Dabbing 101: A Beginner's Guide
Why is dabbing one of the hottest things in cannabis? Because a dab is more of everything you love about cannabis. More potency. More flavor. More fun. So if you’re one of those people who think you can’t have too much of a good thing, dabbing might be your thing. Welcome to Dabbing 101: A Beginner's Guide, where we’ll give you the rundown on everything a dabber should know, including the tools of the trade and step-by-step instructions on how to dab like a pro. Are you ready to turn your weed game up? Then it’s time to get your dab on!
What is Dabbing?
Let’s start with the basics. Dabs refer to cannabis concentrates. Dabbing refers to the process of vaporizing cannabis concentrate. Different kinds of dabs are categorized by extraction method and consistency.
What are some popular types of dabs?
There are so many. We’ll cover some popular ones here, but If you want to learn more, check out our companion piece to this article, A Guide to the Different Types of Concentrates. We talk about butane hash oil, RSO, the extraction process, tips and tricks for the new and experienced dabber and more.
- Wax: Wax is a class of concentrate that includes different consistencies such as budder, shatter, and crumble. It’s typically made with a solvent like butane.
- Budder: Budder is a concentrate with a consistency like butter. Different solvents are used to make budder, from butane to Co2. It is whipped over low heat to produce a light, airy finished product.
- Shatter: Shatter is a slab of cannabis resin that resembles stained glass.
- Live Resin: With live resin, plants are kept below freezing until the final product is made, so the cannabinoids and terpenes do not degrade.
- Ice Water (“Bubble”) Hash: Bubble hash is made by chilling cannabis flowers in ice water and agitating them. This causes the frozen trichomes to break off. The highest quality ice water hash is called “full melt” because it melts to nothing when it’s smoked or vaporized.
- Rosin: Rosin is made by pressing cannabis flowers or bubble hash between hot metal plates under extreme pressure. This process creates a viscous golden oil.
- Live Rosin: Live rosin is made with “fresh frozen” cannabis and ice-water extraction. This preserves all the terpenes in the trichomes, which are pressed and become live rosin.
What Tools Do You Need To Dab?
You’re going to need a whole box of them. Of all the ways to blaze, dabbing is the most complex. But with the right tools, a solid guide, and practice, anyone can become an expert dabber.
So, about that toolbox. Let’s open it up and take a look at what’s inside.
A Dab Rig
You just can’t do a proper dab with a dab rig. Think of it like a bong for concentrates. Dab rigs come in as many designs as bongs, from basic to works of art in blown glass. But since we’re new at this, it’s wise to keep it simple and go with a basic rig.
A Banger (AKA “Nail”)
This is the equivalent of the “bowl” in a bong, but because dabbing involves a torch and some serious heat, a banger is a special tool. Bangers are made with everything from titanium to ceramics, but quartz bangers are the best. They offer excellent heat retention, don’t dull flavor, and are extremely durable.
These are small balls like pearls. Typically, terp pearls are made with quartz or borosilicate. The pearls are placed in the banger to help distribute heat and concentrate evenly. This ensures a consistent dab with maximum flavor. Two terp pearls are the standard, but it’s a matter of preference. Not enough, and they won’t do their job/too many, and they clog the banger.
A Dabber (AKA “Dab Tool”)
A dabber is what you use to place your concentrate in the banger, so your fingers don’t get sticky from the concentrate or burned by the banger. It’s also a bad idea to handle concentrate because the oil and bacteria from your hands will transfer to that $100 gram of live rosin. You don’t want that. Nobody wants that.
Unless you have an E-Rig or E-Nail (more on those later), you will need a torch. You need to heat that banger to the perfect temperature, anywhere from 350°F to 900°F. You also want to do it quickly, so the more torch, the better…up to a point. Typically, a 3” or 4” dab torch is ideal, depending on the size of your dab rig. Look for one with a detachable base that lets you set your temperature. Trust us. You’ll be glad you did.
Do you have to have a temperature gauge? No. But is it a good idea? Yes. You’ll never learn what temp you like to dab without a gauge. You’ll just be guessing. With an infrared thermometer, you always know the exact temperature of your dabbing surface, which means you can find the perfect dab temp for you and replicate it consistently.
A Carb Cap (AKA “carburetor”)
Like the temperature gauge, you don’t have to have one, but you will want one. Carb caps control airflow by placing them over your banger while you take a rip. Reducing the airflow gives your concentrate more time to vaporize at lower temperatures. The more they vaporize at low temp, the more thick and flavorful that rip will be.
A Silicone Dab Container
You could buy one, but this one fits neatly in the “you don’t need one box.” Most concentrate comes in containers suitable for storing concentrate. Makes sense to us. Go figure!
A Dab Mat
The dab mat is all about protecting the surface you dab on from gooey hot concentrate residue and protecting your prized rig from scratching or breaking. They also help keep your rig and tools in place.
Pro Tip; If you want to keep it very simple and are willing to invest, the Puffco Peak Pro E-Rig (https://www.puffco.com/products/the-peak-pro) is just the thing. No more dab rig. No more bangers. No more torch. No more waiting for that banger to cool with eyes on the temperature gauge. Instead, the Puffco Peak Pro is all those tools in one simple, sleek device.
High Temp Dabs Vs. Low Temp Dabs
The temperature of your dab will have a big impact on your dab. This is why that temperature gauge is so key to your dabbing experience.
High Temp Dabs
Anything between 400 and 900 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a high temp dab. Go over 900, and your concentrate will burn, ruining it. Generally, most high temp dabbers choose a temperature between 450 and 600 degrees.
- High temp dabs are more potent: More concentrate is vaporized at high temperatures.
- High temp dabs create bigger clouds: Some dabbers love that thick, fluffy plume when they exhale.
- High temp dabs leave less residue: High temps melt residue, which means you may spend less time cleaning your banger.
- High temp dabs may burn terpenes: Terpenes degrade at a lower temperature than cannabinoids. Go too hot, and you can burn the terpenes, which means you’ll miss out on the whole entourage effect.
- High temp dabs may have less flavor: Terpenes give dabs their amazing nose and flavor. When they burn off, they take the flavor profile with them.
- High temps dabs may be harsh: High temps can feel dry and hot on the throat.
- High temp dabs burn product faster: High temp dabs burn more product which means you will spend more on concentrate over time.
Low Temp Dabs
Anything between 300 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a low temp dab. If you go below 300 degrees, your banger will not be hot enough to properly vaporize your concentrate. Most dabbers prefer low temp dabs because they balance flavor and potency.
- Low-temperature dabs may have more flavor: They taste better because they vaporize terpenes at the ideal temperature to deliver full flavor.
- Low temp tabs may be full spectrum: Because the terpenes don’t burn off, you will get the full spectrum of terpenes and cannabinoids.
- Low temp dabs may be less harsh: Low temp dabs are easier on the throat and lungs.
- Low temp dabs make the product last: Low temp dabs vaporize the product slower, which means you’ll buy less concentrate over time.
- Low temp dabs make smaller clouds: With lower temps, less product vaporizes, which means smaller clouds.
- Low temp dabs are less potent: Low temp dabs vaporize less product, which means less potency.
- Low temp dabs mean more cleanup: Lower temps will leave more residue to clean when you’re done dabbing.
The bottom line on dab temp range
If you’re above 300 degrees and below 900 degrees, dab temps come down to personal preference. So, let’s look at what you should expect from dabs across various temperatures.
32°F – 310°F (0°C – 154°C)
This is too low to vaporize the concentrate. Therefore, it will produce very little vapor, clouds, flavor, or effects.
315°F – 450°F (157°C – 232°C)
This is the sweet spot for the low temp dab. It will vaporize terpenes without burning them, providing the most flavorful full-spectrum experience.
450°F – 600°F (232°C – 315°C)
You’ll get a more potent dab with bigger clouds but less flavor at this medium temp.
600°F – 900°F (315°C – 482°C)
This is a hot dab. Expect thick clouds of harsh smoke with little flavor but high potency.
900°F + (482°C +)
This is too hot. Unless you like harsh, burnt rips, don’t go here.
How to Take a Dab With a Dab Rig: Step-by-Step
So you’ve got your rig, your tools, and your concentrate. Now comes the fun part. Time to get your dab on!
- Choose a flat, stable surface: Dabbing is a hot and messy business. Find a flat, stable surface like a countertop or table. Set down your dab mat, set up your dab rig tools, and concentrate, so they’re ready to go.
- Add water to your dab rig: After adding water, test the waterline by inhaling without the banger inserted. Did water splash into your mouth? If so, pour some out until you get a dry pull.
- Place the terp pearls in your banger: Remember these? These will help disperse heat and concentrate evenly.
- Heat the banger: Fire up your blow torch, careful that it’s not pointed at anyone or anything you don’t want to burn. Apply the flame evenly to the outside and bottom of the banger. When it turns red, it’s hot.
- Check the banger’s temperature: Use your temperature gauge to monitor the temp of your banger and wait until the banger reaches your chosen temperature.
- Load the banger: Use your dab tool to apply your concentrate to the bottom interior of the banger where the terp pearls rest.
- Take your dab: Slowly inhale through the mouthpiece. Then, rotate the tip of your dab tool in the banger to burn off any excess concentrate.
- Use your carb cap: Your carb cap should be used to regulate the size of your rip.
Tips for a Successful Dabbing Experience
There are just a few more things to remember to make sure your first dabbing isn’t your last time. After all, the whole point of this beginner’s guide is to make your dabbing experience enjoyable!
- Choose the right dab: This will likely be a process of trial and error, but it’s worth considering whether you would prefer a dab made with solvent or a solventless dab. You may also want to consider what strains and terpene profiles appeal to you and choose dabs that match those preferences.
- Find a comfy spot to sit: Dabs are very strong (4x!). Occasionally, they may cause the beginner to pass out. So it’s wise to stay safe and comfy until you know your tolerance.
- Go small: This one also goes in the “be careful dabs are strong box.” THC anxiety is not fun. Unless you want a ride on the anxiety and paranoia train, start with a tiny dab. You can always go bigger, but there’s no going back once you go big.
- Go low temp: If you’re a beginner, don’t sweat how big your cloud is. Go for flavor, not potency.
- You will probably cough. It’s just part of the deal. But it will get worse with bigger dabs at higher temps. Small and low temp is your new best friend!
- Cleaning up: You can clean your tab tools with your torch, which will cook off unwanted residue. You may also clean your tools with isopropyl alcohol.
- Storing dabs: Concentrate can degrade at room temperature. Therefore, always store dabs in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
What are cold start dabs or reverse dabbing?
Cold start dabs, aka reverse dabs, are when you add the concentrate to the banger before adding any heat.
Are there health benefits to dabbing?
Dabbing involves vaporizing, so it is smokeless. Using cannabis this way may be healthier than smoking. It may also benefit medical patients who require high doses to treat their conditions.
Are there health risks with dabbing?
With anything that involves potentially inhaling smoke or vapor, there are risks:
- For example, users with a low tolerance to THC may experience anxiety or paranoia.
- In addition, the torch and high temperatures risk burning something you didn't intend to burn.
- There is also the risk of residual solvent, pesticides, or other contaminants in dabs, but the testing required for licensed products should eliminate that risk.
- Always buy concentrate from a licensed dispensary, or you just don’t know what you’re dabbing.
Does dabbing smell less than smoking flower?
Yes, but there is still some odor due to the high terpene content in dabs.
Can I make my dabs myself?
Do not ever make your own dabs with a solvent. They can easily catch fire or explode. That said, you can make your own solventless dabs by “squishing flower” at heat and temperature. Parchment paper and a hair straightener are typically used in this DIY process. This can also be done with bubble hash.
What are e-nails or electronic nails?
An e-nail is a device that electronically heats up your dab banger. This eliminates the use of torches and makes it much easier to control the temperature of your dabs.
What are boiling points?
Boiling points refer to the temperature at which a particular compound boils and changes into its gaseous form. Dabs must be heated to their boiling point to release their active ingredients, so you must get the temperature right.
With this Dabbing 101 guide, you’re now equipped with all the knowledge you need to get started!
Dab with Panacea Products
No matter what your dabbing needs, Panacea has some of the best concentrates in Maryland and Massachusetts. The Wedding Cake Live Budder from Muse always hits that sweet spot, and the Cherry Chem Wax from District is fantastic. So if you’re looking for concentrate, you can't go wrong at Panacea. Visit us today or browse our menu . At Panacea, it’s always time to get your dab on!