How to Consume Concentrates
Like flower, there are many ways to consume concentrates. Some are more effective than others, but ultimately it’s a simple matter of personal preference at the end of the day. The most popular method of consuming concentrates involves using a dab rig in combination with a small butane torch to heat a nail for the concentrate to evaporate on (discussed earlier), however more discrete and safer ways are becoming increasingly popular, like the portable vaporizer pen or e-rig. No matter which method you choose, be sure to research which way will be most enjoyable and convenient for you to ensure a positive and pleasant experience.
With Cannabis (Bowl/Bong/Pipe)
One of the easiest ways to smoke concentrate is to add it to flower (also known as bowl-topping). By doing so, you’ll be able to get some of the potent effects of concentrates without getting too high or increasing your tolerance much. This is a great way for beginners to start on concentrates. Simply pack your bowl with flower, and then add a small piece of wax, shatter or budder on top. You can also try layering it between flower in the middle of the bowl.If you like joints or blunts you can sprinkle concentrates inside before rolling or try twaxing, which involves stretching shatter into a thin rope and wrapping it around the outside of the rolled joint. Only certain consistencies of concentrate work well for twaxing, so be sure you fully understand the consistency of your product before handling it. An unstable consistency will end up sticking to your hands and wasting precious concentrate!
Bubble hash is arguably the most effective concentrate bowl-topper, as it has similar combustion properties to flower. However, bubble hash tends to stay lit like a match if it gets too much heat, so be sure to put out the flame or smoke quickly. The best way to smoke bubble hash on a bowl is to let the flame get close enough to the hash that it starts to bubble and melt, without actually setting it on fire. Once the bubble hash is melted into the bowl, it should be easier to smoke and burn much more consistently.
Using a vaporizer – whether desktop or portable – is one of the most efficient ways to consume any concentrate. Not only are vapes discreet, but the user typically has more control over how they’re consuming the product. For instance, depending on the kind of vaporizer you have, you’ll find several heat options to utilize. This functionality is great for allowing the consumer the ability to change the temperature to match the kind of concentrate they’re smoking and their various melting points.
Vaporizers with variable heat are extremely useful to help gauge the amount of concentrate you are consuming, as well as the intensity of the hit. Generally speaking, it is always advisable to start on a lower temperature and slowly increase until the desired temperature is received. Starting off too hot may produce a hit that is overwhelmingly large, which might lead to an uncomfortable or unpleasant experience.
With most handheld vaporizers or pens, consumers just need to load the chamber and push a button. They’re relatively easy to use and truly help preserve the flavor of the concentrate without inducing any combustion. As many avid concentrate consumers will tell you, vaping is often better for your lungs and reduces the total number of carcinogens and tar consumed in general. When selecting a vaporizer, it’s always wise to compare several models against each other to determine which one is right for you. There are many helpful reviews and videos online that help make the selection process less daunting
Dabbing is the method that’s enjoyed by the majority of concentrate lovers. One of the reasons dabbing is so popular is because there are several options to customize your rig and attachments. Concentrate enthusiasts often use this avenue to express themselves and customize their ideal dabbing experience.
The first step in dabbing depends on what you’ll dabbing from, however, you’ll want to grab your concentrate, torch or e-nail and dab tool regardless.
Dabbing with Rigs
Before we dive into this section, be aware that higher grade rigs made with German or American borosilicate glass provides the best dabbing experience, and the smaller the rig, the better the flavor. To set up your dab rig, the first step is to fill it up with water. The necessary water level varies depending on the rig being used. A general rule of thumb is to fill the water about an inch or two above the downstem or diffuser. Making sure the diffuser is immersed underwater is crucial to establishing proper percolation when inhaling.
To check and see if you have a good water level, simply inhale through the mouthpiece. If you get water in your mouth, pour a little out. Ideally, you want to hear a slight chugging sound and feel a little resistance when inhaling. There should be enough empty room in the chamber for the water to bubble without getting in your mouth or spilling out of the downstem hole.
The next step in setting up your rig is placing your nail or banger into the joint. Joint sizes are measured in millimeter, and are commonly seen in 10mm, 14mm and 18mm sizes. You’ll want to make sure your nail matches the millimeter of the joint connecting to the downstem of the rig, otherwise it won’t be able to fit properly. If you’ll using a brand new nail, be sure to season it before doing a dab.
Seasoning a Nail
When all of the concentrate has transferred from the dabber to the nail, place the carb cap over the nail to allow an even convection. After the concentrate has been effectively vaporized, all that’s left to do is finish inhaling the dab. If completed properly, the dab should be quite flavorful and leave a yellow-gold puddle in the nail (black residue means the dab was too hot and potentially combusted). The final step is wiping out the cup of the nail with a Q-tip.
There are two main types of nails, domeless and domed (hooded). The main difference between the two is airflow. With a domeless nail, there are ventilation rings underneath the nail, which allows air to flow into the rig directly, and therefore no dome is needed. Quartz bangers are another domeless option, utilizing a deep-chambered dish to draw vapor into the rig. Air doesn’t flow directly into the chamber with a domed or hooded nail, therefore the dome is used to catch the vapor, allowing you to inhale it into the rig.
The carb cap can be used with a domeless nail to help you take a low-temperature dab. Most carb caps, like nails, are made of titanium, quartz or glass. When a carb cap is placed over a nail, it changes the pressure in the small distance between the nail and carb cap and creates what is known as convection.
A small hole at the top of the carb cap allows a minimal amount of air in, which swirls like a vortex and cools the nail, oil and vapor for a smoother dab. Carb caps also let you pause a dab. If your lungs are full of air, you can apply the carb cap to your nail and exhale without losing vapors off the top. They’re great especially for those new to concentrates since they allow you to take a break mid-dab and preserve the precious oils on your nail at the same time.
Why the torch?
Using a butane torch can be intimidating and looks a little similar to using other drugs, however, heed a few precautions and you’ll find it’s not as scary as it seems.
Consider what dabbing is; heating a small piece of metal, quartz or glass to 300-400 degrees with just a lighter would be impossible. Torches heat metals quickly, as the average flame temperature of a torch is 2600 degrees F and a lighter is around 800 degrees F.
Alternatively, you could use an electric nail (or e-nail) which allows consumers to take dabs without having to use a torch. Instead, the nail is connected to a metal box by a coil that heats the nail. They often have a display with temperature options which makes dabbing easier, notably for even heat distribution and the ability to take a dab at a moment’s notice.
Another option for those intimidated by torches is using an electronic rig (or e-rig). E-rigs allow consumers the convenience of a discreet, portable dab rig that is battery-powered and easy to use. E-rigs are compact and come equipped with all the essentials needed for dabbing. With no torch required, e-rigs only need the push of a button to properly heat the nail to optimal dabbing temperature.
Buy a Crème brûlée torch from a big box store like Bed Bath & Beyond and save the box for return when the unit quits working. (All torches quit working) Mom and Pop shops won’t replace it when it breaks. Big box stores will!
There are several methods of maintenance and upkeep that you should abide by on a daily basis to ensure your rigs are functioning 100% effectively at all times. The first tip is to always use purified or distilled water when filling. This ensures the highest quality filtration when vaporizing and guarantees your concentrate will not pick-up any unwanted tastes or flavor during sublimation. Additionally, using purified or distilled water prevents those pesky hard water stains from appearing on the glass.
The next tip on rig etiquette is using a dab mat or pad. Dab mats safeguard your rig from unclean surfaces and prevent scratches. Dab mats come in a variety of shapes and sizes to meet the needs of any rig. Unless you’ll totally sure there’s no risk of a scratch, it’s strongly encouraged to set a pad down at all times.
Moving on to the nail or banger, to keep it as fresh and long-lasting as possible, it is recommended that you employ “Q-tip tech” after every dab taken. Using a Q-tip to clean out the nail or banger after every dab keeps residue from compiling on the surface, translating into more flavorful hits and extended longevity of the nail.
Another way to improve the longevity of a nail or banger is to avoid sliding or scraping the dabber across the surface. This can result in abrasions of the surface and make cleaning more difficult. It is best to gently touch the dabber to the nail and allow the concentrate to melt off onto the surface. Your nail or banger will thank you!
The final tip for rig maintenance is frequent and effective cleaning. Allowing reclaim to build up is not only unsightly, but can create issues, such as the nail or banger fusing to the glass. To ensure the safety of your rig, always be sure to properly maintain cleaning and upkeep.
There are many ways to clean a rig, but the most effective is simply 91% isopropyl alcohol and warm water. Gently washing the rig first in warm water loosens the reclaimed concentrate from the glass, making only a small amount of effort necessary when using the isopropyl alcohol to bring out a squeaky clean finish.
Always air on the gentler side when cleaning and allow the alcohol do most of the work. If the rig is routinely cleaned, all the residue should come off with minimal effort. Rig etiquette and maintenance is crucial in maximizing the potential of your set-up. If done correctly, the payoff is certainly worth the time.
Alternate Ways to Dab
One simple way to dab concentrates is to use a honey straw or nectar collector. These devices allow you to dab without a complicated or large rig setup. Although made of glass, these are far more portable than other complicated rig setups.
Use a torch to heat the end of your piece until it glows red and while inhaling, press the heated end into your concentrate. Honey straws are convenient since they don’t have a chamber to fill for water and require the least amount of preparation. Nectar collectors have an advantage since the water chamber helps to make the vapor smoother to inhale.
How to Store Concentrates
There are several different ways to store concentrates to preserve them at their peak freshness and to prevent them from drying out. While the decision is a matter of personal preference, stick to airtight containers in cool, dark places, as concentrates tend to melt easily if exposed to warm environments. If this happens, they’ll most likely lose cannabinoids, impact flavor, aroma, etc.
Many people prefer to store their concentrates in small, medical grade, silicone containers. What’s great about silicone containers is that they’re non-stick, easy to clean (just boil them in water) and act as a good insulator to keep your product from getting too warm. They’re also reusable, won’t break and you can take dabs directly from them. If you’re using something like a honey straw or nectar collector, these products make it easy to smoke on the go, specifically when traveling.
Another popular option is parchment paper. It’s inexpensive, can be found in many kitchens and prevents anything from sticking to it thanks to a very thin layer of silicone. This is key, as you want your concentrates to be able to be easily lifted from the paper before consuming. Don’t get it confused with wax paper, which is coated in actual wax and will stick to any product that’s placed on it.
Plastic & Glass Containers
You’ll find that some concentrates from dispensaries are sold in transparent plastic or glass containers. While these can be a strong option and allow you to see your concentrate at all times, they are not non-stick and as a result, some concentrate is at risk to be wasted. Glass containers are often created with heat-resistant, tempered glass however and are a great option for use with a nectar collector or honey straw.
Beginner Tips to Dab Successfully
As you now know, concentrates are just that, a concentrated product with THC levels between 60%-80%. You’re probably used to smoking flower that averages 10%- 25% THC, so a little goes a long way when it comes to dabbing.
Tips for a Successful Dabbing Experience
One of the most common mistakes beginners make is consuming too much shatter, wax or budder, etc. Doing so will result in an uncomfortable high for anyone involved. As a result, the first tip for beginners would be to start small, as they don’t call them “dabs” for nothing!
Starting with only a tiny piece of concentrate will also allow you to determine your personal tolerance for consuming concentrates. As with most things, you can always do more if necessary.
If you’re using a dab rig, the act of heating a nail to the appropriate temperature requires the use of a torch (often with butane). As a result, proper torch safety is key to making sure you don’t hurt yourself or someone else. Try not to use any auto lock feature to ensure full control over the flame when you apply it to the nail, and always be sure to refill your torch outdoors or in an area with proper ventilation.
Use a Dab Mat
When using a dab rig, make sure you set it on a mat while consuming. These padded, soft mats (often seen in silicone) ensure that your rig won’t slip off the table or get scratched up from a hard surface.
Use Low Temperature
When you’re dabbing, temperature is key. You want the nail to be hot enough to vaporize the wax or shatter, but not so hot that your concentrate combusts and leaves you with a poor taste and a harsh hit.
One of the biggest learning curves for most beginning dabbers is understanding how to perfectly heat the nail for a good hit. If you’re using anything other than glass, get the nail red hot until it’s glowing. As it cools, put your hand over it and wait until it’s just bearable to hover close to it. Note that for quartz and titanium, you’ll want to wait a bit longer as these materials tend to retain heat better. It will most likely take a bit of trial and error, but you’ll soon learn how to properly heat your nail to get the smoothest hit possible.
Heat the Nail, Not the Rig
When handling a torch, make sure to only heat the nail and not the rest of the rig to prevent discoloration and potential broken glass.
Don’t Touch the Nail
While it goes without saying, if you’re heating an element with a torch at extremely high temperatures, it’s in your best interest not to get too close. Remember that the nail will stay hot for a period after it’s heated, so it’s best to wait a bit before touching.
Go Small with Little Percolation
If you’re looking for a dab rig, try to find smaller pieces of glass without large percolators, as any diffusion will dilute your hit. Glass pieces are favored to enjoy the taste of the concentrated terpenes.
Try an E-Nail
If you want to avoid using a torch to heat up the nail, explore an electric nail. Basically, it’s a metal box with a port for a coil, a switch and a PID that gauges your coils current temperature. Consumers enjoy the ease that comes along with an e-nail as the device heats up to the perfect temperature each and every time and it will stay cleaner, longer.
Always Clean Your Dabber, Nail & Dab Rig
To keep your setup going strong for a long time, make sure to clean your tools often. After using a dabber, heat the end to easily remove residual product. As for the nail, use a Q-tip, a dabber or a torch (to burn off the extra concentrates) to ensure a clean set up for next time. In general, make sure your dab rig stays free of lingering concentrate to ensure the best, most flavorful hit every time.