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The Art of Dabbing: The Evolution of Concentrates in DC

Dabs can be found through tons of weed delivery companies here in DC, including Flower Ave. But where exactly did they come from, and what makes concentrates so special? Whether you’re familiar with dabbing or just getting started, we’re breaking down the history of concentrates below and showing you how you can get started if you’re not so familiar with them yet.

a gram of cannabis concentrates with a dabber holding live resin on a black background. The text reads "The history of concentrates: exploring the art of dabbing"

What is dabbing?

Dabbing is an easier way to say that you’re vaporizing a cannabis concentrate. Concentrates are extracted forms of cannabis that typically check in around 75-95% THC, so they’re a lot more potent than flower. Dabbing involves heating up a quartz nail (AKA a banger) and applying cannabis concentrates to the pre-heated surface. Touching dabs to the hot surface vaporizes the cannabinoids for a smooth, flavorful hit and a lot more potency than flower alone.

The art of dabbing was discovered early and refined many times over the years. However, the version we’re most familiar with today started back in 2003 when budder was first introduced into a Canadian dispensary. However, vaporizable cannabis concentrates have existed since at least the 1940s. While it took over 50 years to make a stable, traditional dabbable product, it took even longer to come up with the setup of today, known as the dab rig.

The History of Dabbing

Cannabis has been used since ancient times in a variety of different forms, though modern concentrates are very different from the concentrates of days past. They evolved from oral medicines made in an alcohol-based extraction method in the form of tinctures mixed with morphine and codeine in the early 1800s into the dabbable concentrates we know and love today. However, it took us a long time to get there, thanks to prohibition. Here’s what we know:

A timeline of the history of cannabis concentrates and dabbing. A purple timeline with white boxes.

Early 1800s — Cannabis is used freely and made into tinctures which are prescribed by doctors. These extracts are made into oral medicines and tonics after extracting the THC using alcohol.

1937 — Cannabis becomes prohibited in the US, and using it becomes illegal. Doctors are still technically allowed to prescribe it, but it’s nearly impossible, and cannabis tonics begin to cease.

1940s — The first notes outlining how to make concentrated cannabis appears. These concentrates are intended for oral consumption and vaporization.

1950s & 1960s — MK Ultra mind control experiments begin. Cannabis hash oil vapors are used alongside LSD and laced into tobacco cigarettes.

1970s — Solvent-based alcohol extract methods are tested on cannabis. Two books are published, and the term “honey oil” is coined. The first covers the basics of the process, and the second expands on the chemistry.

1990s — Using the chemistry and process from the books published in the 70s, another book is published to elaborate and pose new methods. This book offers the very first detailed description of solvent-based extracts made with butane, also known as BHO or butane hash oil, in a closed-loop system.

2003 — Using the process from the 90s, the first dabbable concentrate makes its way into a Canadian dispensary called Da Kine. It’s known as “budder,” a soft opaque wax.

2005 — Budderking, the man responsible for the first budder back in 2003, unveils his device for dabbing, which is now known as a dab rig. He also discusses how to make shatter using the same BHO method, except instead of whipping it and turning it into wax, you pour it over a flat surface and let the solvents evaporate out.

2009 — The internet begins taking an interest in dabbing, and high-quality solvent-based hash oils become increasingly popular.

2010 — Concentrates make their way to the High Times Cannabis Cup. Later, they become a standard in most retail dispensaries.

2012 to present — The cannabis industry continues to modernize and innovate cannabis. Advanced CLS systems and C02 supercritical extractors are introduced, making way for more modern concentrates, including vape cartridges and resins. Dabbing is a standard when it comes to cannabis, and many smart rigs have hit the scene to make the process less time-consuming and more efficient.

What kinds of dabs exist today?

We’ve come a long way from simple budders and shatters, folks. But that’s a good thing— it means there are many different types of concentrates out there to suit all sorts of tastes, preferences, and price ranges. Here are a few of the most common ones you’ll find:

  • Shatter: Shatter is made using butane in a closed loop system. The final product is poured onto a sheet where it hardens as the butane evaporates out. When it’s ready, it shatters like glass and is usually amber to light yellow in color.

  • Wax: Wax is made just like shatter, except it can be aerated or whipped into a soft, opaque concentrate before being fully purged of butane. The final product is butane free.

  • Nug run: Nug Run refers to concentrates like shatter and wax made using a solvent-based extraction method that uses dried cannabis flowers instead of trim.

  • Distillate: Distillate can be found in many topicals, tinctures, and edibles. It’s made in a CO2 extraction process that strips all plant materials and terpenes away, leaving behind pure cannabinoids like THC or CBD only. The final product is usually clear in color and both flavorless and odorless. Distillate can also be found in vape cartridges, though manufacturers will usually take extra steps to reintroduce terpenes for flavor.

  • Live resin: Live resin is made using a solvent-based hydrocarbon extract that also utilizes heat and pressure to evaporate the final solvents out. It leaves behind small THCa diamonds and a terpene sauce. The term “live” simply means that the starting material was flash-frozen plant materials and flowers, so the terpenes are still living and flavorful.

  • Cured resin: Cured resin is the same as live resin, except it’s made with dried cannabis flowers instead of fresh flash-frozen ones. It can also be called “dead resin” for this reason.

  • Diamonds: Diamonds are one of the most potent forms of concentrates made in a solvent-based extraction, checking in at 90-99% THCa. They are made similarly to live and cured resin, though the difference is how the concentrate is purged of solvents at the end. Under heat and pressure, diamonds form in a crystalline structure, hence the name.

  • Sauce: Sauce is made for terpenes and not cannabinoids and is named for its runny consistency. It’s extracted in the same way as diamonds, though it isolates terpenes instead of THC. In some cases, small THC diamonds may form in terp sauce.

  • Hash oil: Cannabis oils are thin and runny, and they contain terpenes and cannabinoids separated from plant materials using a hydrocarbon, CO2, or distillate extraction method. Hash oils are extremely versatile and are often used in edibles, topicals, tinctures, vape cartridges, and infused pre-rolls.

  • Kief: Kief is collected at the bottom of a 3-chamber grinder. Kief refers to the THC-laden trichome heads that are extracted mechanically from cannabis flowers.

  • Rosin: Rosin is made by pressing cannabis material with heat and pressure to remove plant materials and retain cannabinoids and terpenes. There are three main types of rosin. The most expensive is fresh frozen rosin, also known as live rosin. However dry sift rosin and hash rosin also exist.

  • Bubble hash: Bubble hash is made by putting plant materials in a bucket with dry ice. The ice combined with mechanical sifting via shaking the product through micron mesh bags leaves behind pure trichome heads which are then pressed into hash.

  • Caviar: Caviar, sometimes referred to as Moonrocks, are made by taking ordinary cannabis flowers, dipping them in solvent-based CO2-extracted hash oil, and then rolling them in solventless kief.

A gram of cannabis concentrates on a black background

Why do people choose to dab over smoking flower?

Dabbing is becoming increasingly popular over flower for a handful of reasons. For starters, dabs typically provide more cannabinoids and longer-lasting effects. The high also tends to feel a little bit cleaner, and the presence of concentrated terpenes makes for more flavorful hits. Some people even believe that dabbing might be a little safer for your lungs since there’s no combustion involved— just vaporization. While there’s no scientific evidence to support that any type of smoking or vaping is safe, dabbing may be cleaner since you’re not inhaling carcinogens from the smoke.

Ultimately though, they’re not all that different. They’re both consumed via inhalation and they’re both weed at their essence. However, some people have a slight aversion to dabbing because it involves a variety of different tools to enjoy properly, which can be a higher upfront cost for the same end goal: getting high. To the untrained eye, dabbing may also look like partaking in a much harder drug than cannabis. But even with that said, medical patients and recreational cannabis users prefer dabbing for a few reasons:

  1. Dabs are more potent than flower.

  2. Dab highs last longer than flower.

  3. Dabs may provide a clearer-headed high than flower.

  4. Dabs taste better to some people.

  5. Dabs are more cost-effective. A little goes a long way!

All in all, concentrates are like flower, but stronger. If you have a lot of treatment-resistant issues like chronic pain or depression, concentrates may provide more powerful relief. If you've been afraid of concentrates due to stigma or appearance, they're still very much worth a try, so try to explore them with that in mind.

How much do dabs cost?

Concentrates range in price based on things like potency, purity, location, and extraction method. For example, fresh frozen live rosin, which is rich in terpenes and cannabinoids, will cost a lot more than shatter, which is often less potent and flavorful and can be made with cheaper materials in much less time. Further, a gram of live rosin in California, where good weed is plentiful, might cost $80, but in other places, it might cost up to $100.

At the least, the cheapest concentrates typically cost about $20-$25 a gram, and the most expensive concentrates can cost up to $100 a gram. If you’re feeling some sticker shock, it’s important to keep in mind that concentrates are more cost-effective than flower. Because you only need to use a crumb of concentrate at a time, a gram can last a lot longer than an eighth of flower. If you get a $25 gram of shatter that lasts you a week, you’re saving money on bud and still getting heroically stoned.

a colorful dab rig on a smoky black background

What do you need to start dabbing?

Dabbing has quickly become a huge hobby, so there are lots of ways to do it now. In fact, some devices, like the Puffco Peak Pro or the Focus V Carta, offer an all-in-one dabbing solution at the press of a button. If you’re looking to go with a more traditional setup, though, you’ll need a few different essentials to get started. From there, you can use all sorts of additional accessories to elevate your experience.

To get started, you will need:

  • A dab rig. This is how you will consume your dabs.

  • A quartz or ceramic nail (also known as a banger). This is the part that you heat up to vaporize your dabs.

  • A carb cap. This allows for better airflow as you dab and improves hit quality and flavor. Dabbing without a cap is not recommended.

  • A dab tool. You will use this to scrape your dabs into your banger.

  • A torch. You will use this to heat your banger, allowing you to vaporize your dabs.

  • Concentrates. This is the material you will vaporize.

  • Rig hygiene items. You must clean your banger after every use by using rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs to clean the nail.

And if you’re looking for some helpful accessories to amplify your experience or simplify the process, try some of these:

  • Terp pearls. Terp Pearls work with your carb cap to distribute heat evenly throughout your concentrates within your banger. As a bonus, they look cool and make those flavors pop.

  • Quartz inserts. Quartz inserts are like dishes you can toss into a hot banger. They keep the mess contained and can be soaked in alcohol to stay clean, but they also allow for more flavorful dabs and more even heat distribution.

  • Temperature gauges. These will tell you the exact temperature of your banger in real-time, allowing you to take a lot of the trial and error and guesswork out of heating and cooling your banger for dabs.

  • eNails. e-Nails heat up to the perfect temperature and stay hot, allowing you to take massive hits without having to reheat your banger.

  • All-in-one Vaporizers. These include products like the PAX Plus or the Puffco Peak. You can dab using these devices without needing a rig, banger, or torch. The trade-off is that they’re on the pricier side.

How much does a rig setup cost?

Dab rigs cost about as much as you want to spend on them. An ordinary bong will work in a pinch as long as you get a nail that fits it, so if that’s the route you choose, you’re looking at a $20 modification and about $40 for a torch, a cap, and a dabber.

However, a simple, no-fuss water pipe that’s smaller in size and doesn’t have a ton of percolators is better for getting the best flavors out of your dabs. Since you’re vaporizing and not combusting, you don’t need a ton of water chambers or percs for filtering smoke, and flower bongs aren’t great for dabbing. Ideally, you just want a dab rig with one simple perc and one water chamber to help preserve the flavors of those dabs.

Depending on the type of rig you buy, you’re looking at anywhere from $150-$500 to get started. However, kits tend to save you a little money. The dab rig sets from Yo Dabba Dabba are great quality and come with everything you need to start dabbing, minus the torch and the dabs. They’ll also only run you $100.

a shatter dab being applied to a titanium nail on a dab rig

How To Dab

If you’re ready to try dabbing on your own, simply gather your equipment and pick up a gram of wax at Flower Ave. From there, simply follow these steps:

  • Heat up your banger. Start by applying the flame from your torch evenly across the bottom and sides of your nail. A laser temperature thermometer helps, but you can also time it by heating it to red hot and allowing it to cool down for about 50 seconds. You want to shoot for a cooling temperature between 325°F and 710°F. Hotter dabs will hit you harder, and cooler dabs will taste better. We like to shoot for somewhere in the middle, around 450°F for a perfect low temp dab. (You can also cold start your dab, by dropping your dab in, capping the nail, and then heating the nail until your concentrate is fully vaporized before inhaling.)

  • Drop your dab inside. After your nail is the right temperature, use your dab tool to apply the concentrate to the nail.

  • Cap your banger using your carb cap to trap the vapor. You may have to spin it to encourage better heat distribution and move your concentrates around.

  • Inhale the vapor.

  • Clean the nail. When you’re finished, use a cotton swab and some rubbing alcohol to remove the leftover residue from your banger. If you heat that gunk up again without cleaning it, your next dab will taste pretty bad. You may also chaz your banger, which will leave it more susceptible to breaks and cause it to heat and cool at an unexpected rate.

  • If your dab burns, reheat the banger with a torch until the carbon residue disappears. For stubborn residue, you may soak your banger in alcohol overnight. We recommend using 91-99% isopropyl alcohol for best results.

Get Dabs Delivery in DC

At the end of the day, dabbing is indeed an art with a rich history and lots of new improvements to the craft. If you’re ready to start, get your dabs delivered anywhere in Washington, DC with Flower Ave. All of our products are tested for potency before they make their way into our online store, so you can rest assured that you’re getting something that smells and tastes great and feels even better.

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