🇺🇸 Retired veteran, father, rock-climbing expert & rosin connoisseur
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as taking the perfect dab of high quality terpene-rich rosin or bubble hash. There are many different ways to enjoy solventless cannabis concentrates, but nothing can match dabbing in its effectiveness and total sensory experience. There’s also a ritual of taking dabs that can be satisfying in itself. Setting out and preparing your equipment, heating the nail, scooping up a nice dab, dropping into the bowl, and watching that terp pearl spin while the magic happens. It is a truly unique and enjoyable experience!
If you’re new to dabbing or just looking for some quick tips to taking the perfect dab, we created this quick overview to help you get the most from your rosin and bubble hash experience every time you sit down with your rig.
The first step is making sure you’re using the right tools for the job. There are lots of varieties of dabbing gear offering plenty of choices to customize your perfect setup. Nothing fancy is needed, but for each item, aim for the highest quality that’s within your budget.
- Dab rig
- Nail (also referred to as "bowl" or "banger")
- Terp Ball
- Carb Cap
Lay everything out on a clean flat surface so it’s right at your fingertips and ready to go. You can pick up a dab mat as well, which is a small anti-slip and anti-stick mat that gives you a solid working surface and helps keep everything clean and organized.
The best dabbing equipment in the world won’t turn subpar concentrate into a high quality product. Only exceptional rosin that’s bursting with terpenes will give you the perfect dab.
Hot Start vs Cold Start Dabs
There are two different approaches to taking the perfect dab, known as Hot Start and Cold Start. The difference between the two involves how the bowl is heated and when the rosin is dropped inside.
When hot start dabbing, the banger is heated first, then rosin is dropped inside to immediately begin to vaporize.
With cold start dabs, the concentrate is first dropped into the unheated bowl, then heat is applied until the desired temperature is achieved.
Hot start dabs and cold start dabs can be taken at the same temperature, it's only a matter of timing when you drop the rosin into the banger plus a slight tweak in how the heat is applied. Both hot starts and cold starts follow the same basic principles.
High Temp vs Low Temp Dabs
In addition to Hot Start or Cold Start, you also have a choice in the temperature range in which you'll vaporize the rosin or bubble hash.
High Temp dabs are great for getting absolutely ripped, and extracting the very most medicine for your dollar. High Temp dabs don't leave anything to waste, and they can even put people with a low tolerance for cannabis in an uncomfortable state of mind. High temp dabs can be truly narcotic and perfect for a deep and stony medication. Newbies proceed with caution!
High temp dabs are generally taken at temperatures in the 500-600 degree Fahrenheit range and produce massive smoke clouds.
Low Temp dabs are optimized for flavor preservation and experiencing the very best dabbing sensations from a premium quality rosin. Low temp dabs are also great for dabbing newbies, as they unlock the full flavor of rosin and provide a more gentle, yet still powerful, dabbing experience.
Not only are low temp dabs great for those newer to dabbing rosin, but it's the method of many of the most seasoned rosineers. At the end of the day rosin is about enjoyment, and many people find over time that the complex and exquisite flavors and aromas of rosin become the main priority when dabbing.
Low temp dabs are normally taken in the 450-500 degree Fahrenheit temperature range.
How to Take Hot Start Dabs
To start, make sure you're working with a clean nail, and place a clean terp ball into the bottom bowl.
turn on your torch and notice the blue flame inside of the larger, light yellow flame. The tip of the blue flame is where you want to focus when heating the nail. Heat for around 30 seconds or so, while trying to get the very tip of the blue flame barely touching the banger as you're heating. This is the hottest part of the flame and provides the most efficient heating.
Rotate the flame around the entire bottom portion of your bowl to evenly distribute heat. Avoid holding the torch only in one place, as this can create a hotspot on one side of the bowl.
After about 30 seconds, turn off the torch and let the banger cool down a bit. This cool-down phase is a normal part of the hot dab process, and allows the temperature to fall into the ideal range for dabs. In this case, we'll assume we're doing a low temp dab and let the temperature drop to around 440 degrees.
Use your digital thermometer (there are several brands selling thermometers specifically for dabbing) to measure temps at the surface at the bottom of the bowl. Place the thermometer all the way down until it's touching the bottom and wait for the reading. You can wait longer for additional cooling, or use the torch to reheat as needed.
Using your dabber tool loaded with a glob of rosin, drop the rosin into the bowl and place the carb cap over the top of the bowl. Inhale.
Rotate the carb cap as you continue to draw in air, and notice the pearl evenly distribute the oil all around the surface of the nail. This is the purpose of the terp ball, to spin around the inside of the bowl and thus swirl the rosin around so it has even exposure to heat.
Exhale and repeat, drawing air in again while briefly rotating the carb cap. Let the terp ball settle and the bowl to accumulate some smoke, and inhale again.
After the rosin fully vaporizes and you're taking the last inhale, pull the carb cap to completely clear the rig.
- When scooping up the dab, use the backside of your dab tool to minimize the amount of rosin that remains stuck on the tool. Scooping into a rounded dab tool will make it harder to release the rosin into the nail.
- You'll get more perfect spin from the terp pearl if you keep the bottom surface of the banger level while you're inhaling.
How To Take Cold Start Dabs
Cold start dabs follow the same basic process of hot start dabs described above. The main difference is that instead of heating the bowl first and then dropping the glob, you first place the rosin inside the bowl and then apply heat until it reaches the right temperature.
Drop a glob of concentrate into the bowl along with the terp ball, and place the carb cap on top.
Fire up the torch and apply the heat from a further distance away than you would with a hot start dab, keep the tip of the blue flame an inch or two away from the nail while heating. This helps prevent accidental overheating and charring, which goes against the whole idea of the cold start. Quickly graze the heat over all surfaces around the rosin and the bottom of the bowl. The rosin quickly melts, and after about 30 seconds or so, you'll notice the rosin start to bubble.
As the temperatures increase into the 500 degrees Fahrenheit ranges, small bubbles forming in the rosin gives you the signal that it’s time to start taking inhaling. Rotate the carb cap as you're drawing in, letting the terp pearl work its magic. Continue to enjoy as long as the nail remains hot enough to vaporize the rosin.
With a low temp dab, you can always reheat for another round. Enjoy the first couple dabs at lower temps, then with any remaining rosin, reheat to thoroughly vaporize any remaining concentrate. Savor the flavor!
Cleaning Your Bowl
Keeping a clean bowl is an important habit to get into, as it will let you enjoy a clean and pure dab every time. Whether high temp or low temp dabs, cold starts or hot starts, cleaning after each use is a meaningful and impactful part of the ritual. Cleaning maintains your gear for the long term and sets you up for that perfect dab on the next round.
Using dirty and residue-caked nails is like eating from a dirty plate, maybe even worse. It will impact the flavor of your rosin, so keeping things clean is an easy way to enhance the experience. It's best to clean the banger after each use. As long as you don't let residue build up over time, cleaning out the bowl is quick and easy.
Here's how to clean your banger after each use:
- Prepare Q-tips or cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol. Try to source premium Q-tips with the wooden centers, or another variety that has good rigidity. Some more flimsy varieties will bend too easily and make it hard to apply enough pressure to properly clean in the edges of the nail.
- After dabbing, let the nail continue to cool off. You want to let it cool enough to avoid making the alcohol sizzle, but stay hot enough to keep the remaining residue on the nail in liquid form.
- The first round of cleaning involves taking a clean Q-tip and scrubbing the sides and bottom of the bowl. Get around the edges and soak up as much oil as you can.
- Next, take another clean Q-tip and soak it in isopropyl alcohol. Then scrub the bowl in the same way with the alcohol, which helps to release the residue for absorption into the cotton swab.
- Use the other side of the same Q-tip, or a fresh Q-tip (or 2) to ensure all the alcohol has been absorbed and removed.
- Give the bowl a quick once-over with the torch to ensure all the alcohol has been evaporated away.
Dabbing is a great way to enjoy our favorite solventless cannabis concentrates. For many, it's the only way.
If you're a true flavor-chaser, the colder temps the better. Hot dabs are great for getting you completely ripped and unrecognizably power baked, but they won’t capture the same indescribable sensory explosion of terpene profiles from high quality rosin.
But of course you don't have to choose one or the other! Different dabs for different days keeps things fun and exciting.
What's your favorite way to dab?