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Your Guide to Making Dabs and Dabbing

Added 29 August 2022

Most cannabis users smoke a joint at some or the other point, but what if you’re bored and want to take it to the next level by dabbing?

No, not the dance form — we’re talking about dabs that make you dance differently!

Cannabis dabs offer a little something more, a little extra to everyone. And, if you’re a beginner, dabs are nothing but cannabis extracts that promise to take you higher than ever before.

What are cannabis dabs, how are they made, and how you can make them? 

Learn all the answers to these questions in this article.

What is Dabbing?

dabbing tool with extract

If you want to get high really fast, dabbing is for you. Dabbing involves heating a cannabis concentrate and inhaling the vapor. 

It is similar to smoking a joint, but instead of smoking buds, you smoke a tiny dab of wax that is highly concentrated with cannabinoids like THC or CBD. Yes, you get CBD dabs too, for medicinal purposes, just in case you want to feel the effects quickly.

Dabbing has become extremely popular in recent years but dates back to the 1960s. It gets its name from the cannabis concentrates, or dabs, used during the process. 

The high cannabinoid concentrations are why dabbing is getting so popular these days. Cannabis wax or shatter used in dabbing contains anywhere around 4 to 5 times more cannabinoids than a regular bud. 

So, depending on the strain, you can even dab a wax that contains up to 90% THC — you can get super high with dabbing. Similarly, you can purchase dabs to ingest high amounts of CBD in a short while. 

Pros and Cons of Dabbing

pros and cons of dabbing

Dabbing has many pros (and a few cons), depending on which you can decide if it is right for you. 

Here are a few pros of dabbing:

If you suffer from conditions like chronic pain, depression, or anxiety, and use cannabis to find relief, dabbing can help you find quick relief. However, note that you can feel very anxious if you smoke a lot of THC in one go. On the other hand, you can try CBD if you want some help to control mental health issues. 

Also, dabbing is more gentle on your lungs than other forms of smoking, because you are only inhaling vapor from a concentrate and not from plant materials.

The biggest pro of dabs is that it offers some insane highs. Of course, this could be a bad thing if you're clueless about it but nothing is more potent than dabbing.

On the other hand, here are a few cons of dabbing:

If the concentrate is not extracted and produced using standardized techniques, it may contain a lot of butane, which can be harmful to you.

For new cannabis users, dabbing can be a bit too much, leading to bad trips accompanied by paranoia, anxiety, increased heart rate, etc., which can be difficult to deal with. However, the side effects are temporary and you cannot overdose on cannabis.

Some anecdotal reports also claim that dabs may cause cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (persistent vomiting), but more clinical studies are required to back this claim.

Dabbing may be expensive for you — you need to spend some money on a high-quality dab rig and dabs, which can leave a hole in your wallet.

You may also develop a high tolerance to cannabis, which may stop you from enjoying a small doobie once in a while.

Equipment Needed for Dabbing

Dabbing is not like rolling a joint — it needs some specific pieces of equipment. If you want to try dabbing, here’s your shopping list:

Dab rig — a type of bong particularly designed for dabbing.

Nail — the nail holds the dabbing concentrate.

Dome — to keep the vapor from dissipating into the air, you need a dome. It fits over the nail.

Carb cab — this is used to vaporize the dab concentrate at controlled temperatures.

Dab concentrates — the cannabis concentrate that you place on the nail and turn to vapor for terrific highs.

Types of Dabs

cannabis dab

Dabs are single-serving hits, as small as your toenail. When dabbing, you place this dab on the heating nail of the dab rig and burn it, turning it into vapor, which you inhale. 

However, there are a few types of dabs you can use, such as the following:

Wax

One of the most popular types of dab is wax. It is called wax because it looks like a piece of earwax, which sounds gross, but wait until you try it.

Shatter

Shatter is the next best thing in dabbing. It is a cannabis concentrate that is thin and translucent, like glass.

Hash

You may have already used hash to roll a joint, but did you know that you can use it for dabbing too? It is made of compressed kief and can offer terrific highs while dabbing.

Distillate

The distillate is known as a high-potency THC extract, which is often used in edibles and vape cartridges, but it can even be used in dabbing to deliver intense highs. 

Live Resin

If terpenes are your thing, you should check out live resin. It is extracted from frozen cannabis while preserving the terpenes. 

Terp Sauce

Terp sauce is another extract that is rich in terpenes, and it is a mix of crystallized and runny concentrates.

THCA or CBDA Crystals

THCA and CBDA are the inactive forms of THC and CBD, respectively, and are non-intoxicating. So, when you dab them, the heat activates them, turning them into THC and CBD.

How to Dab Your Extract?

Follow these steps to dab your extract like a pro.

Find the Right Extract

The first step is to find the best extract for you. We recommend that you stick to licensed retailers selling high-quality products, but you can even make your own extracts. Keep reading to know how to make dabs at home.

If you enjoy the flavor and aroma of cannabis, find a high-terpene, full-spectrum extract (HTFSE), which contains high levels of terpenes, giving it a full flavor profile. Plus, full-spectrum products contain a wide range of compounds for optimal effects, and you can enjoy all the benefits of cannabis.

Also, if you don’t want your dab to be free of any solvents, choose products made with a solventless extraction process like ice water hash or kief.

Prepare Your Dabbing Rig

Here are the things you need to make your dabbing experience effortless:

  • Dab rig and nail
  • Dabber
  • Carb cap
  • Butane torch to light the nail
  • Thermometer to keep an eye on the nail temperature
  • Terp pearls that improve oil distribution on the nail (optional)

If you don’t have a dab rig, you can even make your own. There are plenty of YouTube videos that explain how to make them.

Set the Right Temperature

When you first start dabbing, you need to ensure you heat the dab right properly. If the temperature is too low, the concentrate may not release enough vapor, and if the temperature is too high, it can cook the concentrate and destroy the cannabinoids. 

However, the right temperature depends on the size and thickness of your dab nail. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for setting the right temperature.

And if you find using a dab torch cumbersome, you can even use an e-nail that uses electricity to heat up but offers more temperature control. 

Clean the Dab Tools

Once you are done with your session, you need to clean the dab rig properly and store it. Doing this not only improves its looks but also adds extra years to its life. Plus, dabs can leave behind some residue on the nail, which can interfere with your next session’s dabs.

And if you don’t clean the dab tools regularly, they can also develop mold or fungi that can be very unhealthy when you smoke them. 

Cleaning a dab rig and nail is easy — all you need is some isopropyl alcohol, soap, and water. 

You don’t need to clean the dab rig and other equipment daily, but it is advised that you clean them out after every use.

How to Make Dabs at Home?

If you don’t want to spend big bucks on purchasing dabs or want to try a little science experiment, you can make your own dabs at home! Follow these techniques to make some DIY dabs!

Traditional Way of Making Dabs

Butane hash oil extraction

On a large-scale, dabs are usually made with butane extraction. During this process, butane is forced through a container with cannabis buds. The butane works as a solvent, separating cannabinoids, terpenes, and trichomes from the buds. These oils mixed in with butane are called butane hash oil.

But since butane is toxic for humans, the dab is not yet ready for use.

So, the manufacturers then let the solution sit for some time, allowing all the butane to evaporate, which leaves behind a concentrate. This concentrate is later dried and hardened into wax or shatter.

The biggest problem with this form of production is butane — it is highly flammable and explosive. You should not use this method to prepare your dab at home.

Instead, you can use other safer ways to prepare dabs without risking your life (or house), such as the following.

Alcohol Extraction

Isopropyl alcohol extraction

If you know a little about chemistry, you know that alcohol is a potent solvent and it can strip the plant’s cannabinoids effectively. So, you can use this in the alcohol extraction process, or the quick wash of isopropyl alcohol (QWISO) process.

For alcohol extraction, you need to use isopropyl alcohol (not your favorite whiskey). But you need to be careful as alcohol is flammable. Never handle it around an open flame, and do not taste it. 

In addition remember you can use as many buds as you want, but it's best to add approximately 150 ml of alcohol for every 10 grams of weed. Also, you can freeze the buds in a freezer for at least 3 hours before beginning the extraction process to help the trichomes fall away easily. 

Here are the things you need to make a DIY dab with alcohol:

  • Cannabis buds
  • 190 proof or similar food-grade alcohol
  • Glass containers that are safe for microwave
  • Mesh strainer or coffee filters
  • Induction or any other heat source that produces zero flame

Follow these steps to make your dab with alcohol extraction:

  1. Grind the cannabis buds — you can even use your hand. 
  2. Place your buds on a baking sheet and bake them at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
  3. Place the buds in a glass jar and add alcohol to submerge all the buds and gently stir the solution for ten minutes.
  4. Now, place the strainer over the jar and pour out the solution.
  5. Repeat the alcohol submersion and straining process with the leftover plant material a few more times.
  6. Now, pour the strained solution into a cooker and cook it on low heat for several hours to evaporate all the alcohol. You can use a rice cooker or an induction cooker since it doesn't involve an open flame. Or, leave it open for 24 hours on a flat surface with a fan blowing over it so the liquid evaporates.
  7. You will be left with a thick extract, which is your cannabis dab made with alcohol extraction. Scrape it all and store it in some parchment paper and then store it in a small glass jar. 

Ice Water Extractions

Ice water extraction

Another popular way of producing dabs is using ice water extraction — it is known for producing high-grade extracts of cannabis. This is the perfect method for making dabs if you don’t want to play with fire, literally, but want high-quality.

Concentrates made with ice water extractions are also called bubble hash because the process uses bubble bags to extract the trichomes from the buds.

Remember that this method is relatively straightforward but it does require some time and patience. But follow these steps to make a dab with ice water extractions.

Here are the things you need to make DIY dabs through ice water extraction:

  • Cannabis buds
  • A large bucket
  • Ice and water
  • Spoon for mixing
  • Bubble bags (multiple sizes)
  • Gloves

Follow these steps:

  1. The first step is to freeze the cannabis buds — place them in a freezer for an hour until they reach around 41°F or 5°C. 
  2. After the cannabis is frozen, place the buds in the bucket.
  3. Add a lot of ice and water to the bucket with the buds.
  4. Once the water gets cold — below 34°F or 1°C — the trichomes will be easier to break. Use the spoon to stir the mixture and break apart the trichomes.
  5. Next, place the bubble bags over another container with the smaller ones on the bottom and the larger ones inside the smaller ones.
  6. Then, pour the cold mixture into the innermost bubble bag. 
  7. Put on your gloves and pull out the innermost bag and squeeze out the water into the next bag.
  8. Scrape the resin from the bag and place them on the parchment paper, and let them dry for two days. 
  9. Repeat the process for the remaining bags.
  10. In the end, you will be left with a thick resin, which is your ice water hash.

Here are some tips to improve your ice water extraction process:

  • Keep the environment as cold as possible, along with the cannabis buds,
  • Avoid using tap water as it contains a lot of fluoride and chlorine. Instead, use RO water since it is free of any minerals.
  • The quality of the buds dictates the quality of the final product, so always use high-quality buds.
  • Ensure you are working in a comfortable space — the process requires some elbow grease, so the more comfort, the easier the process becomes.

Rosin Pressing

Rosin pressing

Rosin pressing is a common process of making your dabs at home, but it is just as effective as other processes. 

Here are the things you need to make DIY dabs with a hair straightner:

  • A hair straightener 
  • Cannabis buds (or even hash)
  • Dabber
  • Unbleached parchment paper
  • A pair of heat-resistant gloves

Follow these steps:

  1. Cut the parchment paper into small pieces and fold them in half.
  2. Next, place the buds in the folded paper and gently press the paper with your fingers.
  3. Now, line the buds in the paper with the hair straightener and press it for 3 to 5 seconds (on the lowest setting).
  4. Now, remove the flattened buds from the paper with your dabber.

That is your homemade rosin dab!

What are Some Tips for Making Dabs and Dabbing?

If you are new to dabbing, you will have a lot of questions and you may find some things difficult to understand. Here are a few tips to help make your transition to dabbing easier.

Start with a Low Dose

Dabbing is a terrific way to get high quickly, but remember, it can give you a high that you have never experienced before. While this sounds fun, it can be a little unnerving for some people. 

So, it is recommended that you start with a small dose and slowly increase the size of your dabs. For first-timers, take one hit and wait for some time to see your body’s reaction. If your body reacts well, you can take another hit.

Similarly, if you are making dabs for the first time, you should start with a small batch. You may make a mistake or use the wrong technique, which can waste your buds. So, if you start with a few buds, it won’t hurt as much if you damage them.

Dab with a Friend

In the same vein as the above point, you should also avoid dabbing alone if you are a newbie. If you experience any kind of negative effects of smoking too much cannabis, your buddy can help you ground yourself and deal with it comfortably.

Look out for the common symptoms of a bad trip, such as the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Sweating
  • Pale or cold skin
  • Paranoia or fear
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Panic attack
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea 

Keep an Eye on the Temperatures

When you are making dabs at home, whether using alcohol extraction or a hair straightener, you will be using some heat during the process. It is crucial that you keep an eye on the temperature and do not go overboard.

Too much heat can cook the buds and destroy the terpenes. You don’t want this.

Similarly, when dabbing, keep an eye on the nail's temperature. As mentioned earlier, the right heat is essential for a good high. Use the manufacturer’s recommendations for temperature and follow them.

Purchase Dab Rigs (and Dabs) from a Reputable Dispensary

Quality isn’t a concern if you are making dabs at home. But if you are purchasing them from a dispensary, choose a reputable dispensary with a license. High-quality dabs do not contain any butane (or other solvents) and are safe to smoke.

Butane and other solvents that are often used to make dabs can be really dangerous for you if they are not extracted from the dabs properly, a mistake that is common with unlicensed or unprofessional producers and dispensaries.

Similarly, choose a high-quality dab rig, including the nail and torches, so you don’t have to worry about them burning your cannabis or breaking down mid-session. Dabbing equipment is expensive, so you might as well get good quality for it.

Know Your Local Laws

In regions where cannabis is not yet legalized, making dabs can land you in a lot of legal trouble — often more so than being caught with a joint. So, learn about your local laws and ensure you are not breaking any.

And if you still want to take the risk and make dabs for yourself, keep the project to yourself and do not sell or share your dabs with anyone. It can invite the peddler label from the authorities.

Summary: Your Guide to Making Dabs and Dabbing

As you now know, dabbing is an experience you shouldn’t miss out on. Whether you are consuming cannabis for fun or its countless medicinal properties, dabbing is a great way to induce cannabinoids into your body.

The premise is simple. Place a small piece of dab on the dab nail and heat it to the right temperature. The heat will convert the dab into vapor, which you can inhale. And wait for a few minutes for an intense high.

The advantage of dabbing is that it is easy (although a little expensive), relatively safer than smoking joints, and gives you an instant high. 

And while you can purchase your dabs from your local dispensary, why not try your hand at making dabs at home? You can use any of the techniques from alcohol extraction, ice water extraction, or rosin pressing.

Whichever method you use, avoid using butane at all costs. Leave that to the professionals. It is highly flammable and you don’t want to burn your house down, do you? And if you are using alcohol, keep it away from an open flame at all costs.

Lastly, remember to be safe when dabbing. The high you experience with dabbing is unlike anything. So, start with a smaller dose and build your way up. 

So, what’s stopping you from chasing your stoner adventure? Dabbing makes it happen better than ever. Try dabbing now!

 






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