Learn how to dab, and explore the types of cannabis concentrates, how they are made, and their benefits in this guide.

How to Dab: A Guide to Cannabis Concentrates

As of July 1, 2024, cannabis concentrates – or “dabs” as they’re often called – are now legal for recreational use in Maryland! Previously only available for medicinal use, concentrated cannabis products such as oils, live resins, shatter, and diamonds offer a wide new range of recreational weed experiences for Maryland consumers – and SunMed is proud to offer some of the finest products for dabbing on the market.

In this guide, we’ll explore what dabbing is, the different types of concentrates for dabbing that are available, and how to enjoy them safely and effectively. 

What Is Dabbing?

Dabbing is a method of inhaling concentrated cannabis extracts by vaporizing them on a hot surface and inhaling the vapor through a specialized water pipe called a dab rig. This technique delivers a potent and immediate high due to the powerful concentration of cannabinoids, particularly THC, in the concentrate.

Dabbing utilizes a dab rig, a nail (often made of titanium, quartz, or ceramic), and a torch or electronic nail (e-nail) to precisely heat the concentrate to its vaporization point. This process allows users to experience the full flavor profile of the cannabis and enjoy a faster onset of effects compared to traditional smoking methods

What Are Cannabis Concentrates?

Cannabis concentrates are highly potent substances created by extracting cannabinoids and terpenes (the aromatic oils that contribute to a strain's flavor and effects) from the cannabis plant. This process concentrates the active ingredients, resulting in a product significantly more powerful than traditional flower.

Available in various forms like shatter, wax, batter, and oil, cannabis concentrates are produced using different extraction methods, such as butane, CO2, or ethanol extraction. Each method aims to isolate and preserve the desired compounds, with some concentrates reaching upwards of 80-90% THC.

Due to this potency, a small amount of concentrate can deliver significant psychoactive effects and relief from medical conditions, which has long made them popular among experienced users and those seeking stronger therapeutic benefits.

Are Weed Concentrates the Same as Cannabis Extracts?

Extracts are a specific type of cannabis concentrate made using solvents (CO2, butane) to isolate cannabinoids and terpenes from the rest of the plant, resulting in shatter, wax, and oils. However, concentrates can also be solventless, like rosin or hash, which are produced through pressing or sieving. The key difference lies in the production method: extracts use solvents, while concentrates encompass both solvent-based and solventless techniques.

What's the Difference Between Concentrates and Dabs?

Cannabis concentrates, like shatter or wax, pack a punch by concentrating cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant. Dabbing is a specific method to heat and inhale these concentrates, delivering a potent and fast-acting high. While all dabs are concentrates, not all concentrates are dabbed; some can be vaped or even added to flower for consumption. In short, concentrates are the product, and dabbing is how you use them.

How Concentrates Are Made

As we mentioned above, concentrates are made by extracting cannabinoids and terpenes either through solvent-based extraction (e.g., butane, CO2) or solventless techniques (e.g., heat, pressure). These extraction processes isolate the active compounds, resulting in a potent, refined product. Both methods aim to maximize potency and flavor, catering to different preferences and needs in the cannabis community.

Solvent-Based Extraction

Butane and propane, known as hydrocarbon solvents, are popular choices for their effectiveness at dissolving target compounds from cannabis plants. However, their extreme flammability necessitates a closed-loop system and strict safety protocols during operation. 

For a safer alternative, supercritical CO2 extraction utilizes carbon dioxide in a pressurized and heated state. In this supercritical state, CO2 acts as a solvent, pulling out the desired compounds without the fire risk associated with hydrocarbons. 

In either process, the resulting solution, rich in cannabinoids and terpenes, then undergoes a purging process to eliminate any residual solvents. This leaves behind the concentrated cannabis product, such as shatter, wax, or oil, ready for consumption.

Solventless Extraction

Solventless extraction methods take a purist's approach, relying solely on mechanical techniques to separate the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant. This can involve sifting trichomes, the resin glands containing the desired compounds, through fine mesh screens (dry sifting). 

Another popular method is ice water extraction, where cannabis flowers are submerged in icy water and agitated. The trichomes become brittle in the cold and detach from the plant matter, easily carried away by the water current. 

Finally, rosin pressing uses intense heat and pressure to squeeze out the resin from cannabis flowers or hash, resulting in a gooey, flavorful concentrate.

Solventless methods are prized for their purity and ability to capture the full spectrum of terpenes, leading to concentrates known for their distinct taste and aroma, like hash or rosin.

What Are the Different Types of Weed Concentrates?

Weed concentrates come in various forms, each offering unique textures, potencies, and consumption experiences. Here are some of the most common ones.

Wax

A favorite among dabbers for its user-friendly texture, wax is a potent cannabis concentrate produced through solvent-based extraction. Once isolated, the cannabinoids and terpenes are whipped to create wax's signature soft, pliable consistency. Wax is ideal for users seeking a powerful and flavorful experience, whether for immediate relief or a potent recreational high.

Shatter

Shatter, a glassy golden concentrate prized for its purity and potency, is also a solvent-based extract. Using butane or CO2, processors isolate cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material. The resulting solution is purged of solvents and settles into a brittle, amber sheet, easily snapped into dab-sized pieces. Its high THC content (often 70-90%) and clean extraction process translate to a powerful, long-lasting effect and a smooth, flavorful experience when dabbed.

Batter (or Badder) 

Batter, or badder, is a cannabis concentrate recognized for its creamy, butter-like consistency. This texture is smooth and easy to handle, making it a popular choice among concentrate enthusiasts. One of the cleanest and most sought-after concentrates, it’s extremely pure and potent with a terpene-rich profile. This high terpene content provides a rich, flavorful experience, making it a favorite among those who appreciate the nuances of different cannabis strains. Effects from batter can be more intense than flower and settle in faster. Its creamy consistency, high THC content, and rich terpene profile make batter a popular choice for both recreational and medicinal users.

Crumble

A drier and easier-to-handle cannabis concentrate with a cheese-like texture, crumble is likewise a product of solvent-based extraction. The key difference lies in the purging process. Crumble is purged at lower temperatures for a longer time, resulting in a drier consistency compared to shatter or wax. However, this doesn't diminish its potency or flavor. Its unique texture makes crumble a popular choice either for dabbing or for sprinkling on flower or adding to joints for an enhanced cannabis experience.

Live Resin

Unlike other concentrates made from cured flower, live resin utilizes flash-frozen cannabis, preserving the full spectrum of natural aromas and effects. This is achieved by rapidly freezing freshly harvested plants to lock in their chemical makeup before solvent-based extraction at low temperatures. This meticulous process protects the delicate terpenes, resulting in a concentrate often more flavorful and aromatic than others. Live resin's texture can vary from saucy to solid, but it's consistently prized for its ability to deliver a potent and authentic cannabis experience, ideal for dabbing.

Cured Resin

Cured resin is a cannabis concentrate made from cannabis that has undergone a traditional drying and curing process. Curing involves storing the cannabis in a controlled environment to slowly draw out moisture under optimal conditions. The right balance of humidity and temperature is essential to prevent mold growth while preserving essential cannabinoids and terpenes. Cured resin's unique characteristics are a result of the careful curing process and extraction methods, making it a preferred choice for those seeking a more mature and distinct cannabis concentrate experience.

Crystalline Diamonds

Crystalline diamonds, a crown jewel of cannabis concentrates, boasts exceptional purity with potencies often exceeding 99% THC or CBD. Achieved through advanced extraction and purification, it isolates the target cannabinoid (THC or CBD) in near-perfect crystalline form, leaving behind all other plant materials and terpenes. This translates to a clean, potent experience ideal for precise dosing.  While it lacks terpenes, crystalline can be enjoyed on its own or combined with terpene-rich concentrates or other cannabis products for a flavor boost without affecting the targeted effect. This makes crystalline a top choice for users seeking the ultimate in purity and potency.

Oil

Unlike concentrates meant for dabbing, cannabis oil is ideal for vaping, edibles, and tinctures. Produced through CO2 or ethanol extraction, cannabis oil packs a punch with concentrated cannabinoids and terpenes. This allows for precise dosing and a range of effects depending on the chosen cannabinoid profile (e.g., THC-dominant for recreational use, CBD-dominant for medical purposes, etc.). Its discreet nature and ease of use make it a favorite among both medical and recreational users seeking a potent and convenient cannabis experience.

Rosin

A solventless concentrate prized for its purity and full-spectrum effects, rosin’s extraction process is quite unique. Unlike solvent-based concentrates, rosin skips the chemicals altogether. Instead, heat and pressure are applied to cannabis flower, squeezing out a potent and flavorful sap. This method preserves the plant's natural terpenes and cannabinoids, resulting in a concentrate that captures the essence of the original material. Rosin's texture can vary from a sticky sap to a more solid form depending on the extraction parameters, but it consistently delivers a clean and flavorful experience. 

How to Dab Weed Concentrates

So we’ve gone over what you use for dabbing – now how do you do it? Well, to dab effectively, you'll need the right tools. Let’s look at what you’ll need…

Necessary Tools for Dabbing

  • Dab Rig: A specialized water pipe designed for vaporizing concentrates

  • Nail: A nail made of quartz, titanium, or ceramic, used to heat and vaporize concentrates

  • Dab Tool: A metal or glass tool for handling and applying concentrates to the heated nail

  • Torch or E-nail: A tool used to heat the nail to the optimal temperature for vaporization

  • Cannabis Concentrate: Your preferred concentrate, either shatter, wax, batter, rosin, etc.

  • Carb Cap (optional): A heat-resistant accessory that helps regulate airflow and maximize vaporization efficiency during dabbing sessions

  • Dab Pen (optional): A portable, battery-powered vaporizer designed for concentrates

A Step-by-Step Guide to Dabbing

The dabbing process involves vaporizing cannabis concentrates on a heated surface and inhaling the vapor for a potent and immediate effect. Here’s how you do it!

Step 1: Prepare Your Dab Rig

Fill the dab rig's water chamber with enough water to submerge the downstem without splashing. Ensure all components of the dab rig are securely attached and clean to ensure smooth airflow.

Step 2: Heat the Nail

Choose your preferred nail (quartz, titanium, ceramic) and use a torch or e-nail to heat it. Heat the nail until it glows red hot or reaches the desired temperature (usually between 315-450°C or 600-850°F). If using a torch, heat the nail evenly, focusing on the bottom and sides to ensure thorough heating.

Step 3: Prepare Your Concentrate

Use a dab tool to pick up a small amount of your preferred concentrate. Start with a small amount, as concentrates are potent. Keep the concentrate ready for quick application to the heated nail.

Step 4: Inhale the Dab

Once the nail reaches the desired temperature, turn off the torch and let the nail cool for a few seconds to optimize flavor and smoothness. Apply the concentrate to the nail's surface while inhaling gently and steadily through the mouthpiece of the dab rig. Use the dab tool to touch the concentrate to the hot nail and rotate it to ensure even vaporization.

Cover the nail with a carb cap if available to trap heat and improve vaporization efficiency. Continue to inhale slowly until all the concentrate is vaporized. Adjust your technique based on the size of the dab and the intensity of the vapor.

Step 5: Exhale and Clean Up

Exhale smoothly to enjoy the effects of the concentrate. When you’re finished and the nail has had time to cool down, use a cotton swab or q-tip to clean the nail and remove any residue for the next use. Allow the dab rig to cool down completely before storing or handling.

Is There a Simpler Way to Dab?

For a simpler dabbing experience, you can ditch the torch and nail! Electronic options like dab pens and e-rigs offer a user-friendly and portable alternative.

  • Dab Pens: Discreet and ideal for on-the-go use, these pens function similarly to vape pens but cater to the thicker consistency of concentrates.

  • E-Rigs: These electronic dab rigs take the guesswork out of heating with automated temperature control, reducing the risk of overheating or burning your concentrate.

Both options provide a convenient and efficient way to enjoy the benefits of dabbing, minus the complexity of traditional methods.

Tips for Dabbing Safely

Following these tips can help ensure a safe and enjoyable dabbing experience, minimizing risks while maximizing the benefits.

  • Start Small: Begin with a small dab to gauge its potency and your tolerance level. Concentrates can be much stronger than smoking flower.

  • Use Quality Tools: Invest in a reliable dab rig, nail, and dab tool to ensure consistent and safe dabbing experiences.

  • Heat Carefully: Use a torch or e-nail cautiously to heat the nail. Avoid overheating, which can cause burns or degrade the concentrate's flavor.

  • Ventilate: Dab in a well-ventilated area to minimize inhaling excess fumes from heating the concentrate.

  • Keep Clean: Regularly clean your dab rig and accessories to maintain purity and prevent buildup that can affect taste and efficiency.

  • Stay Hydrated: Dabbing can be dehydrating, so drink water before and after sessions to stay hydrated.

  • Take Breaks: Allow time between dabs to assess the effects and manage tolerance. 

What Are the Benefits and Risks of Dabbing Cannabis Concentrates?

While beneficial for medical and recreational users, considering potency and potential health risks is important before dabbing or using cannabis concentrates.

Benefits of Dabbing Concentrates

  • One of the key advantages of dabbing lies in its high concentration of cannabinoids, particularly THC. This translates to a quicker onset of effects, delivering a more intense high for experienced users.

  • Dabbing excels at preserving the full spectrum of terpenes, resulting in a richer and more enjoyable experience. 

  • Dabbing is also efficient. Smaller amounts of concentrate are needed to achieve desired effects, making it a more economical way to utilize cannabis.

  • Finally, the consistency of concentrates allows for precise dosing, empowering users to tailor their experience based on their tolerance and desired outcome.

Risks of Dabbing Concentrates

Dabbing concentrates offers a unique and potent cannabis experience, but it's not without its drawbacks. Understanding these risks is crucial for making informed decisions and practicing safe consumption of cannabis concentrates.

  • The high concentration of THC involved in dabbing can lead to anxiety or paranoia, especially for inexperienced users.

  • Dabbing also requires specific equipment and a learning curve for using it safely and effectively.

  • Some research suggesting high-temperature dabbing may be linked to respiratory risks, though more study is needed.

  • Solvent-based extraction and the high temperatures required for dabbing can introduce safety concerns if not handled properly by users or manufacturers. That’s why it’s even more important to purchase concentrates from a licensed producer like SunMed. All our products are subject to strict lab testing for purity, both internally and by the state of Maryland.

How Potent are Cannabis Concentrates?

Concentrates deliver a stronger and more immediate effect than other cannabis products due to their concentrated cannabinoid content. They’re highly potent, often containing THC levels ranging from 60% to upwards of 90%. This potency is significantly higher than typical cannabis flower, which averages around 10-25% THC. 

How Long Does it Take for Weed Concentrate to Kick In?

The onset of effects from weed concentrates can be almost immediate, typically within seconds to a few minutes after inhalation or ingestion. Dabbing or vaping concentrates allows cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream quickly, resulting in a rapid onset of effects compared to edibles or traditional smoking methods.

How Long Does the High From Concentrates Last?

The duration of the high from cannabis concentrates varies based on factors like potency, dosage, and individual tolerance. Generally, the effects can last anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, with peak effects occurring within the first 30 minutes to an hour after consumption. If using a highly potent concentrate, you could feel the effects for an entire day.

How Many Dab Hits Is Enough?

The number of dabs needed varies greatly depending on individual tolerance and concentrate potency. Beginners should always start slow, with just one small dab, to assess its effects. Experienced users might require more, but pacing is crucial to avoid overconsumption and potential adverse reactions. Remember, tolerance is unique to everyone. 

Is Dabbing Cannabis Concentrates Safe?

Cannabis concentrates offer a potent consumption method, but responsible use is crucial. Improper extraction can leave harmful solvents, high-temperature dabbing irritates lungs, and the concentrated nature can lead to overconsumption. To mitigate these risks, source concentrates from reputable producers, maintain proper dabbing temperatures, start low and slow with dosage, and dab in a well-ventilated area. Following these practices promotes a safe and enjoyable dabbing experience.

Are Cannabis Concentrates Legal?

The legality of cannabis concentrates, including popular forms like wax, shatter, and oil, varies widely depending on jurisdiction. While other cannabis products such as flower and edibles have been legal for recreational use in Maryland since 2023, cannabis concentrates were only available for medical use until recently. Understanding local regulations is crucial for users interested in dabbing and other concentrate consumption methods to ensure compliance with legal requirements and enjoy cannabis responsibly.

How to Dab FAQs

How Are Concentrates Different from Flower?

Cannabis concentrates pack a punch compared to flower. Extracting the potent parts of the plant concentrates cannabinoids and terpenes, leading to a much stronger experience with a smaller dose. Unlike flower (typically 10-25% THC), concentrates can reach 80-90% THC. Consumption also differs. Instead of smoking, concentrates are vaporized using dab rigs or vaporizers, allowing for a quicker onset and potentially more efficient use.

What Concentrate Gets You the Most High?

The potency of cannabis concentrates varies, but products like THC crystalline can reach up to 99% purity, offering a highly potent experience. However, the intensity of the high also depends on individual tolerance, dosage, and consumption method, such as dabbing or vaping.

Is Dabbing Better than Vaping?

When it comes to dabbing or vaping, It's all about preference and impact. Dabbing packs a potent punch with its high-temp vaporization, ideal for experienced users seeking immediate effects. Vaping offers a smoother, less intense experience thanks to lower temperatures, making it beginner-friendly and versatile for both flower and concentrates.

How Do I Get the Most Out of Dabbing Concentrates?

To elevate your dabbing experience, prioritize quality. Invest in a reliable rig, e-nail, or dab pen. Start low and slow with your dabs, gradually increasing the amount as needed. Dial in the temperature between 315-450°F (157-232°C) to optimize both flavor and potency. Explore different concentrates to discover your favorites. For long-lasting quality, store concentrates in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. Finally, maintain your equipment with regular cleaning to ensure peak performance and flavor.

How Should I Store My Cannabis Concentrates?

Store cannabis concentrates in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources to prevent degradation. Use airtight containers made of non-reactive materials like glass or silicone to maintain potency and preserve flavor. Refrigeration or freezing can also prolong freshness for long-term storage.

Try SunMed’s Cannabis Concentrates

Discover a world of premium cannabis concentrates crafted by SunMed Growers in Maryland's optimal greenhouse environment. Our selection of concentrates are carefully produced to ensure exceptional purity, potency, and flavor. Find a dispensary near you to experience the SunMed difference and elevate your cannabis experience!