Dabbing is a great way to enjoy a variety of THC concentrates. Find out how cold start dabbing works and discover which technique works best for you.

Cold Start Dabs vs. Hot Start: A Guide

Traditionally, dabbing has meant placing one of several different kinds of cannabis concentrates on a super-heated surface called a “nail” or “banger” to instantly vaporize it. However, as more people adopt the practice, people have experimented with new ways to dab, and what’s called “cold start dabbing” (or “reverse dabbing”) is a popular new way to experience dabbing’s potent effects.

Whether you’re new to dabbing, or an old pro, knowing the difference between a cold and hot start will let you tailor your smoking experience to best fit your needs. In this article, we'll cover the tools you need for dabbing, how to dab with a cold or a hot start, and how these two techniques offer different benefits or drawbacks.

The Basics of Dabbing

In the cannabis world, dabbing has become the go-to way to experience your favorite concentrates in their most pure and potent form. Unlike traditional smoking methods, dabbing produces a cleaner, more flavorful vapor, free from the combustion of plant material, providing users with a purer ingestion of THC.

Equipment You Need for Cold Start Dabbing

In order to dab, you’ll need the appropriate tools. Let’s run through what you’ll need:

  • Dab Rig – Somewhat similar to a bong, a dab rig is a smoking apparatus designed specifically for cannabis concentrates.

  • Nail (or Banger) – Made from materials like quartz, titanium, or glass, the nail is the surface upon which the concentrate is placed and vaporized.

  • Torch – A butane torch is used to heat the nail to the desired temperature.

  • Dab Tool – This is an elongated pick used to handle the concentrate or oil. 

  • Carb Cap – Dab rigs often feature water filtration systems to cool and filter the vapor, creating a smoother inhalation experience. A carb cap is used to cover the nail after applying the concentrate, helping to control airflow and vaporize the concentrate more efficiently.

How to Cold Start a Dab

Whereas hot starting involves heating the nail or banger before adding the concentrate, during cold starting, or “reverse dabbing,” as it’s sometimes called, you place the concentrate on the nail or banger prior to heating it. This technique is gaining popularity for its ability to enhance flavor and provide a smoother dabbing experience.

To cold start a dab, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare Your Equipment - Ensure your dab rig, nail or banger, and dabber tool are clean and ready for use.

  2. Apply the Concentrate - Use your dabber tool to place a small amount of concentrate onto the unheated nail or banger.

  3. Cover with a Carb Cap - Place a carb cap over the nail or banger to help control airflow during the heating process.

  4. Heat the Nail/Banger - Using a torch, gently heat the nail or banger until the concentrate starts to melt and produce vapor.

  5. Inhale - Once vapor starts to form, begin inhaling through the mouthpiece. Rotate the carb cap to enhance vaporization and airflow.

  6. Finish the Hit - Continue heating and inhaling until the concentrate is fully vaporized. Avoid overheating to maintain flavor and smoothness.

The Benefits of Cold Start Dabs

People often choose to cold start their dab because they want to experience more flavor. Research has shown that lower initial temperatures preserve more terpenes and can lead to a more flavorful hit. In addition, gradual heating reduces the harshness often associated with high-temperature dabs.

The Disadvantages of Cold Start Dabs

When it comes to cold starting your dab, it can be difficult to master the technique and achieve the perfect temperature each time. If done incorrectly, you could be left with a wasteful amount of sticky concentrate residue. This technique is best suited for someone who has already mastered hot start dabbing.

How to Hot Start a Dab

If you’re new to dabbing, it’s best to start with the tried and true hot start method before you venture into cold start dabbing. Just follow these steps:

  1. Heat the Nail - Use a torch to heat the nail or banger of your dab rig until it’s visibly hot.

  2. Cool Down - Let the nail cool for about 45 seconds to a minute. This step is crucial for achieving the right temperature, which should be hot enough to vaporize the concentrate but not so hot that it burns, ensuring a smoother experience.

  3. Apply the Concentrate - Using a dab tool, apply a small amount of concentrate directly onto the nail inside the dome. The amount should be no bigger than a crumb to start with, especially for beginners.

  4. Inhale Slowly - Cover the nail with a carb cap if you have one, and inhale slowly through the mouthpiece of the dab rig. The carb cap helps regulate airflow and maximizes the vaporization of the concentrate.

  5. Exhale and Enjoy - After inhaling the vapor, exhale immediately. You should feel the effects quite quickly due to the high potency of the concentrate.

  6. Clean the Nail - After use, it’s a good practice to clean the nail with a cotton swab to remove any residue, maintaining the purity of flavor for the next dab.

This method is considered using a "hot start," referring to how the nail or banger is heated prior to applying the concentrate. It's important to carefully heat the nail to avoid any overheating or scorching, and you should allow the nail to cool (for about 45 seconds) before applying the concentrate.

The Pros and Cons of Hot Starting

Dabbing with a hot start ensures that all of your concentrate gets vaporized, leaving almost zero residual oil and leading to less waste. It’s a convenient and relatively easy way to enjoy concentrates.

However, a lot of cannabis enthusiasts argue that while dabbing with a hot start produces a quick, potent hit, the terpene flavors are often lost. When using a hot start, there’s also always the risk that you could overheat your nail and be left with a burnt-tasting inhale.

The Bottom Line: Which Method Should I Use?

Now that you know the differences between hot and cold starting, how do you decide which method to use?

The bottom line is: both techniques will effectively vaporize your concentrate and create an enjoyable dabbing experience. The more important difference you can make to change or elevate your dabbing routine is to use high-quality concentrates that contain appealing terpenes, flavor profiles, or strains.

FAQs About Cold Start Dabbing

Do Cold Start Dabs Get You Higher?

Cold start dabbing is good for preserving flavor, but the jury’s out on whether or not it gets you higher. Cold start dabs do preserve more terpenes, which can enhance the overall potency of THC through the entourage effect. This can lead to a different type of high – one that many people find more well-rounded and enjoyable.

Can I Use My Regular Dab Rig for Cold Start Dabs, or Do I Need Special Equipment?

You don’t need any additional equipment to get started cold dabbing – the same tools you use for hot starting will work just fine. However, it’s more important to have a carb cap when you cold start because the vaporization process takes longer and you don’t want any of it to go to waste. 

Can You Cold Start a Dab without a Carb Cap?

You can cold start a dab without a carb cap, but it’s not ideal. That’s because carb caps help restrict airflow, which helps the concentrate vaporize more efficiently. Without a carb cap, some of the concentrate may not vaporize completely and instead get stuck to the nail. Incomplete vaporization can also reduce the flavor and potency of the dab.

What Temperature Should I Aim for When Doing a Cold Start Dab?

The ideal temperature range for a cold start dab is typically between 315°F and 450°F. This temperature range efficiently vaporizes the concentrate without burning off the terpenes. Cooler temperatures generally result in a smoother hit, but hotter temperatures result in more vapor production. The ideal temperature also varies depending on what sort of concentrate you’re using. With practice and experimentation you’ll find what works best for you.

Explore the World of Cold Start Dabbing with Concentrates from SunMed 

Explore a diverse range of premium, responsibly cultivated products from SunMed. Extracted from our sun-grown cannabis cultivated in our Dutch style greenhouse, our concentrates deliver elevated cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that preserve true-to-strain potency and flavor. Find a dispensary near you to discover what SunMed is all about!