What is a dab? The term “dab” literally comes from the fact that you’re measuring out a small part of cannabis concentrate on a hot surface and flash vaporizing it at 450-500 degrees fahrenheit. Types of concentrates that can be dabbed include rosin, hash rosin, resin, live resin diamonds, sauce, wax, batter/butter, crumble, distillate, and shatter. The concentrate sits on a small dish—referred to as a banger, nail, or atomizer—attached to a dab rig and heated by a torch.
Vaporization takes a temperature of around 220 degrees fahrenheit to 450 degrees fahrenheit and can go as high as 700 degrees, above that temperature burning occurs. Here’s a helpful temperature scale in regard to cannabis terpenes.
People have been “dabbing” long before it got its weird name and all this advanced gear that you see people using on social media. Ever heard of hot-knifing? It’s the process of heating up two kitchen knives to high temperatures using a gas stove then vaporizing cannabis resin, wax, or even flower between the two knives and inhaling the vapor. Dabbing is the same idea (but without this dangerous household technique).
Dabbing is an efficient way to get high levels of THC into the body. Cannabis consumers who dab like it because it’s more potent and hits faster than other methods, the flavors of the cannabinoids and terpenes come through well, and it can be cleaner, purer, and easier on the lungs. Vaporizing is slightly healthier and less harsh than combusting cannabis flower because you’re not getting as many plant particles and carcinogens into your lungs. But, for some people, dabs can make them feel paranoid, nauseous, sleepy, or too high altogether. Dabs are typically for more habitual cannabis consumers or medical patients.
Photography by Matt Ferro.
Types of Concentrates and Potency
Cannabis concentrates are the resinous parts of the cannabis plant that contain THC and other valuable cannabinoids. There are several different ways to extract this concentrate off of the flower of the cannabis plant. The safest and probably most expensive process is solventless rosin. Next is live resin, then regular resin, wax, and shatter. It depends on your lifestyle, budget and preference, but it’s wise to go for quality over quantity.
No matter the process used for extraction, concentrates can be two to three times more potent than cannabis flower (flower usually tests around 20% THC, while concentrates can test anywhere from 60% to 95% THC). Because of this high potency, it’s important to start low and go slow.
Ways to Dab
Rigs, similar to bongs but made exclusively for dabbing, are the main method of consumption for vaporizing concentrate. Rigs can be made of glass, metal, or other materials if it’s an electric rig (or e-rig for short) or portable vaporizer. Most rigs or e-rigs come with a glass “banger” (for a rig) or atomizer/e-nail (for an e-rig). The banger is a small dish attached to your rig that’s used to vaporize the concentrate. The atomizer is the same thing but in electric form. A glass quartz banger is heated with a torch, while e-rigs use a charged battery to heat the atomizer or e-nail. Some bongs can be used as rigs too, but it’s not recommended unless a thorough clean is done between sessions. You will also need a carb cap, a small tool that goes on the top of the banger that restricts the airflow and traps heat, preserving the flavor and quality of the concentrate, while ensuring a smooth hit. A dab tool is a skinny metal or ceramic tool that is used to measure out and place your concentrate into your banger.
Cold Start vs. Hot Start Dabs
A “cold start dab” means the banger starts out cold (not heated); so you put the concentrate in first then heat the banger until the concentrate starts to bubble. Put your card cap on and inhale! A hot start dab is a “regular dab,” so you heat the banger up first before applying the concentrate to the banger. Cold start dabs are a way of conserving butane and being less wasteful with solvents.
How to Take a Dab
- Get your materials ready. Take out your concentrate, glass or electronic rig, torch, and dab tool. Don’t forget your carb cap and cotton swab (q-tips will do) for immediate cleaning (so the glass doesn’t stain, collect debris, or get moldy).
- Decide how large of a dab you’d like to take. We recommend starting with something very small, about the size of half a piece of white rice.
- Once you have your dab measured out, set it aside (but within reaching distance).
- For a regular dab: Heat up rig. Turn on your torch in a safe area, pointed away from yourself. Once on, point it directly on the banger, but several inches from the nail. Heat until an orange glow can be seen. Turn off and carefully set down the torch. Set a timer for your ideal temperature, usually around 60 to 90 seconds for around 450 degrees, but this can sometimes be a game of trial and error to find your personal preference and to understand how your specific banger cools (its thickness, etc). Once your timer goes off, put your carb cap on top of your nail/banger and inhale from the mouth piece.
- For a cold-start dab: Put your dab at the back, bottom of your glass nail/banger. Then turn your torch on and put it directly on the banger, underneath the dab, and be ready to turn off the torch. Put your carb cab on and inhale right when the dab starts bubbling.
- For an electric rig, put your dab directly onto the atomizer, choose your desired temperature. We recommend around 450 degrees fahrenheit. Inhale slowly from the mouth piece.
- After your exhale, remove the carb cap and immediately pick up your cotton swab to swab the inside of the banger/nail with any remaining residue.
- Reheat and repeat as desired.
SWEET JANE’S Dabbing Favorites
Ready to start your dabbing journey? Here are a few of our favorite rigs you may want to try.
Daab by Ispire makes a reliable, electric dab rig with induction heating. The handheld rig is discreet and portable. $250
G Pen Connect Vaporizer is great for on the go, discrete consumption, heating to temperature in five seconds. $180
Mini Dab Rig Collection by MJ Arsenal offers several different styles of dab rigs that are small and easy to use. If you purchase, use code McCarterGetsHigh for a discount. Starting at $58.
The Puffco Proxy is a reliable, dry sherlock-style pipe for concentrates. It has four precision heated temperature to help curate your vaping experience. $300.
Emily McCarter is a plant medicine mental health advocate and cannabis marketing consultant living in Boulder, Colorado. She hosts the podcast High Minded with McCarterand shares her journey on Instagram @mccartergetshigh.