Concentrates are produced from cannabis and contain high percentages of THC or THCA. Most of them can be vaporized, with the exception of kief and hashish, which contain too much biological plant material in them and leave a mess of biproducts behind after vaporization. In general, the more pure a concentrate is and the higher the THC percentage, the less there is left over during the vaporization process. Pure THC (“diamonds”) is the cleanest product to vaporize and leaves no waste behind. This extends the life of a vaporizer and no clean up is necessary after dabbing (see below).
Vaporizers made specifically for concentrates (like wax) are engineered with similar components. First, there is an atomizer that heats the concentrate to its boiling point so it evaporates into a vapor. It is located in a closed chamber to prevent splashing of hot concentrate and to retain the vapor for inhalation. Depending on the model vaporizer, condensation of THC vapor around the walls of the chamber may drip back to the bottom where the atomizer is. The atomizer heats the concentrate with wire coils similar to the wire inside of a lightbulb. The wire is coiled either around a cotton wick that absorbs hot liquid concentrate or around ceramic material. Concentrate is applied to the atomizer directly.
The most cost-effective vaporizer has a ceramic atomizer with a cotton wick in a glass chamber and can be purchased by contacting our office. Glass chambers are nice because patients can see the concentrate vaporize and the amount of vapor produced can be more carefully controlled. All such devices are portable and have a lithium battery that can be recharged between uses.
The most powerful way of medicating with THC is called dabbing. It is only recommended for the most experienced users because the doses of THC inhaled are so great.
Instead of using a vaporizer, a glass waterpipe called an oil rig (or dab rig) is used. It is large enough to sit on a table during use. If its water circulates between lower and upper chambers during inhalation, it is called a recycler.
The oil rig has a glass joint on it that can fit an attachment for a nail. At some point in history, someone probably heated a nail with a torch and realized when you apply concentrates to it they would vaporize. Since that time, pieces that are heated to high temperatures and used to dab concentrates onto for vaporaztion have been called nails. These pieces were historically made of metal but more often today are made of quartz glass. Glass with lead in it is called quartz glass and is the same glass used for crystal glassware (think Swarowski). The lead protects the glass from breaking or melting under high temperatures. Glass nails are called bangers and are shaped like a mug with a stem that inserts into the oil rig. They have a thick glass bottom to them so that the glass there can store more heat. Usually they are clear but high-end bangers are often infused with colors (and engraved with patterns).
The quartz glass banger can be heated with a torch or an electric coil (like the spiral on an electric stove). If a torch is used, it can be more dangerous and requires butane to refill the torch when it runs out. The flame is aimed at the bottom of the banger for 30-60 seconds and then it is allowed to cool for one to two minutes so it is not too hot. If it is too hot, the concentrate will singe and leave behind a black residue. Some of the concentrate can be wasted this way. When the banger is cooled to an appropriate temperature, which takes experience to determine, the concentrate will vaporize when it is applied without burning. Bangers require different torching and cooling times depending on how thick and large they are.
It is easier for most patients to purchase an e-rig or e-nail that has an electric coil around the banger. This can be adjusted to a specific temperature and left on between dabs and inhalations. THC boils and vaporizes at 160 degrees celsius and 320 degrees fahrenheit so the temperature of the nail should optimally be set to slightly above that. Make sure to turn off the e-nail after it is done being used or it could cause a fire.
The last component of the oil rig is a carb cap. After a small amount of concentrate is dabbed
into a hot glass banger, a glass cover is placed over the banger that has a hole through it to direct air towards the bottom of the banger where the concentrate has melted and is boiling into a vapor. This improves efficiency for the vaporization process. Optionally, some users have a glass bead (pearls) at the bottom of the banger to swirl and mix the hot concentrate while it is vaporizing. Pearls work well with a carb cap that directs air into the banger in a spiral direction to spin the beads in a circle at the bottom of the banger (see @gordoscientific on instagram).
When dabbing concentrates, the quality of the concentrate is important. The lower the percentage of THC, the more residue gets left behind and needs to be cleaned out of the banger after use. Terpenes and other additives are often left behind in the banger and create a sticky mess. As is also true for concentrate vaporizers, the best product to use for dabbing is 100% THC diamond crystals. It leaves no residue behind because all of the product is vaporized and inhaled.
It is recommended to clean the nail/banger after each use. Isopropyl alcohol or wipes with ethyl alcohol (Terp Wipes) and a Q-tip works well. Don’t use Q-tips with plastic in them or the plastic will melt if the banger is still hot. We recomend the brand Glob Mops.
Check out our other articles on the Cannabis Education page. You may like the article about Concentrates or Methods of Use.