Concentrates and dabbing, demystified and explained

by DGO Web Administrator

In the landscape of legal marijuana, a new group of products has started to saturate the scene. Marijuana concentrates – highly potent extracts of cannabinoids and terpenes that are removed from the plant material for consumption – are now easier and more cost-efficient to extract because of the accessibility to proper facilitates and a variety of extraction methods done with state oversight in the burgeoning marijuana industry.

The idea of a concentrate is not entirely new to marijuana products; you might be familiar with hash, a concentrate made by pressing marijuana through a screen, either using heat or ice, or keif, a concentrate made by sifting plant material so the trichomes fall off into a powder form. But what makes this new group of concentrates different is not only how the marijuana concentrate is extracted, but also how it is consumed.

The science of concentrates may seem more complex than it really is. Basically, a solvent such as CO2 or butane is mixed with marijuana (the solute), thus creating a solution allowing the cannabinoids and terpenes to be extracted from the plant material. After extraction, the plant material is discarded and each solvent then dissipates, leaving behind solutions of varying consistencies, such as wax, budder, flake, shatter, and oil, all names given to describe the consistency of the end product. Because each solute is different at the beginning of the extraction process, as well as each solvent used, the end result and potency of each concentrate, or “dabs,” varies.

How people consume concentrates differs depending on the consistency, potency, and taste of the concentrate. Concentrates are best consumed via vaporizing. For oils, the most common is a vape pen in which the oil is contained in a cartridge attached to a lithium battery resulting in a vaporizing device about the size of a ballpoint pen. For thicker waxes, budder, or brittle concentrates like flake and shatter, you can buy portable rechargeable vaporizers with small chambers to fill with your own concentrate. While you can put concentrates into your pipe to smoke, it is not recommended because the heat applied through combustion will mostly melt your concentrate, resulting in very little smoke, and a lot of messy and expensive waste. But the most effective way to consume concentrates is to vaporize it with what is known as a dab rig.

Now down to brass tacks, or should I say titanium nails. A dab rig is a glass water pipe, similar to a bong. However, instead of a bowl, the concentrate is put onto a nail – a trough around an opening that then fits over the down-stem of the water pipe. This nail can be made of any material that can withstand high levels of heat, such as titanium, ceramic, or quartz (Originally they were made of titanium and shaped like nails, hence the name.) This nail is then heated with a small hand-held torch similar to ones used to put the crust on a crème brulee. After it cools a bit, a pea-sized amount of concentrate is placed onto the nail and drawn like normal through the mouthpiece. The advantage to the dab rig is not only less waste, but the cooling effect the water has on the concentrate.

The word “dab” is one of those nifty terms that can be used as a noun, verb, or adjective. A dab refers not only to any of the variety of concentrates that can be used in a dab rig, but also to the act of using said concentrate, such as dabbing. Dabbing is now quite popular, and the use of concentrates is on the rise due to new, inventive ways to get the most flavor and potency out of marijuana. It’s important to know that the THC percentage in some of these concentrates is in the 90s (for reference, most high-shelf weed we smoke is 25 percent). The word “concentrate” means something – take heed, just a dab’ll do you!

Thanks to my friends, bud tenders Laura and Danny at the Telluride Green Room, and especially their manager Joe, for their time, education, and advice. Meggie J is a published poet and freelance writer living in the Four Corners. She is an avid reader, rafter, and connoisseur of cannabis. She can be reached at [email protected].


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