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A visual guide to taking the perfect dab

July 11, 2019
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(Grant Hindsley for Leafly)
Dabbing is an effective way to consume cannabis and also a great ritual. Similar to cooking a great meal or mixing a refreshing cocktail, the process of preparing and executing the perfect dab can be meditative and provide a moment to decompress. Like a baseball player stepping up to the plate, as dabbing becomes more familiar, you’ll fall into a routine with your own methods and motions.
Once you know how to dab, there are a number of different techniques you can use to dial in the experience and find the method that work best for you to can achieve the right dab at the right temperature.

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To take your dabbing experience to the next level, here are some pro tips and techniques, and explanations as to why you should include them in your dabbing routine.

Always use a carb cap

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Tip: After you apply your dab to the banger or nail, apply your carb cap over the top to achieve a flavorful, low temp dab with thick vapor quality.

A carb cap is an essential dabbing accessory that will help you dab at lower temperatures and vaporize your hash and concentrates more effectively. There are a number of different styles and types of carb caps available, but they all serve the same general purpose—to trap heat and emphasize true vaporization while agitating the oil to spread it across the hot dabbing surface.

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Protect your banger with an insert

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(Grant Hindsley for Leafly)

Tip: Use a quartz insert to keep your banger clean, extend its life, and to never take a dab that’s too hot.

An insert is a small bucket typically made from quartz or other precious heat-retaining materials like ruby. These small buckets fit inside your banger and will help keep an even temperature for vaporization, while also keeping your quartz clean by avoiding chazzing or devitrification.

Once your banger is hot, simply drop in the insert and cap your dab. Then give it a few seconds as heat transfers from banger to insert and gradually heats the dab to the right temperature.

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Dosing and applying dabs is easy as you can preload them into the insert and drop it right in. They’re easy to clean and you can keep a few around and use them interchangeably. They’re great for dab seshes with friends!

Cold start your dab

Tip: Try a cold start dab to get the perfect hit at low temperatures without wasting any of your oil.

Cold start dabbing is the process of loading your banger with concentrate first, before you heat it—this is why it’s also known as reverse dabbing.

By applying light heat to a capped banger until the dab starts to vaporize, you are able to control your temperature easily and avoid the risk of dabbing too early on a hot banger. If you don’t get the full dab the first time, you can reheat with your torch again until you’ve completely vaporized your hash.

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What is cold-start or reverse dabbing?

Spin some terp pearls

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(Grant Hindsley for Leafly)

Tip: Use quartz beads in your banger to add some action and area to the dabbing surface.

Quartz beads, popularly known as terp pearls, are small beads made from inert, heat-retaining materials and are placed directly in your banger. When heating the banger they will hold that heat and increase the available warm surface area to vaporize your dab off of.

Couple terp pearls with a good carb cap to watch them spin and enhance the way you agitate your dab when vaporizing at low temperatures. The small balls mix and move your concentrate around the warm banger the way a bead in a can of spray paint mixes the paint.

Heat your banger evenly

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(Grant Hindsley for Leafly)

Tip: Heating your banger or nail evenly will ensure a balanced dabbing temperature.

What might seem like a no-brainer can actually have a huge effect on the quality of your hit. Using your torch to evenly heat the banger will help avoid hot and cold spots and ensure that you are thoroughly vaporizing your dab. Avoiding extreme temperatures with even heating will also extend the life of your nail.

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I like to start by heating the bottom of my banger and working up and around the sides, where oil likes to splash and where you agitate your dab with a carb cap. Be cautious not to apply too much heat around the joint or neck areas of the banger as they tend to be more susceptible to cracks.

Time your dabs

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(Grant Hindsley for Leafly)

Tip: To dab at more consistent temperatures, use a timer to keep track of how long you heat and cool your dabs.

Using the timer on your phone or another way of tracking time, you can gain more consistency in temperature from dab to dab, and you can be confident that they are all reaching about the same temperature every time. Same goes for cooling—as your quartz holds heat and slowly releases it over time, you can track how long it takes to cool to the temperature you prefer and then repeat, time after time.

Each nail will have its own heating and cooling time depending on the quality and thickness of the material, but as a general rule, I like to start with heating for 30 seconds, cooling for a minute, and then adjusting both timers as needed to dial in the experience I’m looking for.

Clean your banger after every dab

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(Grant Hindsley for Leafly)

Tip: Clean your banger after every dab to ensure a smooth, flavorful dab every time.

Maintaining a clean banger is simple if you follow a few easy steps. First, don’t dab when you’re nail is too hot—dabbing at lower temperatures helps avoid char, ash, and any other residue from sticking or burning into your expensive quartz banger.

Second, use a cotton swab to soak up and wipe away any residual oil or char left after each dab.

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How to Clean a Dab Rig Nail

Third, if you have stubborn oil stuck on or dark carbon spots, you can use isopropyl alcohol to help loosen and remove them. For really stubborn spots you can heat-clean your quartz using a torch, but do this sparingly as repeated heating of dirty quartz or glass will cause particles to bake into the banger and slowly deteriorate its ability to retain heat.

Store your dabs in the fridge

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(Grant Hindsley for Leafly)

Tip: Preserve the flavor and consistency of your hash, concentrates, and extracts by storing them in a cool, dark, dry place.

Cannabis concentrates are relatively stable products with a long shelf-life. However their form, flavor, and overall composition can change over time when exposed to heat or light.

The terpene content within your extracts is especially volatile and can begin to deteriorate even at room temperature. Because of this, it’s a great idea to store your oil in the refrigerator or freezer.

Short-term storage of grams I know I’ll be dabbing regularly I keep in the door of my fridge. If I have larger quantities of extract or something special that I want to hold onto for longer, I store them in an airtight container in the freezer.

Will Hyde's Bio Image

Will Hyde

Will is a cannabis expert and co-host of Leafly's "What Are you Smoking" podcast. He's a cultivator and former budtender who loves complex hybrids with piney and gassy terpene profiles. Follow him on Instagram at @the.avid.dabber

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