What even are “dabs”? I have a friend who’s into them, but they have so much weird equipment for it and, honestly, it seems terrifying.
Dear Dab Shy,
You’re not alone in being mildly terrified by the idea of dabs. I had a bad first experience with a rig and a huge overestimation of my tolerance that left me with my head in the toilet and dab anxiety that lasted for years.
Recently though, I met a stoner friend who let me use their “nectar collector” – more on that later – and it opened me back up to the big wide world of concentrates. So, here I am to be that friend for you and demystify dabs a bit.
A dab is basically just a more concentrated form of cannabis than traditional flower – flower typically runs somewhere in the range of 15-30% THC, while concentrates can be anywhere from 50-90% THC. Needless to say, a little goes a long way. Not all concentrates are created equal, though, so let’s break it down a bit:
The different types of dabs remind me a lot of the candy temperature chart in my mom’s treasured copy of the Better Homes and Gardens’ New Cook Book. A fully inclusive list is probably a bit of an information overload, so here are a few of the most common:
• Distillate/“Oil” - A gloopy concentrate most commonly seen in disposable vape cartridges.
• Shatter - A hard form of concentrate that breaks like glass.
• Wax - A softer and stickier concentrate. This is where you’ll start to hear about subcategories like “batter” and “sugar” (again with the baking references), but they just differentiate the consistency.
• Live Resin - More flavorful and fragrant thanks to its extraction process, live resin has a sauce-like consistency.
So, how do you do it? Here are the most popular methods for taking a dab:
• Vape pen/Dab pen - An electronic vaporizer that often uses disposable, pre-filled cartridges
• Rig - Much like a bong, but with a different bowl piece called a nail (which also contains subcategories like a banger) which holds your dab – a standard dose is 25mg, or about the size of a grain of rice – but this is where it gets a bit dicey. You then need to heat your nail with a blowtorch, a regular lighter won’t cut it here, until it turns red-hot (see more on heating instructions here) and wait about 20 seconds before loading up your dab and breathing in. You can use a cap to control the airflow.
• Nectar Collector - Much like a bowl, but instead of a little well for your flower, there’s essentially a straw on the end to pull air through. Here, you use your torch to light the tip, instead of the nail, and touch the surface to your concentrate while sucking in.
But what’s the point, really? And is it worth the risk of burning yourself with a red-hot piece or molten wax? Besides the increased THC levels, many people prefer the taste, due to the preserved terpenes, and purport some health benefits over traditional smoking. As for the second question, that’s up to you – though I’m much more interested in concentrates than I used to be, I’m still not sure if I trust myself to own a blow torch.
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