the ride.
How to Clean Your Dab Nail
Cleaning is an important step towards becoming a cannabis dab professional. Buildup can cause a change in taste (and is just plain gross), so you will want to clean the nail frequently after dabbing.
For a super quick clean, apply a little heat from the torch as if you were going to dab, then use a pair of tongs to dip it into room-temp water. This can help remove stubborn white oxidation from the nail. You can also clean residual concentrate with a Q-tip soaked in 91% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) in a well-ventilated area—so take your chores outside and get some sunshine while you’re at it.
If the gunk on your nail is super stubborn, soak the nail in isopropyl alcohol for about 5-10 minutes, maybe adding some salt to the mix. Be sure to rinse the nail thoroughly afterward, as you do not want to smoke alcohol residue later. Isopropyl alcohol can help clean an e-nail too: Just heat the nail to 200 degrees and rub alcohol in with a Q-tip. Simple as that.
Whether you’re taking your first steps on the dab path or are a long-time concentrate consumer, hopefully, this article has helped deepen your knowledge of the wide world of cannabis concentrates.
Just remember to start with a teeny tiny dab and graduate to larger hits as you get accustomed to the dab life. If you take too much and are having a more intense experience than you wanted, just try to relax and remember that this too shall pass—stay hydrated, take some CBD, and rest until you feel more comfortable.
Just make sure you come into JARS for all of your dab needs. We’re always happy to help!