Way back in the mid-1950s, a men’s hair grooming product called Brylcreem launched an advertising campaign featuring the slogan: A Little Dab’ll Do Ya. All you needed to give your hair the sleek, shiny style women couldn’t resist was one dime-sized dab of Brylcreem. And in case you’re wondering, a dime is a small U.S. coin worth ten cents.
The slogan quickly became an iconic pop culture catch phrase used around the world to describe just the right amount of just about anything that produced the best possible result. Decades later, it was appropriated by the cannabis culture and A Little Dab’ll Do Ya now applies to practice of dabbing THC concentrates.
A little dab is all you need.
Dabbing may not be the most popular method of consuming cannabis, but certainly delivers one of the most powerful THC experiences and ranks among the biggest bangs for your cannabis buck. A “dab” is made up of highly concentrated cannabinoids and terpenes extracted from cannabis flower. A dab can be any form of concentrate, such as budder, crumble, sauce, shatter, wax, etc.
Dabbing is the act of inhaling vaporized cannabis concentrates using a “dab rig.” A traditional dab rig features a glass chamber much like a bong. The “nail,” also known as the “banger,” is a small, cylindrical bowl that’s attached to the chamber. This is where the dab is actually heated and vaporized.
The nail can be made of titanium, ceramic, quartz or glass. There are many different styles that vary the rate of vaporization and the amount of concentrate that can be dabbed at one time. Some have vacuum-sealed jackets that allow them to retain heat for extended time periods.
The nail is heated directly using a butane torch or an electric coil that wraps around the cylinder. Using a propane torch is not recommended because it burns hotter and can damage the nail.
An “e-nail,” short for electric nail, or an “e-rig” is a more expensive, but safer option that also provides more precise control of the vaporizing temperature. Newer e-rigs allow dabbers to dial in temperatures that optimize specific concentrates, cannabinoids or terpenes, as well as increase or decrease their intensity.
Most rigs include a “carb cap,” a glass, titanium, ceramic or quartz lid that covers the top of the nail. The carb cap has a small hole in it that reduces the pressure inside the nail, acting like an oven to trap the heat and lower the temperature required for vaporization.
Because dabs are heated and not combusted (i.e., set on fire) like cannabis flower, their vapors can be crisp and flavorful. However, the temperature of the nail at the moment you inhale the vapors is critical. It affects the flavor of the vapors, as well as the desired effects of the concentrate. It also affects how easily the nail is to clean after use.
A quartz insert can be added to your nail to provide additional surface area, essentially increasing your ability to get the most out of low-temperature dabs. When inserted into a hot nail, the insert acts as an internal carb cap.
If you’re using a new nail, you’ll need to “season” it first to eliminate any residual chemicals that may have been used when the nail was made. You don’t want to inhale any of these. To season the nail:
- Use a blow torch to heat the nail until red hot.
- Smear a bit of wax on the nail.
- Let it completely vaporize. If you don’t want to waste wax on this step, you can also drop some water onto the hot nail.
- After the wax or water has completely vaporized, use tongs to place the nail in a bowl of water.
- Repeat this process several times.
High or Low Temperature Dabbing: It’s a Matter of Taste
Temperature is critical to the overall dabbing experience as it changes the flavor and intensity of the vapors. High temperatures can result in vapors that taste harsh but pack a more powerful punch. Low temperatures can enhance the concentrate’s natural flavors and aromas.
Some Like It Hot
High-temperature dabs, between 340 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit (170 to 370 degrees Celsius, will scorch the concentrate and tend to leave a residue that is hard to clean.
If you want to try high-temp dabbing, use a nail with holes in it that will allow the vapor to move immediately into your rig’s chamber without having to use a carb cap or dome.
- Place the nail in your rig and use a torch to heat the nail until it’s red hot.
- Use a dabbing wand to pick up a small glob of concentrate.
- Carefully place the concentrate on the red-hot nail. At the same time, start drawing on the mouthpiece.
The high temperature of the nail quickly vaporizes the concentrate, and you should get a huge amount of thick, dense, potent vapor.
Caution: vaporizing terpenes at the temperatures above 600 degrees Fahrenheit (322 degrees Celsius) can produce unwanted toxins.
Cooler Heads Prevail
Many people dab at lower temperatures, which yields a less intense but tastier and more aromatic experience. For this method, you should use a solid nail and a carb cap or dome.
- Position the nail in your rig and heat the nail until almost red hot.
- Let the nail cool for 5 to 45 seconds.
- Use a dabbing wand to pick up a small glob of concentrate.
- While starting to draw on the mouthpiece piece, use the wand to place the concentrate on the nail.
- When the dab starts bubbling and vaporizing, put the carb cap or dome over the nail. This acts like a convection oven, trapping in heat until the concentrate has entirely vaporized.
- Lift off the dome and inhale the built-up vapor.
Low-temp dabs, less than 340 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius), don’t always fully vaporize and leave behind a small amount of concentrate in the nail.
“e” Is for Easy
The obvious question is, how do you know what the nail temperature is before you dab? With a traditional rig, you have to guestimate when the nail “red hot,” “almost red hot” or too hot that it can ruin the concentrate or produce toxic terpene vapors. Experienced dabbers can usually eyeball it, but that can take a good deal of dab dabbling, also known as trial and error.
The easy solution Is to use an electric e-rig or e-nail, which allows you to eliminate the guesswork and precisely control the nail’s temperature using electronics instead of a torch. It’s also a lot safer. Simply set up your e-rig according to the instructions and follow the same high or low temperature dabbing steps above.
Dabbing is Advanced Cannabis. It requires a lot more tools, accessories and skill than lighting a joint. And achieving the perfect vaporization temperature can take a lot of practice.
If you’re a rookie smoker, dabbing might be a bit too much to start with. One small dab of concentrate produces immediate and intense results that are far more potent than smoking flower. Be patient and take it slow at first, and don’t hesitate to seek advice from an experienced dabber.
When it’s done properly, a little dab’ll do ya. And then some.