How to Dab Cannabis Concentrates

A brief overview on what a dab is, how to “take a dab”, and some of the best options to consume various cannabis concentrates such as wax, oil, hash, badder, rosin, shatter and crumble…..

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How to Dab Cannabis Concentrates

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May 3, 2021 8 min read

By Ben Chambers in Cannabis Info , Art of Glass

Dabbing has become one of the hottest methods for the new wave of cannabis consumers and connoisseurs to experience cannabis extracts. Not to be confused with the 2015 dance craze, this method of consumption is the next progression for the modern stoner, with a plethora of options at your disposal as to how to “take a dab”. Ranging in learning curve and automation, here are a few favorite methods from the Calyx team below. But before we start:

What is a dab?

A dab is simply a term for a cannabis concentrate that is meant to be consumed using some specific methods outside your traditional joint/bong/bowl. The methods we will discuss below allow for optimal consumption of the concentrate: meaning better flavor, better vapor production, and the best efficiency with the product when done properly.

How do I dose my dab?

Concentrates are significantly more potent than your standard flower product, with ranges of 40%-99% depending on the type of extraction process, so it is important to dose appropriately. For “dabbable” extracts, you will want to start off with a grain of rice size and work you way up from there. Remember: You can always take another dab, but you can’t take that dab back once you do. Best to err on the side of caution when first learning how to dab.


Cannabis concentrate on dabbing tool with rig in background

Photographer: Val Anselme

You mention “dabbable” concentrates. What does that mean?

I am glad you asked! When dabbing, not all concentrates are created equal, and may actually end up causing damage to your equipment. Some examples of extracts you can dab are:

  • Live Resin

  • Shatter

  • Rosin

  • Wax

  • Crumble, etc.

Ask your budtender when purchasing whether your extract is usable when dabbing before purchasing.

Now that we have explained a little bit about the dabs themselves, lets jump into a few of our favorite ways to dab.

Torch, Nail, and Rig (Cold Start Method)

The most manual and probably scariest method for many people, this is the most common way people think of dabbing. Traditionally, a “nail” made from quartz (a special type of glass, not the crystal), titanium, or ceramic is put into the pipe in place of a regular flower bowl. This is then heated with a torch, and the dab is then dropped onto the hot nail to vaporize.

However, heating up the nail first requires learning the heat up time of your nail, as well as it’s cool down temperature. Our recommendation: Cold Starts. This will work only with what are known as banger or bucket style nails, quartz cylinders with a flat top that will allow you to put on what is called a carb cap (short for carburetor like in a car). The cap helps to reduce the boiling point of the concentrate, producing more vapor and better flavor at lower temperatures. The steps are as follows:

  1. Place a grain of rice ( or your preferred size) onto the cold nail using a dab tool

  2. Put on the carb cap

  3. Heat the bottom of the nail with the tip of your torch flame just until the entire concentrate is melted and has begun to bubble. You will see vapor start to form.

  4. Begin to inhale through the pipe (rig) and keep pulling until no more vapor begins to form
    1. Depending on the type of carb cap, you may need to rotate or move the carb cap. This will help to distribute to concentrate more evenly around the hot nail.

  5. Reheat a 2nd time until the concentrate has begun to dissipate.
    1. It is important to avoid overheating here, as it can cause unpleasant flavors, harsh vapor, and produce carcinogens at high enough temperatures. I would avoid reheating more than 2 times, at most 3 times if you have to.

  6. Remove carb cap, and clean any residue left behind using a cotton swab (dip the swab in isopropyl alcohol if needed)

This method removes a lot of the guesswork and need for timers or expensive thermometers that have begun to hit the market. It’s still manual, and does require some investment into equipment, especially as cheap quartz or torches can lead to some negative experiences, but it can give you the unparalleled flavor.

Nectar collector

This method of concentrate consumption takes the previous nail and rig setup and inverts it, making it extremely beginner friendly. A quartz or titanium straw is attached to the bottom of a glass pipe, which can be filled with water or sometimes left dry (water cooled is always recommended), with a mouthpiece at the other end. While this method tends to run a little hot, it can be efficient and extremely friendly to those new to the concentrate realm. Steps for use are as follows:

  1. Place a grain of rice ( or your preferred size) dab onto a small glass dish (like an empty Calyx Glass Jar!)
    1. Some people skip this step and will place the tip directly to their concentrate container. We don’t recommend this, as it can degrade the concentrate as a whole more quickly.

  2. Place the dish on a stable surface Where you can easily access it (Table w/ a dab mat or damp towel will work great)

  3. Fill your nectar collector with water if it needs it.

  4. Heat the tip of the quartz or titanium straw for 15-30 seconds, let it cool for 15-20 second (you will need to experiment for best results, or get an infrared thermometer for best accuracy)

  5. Place the heated tip to the concentrate at an angle of 45-60 degrees and inhale (this will prevent concentrate being directly sucked up the straw)

  6. After you’re done, you can clean the tip with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. If it ever gets really dirty, you can always do a “torch clean” and heat the tip to help remove residue, although this will reduce the integrity of the tip overtime.

If you’re looking for the best flavor and smoothest experience with your concentrates, then I would recommend looking into other options. However, the high portability and ease of use make this perfect for the dabber on the go, or someone who is looking to dip their toe into the world concentrates for the first time.


Elaborate smart dab rig with blue & teal glass on a metal base

Photographer: Val Anselme

Smart Rigs/Dab Pens

These products are the newest entrant to the market. There is actually a surprising breadth of devices available beyond the usual suspects, especially if you’re someone with a little bit of technical knowledge and you’re willing to source some parts from different places.

Similar to the world of computers, you have your options that come pre-built, full of the features you want, and with that comes a higher price tag. Some examples include the Puffco Peak Pro, Dr. Dabber Switch, and High Five Duo. These devices provide an all in one experience, with details including Bluetooth connectivity, USB-C Charging, docking stations that charge your phone, and even interchangeable glass pieces from some of the best artists in the world.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have options for those willing to go the DIY route. Two affordable and readily available options are the Top Flow Saionara from Humboldt Vape Tech and the Divine Tribe V4 Quartz Crucible. Both of these fit onto a standard 510 Box Mod typically used for nicotine vaping, and once properly setup have full temp control. They can be used as portable pens, or with adapters they can work with already existing rigs to provide the premium Smart-rig experience at a much lower price point. There is even a dedicated community to these devices on reddit, with tons of guides should you want to build your ultimate DIY dabbing device.

The most important thing about all these devices: They mimic (or at least try to mimic) the experience of the torch, nail, and rig, while eliminating the questions around temperature, timing, and the need to refill your torch with butane. Just plug your rig back into the charger, wait a few minutes, and you’re back in business.

As for directions, each device will have its own directions, but typically using a Cold Start will work best, so preloading the concentrate into the device's heating chamber before use is often the best method (unless directions specify otherwise). From there, turn it on to your specific temperature with a button press, and inhale. These devices make dabbing that easy.


Dab rig with Calyx Concentrate container with cannabis concentrate in foreground

Photographer: Val Anselme

So what is the best way to dab?

That really comes down to preference! We here at Calyx consume our concentrates in a range of ways, and even change how we consume within the day. And for many of us, our method of consumption has evolved over time as we have learned our preferences. While we do recommend some water cooling, as it creates a smoother experience, find whatever works best for you.


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