Dabbing FAQs: Getting Started with Cannabis Concentrates
Dabbing isn’t complicated, but it’s also not quite as straightforward as packing a bowl in your favorite pipe. So we’ve put together some quick-and-dirty answers to some of the most common questions about dabbing, plus guidance on equipment, safety, and dosing.
Whether you’re an expert or a DABbler (sorry), you just might learn something new.
What are dabs?
Dab is a catch-all term for highly concentrated cannabis extracts. These concentrates come in many forms, including a sticky wax, a solid resin called shatter, live resin (which can resemble gooey crystals), or oil.
Dabbing is evaporating your wax, shatter, resin, or oil with high heat and inhaling the resulting vapor. Due to the elevated volume of THC and other cannabinoids in concentrates, the high from smoking dabs is more intense than from smoking flower.
How are dabs made?
Dabs are usually made using solvents like butane, propane, or CO2 to extract the cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis flower. Shatter, for example, is made by passing chilled butane over cannabis to release trichomes, and then vaporizing the solvent out of the solution. When what’s left is cooled, it creates an amber-colored product that can be brittle and breakable or more taffy-like.
Because solvents can be volatile and dangerous, we do not recommend that you attempt making dabs at home using these methods. There are solventless ways to make your own dabs, including alcohol extraction, using ice water, and the rosin press method using an iron or hair straightener.
But for the beginning dabber, your best bet is to buy your concentrate from a reputable supplier.
How potent are dabs?
Very. That’s kind of the point. The vapor from a dab is almost pure THC and cannabinoids, so you’re getting a major hit. In fact, some dabs can contain up to 90% THC. If you’re brand new to cannabis, you should probably stick to flower or a regular vape pen for a while before lighting up the blow torch.
What is a dab rig?
A dab rig is a specialized water pipe specifically designed for dabbing. Like a bong, a dab rig has a mouthpiece and a water chamber to cool the vapor. Depending on the design, it may also have percolators for further diffusion.
Instead of a bowl for flower, a dab rig has a nail or a banger which you will heat up before adding your cannabis concentrate. Many regular water pipes can be repurposed into dab rigs simply by swapping out the bowl for a banger or nail.
What equipment do I need for dabbing?
The common must-haves for dabbing are:
1. A dab rig: a small water pipe with a banger or nail
2. A dab rig: a small water pipe with a banger or nail
3. A torch: usually a butane torch lighter for heating the banger or nail
Optional add-ons include:
A dome or carb cap: a cap that you can place over the banger to trap the vapor and control airflow. This isn't required but is recommended so you don't lose all your vapor and heat
Banger inserts: a small dish that you can set into your banger for low-temperature hits
Quartz pearls or pills: you can add these to your banger to agitate the dab for more efficient vaporization
Need to build out your toolkit? Start here.
What is the difference between a dab nail and a banger?
The function of a nail and a banger is essentially the same. You'll superheat the chamber before adding your concentrate to vaporize it. So what's different with a dab nail vs. banger?
A dab nail is usually made of titanium or ceramic and often has a straight up-and-down design. In fact, they tend to look like something you'd find in a toolbox. A slight recess at the top creates a space for your wax or other type of concentrate.
A banger, on the other hand, is usually made of quartz and often has a 90° or a 45° bend in the neck. It also has a flat-bottomed bucket, which is where you'll place your concentrate.
Each has their own pros and cons. A titanium nail is ultra-durable. Good luck breaking one of those things. They also heat up moderately quickly. But the titanium can give your concentrate a slightly metallic taste, which some people don't like. Quartz, on the other hand, heats up faster than titanium, and provides a super-clean flavor. And the bent-neck design can make it easier to heat the bucket.
How do I smoke a dab rig?
Here's a step-by-step guide to smoking with a dab rig.
1. Add enough water to your dab rig to cover the percolator or the cuts in the bottom of the downstem.
2. Set aside a small amount of concentrate using your dab tool. The amount of concentrate to use will depend on the type (shatter, wax, butter, etc), the potency, and your tolerance. If you're just starting out, go small. You can always take another hit if necessary.
3. Turn on your torch and set it to a medium flame. Hold the flame to the banger or nail to heat evenly. Heat your titanium nail or the bucket of the quartz banger until it begins to glow red. The glow for titanium will be more vibrant, and the glow for quartz will be more faint.
4. WAIT. The "standard" temperature for dabs ranges from about 545-570°F for total vaporization without burning. That being said, some people prefer a lower temperature for more flavor, and some prefer a higher temperature for more potency. A glowing red quartz banger is about 800°F, so wait 20 to 30 seconds to let it cool slightly before adding your concentrate. If you wish, you could use a thermometer gun to verify the temperature of your banger.
5. Using your dab tool, add your concentrate to the hot banger. Then, cover the banger with your carb cap to keep your vapor somewhat contained and to trap that heat for more thorough vaporization.
6. Inhale slowly through the mouthpiece. You can also move the carb cap up and down to adjust the airflow and find the right temperature. This can take some practice.
7. Exhale and feel good. Concentrate will hit you pretty much immediately.
What is the easiest way to smoke a dab?
There is an easier way to smoke dabs than with a dab rig. To do, you’ll need a vape straw and a dab dish. Here’s how it works:
1. Using a dab tool, place your concentrate in the dab dish.
2. Use your torch to heat the tapered end of the vape straw. It only needs to be heated for a few seconds.
3. Place the hot, tapered end of the vape straw on your concentrate in the dab dish and inhale.
This is a super simple way to dab on-the-go or when you’re in a rush. It’s a lower temperature experience, so you may not vaporize as much concentrate as you would with a full rig. And as an open system, you may also lose more vapor than you would with a banger and carb cap.
How long should I heat up dab rig glass?
How long to heat up your dab rig glass depends on the heat of your torch and how hot you want your banger. Generally, 20-30 seconds is enough time to get a quartz banger to glow.
How to use a banger insert?
A banger insert makes it easier to smoke low-temperature dabs by adding an extra layer of quartz between the heat and the concentrate. It also keeps your banger clean, and may extend its life.
Here’s how it works:
1. Add your concentrate to the banger insert. Set aside.
2. Use your torch to heat the bucket of the banger until it starts to glow red.
3. Drop the banger insert into the bucket, open side up. You may want to use tweezers for this to avoid burning your fingers.
4. Top the banger with a carb cap.
5. When the concentrate begins to bubble and vaporize, inhale your dab.
5. WAIT until the insert is fully cool before removing it.
How much water should I put in a dab rig?
Just like a water pipe, you only need enough water in your rig to cover the percolator or cuts at the bottom of the downstem. If you overfill your rig, you risk splashing water onto your banger or in your mouth.
How often should I clean my dab rig?
Ideally, you would clean your dab rig every time you use it. Cooled vapor will coat your glass in a burnt residue. It’s not tasty and it’s not very good for you.
But this is the real world, and we’re not the clean police. So we recommend cleaning the banger after every use, and cleaning the full rig every week or so if you’re a heavy dabber, and less often if you dab on occasion.
How should I store dabs?
Dabs can degrade when exposed to light, heat, and moisture. So you want to keep them in a dark, cool, dry place. A small, opaque concentrate jar will do the trick for short-term storage. Just make sure to keep the jar out of the sun or direct heat. Your car dashboard is a bad place to keep your dabs. You may also want to wrap your concentrate in parchment paper to prevent it from sticking to the container.
For long-term storage, you want to minimize air contact as much as possible. A vacuum-sealed bag is ideal, although a zipper food storage bag will also help. Wherever you store your air-tight dabs, make sure it’s somewhere dark. Humidors made for cannabis can both control light and moisture for long-term protection.
If you choose to freeze your dabs, make sure they’re vacuum-sealed first so moisture can’t get in and ruin them.
Got more questions? We’ve got more answers.
Leave a comment below with more dab queries and we just might do a part two.