What is Dabbing? 4 Ways to Consume Concentrates

Let’s be honest: for newbies to the dabbing game, the whole concept might seem intimidating—and we’re not talking about your sweet dance moves. In the good old days, you smoked flower from a pipe, bong, or rolling papers, and that was that. But in 21st-century cannabis culture, dabbing has quickly become the preferred method of medicating for many MMJ patients, as dabs provide a faster delivery of the THC medicine. Dabs come in different forms that include wax, shatter, budder, and butane hash oil (BHO), but they’re all concentrated cannabis products used for dabbing.

“Dabbing is vapor, so it’s less harsh on your lungs,” says Ryan, a budtender at Swell Farmacy on Bell who prefers dabbing to other methods of consumption. “It might feel harsh at first, but start with low temps and small hits until you get used to it.”

Below, we’ll provide insight into the various ways to use cannabis concentrates so you can decide if it’s swell enough for you.

Dab Rig

At first glance, a dab rig may look like the most complicated smoking device of all. The device looks like a water pipe or bong, but requires a torch to heat the concentrate and create the vapor to be inhaled. Immediately, the blowtorch is what makes patients stray away from this method, but to make the option less scary, all you need is a little understanding.

“It looks scary, but the torch is just a heat source,” Budtender Ryan explains. What exactly is dabbing? It’s when cannabis concentrate is vaporized through contact with a hot surface such as a nail or glass rod, and then inhaled. First, you use the torch to heat up the nail until it’s red hot, then you use the dabber tool to dab a very small amount, about the size of a tic tac, of extract on the hot nail, and inhale. Patients may wonder why they can’t just use a regular flame to heat the nail. The reason is because a soft flame, such as that from a regular lighter, doesn’t get as hot as is needed to melt the extract, thus the need for a handheld torch.

It may take a little practice, but using a dab rig is relatively easy once you get the hang of it. Check out this step-by-step guide to dabbing from Leafly.

E-Nails (Torch-free)

Electric nail vapes are essentially dab rigs, just without the torch. Both dab rigs and e-nails use electronic heating elements to turn wax and oil concentrates into vapor. E-nails are a good option for patients who truly have no desire to learn how to use the torch for dabbing.

Budtender Ryan says, “E-nails are great as long as it’s a high-grade titanium nail. I personally prefer quartz nails, as they are thicker and more durable, but they don’t hold heat as long.”

Vape Pens

There are different types of vape pen options for concentrates: oil vaporizers and wax vaporizers. To use an oil vaporizer pen, you simply screw the heating chamber (disposable cartridge containing oil concentrate) into a rechargeable battery and activate by pressing a button on the side of the battery while you inhale from the mouthpiece.

Like oil vaporizers, wax vaporizers are powered by a rechargeable battery. The difference is the patient manually adds the solid concentrate (wax) to the pen rather than simply screwing on a pre-filled oil cartridge. Then, the concentrate is heated by a coil in the tank for direct inhalation.

Perhaps the simplest and most convenient way to dab, pens are appealing to patients because they are easy to transport and are discreet, as they resemble e-cigarettes and give off little smell. Although some people say that vaporized weed can have a burnt taste (probably due to overheating of the coil), others prefer its ease of use and discretion. Note: one way to avoid the burnt taste, you can turn down the voltage on your battery; however, not all pens have adjustable temperatures.


For patients who are resistant to give up smoking the good ole’  flower, t-waxing is an option that gives you the best of both worlds. T-waxing is a method of simply mixing dab concentrate with flower that doesn’t require any fancy devices to consume. All you have to do is add the wax to a bowl or joint of dry herb and consume as usual. Although, the wax is super sticky and can be messy if you aren’t careful, it’s recommended to drizzle the wax over the crumbled flower and roll into a joint. Also, be aware that if you’re trying to get the most “bang for your buck”, you’ll probably want to stick with the vaping options. No one wants to waste perfectly good dabs.

If you’re still unsure about which method of dabbing is the best for you, contact us or visit one of Swell’s four Valley locations and chat with a budtender like Ryan. We’re always here to help!

  1. That’s interesting that dabbing uses a red hot needle to vaporize a THC concentrate. I can see why you’d need a torch for that; like you said, soft flames don’t get hot enough. I’ve never been into smoking, so the next time I’m in Colorado I might have to try this method instead.

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