The Do’s (and One Big Don’t) of Dabbing Your Weed

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Heating a glob of cannabis concentrate and inhaling it: This is what the kids call “ripping a dab.”
By Danielle Guercio

If you’re a weed beginner about to celebrate your first 4/20, you’d be forgiven for thinking dabbing is just a dated dance craze. Outside of cannabis culture, dabs are rather obscure. That is likely to change as cannabis creeps into the mainstream, as the culture and benefits of dabbing are part of its potent popularity. For the uninitiated (and I’m sure there are many of you), here are the basics.

What are concentrates?
A dab is different from sprinkling sticky hash or kief-type concentrates onto a bowl; those have too much chlorophyll and other plant matter to be consumed with the same methods as dabs . Butters, waxes, sugars, sauces, and other more “pure” forms of concentrated cannabis are what you want. Dabbing begins when you heat a quartz bowl, called a banger, to a temperature hot enough to vaporize the dab of concentrate you drop in.

Heating a glob—for lack of a more precise term that isn’t “dab”—of cannabis concentrate through a variety of methods and inhaling it: this is what the kids call “ripping a dab.” It’s the method of cannabis consumption with perhaps the fiercest fans, and it’s worth learning about, and trying it, for yourself.

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It’s hash and weed flower’s plant parts that make all that ash, smoke, and resin, whereas a well-heated dab will almost disappear save for a slight residue. That’s due to its fewer constituent parts—a dab is usually primarily made up of cannabinoids and terpenes. Dabbers often keep their tools as clean as possible for this reason— the whole point is to taste the expression of the plant through a single, big hit, not unlike taking a shot of hard alcohol in terms of both ritual and potency.

Khalid Al-Naser, head of product for Raw Garden, a vertically integrated cannabis brand known for concentrates, has some advice to keep in mind. “Probably the first and biggest thing to know is that as the name suggests, these products are concentrated,” he told us via email. “This means you will be consuming smoke or vapor that will result in a more powerful experience.”

So what is a dab?
Some dabs are tiny tastes, and some are…not. Depending on the size of the dab (“glob”) used, you may be taking in hundreds of milligrams of THC per session. This is obviously not ideal for every consumer.

Potent, fast, and smoke-free bursts of vapor are excellent for medical users, especially in situations where smoking or eating weed isn’t possible. Dabs are also discreet—to a degree. The traditional equipment, called a rig, somewhat resembles a regular glass bong, but many electronic dab devices are small and portable.

Al-Naser notes the difference between a bong rip and a dab: “Consuming flower material results in more, low-potency smoke,” he said. “When you consume a concentrate, you’re vaporizing a full range of psychoactive cannabinoids and aromatic compounds that work together to create a potent vapor that usually results in a much more intense experience.”

That means you can stop after a little baby taste or consume as much as an entire joint of flower in one rip. “This is a benefit for both people looking for a more consistent high potency effect and people who are just looking to consume less smoke or vapor,” Al-Naser said.

Types of dabs
Now that you know the basic mechanics of dabbing, we can elaborate on the various approaches to heating up concentrate and sucking it down like a weed Sméagol. People who use a rig and a torch or an electronic nail to heat up their dabs fall in the “hot dab” crowd. This means the rig’s bowl—the banger—is heated to the desired temperature (usually an imprecise one, especially if you’re using a blowtorch) before dropping in the concentrate with a metal or ceramic tool, and capping the banger with a glass cap meant to help swirl it around in the hot chamber and release its vapor.

For those with a healthy fear of flames, cold start dabs are a little less intimidating, since you put the concentrate in place before heating, meaning you don’t have to put your fingers anywhere near a hot-ass bowl.

Jessica Redenbo, a rep for Ispire, a company that makes electronic dab hardware, says that fear is what inspired their product line. “Our founder visited the U.S. and saw people using blowtorches to consume concentrates and realized the lack of safe, accessible methods to dab were nonexistent,” she told Lifehacker via email.

These user-friendly tools, which were not part of the dab commandments in the past, make the practice more accessible to newbies and decrease the general stigma of weed culture but reducing another barrier to entry.

Tech like that from Inspire can make cold start dabs simple. “The heating is precise and perfectly calibrated to its user’s preference,” Redenbo said. “Load in your concentrates and you’re able to hit the device while it’s heating to the selected temperature, giving you the full flavor and effects from different terpenes that have varying burn temperatures.”

Cold start is controversial in some circles—the saying is “waste to taste,” meaning to get the full benefit of all the natural terpenes in the weed, you have to use a lower temperature, which leaves more residue behind. Flavor-focused people, like Raw Garden’s Al-Naser, prefer them. “I hate hot dabs,” he said. “When you get a cold start going, it is easier to tell that you are getting to the right temperature, which usually results in a quick, smooth hit.”

Other things to know before you dab
Electric devices allow you to hone in on specific temperatures for each concentrate you use, and are much easier to bring around town. Choosing a temperature for any given concentrate is a matter of knowledge and preference. Some brands will throw in a suggested range, especially for vape cartridges, but dabs can be more personal—so ask your budtender for guidance. “Research your concentrate and its terpenes, then do some research on those terpene burn off temperatures,” Redenbo advised. “This will help you decide what temperature to set your [device] to for the perfect hit, every time.”

The terpene content can usually be found on the COA (certificate of analysis), which notes what the lab has found in samples of a given product. Some states require more info to be listed on legally dispensed cannabis products than others. When in doubt, check the brand’s website or look up your product on a strain library to deduce the primary terpenes within and at which temperature they are best consumed. You can also use your nose—limonene smells like lemon, humulene like hops, and plenty of other terps recalls things you know in everyday life.

A big don’t: Don’t overdo it

The only major caution with dabbing, aside from the risk of playing around with a torch, is potency. Dabs are no joke, and some of us have seen grown (albeit dehydrated) men pass out from a too-strong rip. Make sure to weigh your dab tool first, and then again after scooping out your glob of concentrate, so you know how much cannabis you’ll be consuming. That makes it easier to then calculate the THC dosage based on the total THC indicated on the packaging. That’s the beauty of the metric system.

Source of original article: LifeHacker.com

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