As the cannabis market has exploded and gone mainstream, the days in which most folks could essentially choose between smoking a joint or smoking a bong — perhaps with some weed brownies thrown in if they wanted to experiment with a different kind of high — are long gone!
Modern canna-connoisseurs who are after a potent high that lasts will be excited to dabble in dabbing. If you are just starting out and know nothing about dabbing please check out our dabbing 101 guide before getting deep into this post. This article can be considered dabbing 102 😉
Just how do you dab concentrates, like shatter and wax, though, and what do you need to know before you hop down this particular rabbit hole?
What’s Dabbing? What Types of Concentrates Can Be Smoked?
Dabs are, quite simply, cannabis concentrates. They’re produced by immersing buds in solvents like butane, carbon dioxide, or grain alcohol. As the THC and other cannabis leave the buds and hit the solvent, the result is a thick concentrate — a dab. Although all concentrates share common features, and most have a mighty THC content of between 50 and 80 percent, the production method dictates the consistency of the final product.
Some examples of popular dabs — most of which have names that describe their qualities pretty well — include:
- Shatter. A pure and brittle concentrate with a clear-ish color, it’s extracted in a way that gets rid of fats. It breaks easily. One of the big upsides of shatter is that it’s got an extra-long shelf life compared to other types of concentrates. Shatter is also a great choice for beginners.
- Wax. This type of butane hash oil has a sticky, waxy consistency. This type of concentrate is simpler to make (and should probably be what you’re aiming for if you’re going the DIY route — more about that later). It does keep for a shorter period of time, though.
- Honeycomb. With a beautiful dark amber color and a thick liquid consistency, honeycomb is one of the most popular types of dabs.
- Butter, also called budder. This one looks more like a thick nut butter with some airy holes.
Each type of dab is produced in its own unique way. The method of manufacture influences the concentrate’s molecular structure, and that’s how the dab winds up with its consistency. All dabs can be smoked. If you’re new to this way of consuming marijuana, though, you might be a little intimidated and unsure how to dab shatter, wax, or other concentrates. That’s OK. This guide is here to guide you through that if you’re hoping to test these waters.
What Equipment Do You Need to Dab Shatter or Wax?
The good news? You’ve got a few different options! The bad news? You’ve got a few different options, and it might be hard to pick. If you’re a dab noob, you’ll want to go for the most common choice first — the dab rig. As you get the hang of dabbing, you might feel adventurous enough to expand your horizons. Here’s a look.
Dabbing Concentrates with a Dab Rig
Dab rigs are bongs designed with dabbing in mind — to allow you to burn and smoke concentrates, dab rigs feature a nail and a dome. The nail, which you’ll usually heat with a torch, warms your concentrate up to get it ready for you. The dome protects the good stuff from drifting away. Some dab rigs come with a water chamber, while others don’t.
Once your concentrate is heated, you can simply inhale it through the rig’s mouthpiece. Remember that bigger definitely doesn’t mean better when it comes to dab rigs. Small rigs will give you that thick and “milky” vapor you’re looking for.
Still not sure what to do? Because smoking shatter or wax with a dab rig is the most popular way to enjoy these concentrates, we’ll break it down for you:
- Get your dab ready.
- If you’re using a blowtorch, heat the rig’s nail until it turns red. Make sure not to touch the nail directly!
- Allow your quartz nail to cool off for 45 seconds. A titanium nail only needs 10 seconds.
- Place your dab on the nail with your dabber, like a spoon or spatula.
- Inhale, hold, and exhale.
- Wait 5 to 10 minutes. Enjoy the experience!
Smoking Concentrates in a Joint
Some folks want to go vintage — and they can definitely pulverize shatter, roll it into a traditional joint, and smoke it the same way.
Smoking Shatter or Wax with a Basic Bong
Instead of a dab rig, you can also use a normal bong to dab concentrates. There’s a bit of a learning curve, though. To dab concentrates with a bong, you’ll want to pack the bowl halfway, sprinkle in some of your chosen concentrate, and use ground buds to fill the bong the rest of the way. Unless you do this, the excessive heat of the lighter will completely destroy your concentrate.
Still, if you can get the layering correct this is a great little way to spice up what otherwise would be a pretty standard bong session, sure to surprise your friends.
What About Vape Pens?
Some people use vape pens to dab concentrates, but this is risky. Most vapes heat up way too much, and advanced models with adjustable heat settings might still be ruined, along with your concentrate. There’s is a dazzling variety of vape pens that use 510 threads and mate to pre-filled cartridges out there.
There are however specific “dab pens” designed to scoop your extract straight from its container and heat it right up for a compact, travel-friendly dab session. Dab pens and wax pens are a relatively new utensil to the THC-lovers arsenal, but companies like Puffco (Puffco Peak), Dip Devices, Pulsar, Boundless, Yocan, and Atmos have offerings engineered specifically for self-serving extract lovers.
What Other Equipment Do You Need to Dab Concentrates?
Besides your basic delivery system, you’ll make your dabbing experience a lot easier and more pleasurable if you have the right extras. Before you experiment with dabbing concentrates like shatter and wax, invest in:
- Dabbers. These handy tools allow you to get set up without physically handling your concentrates. It’s cleaner and easier that way, compared to rigging up tools you’ve got lying around at home. Choose from scoops (also called shovels), picks, and spatulas — or of course, just get a kit that includes a nice selection of dabbers.
- E-nails. An e-nail or electronic nail isn’t a cheap toy. Good ones will set you back at least $199. You do, on the other hand, get a cool tool enables you to keep a consistent temperature range in place, which will save you from having to mess around with a blowtorch. Well worth it for regular dabbers.
- Carb caps allow you to dab at the lowest possible temperature while regulating the airflow of your setup. They’re must-haves, many experienced dabbers would say, and the good news is that they’re a lot cheaper than e-nails.
- Dab mats. Some might want to invest in a dab mat to keep your surroundings clean.
What Do You Need to Know About Dab Portioning?
Dabbing concentrates is the most potent way to consume marijuana — and you don’t want to just eyeball the dosage, especially if you’re new to dabbing. Concentrates aren’t the same as buds, after all. While buds typically have a THC content of anywhere between 15 and 25 percent, concentrates like shatter and wax will take you to the next level with a THC content that typically falls between 50 and 80 percent. Some concentrates even boast a 90 percent THC content!
Still not quite sure what that means? Here’s an example. A gram of a concentrate labeled as being 90 percent THC will give you 900 milligrams of THC. Yeah! When people say that dabbing shatter or wax gives you the strongest high possible, they’re really not kidding! This ain’t for novices.
You want your first dab session to be good. That means you have to take dosing seriously. Too little is always better than too much! With that important advice in mind, here are some common sense tips to make sure you get your dab portioning right:
- Remember, folks who are just starting out with edibles are usually advised to kick off with a modest starting dose of 5 to 10 milligrams. It’s easy to get way too much. Although dosing a dab precisely is notoriously difficult, it’s best to start off with a microdose. That’s the smallest amount you can pick up with your scoop or spatula. If that doesn’t do it for you after 10 to 20 minutes, you can always take more.
- Buy concentrates from legal commercial cannabis markets wherever you can and shop local whenever possible! This is for the simple reason that these commercial products are required to be labeled with information about potency. Yes, it’s possible to make concentrates, especially wax, yourself, but if you do that, there’s almost no way to know how potent it is until you try it.
- When buying a gram of shatter with a fairly typical THC concentration of 80 percent, the common tip to split that into eight pieces and dab one of them is easy to execute and good practice.
- If you’re super intimated and not sure you can get your dosage right, well, it’s best to opt for pre-portioned vape cartridges. That way, you’ll have absolutely no doubt about what you’re getting.
What Are the Unique Pros of Dabs?
If you’re old school, you’re probably wondering what’s wrong with just smoking weed. The answer is, of course, nothing at all. Dabbing concentrates does offer a unique experience as well as some benefits you won’t get from smoking a joint.
For recreational marijuana enthusiasts, the pros dabbing concentrates offers are found in the fact that shatter, wax, and other concentrates boil marijuana down to its essential components. When you’re dabbing high-quality concentrates that were manufactured professionally, you’re smoking at lower temperatures where the terpenes are juiciest and not inhaling any of the extra plant matter, including rosin, that you’d get from smoking a joint. This makes dabbing easier and more pleasurable.
You also, of course, get an extra strong hit really quickly — and depending on your dose, the unique high won’t wear off for two hours!
Medicinal users, on the other hand, can expect symptom relief faster than they would with other methods of consuming cannabis. This quality makes dabbing concentrates especially appealing to medicinal marijuana patients who are experiencing intense pain episodes or bouts of nausea.
What Risks Do You Need to Consider Before You Dab Concentrates?
As smoking shatter and wax rises in popularity, anti-cannabis activists all over the internet have taken the task of informing everyone and their mother how dangerous dabbing is very seriously. They’re not all wrong. Like just about anything else, including getting in your car and going for a drive or even eating a sandwich, dabbing does have some risks.
Let’s get real, though — most of the risks associated with dabbing concentrates have a whole lot more to do with amateur manufacturers and user error than with dabbing itself.
Yes, that means that, so long as you don’t leave your common sense behind when you dive into smoking shatter or wax, dabbing can be as safe a way to enjoy or benefit from weed as any other.
The first danger lies in the amateur production of concentrates. Typically, someone interested in dabbing will go down the internet vortex and wind up with articles and videos that tell them that making their own concentrates is easy, and a great way to save money. Not only do you risk fire and explosions when working with the solvents used to create dabs, you’ll also have no way of knowing how well your experiment went. You could easily end up inhaling scarily low-quality concentrates that aren’t fit for human consumption.
If you’re not making your own dabs badly, you could still potentially buy them from someone who did. Don’t. Legal markets are always your very best option.
The second danger lies in the amateur use of concentrates. Although it’s still debatable whether you can, in a strict sense, actually overdose while you’re smoking shatter or wax, it’s certainly easy to get an excessively strong hit. That high could last far too long for your liking, and cause some uncomfortable side effects like sweating and paranoia, similar to when you get greedy and eat too many edibles and trip balls/labias.
This risk is largely within the consumer’s control. Never think you’re experienced enough to just smoke a whole bunch without taking the dosage into consideration. Dabbing isn’t like edibles or smoking a joint/blunt. The advice to start with a microdose and to work your way up may seem excessive, but it’s in place for a reason. People who’ve walked this road before you have learned from their mistakes, and you can avoid them.
All in all, dabbing concentrates can be a pleasurable way to get a clean high quickly. It does come with a learning curve, which you should take seriously, but the results are worth it.
Herb CEO Summary
Don’t feel pressured into getting into dabs. Just because mainstream media and a bunch of squares have co-opted the “dab” move into a children’s dance motion doesn’t mean everyone is ripping fat dabs or even know wtf they’re doing when they make that motion.
Everything required to have a good time with THC derived substances starts with a respect for the cannabis plant. Get educated and understand what cannabis is, how THC and CBD work, what terpenes are, and why life doesn’t revolve entirely around THC content.
If you’re new to cannabis we highly recommend you don’t just jump into dabs because you’ll be missing a wonderful journey that flower, edibles and rosin pens provide. When we say it’s a journey that’s exactly what we mean, it’s a fun learning process where you and Mary Jane get to feel each other out a bit.
Generally speaking most people will go through a natural and tiered progression of cannabis discovery, starting casually at parties with shared joints, maybe bongs, before moving onto more high end smoking equipment and even higher end flavor-bomb top shelf strain exploration.
However, like all journey’s, the avid adventurer ultimately has an insatiable urge to reach new heights and discover all new experiences. If you’ve smoked more joints and ripped more water pipes than you can remember and are looking to spice things up a bit then good sir/ma’am, the time may be right for you to dip your toes into the world of dab.
Like with all cannabis related discoveries we highly recommend you don’t just jump head first into the world of dabs based entirely off of what you see on social media or read on websites, including Herb CEO. Try a dab with a friend, go down to your local dispensary and ask your budtender tender to give you a complete run down on the types of extracts they offer. Ask questions. Feel it out. Get comfortable. Then blast off to space and never look back friend.