Materials & Use

What is Dabbing? 4 Facts you Should Know About It

Gabi Antunes

Sep 11, 2019

Cannabis isn’t just about joints anymore. Legalization has brought many innovations to the rapidly expanding cannabis industry, including a consumption method known as “dabbing” that’s been rising in popularity in recent years. The popularity of these highly-concentrated cannabis extracts, known as “dabs,” are rapidly gaining market share in legal markets. What is dabbing exactly, how does it differ from more conventional types of cannabis consumption, and what do you need to consume these unique, potent products?

1. What is Dabbing?

Dabbing is the consumption of cannabis concentrates called dabs, cannabis concentrate products that are known for their high percentage of cannabinoids. The term comes from the act itself, in which the consumer uses a small amount of material – just a dab – and applies it to a dab rig or electronic device called an “e-nail” to vaporize it. The consumer then inhales the resulting vapor through the mouthpiece of the device.

2. How are Dabs Made?

Dabs are often made by placing the cannabis in a solvent to draw the compounds out of the plant. For example, an extractor might use butane to draw out the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids within the plant to create a butane hash oil. CO2 is another popular solvent used to produce a wide range of concentrates, especially popular amongst extractors for the purer product it creates. Other methods rely on heat rather than solvents, such as the process by which rosin is created.

Here’s a look at some of the most commonly available types of dabs on the market today:

  • Oil: Cannabis oil is commonly vaporized or added to flower to enhance the experience. However, oil can also be used with a dab rig or dab vaporizer.
  • Wax: Wax is a semi-solid, malleable product. Often appearing as a sticky pile of resin, wax is potent and consumed using dab rigs, e-nails, or dab pens. Some portable vaporizers are also compatible with wax.
  • Shatter: Shatter is a solvent-based extract that takes a solid form. It often comes in jagged pieces, hence the concentrate’s name. It is a versatile product that can be used with dab rigs or vaporizers. Shatter can even be added to beverages and foods to create infused edible products.
  • Crumble: Another solvent-based, solid extract, crumble is drier and softer than shatter. It easily breaks down into dry pieces. Similarly versatile to wax, crumble can be dabbed, vaporized, or smoked. Its use in infused edible products is becoming a more popular option as well.
  • Rosin: Rosin is an extract created by subjecting a source plant to heat and pressure, rather than using a solvent to draw out the compounds. It is a solid form of resin that can be used with a dab rig, e-nail, or vaporizer.

Dabs can be made from cannabis plants or industrial hemp in states that allow it, the difference being the concentration of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Industrial hemp, by law, cannot contain more than 0.3% THC. Therefore, since the concentrate mimics the compound profile of the source plant, hemp-derived dabs will not contain more than this amount of THC either. Because concentrated extracts so closely mimic the same cannabinoid, terpene, and flavonoid profiles found in the source plant, dabs also preserve the flavors and aromas associated with the cultivar of cannabis from which they are derived.

3. How does Dabbing Work?

The traditional method of dabbing involves the use of a device known as a “dab rig.” A dab rig features a metal component called a nail, which is heated with a torch until concentrates can be partially vaporized. Dabbing also commonly causes concentrates to partially combust upon contact with the heated nail.

In addition to traditional dab rigs, consumers commonly use electronic devices called “e-nails,” dab pens, desktop vaporizers, or portable vaporizers. Regardless of the device you choose, dabbing works by heating the nail then placing the dab on the hot surface, rapidly heating the concentrate material to its boiling point so that it can be instantly inhaled. This is referred to as “low temp dabbing,” although “cold start dabbing,” during which the dab is pre-loaded before heating the nail, is gaining popularity.

Most dabs can be vaporized between 300°F and 400°F. However, the precise temperature required varies depending on the type of material. Dabbing at a lower temperature tends to prevent the terpenes from burning off, making for a more flavorful experience. Some e-nails, for example, reach temperature settings above 700°F. The benefit of high temp dabbing is that nearly all the compounds found within the concentrate are evaporated and consumed.

4. Materials required in the Dabbing Process

When using the conventional dab rig and metal nail, dabbing also requires the material, a blowtorch, and typically a tool with which to apply the dab to the heated nail.

E-nails streamline the process and make it simpler. Typically, these units include a dabber box, heating coil, and a titanium nail, which heats through the conduction of electricity. These devices allow for consumers to set their precise desired temperature. To operate one of these units, charge the dabber box and set the desired temperature. Allow the device to heat completely, at which point the nail will remain at the selected temperature until the unit is powered down or the temperature is changed. This method does away with the need for a blowtorch and enables consumers to be more precise in their temperature selection.

Finally, dabbing can also be done with portable vaporizers compatible with dabs. Like the e-nail, these devices typically allow consumers to select their desired temperature setting. Dabs that have been loaded into the vaporizer will evaporate once the heating element reaches the material’s boiling point, allowing consumers to inhale the dabs through the device mouthpiece.

While the choice of method is largely up to the preference of the consumer, dabs in general are growing in popularity throughout the cannabis industry. Whether you prefer the traditional dab rig and blowtorch method or the more modern e-nail vaporizer approach, legal cannabis markets are likely to offer a solution for you.

In just a few short decades, dabbing went from an obscure and complicated practice that involved blowtorches and dab rigs to a well-known method of consumption made possible with sleek electronic devices. Today, dabbing as an increasingly accessible way to consume many types of cannabis concentrates. As the cannabis industry continues to innovate, more evolutions in the art of dabbing could be on the horizon as well.