How to Take The Best Dabs: Devices, Temps, and Tips
It’s no secret that dabbing is the method of choice for connoisseurs to get the most out of top shelf cannabis concentrates, but more casual consumers tend to find the process a bit daunting or simply scary. Cue the 1950’s horror music: blow torches, massive globs of ultra potent extracts, eyes so red they could bleed, and unavoidable trips to Taco Bell are all common tropes people who are hesitant to dab might worry about. Thankfully, those fears are far from justified and there are a whole variety of different ways to enjoy extracts that don’t require butane torches or expensive glass. In this article, we’ll cover why dabbing is so popular, which devices you can do them with, and how to make the most of every gram.
Why Dab In The First Place?
If using a vaporizer cartridge is your go-to, buying grammed extracts and extra devices might seem like a lot of trouble. While vapes can offer a ton of benefits such as portability, discretion, and convenience, if you haven’t dabbed much it means you’re missing out on a lot. Great concentrates, especially live ones (more on that in a second), offer a richer palette of terpenes and flavonoids in addition to the wonderful effects cannabinoids are known for. It’s simply a fact that the best cannabis grown that isn’t dried and sold as-is gets earmarked for premium live rosin or live resin and is destined for dabbing.
High quality, terpene-rich fresh frozen cannabis
The very finest dabs are made to be “live”, which means the cannabis used is never dried and is instead immediately frozen during harvest prior to processing. This delicate procedure results in a photographic capture of the living plant’s unique biological fingerprint at peak ripeness for the purchaser to enjoy. If done properly, it’s as good as it gets. During a normal drying and curing process, many of the delicate organic molecules are lost that give the cannabis a totally different aroma in the garden compared to when it’s sold as buds in a jar at your local dispensary. If you’ve grown or been to a friend’s garden, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. The chemicals that make cannabis smell like everything from skunks to strawberries are known as terpenes. They volatilize easily at room temperature, so the entire extraction is done from start to finish at near freezing. This is why getting a device you’re excited about and using it at the right temperature is key to having the best experience with your dabs.
Devices to Dab With
In practice there are a few different ways you can take a dab, ranging from a scientific-level ritual that connoisseurs swear by all the way to portable ceramic vaporizers that are inexpensive and still get the job done perfectly well. Depending on your comfort level and desired results, picking the right category of device is an important first step. Here’s how it shakes out.
Beginner Level Devices
Let’s say you’re interested in concentrates but aren’t trying to keep a torch around and don’t find strangely shaped miniature glass bongs to be up your alley – that’s completely fine and this is where most beginners start. Pen-like dab rigs are both unassuming and user friendly. Dabbing can be pretty economical too (a dab'll do ya, as they say) so if you’re on the fence, we’d suggest starting here.
If you don’t want to make a big investment, a dab pen type vaporizer is going to be your best bet. They’re inexpensive, work well enough, and are super portable. This is a great place to start for a new dabber because prices go way up from here for more advanced electronic devices. The drawbacks are reduced usability compared to traditional rigs and less temperature control, but these are trade-offs many are willing to make for the sake of cost and convenience.
What we like about them:
- Super affordable, often under $100
- Discrete and can be put in your pocket
- Decent vapor production
Intermediate Level Devices
If you enjoy dabs but aren’t ready for or don’t like using a torch, higher end electronic dab rigs are the way to go. They’re also pretty easy to clean while offering a bigger range of temperature controls than a portable option. These rigs are the top choice of many concentrate buyers for their ease of use.
Best Option for Ease of Use & Basic Control = Puffco Pro
If you’re interested in really getting into dabs and want to have more control than a portable pen, the Puffco Peak or Peak Pro are among the best choices out there. They’re easy to clean, have a good range of temperature control (use the blue setting if you’re dabbing something good!), and are known to be highly reliable. They aren’t going to offer a true quartz nail experience, but it’s pretty close. The drawbacks here though are cost and the simple fact that the atomizer will need to be replaced eventually.
What we like about them:
- Much more convenient for dabbing than a quartz nail and a torch
- Sleek looking and even casual cannabis users might give it a try
- Better temperature control and usability than a portable pen
Expert Level Devices
Okay, brace yourself. Using a torch and a nail isn’t that bad, trust us. There, we said it. If you want to take your dabbing to the next level and truly get the most out of every dollar you spend on concentrates, getting a true glass dab rig with a butane torch and a quartz banger (aka the portion of the device your concentrates get vaporized) is the only way. They require more cleaning to keep fresh and some practice getting the temperature just right, but with the advent of new tools to see exactly what temperature you’re about to dab at, we suggest this method.
The Best of the Best for Top Shelf Dabs = Quartz Nail & Butane Torch
Even though we were joking earlier about the scary factor of a glass and torch-based rig, the truth is that this is the best method to capture the delicate flavors and aromas of top shelf dabs. It does take a little getting used to and might freak out your parents, but trust us, if you start finding yourself enjoying dabs regularly, this is the move. There are a huge range of glass and torch options but ensuring you get a quartz nail (which is the small bucket you put your extracts into) will deliver the best experience there is in concentrates. While metal electronic nails are an option, we find them to be less easy to clean and the trade off for convenience isn’t worth the reduction in vapor quality.
What we like about them:
- The best way to enjoy the flavors and aromas of fine concentrates, bar none
- Surprisingly affordable, you can get a full set up for less than $100 if you buy budget friendly glass
- Worth the effort for those who want to maximize the potential of their terpenes
Generally speaking, taking dabs is just the simple process of heating up your extract in your device and inhaling the vapor, much like you would with flower, but in smaller quantities and at much lower temperatures. For reference, your standard handheld lighter can produce a flame as hot as 3,000°F or greater, which results in instant decarboxylation when applied to dried flower. For a great dab of a high terpene concentrate, anywhere from 400°F - 550°F is closer to where you want to end up. We’re not sure who said it first, but the first person we heard use the now famous phrase “waste to taste” was Mikey from Harvest Moon Gardens, a legendary California grow and hash making company. If you’re dabbing some really fine live rosin or full melt ice water hash, doing so at the lower end of that range is strongly suggested to get the most flavor possible. Taking “hot” dabs over 550°F produces a lot more vapor and people tend to get higher, but flavors tend to diminish quickly not to mention the possibility you’ll hack up a lung in the process. Here’s a great range to work from if you’re new to taking dabs.
400°F - 450°F (204°C - 232°C)
- Perfect for full melt or six star ice water hash and premium live rosins
- Less vapor and activation, but maximum flavor
450°F - 500°F (232°C - 260°C)
- Around 470°F is where a lot of people take their dabs since it’s a great middle ground between flavor, vapor production, and the potency of the experience
- This is a great range for high quality concentrates of all types from BHO to hash
500° - 550°F (260°C - 287°C)
- Even above 500°C is a great place to take dabs because you’ll get that much more vapor production and minimal extract waste
- We don’t suggest going above 550°F unless you just want to send it to the moon and don’t care much about flavor
Although not every device will give you the latitude to set the exact temperature, we strongly advise experimenting with different ones to find what you like most. The better the extract, the lower temperature you want to start with to find the sweet spot.
Top Tips for Taking Great Dabs
If you’ve made it this far without navigating away to take a few dabs already, congratulations, you’re a champ. We’ll leave you with a few pro tips and tricks to get the most of your concentrates, but make sure to drop us a line if you want to learn even more!
Tip #1: Try some different types of concentrates, from live resin to rosin, wax or crumble, in order to see what you like most. A lot of high end concentrates get spendy, so don’t shy away if you’re only able to buy economy or mid shelf options. The number of textures is almost endless these days so figure out what you like and go from there.
Tip #2: Play with different temperatures. The ranges above are a great place to start, but they’re still ranges. Electronic devices usually have settings like “low”, “medium”, or “high” so don’t sweat it if you don’t know exactly what the exact degree ends up being. You’ll find out pretty quickly where it’s too hot, or where it’s too low and you aren’t getting much vapor.
Tip #3: Start small! It almost goes without saying, but we had to say it anyway, just for those who are new to dabs. We’re talking a quarter of a pinhead small. You can always smoke more, but if you take a bigger dab than you were hoping, you can’t take less. Work your way up to a good dose and micro dabbing is just as cool as taking big globs in our book.