So you want to do a dab? Or want to know what a dab even is?
The term supposedly comes from the old Brylcreem slogan, "a little dab'll do ya," emphasizing that this is a more potent version of a cannabis experience.
In other words, a dab is a concentrated form of cannabis consumption!
PART 1 – GEAR
BUT FIRST…HOW IT’S MADE
Cannabis concentrates can be made from hydrocarbon (often Butane) extraction, fractional CO2 extraction, or by pressing cannabis under high pressure and low heat.
In the case of butane extraction, the plant material is loaded into a container, which is filled with gas, removing the trichomes from the plant and isolating them in a solution. Trichomes are the protective glands or “crystals,” which contain the medicinal and psychoactive components of cannabis. A low-temperature, high-pressure oven is then used to boil off the remaining solvent, leaving a potent concentrate.
Examples of hydrocarbon and CO2-extracted concentrates are shatter, budder, badder, and live sugar.
In the case of pressing, the plant material (or hash) is pressed between heated plates, and the oil is smashed outta there.
Examples of high-pressure extraction are rosin and live rosin.
In either case, these extracted oils are potent and tasty, a great way to take your cannabis experience to the next level. But you'll need a way to smoke 'em, right?
The easiest way to start is with a portable vape pen or a nectar collector. This will allow you to take dabs without buying many pieces of equipment with multiple steps involved in their use. There are great choices out there from quality brands like Puffco (the Plus), Yocan (the Uni XL Pro), Lookah (the Seahorse Pro), and Boundless (the Terp Pen).
These devices will require you to either fill a chamber with or dip a heated element directly into your concentrate, which will then quickly boil and vaporize, allowing you to inhale the vapor.
These gadgets will also allow you to easily control the temperature of your dab. You’ll want to keep the heat low enough to avoid burning the concentrate. At the right temperature, you’ll be ingesting terpenes and cannabinoids and receive their healing effects.
With any of these devices, and with dabs in general, it’s *key* to keep things clean. Concentrates themselves, along with the residue that gets left behind after they vaporize, can be very sticky. As such, it's important to clean up any sticky bits pretty well, with isopropyl alcohol and q-tips. This is especially true of the Puffco Plus, which works best when you clean it after every session.
The Puffco Plus is a great tool for perfecting the temperature at which you take your dab, with three temperature settings to choose from.
The Yocan makes terrific clouds and comes with two removable chambers so you can have one soaking in alcohol while you use the other.
The Lookah and the Boundless, which are nectar collectors, allow you to simply dip their tips directly into your concentrate and inhale the vapor. The Boundless also has a burn-off cycle that you can use to clean the tip. Super Handy!
But what if you're ready to graduate to some of these fancy bong-type things you've seen people using on the internets? Where to begin?
The set-up you are now getting ready to use is called a "dab rig." The components you need are as follows:
1) A BONG
You don't want a 3-footer here. Remember, dab vapor is rich in terpenes and can degrade in too big a chamber, so stick with ten inches or less. There are lots of water pipes out there that are sold specifically for dabs, so that is an easy way to pick, though not a requirement.
2) A BANGER
The banger is the place where you'll be putting your dab. It's a glass (quartz glass is best) bucket with a stem that you insert into the place on the bong where the bowl would normally go. You'll be heating this up with a torch until it is hot enough to boil and vaporize the concentrate.
3) A TORCH
It’s popular to use high-grade butane torches for dabbing, but a propane torch will work, too. This is maybe the most intimidating part of using a dab rig, since shooting a blowtorch around is outside most people's realms of experience. But if you can keep from aiming the torch at yourself and others, and aim it instead at your banger, you will be fine!
4) DAB TOOL
You need a way to carry the concentrate from its container to the banger without burning yourself, and the dab tool is just the skinny little spoon for the job. You probably don’t have a good substitute around the house.
Any form of concentrate can be dabbed, from shatter to budder to rosin. Even edible concentrates like FECO can be dabbed!
6) COTTON SWABS OR MOPS
There are ad hoc dabbing q-tips out there that are more tightly wound than your average q-tip or CVS cotton swab, and this does come in very handy. Trust us, you really don’t want fibers tearing off your q-tip and sticking to your rig parts. It’s best to mop out your banger or insert a dry mop after letting it cool for a few minutes. This will get most or all of the residual material out. If necessary, you can use another mop with isopropyl alcohol to finish the job.
That’s it! You’re ready to dab. BUT there are some other things you can add to optimize your dabbing experience…
EXTRA DAB GEAR
Let's move on to a few handy items you can add to your rig to maximize your experience.
1) INSERT CUPS
This is a quartz bucket that you can load your concentrate into, so that when you drop it into the hot banger (it should nest perfectly inside), it absorbs and distributes the heat evenly and gradually, helping to insure a lower temperature dab. You can also get multiple cups so that you don't have to clean up after each dab.
2) CARB CAP
This is a cap (hence the name), that sits on the top of the banger bucket. It regulates airflow and heating and is integral to the use of insert cups and terp pearls. There are lots of different styles of these. We recommend a “spinner cap,” which makes great airflow even if you aren’t using terp pearls.
3) TERP PEARLS
These are little marbles that come in various shapes, sizes, and materials. Put them in the banger (or insert cup) and they spin around in the banger bucket, stirring the concentrate inside and providing surface area, thereby giving a more even and thorough vaporization of your concentrate.
4) SILICONE MAT
Dabbing is sticky business, so you want a place to set your rig so that is doesn’t stick to your table.
5) A THERMOMETER
Having the right temperature is essential to an ideal concentrate experience. You can opt for a specialized dab thermometer (expect to spend around $100). You can also use an infrared beam thermometer, but it can be tricky to hit the perfect spot on your banger to get a good read. Test them out and see which thermometer is right for you.
SO that’s a lot! But doing dabs from an “acoustic rig” like this is really a hobby in and of itself, and that is a big part of the appeal. If you consider all this customization and learning intriguing, then this kind of dabbing could be for you! I find it a shame that some more “old school” cannabis users shy away from this approach, because an appreciation of paraphernalia and its customization has long been a part of the culture, and it is at its most vital in the dabbing sphere.
BUT there is yet another, hybrid option available in the “e rig,” an electric version of a waterpipe for concentrates. A very popular iteration of this idea is the Puffco Peak, which comes with everything you would need to do precisely-heated dabs. Other options allow variations on electric elements that take the place of the torch, providing a precise and consistent heat to your quartz banger or replacing the banger assembly with an all-in-one heating unit and chamber. These are great options as well, though they will be among the more expensive. The upside is huge when it comes to consistency, convenience, flavor and effect. Even the customization aspect is still available, as there is a world of options out there for these devices, from custom blown-glass tops to carrying and accompanying gadgets galore!
PART 2 – CONCENTRATES
ALL ABOUT TEXTURE
So what will you put into your new device? What are these substances you see described in seemingly misspelled descriptions on your dispensary’s menu?
The names given to these various concentrates can be confusing, and the reason is simple but unfortunate. The fact is there is not much consistency of terminology when it comes to these names, which are really all about describing what kind of texture/consistency the stuff ends up with.
A budder has the consistency of butter, a badder has the texture of batter, a wet sugar… well, you get the idea.
Why the bad spelling? Because we’re stoned and it’s cute? Partly, but really we’re making a distinction from cannabis butter or batter that you might encounter in the edibles realm.
There’s no guarantee, however, that the texture from one maker called “wet sugar” will not be described as “badder” by another. This is a new frontier in a lot of ways, and creativity and innovation can also lead to a little confusion. But if you are expecting a wetter or dryer consistency than what you end up getting, it is not the end of the world. All these concentrates work well for all kinds of dabbing. It’s all about figuring out your preferences!
Another important thing to note in these descriptions is that anything described as “cured” is referring to its source material, which is cured cannabis flower. Contrast these with “live” concentrates whose source material is freshly harvested, immediately frozen and subsequently cold-maintained cannabis. So, confusing but navigable, especially with the help of your friendly budtender.
Here’s a brief attempt to nail down a few of the more common concentrate offerings:
CURED RESIN CONCENTRATES
Glassy and brittle, usually comes in a flat piece wrapped in parchment.
Crumbly and opaque, but not as crumbly as sugar. You’ll probably use the pointy spear end of your dab tool rather than the scoop for these first two.
This is supposed to have a whipped, airy, smooth and scoopable texture. Like butter, baby.
Like batters that you bake with, these can range from nearly waxy like cookie dough to much wetter like cake batter (and textures in between).
LIVE RESIN CONCENTRATES
More like brown sugar, which cakes together but can also be easily crumbled into powder. Again, this can vary a bit, even sometimes getting wet enough to be considered “wet sugar.’
DIAMONDS AND SAUCE
This is a combination of THCa crystals (diamonds) and terpene extract (sauce). This name does a pretty good job of describing what this concentrate typically looks and feels like. The biggest difference is usually the size of the diamonds.
A point somewhere between the last two, this is grainy, fairly uniform, and swimming in terpene-rich, syrupy sauce. With these last two, the scoop end of your dab tool should easily carry a nice heaping dab of this without it falling off too easily.
To put it mildly, there is a lot more to learn if you wish to dive into the different kinds of hydrocarbon extraction, the various fractions of a CO2 process, the thirteen shapes of terp pearls and their benefits and downsides, and such abysmal rabbit holes.
We may dive into them here in the future, but for now let’s keep it simple, enjoy a dab and celebrate 710!