Advances in Dabbing – cold-start & other innovations

Quartz – the vaporisation surface of choice

As the world of cannabis concentrates evolves, so do the methods of consumption used to enjoy these extracts. The basic principle of vaporising the extract and inhaling it through a water pipe or rig/bubbler made from borosilicate glass remains the same, although the size of these bubblers has, as a general rule, reduced somewhat over time. The main changes have been in the surfaces upon which the vaporisation itself takes place. In a short number of years, we’ve gone from fairly rudimentary methods like titanium skillets or swings, through adjustable nails with glass domes, domeless nails made from ceramic or titanium, right up to the quartz “banger” nails used as a standard by almost anyone who dabs today. Even these quartz nails have evolved in the last couple of years, from the early slanted-top design to the flat-top bangers that are de-rigueur at the session these days, and on to even more creative and functional designs. Who knows what innovations will await us in the coming years?

Various quartz bangers: (l-r) Flat-top with bubble cap; Slanted top with directional cap; Thermal banger with quartz bubble cap

Various quartz bangers (l-r): Flat-top with bubble cap; Slanted top with directional cap; Thermal banger with quartz bubble cap

At the time of writing, quartz is still considered to be the best all-round surface for dabbing, due to the purity of flavour, with no taste imparted by the quartz itself, and also the high resistance to thermal shock, meaning that quartz can be heated up and cooled down quickly in ways that would otherwise crack borosilicate glass. It is also relatively cheap to manufacture, with mass-produced Chinese quartz bangers available for very little cost. Higher-quality bangers made from either German or US-produced quartz can be considerably more expensive, but the prices are representative of the materials and production quality employed and will last for longer if properly cared for.

New Dabbing Techniques

In the most commonly used method of dabbing, the base of the quartz banger is heated with a blowtorch for anything from thirty to 45 seconds, (and often until it glows orange or red) with the help of a digital or analogue timer to count the seconds. It is then left to cool down again for up to a minute, to reach the ideal temperature for vaporisation. Times will vary depending on the type of banger and the thickness of the quartz base and walls.

Comparing a "chazzed" banger with a well-cared for one only used for low-temperature dabbing.

Comparing a “chazzed” banger with one only used for low-temperature dabbing.

This method works well enough but has a couple of disadvantages, primarily that it overheats the banger, which can affect the long-term condition and integrity of the quartz material itself (known as “chazzing” the banger, a permanent blackening of the surface caused by dabbing at too high a temperature) while burning way more butane than needed to heat the banger. Additionally, it can be difficult to gauge the cooling-down time correctly, often resulting in a dab that’s either too hot, with a burnt flavour that causes lots of coughing, or too cold and completely unsatisfactory. As a result, some new techniques for using quartz bangers have arisen with the aim of improving the dab experience and making sure your quartz will last longer without getting “chazzed“! Read on to find out all about them in this article.

The Cold-Start Dab

You’ll need the following items to get this technique to work properly:

This technique is quick, effective and easy to master, delivers very tasty dabs and has the added advantage of not requiring a timer of any sort. As the name suggests, this method of dabbing heats the cannabis concentrate up to vaporisation temperature from a cold start.

The Cold-Start method in action.

The Cold-Start method in action.

  1. Set the rig up with the correct level of water and fit the banger.
  2. Place a dab of the desired size into the base of the banger using the dabber and place the bubble cap on top of the banger. It’s best to use a flat-top banger and a round bubble cap for this method because it relies on a certain amount of balancing while we heat the nail up. With a slant-top banger and a flat carb cap, we’re more likely to drop and break something.
  3. Now heat the base of the banger using the lowest heat setting on the blowtorch, taking care not to point the flame directly at the glass carb cap, which could crack it.
  4. Maintain the heat until you see the extract turn to liquid and begin to bubble (after around 6 or 7 seconds), at which point you can turn off the blowtorch and start to inhale. You’ll soon get the hang of which is the ideal moment to stop heating and get the perfect flavour and a satisfying hit.
  5. After the nail has cooled down below vaporisation temperature, you can reheat it for another 3-4 seconds and get another tasty hit or two out of it, depending on how much extract remains in the banger.
  6. When you’re finished, you’ll notice that the extract may not have evaporated away completely, but as every dab connoisseur knows, you’ve got to waste it to taste it! Remove the carb cap and use a fresh cotton bud to clean away the residue while it’s still warm. Use isopropyl alcohol or DC Glass Cleaner for any stubborn stains.
  7. The Quick-Start Dab

    This technique was inspired by the cold-start method and came about from concerns that pre-heating the extract during the cold-start could lead to certain terpenes being lost before inhalation begins. Terpenes are what bring the aromas and flavours to cannabis and are particularly volatile by nature, having evaporation points considerably lower than those of THC.

    Ready for dabs with a Terpometer and an Aluminium Nitride insert

    Ready for dabs with a Terpometer and an Aluminium Nitride insert (Source: Instagram @papercut.2)

    To avoid this happening, the quick-start method simply heats the banger up for the absolute minimum time possible so that it reaches the ideal vaporisation temperature at the precise moment that we place the concentrate into the nail. This means that there’s no pre-heating of the cannabis concentrate before we inhale and that there’s no need to wait for the nail to cool down before loading the dab and taking the hit. This technique, like the cold-start method, consumes a great deal less butane than the regular technique of heating the nail up and waiting for it to cool down. And because we’re only heating up for a very short time (from 6 to 8 seconds, depending on the individual banger) we can do it without a timer, as it’s relatively easy to just count the seconds out to ourselves: one Mississippi, two Mississippi, and so on…

    You’ll need the same kit as for the cold-start, although with this technique it’s not so crucial to have either the flat-top banger or the bubble cap, because we’re not doing any “balancing” while we’re heating up, unlike the Cold-Start method. If you have a tendency to be clumsy then this method is probably best for you!

    1. Prepare the rig as before and load an appropriately sized dab of the extract onto the dabber. Keep this close at hand, ready to apply at the correct moment, along with the carb cap.
    2. Heat the base of the nail for between 6-8 seconds using the lowest heat setting on the blowtorch. Counting out the seconds while you’re heating it is just as easy, if not more so than using a timer.
    3. As soon as you stop heating, turn off the torch and immediately place the extract on the dabber into the banger and quickly cover with the carb cap and inhale.
    4. You may find that your particular banger needs slightly more or less time to reach the perfect temperature for vaporisation, so a little experimentation is necessary to perfect the method, but once you “nail it” you’ll be able to enjoy quick and tasty dabs anytime!

    Other innovations

    As well as these two alternative dabbing techniques, there have been other advances in the world of concentrate consumption, also aimed at improving the ease and quality of the dab experience. Here we’ll look at a few of them:

    Thermo-chromatic Banger

    Thermo-chromatic Banger

    Thermo-chromatic bangers.

    These are double-wall bangers filled with thermo-chromatic sand, which changes colour according to the temperature, offering the user a visual guide as they heat up the banger, which makes getting the perfect temperature really easy, without having to bother with using a timer.

    A banger insert made from synthetic ruby

    Synthetic ruby banger insert

    Banger Inserts

    Inserts for bangers have become rather popular recently, they can be best described as small cups that sit inside the banger itself, into which the extract is loaded, to provide a superior quality surface for dabbing. They can be made of a range of different materials with unbeatable flavour and heat-retention, such as synthetic ruby or synthetic sapphire, and as a result, tend to be rather expensive. They’re definitely not for the occasional dabber, but for those dedicated fans of cannabis concentrates who spend a lot of money on extracts, they can be a great investment.

    Terp Pearls

    Quartz spheres aka "terp pearls"

    Quartz spheres aka “terp pearls”

    These are small quartz spheres (and sometimes other shapes too) that are designed to be placed in the banger before heating, with the aim of improving heat-retention and to offer more complete vaporisation of the cannabis concentrate. They are best used with “Spinner Caps“, a design of carb cap designed to introduce the air into the banger as a vortex, causing the pearl or pearls to spin around the base of the banger, ensuring an even coating of the extract over the quartz surface and more complete evaporation.

    Terp Slurpers

    This is the name given to a completely new style of banger design which incorporates a lower dish with air-slots as well as one small cylindrical chamber and one large main chamber. The innovative design of these nails offers maximum efficiency and ensures full vaporisation of the extract, as well as delivering what users of this design often describe as a more potent and “heady” high. They also provide quite the visual spectacle, especially when complemented with a couple of terpene pearls and a solid marble carb cap, which really gets the terp pearls spinning like crazy!

    Terp Slurper quartz banger. (Source: Instagram @papercut.2)

    Heating up a Terp Slurper quartz banger. (Source: Instagram @papercut.2)

    Precision Temperature Control

    Another dab accessory that has become popular in recent times is the use of some kind of digital thermometer to ensure the banger is at the perfect temperature for dabbing. These dab thermometers take a few different forms, with most models sitting on the tabletop directly underneath the banger to take the temperature reading. One model, the Terpometer, has even incorporated a thermometer probe into the other end of a dabbing tool, making it possibly the most comprehensive and user-friendly dab thermometer so far!

    As you can see, the trends and tendencies of cannabis concentrate consumption have been in constant motion as more and more stoners decide to leave behind the harmful effects of smoking joints and pick up a rig and blowtorch. Hopefully, this article will help you to enjoy more flavourful dabs and keep your quartz nail in perfect condition for longer. In the comments section below you can let us know your preferred technique or methods for consuming cannabis concentrates, we can’t wait to hear it!

    Happy dabbing!

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