Hemp Science Terps

How It Works: The Perfect Dab

What’s a dab?

Dabbing refers to the flash vaporization and inhalation of cannabis concentrates using a heated surface called a nail.  Dabbing became popular in the late 2000s and it even influenced a popular dance in 2015.  One of the reasons that dabs became so popular is because concentrates generally have between 50-80% potency of CBD or THC, whereas raw plant material rarely tests for over 30%.  In addition, this also means the smoker inhales less combusted plant resin and more active cannabinoid.

Cannabis concentrates are produced in a variety of ways, and the results vary as well. For the most part, leaves and flowers from female cannabis plants are compressed into a chamber and then CO2 is passed through it.  CO2 is a supercritical gas, which means it exhibits characteristics of both a liquid and a gas under high pressures.  This is incredibly useful because with precise control of pressure, only specific compounds will be drawn out of the mixture. Additionally, once the mixture is returned to ambient air pressure, any CO2 left rapidly evaporates, leaving this finished product painlessly pure.

There are many different ways to take a dab of cannabis concentrate.  Most people prefer to use a rig, or a water pipe that cools the vapor before inhalation.  However, there are many different varieties of nail, or the surface which heats the concentrate.  Each different kind of nail comes with pros and cons, and there is no agreed upon “best” type of nail.

What’s the best kind of nail?

Glass

Glass nails come in several different shapes and styles.  These nails are usually inexpensive and they rapidly absorb heat, making them efficient as they need to be heated with a butane blowtorch.  

Torching anything can be very dangerous.  In addition, they don’t hold the heat for very long and are very breakable.  They can also be stubborn to clean.

 

Quartz

Quartz nails, also called bangers, are similar in design to glass nails, but their chemical composition is much more desirable. They come in several styles including an actual nail, and a honey bucket.

Quartz crystal holds heat for much longer than glass, and it is also less breakable.  Bangers made of quartz tend to be more expensive than nails made of other materials, but they also last longer and are more efficient at holding heat.

Titanium

Titanium nails are unique because they are the only kind made of metal.  In addition, titanium nails are the only ones which can be heated with an electric heating element, or e-nail.  

Titanium holds heat for the shortest amount of time, but it is also the most stable, so the use of an e-nail to keep it consistently the same temperture is convenient for those who take dabs often or who wish to achieve a specific temperature.

What’s the best temperature?

Dabs can be taken at anywhere from 350º farenheit - 950º< farenheit.  Of course, different temperatures will yield different results.  Some people like to taste all of the floral aromas of their dabs, and others want to be smacked in the face with the full therapeutic effect.  Both can achieve their desired results by adjust the temperature to which they heat their nail.  With an e-nail, this is as easy as selecting the desired temperature.  With a torch, it can be a little more difficult, especially considering the various densities and compositions of all of the different nail products out there.  In general, here’s what you can expect with each dab temp range.

Low temp (350º-525º)

For starters, anything lower than ~300º will waste your dab and leave a puddle in your nail.  If you wish to taste the full terpene and cannabinoid profile of your wax, then a super low-temp dab is right for you.  In this temperature range, the fatty molecules of cannabinoids and terpenes don’t immediately vaporize, leaving them able to be tasted.  Sometimes, a puddle of wax will remain in the nail or bucket, so some users lament that they don’t feel as full an effect with low temp dabs as with higher temp dabs.

  • For nails heated by torch, apply heat until a bright red color is emitted, and then
    • For glass or quartz, wait 45-60 seconds after heat has been removed before dabbing.
    • For titanium, wait 25-40 seconds after heat has been removed before dabbing.
  • For e-nails, the temperature of the heating element does not directly equate to the temperature of the nail; set the nail 100 degrees higher than your desired dabbing temperature.

Mid temp (525º-700º)

This is a happy medium for users who wish to experience a rich taste profile without sacrificing effect.  Wax or oil will vaporize relatively quickly after contact with the nail, and there may be some combustion as well, producing a heavy hit with dense smoke.

  • For nails heated by torch, apply heat until a bright red color is emitted, and then
    • For glass or quartz, wait 30-45 seconds after heat has been removed before dabbing.
    • For titanium, wait 10-25 seconds after heat has been removed before dabbing.
  • For e-nails, the temperature of the heating element does not directly equate to the temperature of the nail; set the nail 150 degrees higher than your desired dabbing temperature.

High temp (700º<)

High temp dabs are for users who wish to experience the full effect of their concentrate with little regard for taste or pleasure; this will be a harsh hit.  Combustion is certain and there will be very little residue left in the nail after this hit.  Around 850º, cannabinoids will denature before they can be absorbed by the body so the hit will quite literally be wasted.

  • For nails heated by torch, apply heat until a bright red color is emitted, and then
    • For glass or quartz, wait 15-30 seconds after heat has been removed before dabbing.
    • For titanium, wait 5-10 seconds after heat has been removed before dabbing.
  • For e-nails, the temperature of the heating element does not directly equate to the temperature of the nail; set the nail 200 degrees higher than your desired dabbing temperature.