For the First-Time Dabber
You’ve heard great things about dabbing—the potent effects, the long-lasting euphoria—but you don’t know where to start. No worries. We’ll introduce you to the experience, show you the hardware, and help you figure out what to expect.
01 What’s a Dab, Exactly?
A dab is a dose of concentrate extracted from the cannabis plant. There are several varieties with different names—Shatter, Sap, Taffy, Pull ‘n’ Snap, Distillate, Resin, Rosin, and Wax—and this is only a short list; there are many other types to choose from, and new names pop up all the time.
For the inexperienced, the idea of dabbing or using concentrates can feel daunting. Rest assured, it’s not as complicated as it may seem, and many people actually prefer dabbing to other forms of cannabis use. Dabbing offers what many describe as a clear, euphoric high, with more potent effects for far less substance used. This potency is especially helpful for patients, who need quick and effective relief.
02 Start Small
Concentrates are processed from the part of the flower that contains the most THC, and therefore are higher-potency than flowers; the THC content of extracted concentrates can range from 60–99%. The most valuable advice we can offer for first-time dabbers is: start low, start small. As someone with a low tolerance, I get exactly where I want to be by dabbing with a very small piece, about the size of a grain of rice. Starting with a low dose to test your tolerance is the best way to maintain total control of your experience.
03 Breathe Deeply
The high THC content of concentrates can sometimes cause people to feel more anxious when they dab— yet another reason to start with the smallest possible dose. Take a deep breath, be in the moment, and enjoy the euphoria without overthinking it.
04 Check in with Yourself
First impressions are important. To ensure a positive dabbing experience, stay tuned in to your body: stay hydrated, prepare tea or another soothing liquid in case of a sore throat, and don’t forget to have some snacks around.
Three Ways to Consume
One accessible way for a Noob to use cannabis extracts is by crumbling them up on top of a pipe bowl or into a joint. This method allows the user to control their experience carefully. They can try out a concentrate and see if they enjoy the experience delivered by these potent products.
This method however doesn’t allow for using the concentrate itself directly. A good amount of it will get wasted during the smoking process. It may be a solution for those with no equipment to dab or vaporize. It’s the barest bones way to try a concentrate.
Like personal computers, vaporizers come in both portable and desktop options. While the large and pricey volcano vaporizer is often used in medical settings or cannabis clubs, the popularity of at-home units has been upended by the sleek, discreet, and portable vape pens. Pens can be charged through USB ports, allowing the user unparalleled mobility and independence, and are available for purchase in dispensaries, head shops, and online at a broad range of price points—anywhere from $15 to $300, depending on features and quality. While most vape pens can only be used with solvent-extracted products like shatters, oils, and wax, some with the right attachments may also vaporize water hash and flower.
Vaping allows users to enjoy the complete flavor of the extract without combustion of the substance. Avoiding combustion is far less taxing on the lungs and reduces exposure to the carcinogens and tar that come from smoking.
The downside to vaporizers is how drastically they can vary in quality. Many don’t have strong batteries or heating elements, preventing the pen from getting hot enough to completely vaporize the concentrate. The result is weakened flavor and fewer euphoric effects in comparison to smoking a hash pipe or dabbing.
Another issue to consider when looking at vaporizers is that the units tend to be manufactured abroad with loose quality control, sometimes leaving residual chemicals like arsenic and boron behind. While you don’t have to worry about exposure to these chemicals with higher-quality units, we recommend that you shop for a vaporizer carefully and ask as many questions as you can before you buy.
02 Hash Pipe
Hash pipes are made specifically for use with hash— generally water hash or kief, though some devices can accommodate oil and other extracts, as well. These pipes require nothing more than a lighter and extra screens, which should be replaced routinely. A hash pipe provides the user with a potent, authentic hash experience, and the low cost of the device makes it an appealing option for those interested in experimenting with a wide variety of concentrated cannabis products.
Dabbing is one of the most effective ways to consume concentrates. After activating a heating element either electronically (e-nail) or with a butane torch, the user places the concentrate on a dabber, applies the heating element, and inhales the resulting vapor through a pipe made specifically for this purpose. Dabbers are usually made of titanium, quartz, or ceramic for safe use with extreme heat— temperatures should reach between 550–750°F, vaporizing the concentrate completely while retaining the flavor and terpene content.
A dab rig can be an affordable $40 or a major investment in excess of $50,000. On the high end, dabbing aficionados seek out well-regarded glass blowers across the globe for rare or customized hand-crafted pieces.
How to Identify High-Quality Shatter
If you ask three self-proclaimed experts about evaluating the quality of shatter and other cannabis oil products, you’ll get three different expert opinions; there seem to be at least as many thoughts on the matter as there are shatter users.
Many cannasseurs believe that appearance is the most reliable sign of quality. Concentrates vary widely in color, from bright yellow to tar-black. For dabbing or vaping, color ranging from amber-yellow to dark-bronze is considered the “gold zone”, with as little opacity as possible. (Colors on the darker end of the spectrum have their merits, but are primarily used for topical applications.) There are conflicting opinions regarding the reliability of clarity as a sign of quality—some feel that transparency indicates an improperly-purged substance—so we encourage you to use your best judgment.
Texture is invoked as a means of judging shatter, as well. Like color, the consistency of shatter can vary widely from soft to hard, sappy to solid, crumbly, sticky, or dry. Texture often determines how the product is named—Shatter, Wax, Honeycomb, Budder, and Pull n Snap are just a few examples of the products you’ll see next to each other at your local dispensary. All are concentrates, all can be used to dab, and all can range in quality—explore whatever calls to you. It’s purely a matter of personal preference.
As you try different colors and textures, you will no doubt develop your own tastes and opinions about what makes a quality shatter. Our best advice? Start low and go slow. Begin with the smallest possible amount of a dabbing concentrate; the size of a small grain of rice is great for first-time users. Using a low dose and allowing it time to take effect are key to enjoying your dabbing experience.