Cold Start: The Science of Reverse Dabbing
Dabbing using the cold-start method is the perfect way to keep those medicinal terpenes from completely vaporizing.
There doesn’t seem to be an end to new trends on the cannabis scene. For the dabbers reading this, you’ve probably already heard about “cold-start” dabbing. If you haven’t, read on.
A few months ago, cannabis media buzzed across blogs and YouTube over cold start dabs. What is it? It’s a way to dab that starts with a non-heated (hence “cold”) nail. Simply place the concentrate into the nail (preferably a quartz banger), heat the apparatus, then inhale once vapors start rising from the bubbles.
Cold Start Versus Regular Dabbing
Typically, dabbing begins by heating the nail, placing the concentrate onto the hot nail, then immediately inhaling. Some dabbers suggest counting ten seconds after the nail is sufficiently heated so it can cool down. The downside to this method is that you can never be entirely sure if you’re dabbing at the lowest possible temperature. Because cold-start dabbing goes in the reverse order, it’s also known as “reverse dabbing.”
Why would anyone start with a cold nail instead of a hot one? To maintain the dab’s terpene profile, that’s why.
Use Cold Start Dabbing to Preserve Terpenes
Terpenes are aromatic compounds contained in plants, giving fruits their sweet scents and cannabis its cornucopia of verdant flavors. Some evidence suggests terpenes may also influence the mood of a particular elevating effect – such as feeling calm or euphoric – or even contribute to the medicinal properties of certain cannabis plants.
Another benefit to cold-start dabbing: minimizing degradation products. Although the research indicates dabbing poses few, if any, health hazards (besides coughing fits, of course), vaporizing concentrates at the lowest possible temperatures ensures fewer potentially harmful degradation products, like methacrolein or benzene, end up in your lungs.
Step 1: Use a Clean Quartz Banger
To get the most out of this method, use a clean, clear quartz banger as the nail. Bangers are nails shaped like tiny mugs or buckets; this shape will help with seeing the vaporization as it takes place. Because you need to see the vapors forming to know when to inhale, you need to employ a clean banger. It doesn’t need to be fresh out of the box, but it shouldn’t be caked in brown oily residue, either.
Step 2: Heating the Element
Once you’ve got the concentrate inside the cold banger, use a torch to slowly heat the nail. Keep the flame some distance from the quartz surface. Having the torch too close, you risk zapping all the good stuff before your lips reach the rig. Alternatively, if the flame sits too far away, nothing will heat up.
If you hold the flame in the Goldilocks zone, you should see the concentrate melt into an oil. Shortly afterward, the oil will begin bubbling. The bubbles are your cue to get ready for the dab.
Step 3: Dabbing
Once you spot vapors wafting from the bubbling oil, begin inhaling. Pay careful attention to the concentrate. So long as it keeps boiling, you can keep inhaling. Once it stops boiling or turns into dark muck, you’re done. Mission accomplished.
Step 4: Clean the Nail
Remember step one? Wipe a plain, dry cotton swab along the inside of the banger/nail to clean out the leftover concentrate. One cotton swab should be enough, though larger dabs may require an extra one. No need to use rubbing alcohol or any kind of solvent on this step, especially if the nail is still warm.
You want to keep your quartz banger as clean as possible so you can always see what’s happening to the concentrate under heat. Besides, leaving old dab residues in the nail compromises your ability to get a clean, fresh-tasting dab each time.
Step Five: Experiment
Not exactly a step, but cold-start’s efficiency depends on your equipment, your torch, the torch’s settings, and the concentrate. For instance, using a handheld butane torch requires much less finesse than using, say, a shop-sized propane torch. Certain concentrates possess more volatility than others, too: a terpene-saturated sauce will require slightly less heat than budder. Slightly.
Because of these variations, try different approaches to a cold-start dab. You may discover shorter flames or larger bangers work better for you.
What If I Don’t Like Torches?
Some dabbers prefer to avoid torches altogether. That’s fine. You can still pull off a reverse dab without a quartz banger or a flame fit to cut steel.
Electric nails, for instance, can be set at a specific temperature. As the nail’s heat ramps up, cap the nail with a glass dome to accelerate and contain the vapors. Watch for the bubbling and inhale accordingly. Some electric nails are better suited for cold-start dabs than others.
Newer product technology can also mimic the cold-start process. For example, portable battery-operated rigs, like PuffCo’s The Peak, start with a cold ceramic nail that quickly heats up to one of four preset temperatures. One could argue that vape pens fitted with preloaded cannabis cartridges achieve a similar effect.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. You just may find that dabbing is your medicine.