Beginner’s Guide to Dabbing Concentrates

beginners guide to dabbing concentrates
June 28, 2019 By Stoner

Maybe you were turned on to dabbing from a friend, or heard about it online, but want to learn more about it, and how to take a dab.

We also link out to some other amazing resources we have created to help our fellow Stoners understand everything they need to know about how to dab, and where to find the best dabbing gear.

What is Dabbing?

A “dab” is a slang term for cannabis concentrates. Dab concentrates come in many forms such as:

  • Butane Hash Oil (BHO)
  • Propane Hash Oil (PHO)
  • Crumble
  • Wax
  • Oils
  • Honeycomb
  • And more…

Depending on the type of dab you choose, the experience is different, such as taste, temperature, high, smoking device, price and more.

“Dabbing” is the act of smoking these dabs, typically using a variety of popular methods, including:

  • Smoking a dab rig
  • Smoking a nectar collector
  • Smoking from a vaporizer

Typically, using dab rigs to smoke dabs is the most popular method. This can be done by purchasing a dab rig on its own, or by converting your bong to a dab rig by adding some dab rig accessories, such as dab nails, quartz bangers, domes, and more.

Because of the high temperatures associated with dabbing, there is a lot more risk with this type of smoking when compared with using water pipes. There can also be a lot more of a mess, as heating extracts at too high of a temperature can result in massive amounts of resin buildup.

It is important to understand dab rig safety before purchasing your first dab rig starter kit and getting started dabbing.

beginners guide to dabbing concentrates safety tips

5 Dab Rig Safety Tips for Beginners

Look, no one wants to burn their house down smoking a bit of cannabis extracts. While that sounds a bit extreme, there are some serious mistakes you can make while dabbing that can hurt you, people around you, and result in fires. So, it is important to take a few steps before dabbing in order to be safe.

1. Don’t Overheat Your Rig

One of the biggest mistakes first time dabbers make is heating up their rig WAY too hot. Sometimes this is a result of just not having enough experience, or because they have a rig that can be hard to tell if it is hot enough. Other times it is because they have been misinformed by a friend.

Ultimately, finding the best temperature for your dab rig is mostly about personal preference, the type of concentrate you are smoking, and the type of dab rig accessory you are using.

For the most part, you want to be dabbing between 300F and 600F. Any lower in temperature, and you will likely not melt the extract properly, which is what releases the terpenes, giving you that great flavor and igniting the THC crystals. Any higher than this, and you risk damaging your piece and even damaging your lungs, mouth and esophagus from extreme temperatures.

A lot of Stoners have the misconception that you have to heat dab nails and bangers until they glow red hot. This is just not true. In fact, by the time most nails and bangers are this hot, they are well over 1,000 degrees. This can be very dangerous for you, as well as damaging to the piece itself. Over time, this can cause unnecessary resin buildup which can taint flavor, or cause inconsistent heating, loss of heat retention, and more.

2. Make Sure You Turn E-Nails Off!

There are some dab nails that are powered electronically. While this is extremely convenient to users, giving them precision temperature control, near instant heating, and saves on butane costs, it also exposes them to dangers such as lighting your whole house on fire.

Realistically, e-nails are very reliable, and usually worth it in the long run if you are a frequent dabber. However, when purchasing one, you want to make sure that you are careful to look for safety features, and remember to turn it off and unplug it when you’re done using it.

3. Use a Child-Proof Dab Torch

Dab torches can reach temperatures upwards of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and contain highly combustible pressurized gas. Needless to say, they are not a toy.

When purchasing a dab torch, you want to look for ones that has safety features in case they are in the reach of children. These features are also nice to have just to make sure you don’t accidentally turn it on when packing, moving, etc…

4. Clean Your Dab Rig Regularly

Keeping a dirty dab rig or bong is actually very dangerous. Stagnant, room temperature water is an ideal environment for all types of bacteria to grow and thrive.

Over time, this bacteria builds up in dab rigs, and can cause serious health problems. You want to make sure to clean your dab rig regularly to stay safe while smoking. This Complete Bong Cleaning Guide has everything you need to know to get started.

5. Use a Steady Surface

Have you ever burnt yourself with hot oil that spattered out of a pan? It hurts right? Well, your stove top is usually around 300 degrees. A dab rig is usually a few hundred degrees hotter than that when it is heated up. As you can imagine, splattering dabs can hurt like crazy, and be extremely dangerous. A few ways to prevent against this from happening are:

  • Using a steady surface
  • Purchasing a deep dish quartz banger
  • Not taking massive dabs
  • Purchasing a carb cap
  • Using a domed dab nail

Overall, this isn’t really something you should have to worry about if you take the steps above into account before smoking. You will at least want a carb cap, or a domed nail. If not, be sure to get a deep dish quartz banger, or keep your dabs to normal sizes.

beginners guide to dabbing concentrates supplies needed

What Do You Need to Dab?

Alright, so now that we have all that fun safety stuff out of the way, it’s time to get to business. What materials do you need to get started dabbing?

1. Extract or Concentrate

Well duh! You can’t smoke without having something to dab with. Grab yourself some of that sweet concentrate, oil, extract, whatever you call it, and get ready to smoke.

2. Dab Rig, Nectar Collector, or Modified Bong

You can technically smoke dabs without a dab rig, by using either a nectar collector, or adding a dab rig accessory to your bong. However, there are a few reasons we recommend using a dab rig for beginners:

  • They are easy to use
  • They perform much better than the other two
  • They are strong and sturdy
  • They are more affordable
  • They are very versatile
  • They are the easiest to clean

If you are smoking out of a modified bong, you want to make sure that you have taken the right steps to make sure it is safe for dabbing. You can find out more about this in our Complete Beginner’s Guide to Bongs. Basically, you want to make sure that you choose the right attachment, the right size, and know how it works before smoking.

3. Quartz Banger, Dab Nail, & Other Dabbing Accessories

Most rigs come with a quartz banger or dab nail. There are plenty of types of accessories you can put on a dab rig, including a few different types of dab nails. There are a few dabbing accessories you may want to get started:

  • Quartz bangers look like pans with bent handles. They are made for holding larger dabs, and are very efficient at heating dabs quickly, and last very long if kept nice. They offer one of the smoother dab smoking experiences.
  • Dab nails are short, stubby, nail shaped accessories that you place the dab directly on top of after heating. They hold heat for shorter periods of times, and are generally used for smaller dabs.
  • Domed nails feature a dome around the nail. This allows for you to collect more vapor from each hit, prevent against airflow problems, and also prevent against splashback. Generally, they are made of quartz and allow for larger dabs than traditional nails.
  • Reclaim rigs reclaim nails are also available. These are usually built into rigs, but can also be purchases separately. Basically, they allow you to collect excess oils that build up on the side of your domed nails, by filtering it into a separate chamber for later collection.

The most important thing to understand when purchasing one of these accessories is that they each heat, hold heat, and cool differently. This affects the process you should use for heating them (only slightly), their performance, their longevity, and also how you should use them.

  • Ceramic dab accessories hold heat the longest and also take the longest to heat. They are the second most fragile behind quartz, and they are the most sensitive to rapid temperature changes.
  • Quartz dab accessories heat faster than ceramic, but hold the heat for shorter periods of time. They also have a lower maximum temperature, and are still sensitive to rapid temperature change, but not as much.
  • Titanium dab accessories heat the fastest, and hold heat longer than quartz, but not as long as ceramic. They are the least sensitive to rapid temperature changes, and the most sturdy. However, they can be damaged if not seasoned properly and if exposed to uneven heating over time. Also, they tend to be a bit more expensive and have a noticeable effect on flavor compared to the other materials.

There is one other accessory we strongly recommend for first-time dabbers, called the carb cap. These are special tools used to make the most of each dab. Basically , they act as a lid for your quartz banger, allowing you to keep all of the vapors inside, and get larger, more potent hits each time. This helps to save on extract, and also make for a better smoking experience, as they also help to cool smoke.

All you need to do to use this tool is to put it on the top of your dome or quartz banger and spin it around as you take a hit.

4. Butane Dab Torch

You really want to spend the money to get a torch that is specifically designed for smoking dabs. The reason for this is that they will keep you safe, allow you to have superior temperature control, portable, easy to refill, affordable, and will keep your dab rig nicer for a longer period of time.

There are also propane dab torches, but we do not recommend them for a few main reasons:

  • They have a negative impact on flavor
  • They are more expensive to refill
  • They are typically not designed for dabbing
  • They have a more precise flame that does not allow for even heat distribution

Looking to find the right butane dab torch for your needs? Check out our guide to the Best 10 Dab Torches of 2019.

5. Dabber Tool

The last thing you will need before taking your first dab is a dabber tool. These are the tiny little pencil-shaped rods that are used to load extracts from your container into your dab rig.

While these are small, they are very important. They help you to keep hard to remove (and smelly) oils off of your skin, and also prevent you from burning yourself while smoking.

They also allow you to stir the dab once you have loaded it onto your rig, which allows you to burn it evenly and get a better smoking experience.

These types of tools come in all sorts of designs, and are usually made from ceramic, titanium, and quartz. Some designer ones are a bit more expensive, but regular ones cost about $15 to $25.

We strongly recommend titanium dabber tools, as it is the most durable, least sensitive to temperature change, and makes for a very long lasting dab tool.

beginners-guide-to-dabbing-concentrateshow to smoke dabs in 6 steps

How to Dab in 6 Easy Steps

There are 6 basic steps to smoking dabs:

  1. Heat your dab rig –  Once you have filled your dab rig with the right amount of water, take your torch and heat your dab rig to about 350 to 600F. Do this by setting your torch accordingly, and then holding the flame steady on the nail or banger for about 30 seconds. That should be plenty of time with most butane dab torches.
  2. Let your nail/banger cool – Give your rig about 5-10 seconds to cool before taking your dab, just to make sure it is at the right temperature. This will ensure against burning your extracts, creating a total mess and a poor tasting dabbing experience.
  3. Use your dabber tool to get a dab – After your rig has cooled, scoop up some of that sweet extract on your dabber, and get ready to smoke.
  4. Take a hit – With your mouth on the mouthpiece, begin to put your dab into the rig, either on the nail or in the banger. From here, swirl the dabber around to make sure that all of the extract is being heated evenly. If you have a carb cap, you should put it on once you have dropped your dab in. Gently spin around the carb cap while you are inhaling.
  5. Exhale and repeat – Exhale your dab, and give it a few minutes to sink in. Chances are, if this is your first time dabbing, you won’t even need a second hit. These things are no joke!
  6. Safely store or place your rig and torch – It is super easy (especially when stoned) to forget how hot your dab rig is. Don’t leave it lying around somewhere that it could fall or be bumped into or brushed up against. Instead, put it in a safe place out of reach of pets and children. This will help ensure your own safety and the safety of others.

5 dabbing tips for beginners

5 Dabbing Tips for Beginners

If you really want to get the best dabbing experience, there are a few easy tips that you should keep in mind:

1. Don’t Be a Hero

Look, no one cares if you can take dabs through your nose, or if you can inhale the smoke from an entire 1/8th of extract in a single hit. Don’t do more than you can handle, especially to start. A bad experience can taint your view towards dabbing, and can also put you in harm’s way. Start small and work your way up, it will be a lot more enjoyable experience for anyone.

2. Hot Dabs Can Seriously Damage Your Lungs

You’ve seen burn victims before, or you have at least probably been burnt before. You know how it looks, all pink and gross and damages. Well, your lung tissue and esophagus are just as susceptible to burns as your skin are. So, you should take temperature control extremely seriously when smoking dabs.

3. Carb Caps Improve Dabbing 200%

Once you have smoked with a carb cap, it is hard to ever go back. The reason is because they just make for such a smooth smoking experience. On top of that, they save a ton of extract in the process, add to the flavor, reduce splashback, and are extremely affordable and long lasting. You can also purchase decorative carb caps if you are interested in accenting your dab rig.

4. Purchase Your Extracts Legally from a Reputable Source

Because they are simply oils pressed into sheet form, it can be extremely difficult to tell how dabs are made, and what exactly is in them. Based on the process, dabs can be very different from one another, with some being made using butane, others using propane. Without proper filtration, thousands of chemicals can be caked into your dab extracts. This can make for a ton of health concerns down the road. You want to make sure you understand How Dabs Are Made, their potency, and where they were made before purchasing dabs.

5. Invest in a Solid Dab Rig Kit

Just like smoking bongs or hand pipes, investing in one of the Top Dab Rigs can make a serious difference in your smoking experience. Some rigs can get extremely complex, costing thousands of dollars for custom blown glass with dozens of percolators. Other dab rigs are simple, but still get the job done exceptionally well. For beginner dabbers, we recommend the Starter Dab Kit, or something like it in order to have the best experience.

How Much Should I Dab?

So, how much concentrate should you use when dabbing. This really all depends on your personal preferences and tolerance. It also depends on the strain. Some concentrates are extremely potent, while others are more mild.

I’m sure you’ve seen those videos on Instagram of people taking absolutely massive dabs the size of fruit rollups. I’m not going to say you can’t do this, but I would strongly advise against taking huge dabs until you are comfortable and familiar with how they make you feel.

Because of the high concentration of THC in concentrates, usually over 90% by mass, smoking dabs is a much more intense experience than smoking regular cannabis. As a result, we recommend that you take your time, and smoke less to start, working your way up to larger doses.

As a rule of thumb, usually a dab around the size of a pencil eraser is the right size, or about .1g on a scale. This should be plenty, especially for a first time dabber.

how to smoke dabs for beginners how to smoke dabs

What Are the Different Ways to Smoke Dabs?

As you may have imagined, there are tons of different ways that you can smoke dabs. Here are a few of the more popular methods:

1. Dab Rigs

Much like bongs, dab rigs are water pipes designed specifically for smoking dabs. Most of the time, they are shaped specifically for the cooling and filtering of much hotter smoke than bongs. However, you can convert a traditional bong into a dab rig with a few accessories.

Nails

Dab nails are attachments that fit onto both male and female joints of all sizes. The are offered in quartz, ceramic, titanium and glass options, with the most popular being ceramic and titanium. Personally, we recommend ceramic. To learn more about dab nails, check out this comprehensive Guide to the Different Types of Dab Nails.

Quartz Bangers

Quartz bangers are our favorite way to smoke dabs. They hold heat longer than nails, and can hold much larger dabs. Because of their shape, they allow for the use of carb caps, which make for a much smoother smoking experience.

E-nails

Electronic dab nails are also available. They are quite expensive, but are worth it to people who are heavy dabbers in the long run because they last very long, heat almost instantly, hold heat indefinitely, have precision temperature control, and the nail itself can easily be replaced.

Silicone Rigs

Silicone dab rigs have recently hit the market and becoming bigger. They are equally as reliable as most glass rigs, but can have a funky taste to them. When purchasing a silicone water pipe, you want to make sure it uses safe silicone – in terms of human health and temperature resistance. One advantage to these rigs is that they are virtually indestructible. They are also very affordable, and some can even be cleaned in the dishwasher!

Recycler Rigs

Recycler dab rigs are a special type of dab rig that recycle the smoke multiple times before it reaches your mouth. This makes for an insanely smooth and cool dabbing experience when compared with regular dab rigs. They are a bit more expensive, but definitely worth it in the long run.

2. Nectar Collectors

Nectar collectors are a more portable way to smoke dabs on the go. They are essentially large straws that can be heated and then touched to extracts, which can then be inhaled. They typically have percolators, and easily break down into a few sections for easy cleaning and traveling.

Overall, nectar collectors are a pretty cool way to smoke dabs, but you want to be sure to invest in one that is high quality, as the lower quality ones can break easily, clog easily, and do not function properly.

3. Vaporizers

Believe it or not, some vaporizers are made fort dabbing cannabis extracts and concentrates. This makes for an extremely easy way to smoke dabs discretely and on the go. It is important when selecting a vaporizer for dabbing that you focus on quality, temperature control, ease of use, cleaning, and dependability of the brand.  

Helpingpot Blog

Learn Even More About How to Dabs for Beginners

Looking to learn even more about dabbing for beginners now that you know how to dab? At HelpingPot, we have tons of informational resources to help our fellow Stoners in their dabbing journey:

Best Dabbing Gear:

Dabbing Education:

Browse More Dabbing Gear:

Wrapping it Up – How to Dab for Beginners

Hopefully this guide has helped you to learn how to dab, and even more about dabbing in general. If you found this guide helpful, have feedback, or think we missed something, please leave us a comment below!

Also, if you want to have access to the latest news on dab rigs, bongs, cannabis news and more, be sure to subscribe to our email newsletter.

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Thanks for reading, we hope to see you soon! Before you go, be sure to also check out our Online Head Shop for some great deals on all of the best dabbing gear.

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