October 20, 2020

All About Dabs: The Comprehensive Guide To Cannabis Concentrates

October 20, 2020
Picture of a marijuana or cannabis dab rig used to smoke vaporized weed dabs.

Dabs are a many-splendored thing. They are the gateway to a pure high, not merely for the impatient, but also for the sophisticated connoisseur who doesn’t want anything getting between them and their most-favored THC. Bear in mind, though, that as they are incredibly concentrated, they do have the potential for unwanted side effects: you may want to start your dabbing by micro-dabbing: using tiny amounts and dialing it in until you reach the high you’re looking for.

Water Hash

Water hash is named for the fact that it uses water or ice rather than a chemical solvent to get the concentrate you crave. In contrast with some more allegedly sophisticated dabs, it is literally created using a filtered bucket with some ice water. Real pros go through the process more than once to ensure maximum THC filtration. The final result looks crystalized, like grains of quinoa, and is of course extremely potent. It should be stored in a cool place, which is good advice for most dabs. Fully liquid or oil hash is what you’re aiming at with the ice bucket process, and is considered a “five star” or, occasionally, “six star” hash. The more plant matter remaining, the lower the quality, with the chunkiest result being mostly used in the production of edibles. Hardly useless, mind, but not the perfect dab you’re looking for.


You’ll recognize shatter by its rich amber-like color and resin-like texture. It’ll almost look like a smallish stack of dab glass, albeit red and cloudy rather than translucent. It’ll typically have a bunch of bubbles, which add to its fossil-trapped-in -amber appearance. Shatter is also produced using butane, but the end result is a solid instead of an oil or liquid. 

Shatter’s advantage over other dabs comes with its relative stability. You get the same massive, concentrated high that you get from other dabs, but after a quick burst or two of inhalation that minimizes the smoke damage to the lungs. Shatter tends to last longer than other dabs, too. You do need to take care to have the tools to break off the small pieces ofShatter for your dabs, however, as the hard resin shape can be difficult to work with. If the Shatter has a stretchy, taffy-like consistency, you have ended up with Pull-and-Snap, which is functionally the same but a bit wonky to make use of. Finally, if you don’t let Shatter fully dry after you produce it, you get Sugar, which looks vaguely like it came out of a slurpee machine. The main difference is there is the semi-liquid consistency. 


We’ll make this easy for you. Wax is the same as Shatter, but for one important thing: its physical form. Wax looks like crumbly, chalky, well….actual earwax-looking appearance. It’s a little easier to produce and easier to actually dab, which makes it more popular than Shatter among certain clientele, but it does lack the solidity and beauty of the former. You’ll want a rig to actually dab this, as like Shatter, it’s solid nature makes it difficult to inhale using a mere joint. You need the proper apparatus!

Sometimes called butane hash oil (BTO), wax dabs look distinctly like their namesake, but they may also appear to have a texture similar to honey. Its mid-level consistency makes it a favorite in the dab scene. Wax is very easy to work with, and runs few risk of embarrassingly falling apart at the moment of truth. The butane part of the name is due to the use of the solvent to create the substance, the Wax is what remains after butane application. Wax is beloved for its enormously high THC concentration: one hit can equal over a dozen lesser joints. 


Looks like something you’ll smear opposite the jelly side of your PBJ, and has a similar consistency to Jiff Creamy. Budder doesn’t really have any unusual chemical properties, but is easy to work with and smear on a nail, and there is real value in that!


Here’s the thing about shatter: to make it, you of course need a solvent to break the plant down and get at the amber stained goodness you crave. Rather than using a solvent, it effectively squeezes the dab right out of the plant using pressure, avoiding the need to add chemicals to the equation. You end up getting all the good parts of Hash Oil or Shatter, but none of the solvents, and the process can be completed quite quickly. As you can tell, Rosin definitely gets our thumbs up for high quality without any intervening chemicals.

So How Do I Dab?

The first question is the manner of acquisition. In a world where dabs are legal, you owe it to yourself to buy your concentrate from a legal source. This isn’t out of some atavistic attachment to law and order, this is about keeping yourself alive: if you buy from extralegal sources, you’re going to have no idea what level of concentration or purity you’re dealing with, and the results of inhaling smoke of unknown concentration can be dangerous.

This goes double for contamination, as even well meaning dab creators can make mistakes during the process that results in a contaminated batch. You don’t want that going straight into your lungs, right? You’re gonna be using those for a while! 

The how’s of dabbing are the trickiest bit. Once your dab of choice is well in hand and you’re in a nice, relaxing spot, it’s time to actually do the deed. This is as good a place as any to mention that if you’re a beginner, micro-dabbing is probably a really good idea. Without getting into any complex measurements or rules, here’s a simple principle: start with a tiny, miniscule amount and dial it up from there.

A teeny amount of concentrate, approximately the size of the nub at the end of a pin, should serve you well. The good news is that you won’t have to wait long to know if you’ve done too much or not enough, as the whole point of dabbing is that the high will hit you almost immediately—make sure you’re sitting down for this one.

In any case, what you’re going to need is a dab rig. Once you have one, you are going to apply the dab in question to the nail, which should be made of a heat resistant material like ceramic. You apply the concentrate using a dabber, which is really just an elongated spike that you smear the concentrate onto, a glorified table knife. The heat is applied using a butane torch, which must be handled with care as it is a potentially dangerous piece of equipment. 

The nail will effectively incinerate the concentrate, allowing you to rapidly inhale the vapor and get that high. You’ll want a timer, to make sure you’re applying the heat at a regular rate, as too quickly and you might end up losing some of the potency. It’s worth mentioning that when the nail is doing its work, it gets really heated; be careful to avoid touching it or setting it down on any surface that is even vaguely flammable….you probably aren’t going to be in a mental state for firefighting! For similar reasons, you may want to purchase a flame retardant dab mat for setting your rig upon…it can save your house from burning down, and can be stylishly expressive or austerely functional as per your requirements. You also need to keep your rig and nail clean. You’re not gonna be in the mood to clean anything post-dabbing, but be sure to find time to clean and preferably sterilize your rig later.

So this should set you up for your first adventures into the wonderful world of dabbing. It’s a far cry from THC laced gummies, without a doubt! When you sit down and rig up, heat that nail and spread a little wax on, get ready to have the high of your life! But whatever you do, be sure you do so carefully and responsibly. Dabbing and getting high is ultimately about having a good time, and you shouldn’t endanger yourself as part of it. Done with caution and planning, dabbing is one of the most amazing highs you can experience. Light up and enjoy! 


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