By now, you’ve probably noticed I like to stress the importance of flavorful dabs. To me, capturing the true essence of the strain that your hash is made from blurs the line between science and art. But this calculated approach doesn’t stop at the hash-maker; true dabbing enthusiasts are scientific in their curiosity and approach. They study the structures and behaviors that lead them to the best possible dab. By studying and adjusting your own process, you can optimize each thing you do until you’ve perfected your own personal method.
As consumers, we have little control over things like the potency, terpene content, or the physical form our concentrates take. So, we are left to manage the things we can control.
Once the hash is in your hands, there are a few things that can influence the flavor of your dab:
- Dabbing temperature
- A clean dab rig
- Quality and material of your dabbing surface
Of these, the most important factor you can control is the temperature at which you dab. Let me share a few different ways I monitor and control temperature depending on how and where I’m dabbing.
1. Digital Monitoring with E-nails
Monitoring your temperatures digitally is the most precise and effective way to vaporize hash at a consistent temperature. The simplest way to keep a steady and accurate temperature is to invest in a quality electronic nail, typically referred to as an e-nail. All e-nails consist of the same basic parts:
- A nail or dabbing surface, generally made from quartz, titanium, or ceramic.
- A heater coil attached by a cord sits below the nail’s dish or bucket and keeps it hot.
- A power controller that plugs into the wall and provides electricity to heat your nail.
- The most useful e-nails will give you a digital temperature display and incremental control over temperature.
E-nails aren’t without their own limitations. The most apparent is that they can be cost-prohibitive for dabbers on a tighter budget. There are some affordable options, but most of these lack the features you need to maintain precise control. You might find these models more frustrating than the traditional means of heating your nail with a torch. So, I recommend saving your money until you can invest in a nail that gives you everything you need.
To a degree, e-nails also restrict where you can dab. Since most are corded devices, they require an electrical outlet which is why I rarely use my e-nail on anything but my daily driver rig at home. However, there have been a number of innovative electronic rigs, or e-rigs, that have burst on the scene recently. These provide some of the control of a typical e-nail, but with portability in mind. (I’m personally pretty excited to see the Puffco Peak!)
2. Analog Timing
My preferred way to dab is off a quartz banger using a butane torch to heat up the bucket. This doesn’t offer the same control over your dabbing temperatures as digital monitors, but with a little trial and error, you can dial in your preferred temperature with careful timing.
Once your quartz is hot from the torch, it will hold heat well and cool very slowly. This slow cool allows you a certain window of time to dab at the temperature you prefer. To ensure precision, time your dab using any timer or watch available. I typically use a small sand minute-glass timer or the timer on my smartphone. Use these to time how long you’re heating your nail and again for how long you let the nail cool.
Depending on the thickness, age, and quality of the quartz, these times can vary. But don’t worry–this isn’t an exact science. I generally heat my banger for 30 seconds and let it cool for roughly 55 seconds. If I’m dabbing in a cold room or if I’ve already been dabbing off that same piece, that time can be adjusted 5-10 seconds in either direction.
This timing pattern allows me to find my preferred window of temperature, but the only way you can find what works best for you is through trial and error. In your first few attempts, you may either scorch your hash by dabbing too hot or leave a puddle of oil that wasn’t able to fully vaporize because your nail cooled off. Don’t stress it! Just take note and adjust next time.
3. Experience and Intuition
When attempting any task, there is rarely a more effective substitute than experienced intuition. The more you do something, the better and more refined you become at it. So, when I find myself without tools that offer me analog or digital control over dabbing temperature, I rely on what feels right.
Since we’re looking for a certain temperature range, I use my sense of touch to tell me when I should dab. I simply heat my banger for 30 seconds, until it’s just barely glowing red. Then I’ll let it start to cool. After a short duration, usually enough time to scoop up my dab with a tool and make sure my carb cap is handy, I place my empty hand just a few inches above my banger. (DO NOT TOUCH THE HOT NAIL!) You only want to be close enough to feel the heat coming off the surface.
With my hand hovering above the nail, I do a few checks to see if the heat gets too hot for my skin (once again, do not make contact with the nail’s surface). Once it has cooled to the point that there isn’t a direct pinpoint of heat on my palm, I know I’m at about the right temperature. Think of when you pull something out of the oven. I look for something that feels about 100 degrees hotter than when I pull a pizza out of the oven at 425°F.
There’s no way to be precise with this method, but you can practice by holding your hand above your warm nail at home while you are timing and feel for that ideal temperature range.
Avid Dab of The Week
Recently I had the chance to visit Gabriel Cannabis out in Issaquah, Washington. They have an amazing facility, elite genetics, and a friendly team of cannabis advocates. Their flower is top-notch! If you ever have a chance to try Gabriel, I recommend their Chocolope and Sherbet. They also press some awesome golden rosin that is all squished fresh onsite from dry sift.
This is some of their Cookies N Cream rosin. It’s got a smooth, buttery consistency that’s easy to work with and produces a thick creamy vapor that continues to expand after you exhale. The flavor profile is a pungent earthiness with subtle sweetness and a doughy finish. The high is powerful, creating a pleasant aura around you without completely knocking you down.
What are you dabbing on this week? What tricks do you use to get a great dab every time? Share your dabbing tips on Instagram and tag me (@the.avid.dabber) and use #aviddabber. Or tell me what’s up in the comments section below. Next week I’ll dive a little deeper on the temperatures I like to dab at and why. Until then keep a smile on your face and ONLY DAB THE BEST!