If you’ve ever seen a creme brulee blow torch at your stoner friend’s house, and they’re not also a Michellin Starr chef, chances are, your buddy takes dabs. Taking dabs refers to the vaporization of cannabis concentrate via a special rig, as opposed to consuming cannabis by smoking flower, eating edibles, or other ways. While marijuana flower has been around for centuries, commercial production of marijuana concentrates have only recently become popular with legalization. Dabbing cannabis concentrates have also become popular through the advent of electronic dab pens, but this will be referring to the original definition of dabs, with live cannabis extract.
So what’s the big idea? Why not just stick to smoking weed? Concentrates, in comparison to flower, are as they sound, much more concentrated in THC percentage and potency. Experienced smokers enjoy dabs for their efficiency, potency and purity. In addition, avid dabbers find that dabs produce a much cleaner high, which may be a result of the lack of impurities found in flower or rolling papers. To top it all off, dabs produce a distinctively different, milder scent than say, lighting up a joint, making it especially convenient for shared environments or discreet smoking. Not to mention, higher potency means less smoking to get the same high, which may in turn save your lungs as long as you don’t go overboard.
Concentrates, by definition, are simply extracts derived from flower, yet, the way in which they are extracted determines the final product. Most concentrates are products of butane hash oil, but it can differ from concentrate to concentrate. Basically cannabis plants are combined with a solvent, and these solvents strip the terpenes and THC content from the plant. Different methods and solvents produce a variety of different kinds of concentrates and are the reason no one dab is ever alike.
Shatter, a fairly popular concentrate derived using butane as its solvent, is known for its translucent, swiss cheese appearance. When poked with a dab tool, it can shatter into smaller pieces, making it easy to portion out for a sesh. Shatter is also typically the most potent out of the bunch, making it a crowd favorite.
Not to be confused with moon rocks, rocks, or crumble, are effectively the leftovers from the shatter extraction process. These have a dryer, powdery texture to them that further distinguishes them from other types of concentrates. While crumble is also made from solvents like butane, it’s a bit more cost conscious, and can be found at a much more affordable price.
Sauce concentrates are really a combination of two things: a terpene rich oil, mixed with THC crystals that give the sauce their potency. This gives it the texture similar to a dip, making it especially easy to use for dabs. Sauce concentrates take longer to synthesize, which explains their flavorful terpene filled profile.
Rosins, the newest player to the game, are different. Unlike the rest, rosins do not utilize solvent extraction, meaning they’re produced only with heat and pressure. Rosins especially must be stored in a cool dry place, such as the fridge, to ensure that they don’t completely melt.
Wax, generally the cheapest, usually comes stuck on a sheet of thin paper which folds up into a square. These can range drastically in color from a rich amber, to a solid brown, based on their quality and potency.
How to get started
As a safety reminder, concentrates are extracted by professional cultivators, so this extraction process is not something to be attempted at home with your own flower. Making butane hash oil at home is a highly volatile process involving dangerous chemicals, and thus can cause dangerous explosions. Most dispensaries carry concentrates, although they can sometimes be pricey if you’re accustomed to buying flower.
For best results, dabs are enjoyed with a special dab rig, rather than a traditional bong or water pipe. These rigs are typically smaller, with less distance from the bowl to the mouthpiece. With marijuana flower, smokers look for maximum percolation and filtration, to cool off the hit before it enters their lungs. With smoking dabs, the opposite is true. Since concentrates burn at a lower temperature, the idea is to shorten the distance, which is why dab rigs are shorter and smaller in stature. This ensures the hit retains its potency and temperature as it reaches the lungs. Remember, using anything besides a dab rig or oil rig can be extremely dangerous, so make sure the rig your using is designed specifically for dabs.
To get started, ensure your rig is sitting on a flat surface in a well ventilated room. Remember, unless you have an electronic nail, you’re most likely going to be using a torch lighter. These blow torches can be found at any smoke shop and can be refilled regularly with butane or lighter fluid depending on the torch. Once you’re ready, begin heating the nail with the torch. Expose the flame for about thirty seconds to a minute, and then, let it rest for at least fifteen seconds.
Once you’ve reached an ideal nail temperature, the concentrate can be dropped or scraped into the nail. If you’re using rocks, you’ll be able to simply drop it on the hot nail. For sauce, rosin, and wax, you’ll need a special dab tool to scrape it off, and into the nail.
Before dropping it in however, you’ll want to place your mouth on the piece, and begin inhaling. The combined action of inhaling and dropping the concentrate will produce a spontaneous cloud of vapor in the piece, which can then be inhaled. Timing is everything here, and will improve with practice. Waiting too long for the nail to cool can turn the hit into a dud, but hitting it right away will result in a hot dab, which can sabotage the flavor of your dab.
After the initial inhale, it can be smart to cap the nail, by sealing the air and heat within it. Doing this makes sure any leftover resin inside the nail will vaporize and therefore add to the hit. But as always, be careful, this nail is still extremely hot.
Precautions and Maintenance
The main reminder that should be mentioned here is that dabs have a much higher THC content than other forms of cannabis. Infrequent smokers may be overwhelmed with the powerful potency of dabs, so if you’re new, take it slow. Also, after smoking marijuana in its concentrated form, increased tolerance will almost certainly follow, meaning you’ll require higher doses to achieve the same high. In addition, dabbing cannabis concentrates may keep the THC levels in your body at a high rate for a longer time than marijuana flower. Dabs may also cause rapid heartbeat shortly after the hit, but should subside within minutes.
As mentioned before, using a blow torch carries its own obvious dangers that lighting a bowl or joint doesn’t. The nail can stay very hot for an extended period of time, so it shouldn’t be touched until well after your sesh is finished. Touching the nail while it’s hot can result in severe burns, but like everything, accidents happen. If you’ve burnt yourself, dunking the finger in ice water right away can help taper the burning sensation.
Storage is a big deal. Take care not to leave your concentrates in direct sunlight, or anywhere that’s excessively hot or humid. Rosins, as mentioned before, are especially sensitive to high temperatures, and can be stored safely in your fridge.
So there you have it. To review, dabs are cannabis concentrates or marijuana extracts that are celebrated for their high potency and engaging method of smoking. While you may need to go out and buy a few extra supplies to make it all work, dabbing is a ton of fun, and can introduce you to the finest strains out there. As always, be careful, take the proper precautions, and understand that with higher marijuana use (especially in high concentrations) comes other dangers such as cannabis dependence, drug abuse, and more, especially for young adults or people who’s bodies are not fully developed. Again, if the preparations and precautions for this type of cannabis use seems too complicated, a friendlier alternative for beginners could be a dab pen.