How to Dab.
If you haven’t tried dabbing yet… why not? We’re huge fans of it ourselves, for the stronger and faster-hitting high that comes from smoking concentrates. Dabbing has exploded in popularity in recent years as an alternative – and many say better – way to experience that hit of sweet, sweet THC. Oh, and another thing we’re big fans of is the carb cap, a handy little add-on that helps you get the most out of your dabs. So read on for a handy guide on how to get your dab on, and why the carb cap is an essential part of the dabbing experience.
With bongs and joints, you’re burning the dry marijuana herb. But when it comes to dabs, the basic raw material is a waxy, oily concentrate made by mixing butane with the herb. This extracts the THC from the herb in a concentrated form that contains up to 4 times more THC than the dry herb. Depending on their texture and consistency, dabs can come in many names – “shatter,” “budder,” “wax” or “crumble.” They all mean the same thing: concentrated THC in a form that’s meant to inhaled as vapor, not smoke.
The dab rig
Dab rigs look similar to bongs, but they have a few key differences. The biggest is that instead of a bowl to burn the dry herb in, dab rigs have a part called the nail. The nail is where the dab will be placed and its surface heated up enough to vaporize the concentrate. That’s why nails are made of heat-conducting materials such as glass, quartz, ceramic or titanium. E-nails are also popular albeit more expensive, but what you get with e-nails is the ability to precisely control the temperature. Which, as you’ll come to learn later, is crucial in dabbing.
The torch and dabber
Torches and dabbers are relatively simple tools. Butane torches are used for dabbing because you need a higher heat and a more precise flame. (If you think your average Zippo lighter will do, think again – it’ll take ages to heat the nail up enough to dab.) Dabs tend to be crumbly and flaky, so using a pair of tweezers to pick one up and put it on the nail will just be an exercise in frustration as it will keep falling apart. Hence the dabber, a simple rod-shaped tool made of glass, ceramic or stainless steel that has just enough surface area on the tip to hold a dab.
The 9 steps to dabbing
– Choosing the right dab rig. It is actually possible to adapt a bong into a dab rig, by removing the bowl and replacing it with a nail. But we don’t recommend it, and it’s not because we sell bongs and rigs; it’s because unless your bong is brand new, the residue from burning dry herb in a bong will negatively affect the dabs and make the vapor taste funky. So don’t cheap out – get yourself a proper dab rig for dabbing. There’s as much variety in dab rigs as there is in bongs, so browse thoroughly and think carefully whether you really need that multi-chamber percolator.
– Choosing the right nail. The nail is the most important part of the rig, so pay a little more attention to it. If you’re buying your nail and your dab rig separately, the first thing you want to make sure is that they fit together; it would be pretty embarrassing if they didn’t! The next thing is the material – if you’re new to dabbing or you’re not a regular dabber, go for something inexpensive like glass or ceramic. But once you’ve become a true-blue convert to dabbing (as we’re betting you will!), you’ll want a quartz or titanium nail, two materials that can stand up to the many, many times you’ll be heating it up.
– Add water to the chamber. Just like you do with a bong, make sure you’ve got just the right amount of water – enough to reach the percs when bubbling, but not too much that it’ll splash into your mouth when you’re drawing from the pipe.
– Seasoning the titanium nail. The downside of a titanium nail – which is already pretty expensive, owing to the durability of the material – is that it can give your dabs an unpleasant metallic aftertaste. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to avoid this, and that’s by seasoning it. This involves repeatedly heating the nail and then dunking it in cold water. Also, it’s a great way to clean the nail after dabbing by burning away any leftover residue.
– Setting up the dab. Once you’ve heated up the nail, you’ve only got a short amount of time before it cools to the right temperature. So you don’t want to be fumbling with your dab during that time. Get your dab ready with your dabber and have it close to you before you fire up that torch.
– Heat up the nail and wait. Fire up your torch and get that nail nice and hot – but don’t aim it at the rest of your dab rig or you could crack it! You want to heat up your nail till it just starts to glow orange. Then you want to wait till your nail cools down to just the right temperature – which is more of an art than a science, but generally we recommend 10 seconds for titanium nails and 30-45 seconds for other types. And remember that all nails are made to retain heat, so don’t accidentally burn your fingers on it!
– Place the dab on the nail. Pick up your dabber with the dab on the end and – carefully – place it on the top of the nail. If your dab is the sticky type, make sure to get it all on there and that you don’t waste any left stuck on the dabber.
– Inhale and exhale. As soon as the dab touches the nail, put your mouth over the mouthpiece and suck in the vapor. Remember, dabs are concentrated, so it’s going to hit you faster than smoking with a bong. Inhale slowly, then exhale normally – it doesn’t make any difference if you keep it in your lungs for longer than usual.
– Cleaning up. You don’t want to leave any residue on your dabber and/or nail, since it’ll just go to waste. But sometimes that can’t be avoided, so you’ll need to clean them. Which you can do just by using your torch to burn the residue off. Once they’ve cooled down, give them a wipe with a clean or alcohol-soaked cloth. Residue can also build up inside your rig, so check to see if it needs a cleanup too.
The carb cap
And now we come to the carb cap, which you use between Steps 7 and 8 of the above. A carb cap is a little doohickey commonly made of glass, but also in quartz, ceramic or titanium. They come in various shapes and designs – some more esthetic than functional – but they’ll all have small holes at the top and bottom. That’s because the entire purpose of a carb cap is to regulate the flow of oxygen into the nail while it’s heating up the dab. Sort of like a carburetor in a car engine – hence the name, get it?
So as mentioned, you use the carb cap after you put your dab on the nail and before you inhale. Just drop the cap over the nail and let the little air-regulating holes do their job – which, by the way, is to lower the air pressure within the nail. This means the temperature at which your dab vaporizes is lower too, which has a number of advantages: it keeps the dab from burning and turning into smoke instead of vapor, and it uses up all of your dab and leaves less residue behind. Some people actually prefer to dab at higher temperatures, so they inhale straight away and only use the carb cap to vaporize any leftovers.
Besides lowering the air pressure, what the holes in the carb cap also do is allow just the right amount of air into the nail. This means that when your dab vaporizes, you get a nice thick hit of pure concentrated vapor, undiluted by excess oxygen that could affect the taste. And having a cap over the top of the nail prevents even those few wisps of vapor from dissipating into the air, because why would you want to lose out on any of it?
If it isn’t obvious already, we’re strongly recommending carb caps to you! They’re more than worth it at their price range, and we couldn’t even imagine not using them anymore. If you’ve been dabbing without one all this time, pick up an inexpensive but perfectly serviceable one today and try it out. We promise you, the difference will make a more convincing argument than this entire article!