Dabbing 101: What is a Carb Cap and Why Should I Use One?

Dabbing is one of the newest and most popular cannabis consumption methods, and its introduction has been a bit polarizing. Some cannabis enthusiasts are excited by the benefits of consuming the large amounts of THC contained in dabs while others are turned off by that very feature. If dabbing is a consumption method you want to try, one thing is clear: using a carb cap can make it a much more enjoyable experience.

The Benefits of Using a Carb Cap

Dabbing works by heating the nail to an extremely high heat before placing the dab on it and inhaling the vapor. Without a carb cap, the dab is out in the open—it is placed on the super-heated nail but is still exposed to the temperature of the air. This means that the part of the dab that first touches the nail is exposed to a more heat than the top layer of the dab, and the result is a harsher taste and increased irritation upon inhalation.

The carb cap works like a small dome. It creates an air-restricting suction that lowers the air pressure within the cap. This makes it possible to dab at a lower temperature than you would if the concentrate was exposed to the air. Additionally, the decreased pressure causes the oil to interact with the heat in a way that naturally cools the vapor. The end-product is a more enjoyable and flavorful dab experience. 

Dabbing Review: What is a Dab and How Does Dabbing Work?

Dab and a quartz nail, carb capFirst, let’s define a few terms. A dab is a concentrated dose of cannabis.  In this case, concentrated means containing high quantities of cannabinoids, especially THC, the chemical compound responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive effect. While a cannabis bud usually has somewhere between 10 and 25 percent THC, a concentrate can have between 50 and 80 percent THC. Dabs have a sticky, wax like texture to them and are commonly called wax, budder, shatter, and butane hash oil (BHO). Dabbing is the process of heating one of those concentrates and inhaling the resulting vapor.

While that description of dabbing sounds pretty simple, seeing it live for the first time might be intimidating. For one, it is only safe to dab with solvent-less extracts. It’s a good idea to double check with your budtender about the safety of dabbing a certain product before giving it a go on your own. Next, you need the right equipment. That typically means a dab rig, a nail, and a blow torch (or an electric nail if the idea of using a blow torch freaks you out). When it comes time to dab, make sure you start with a quantity about the size of a crumb. It might not look like much, but remember, that dab is loaded with much more THC than you may be used to inhaling at once, especially if this your first time.

Pros and Cons of Dabbing

Now that you know what dabbing is and how to do it most efficiently and safely, it’s time to decide if this consumption method is for you. The truth is, it isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for extremely powerful and quick high, this might be right up your alley. If you’re a novice smoker or prone to panic attacks, you might want to go with a more traditional consumption method.

Pros

THC concentrates are called dabsBecause dabs are concentrated extracts of the cannabis plant, they don’t contain excess plant matter. This means that you’re inhaling cannabinoids instead of smoke from the less potent parts of a cannabis flower.  When the dab comes from a trusted processor and is extracted using safe, clean methods, the result is a smoother smoke—especially if a carp cap is used. Additionally, when compared to vaporizing, dabs tend to have a better, less chemical-tasting flavor.

It is this concentrated quality that makes dabs so powerful. And since the most abundant cannabinoid contained in the cannabis plant is THC, concentrated extracts of cannabis contain extremely large amounts of this psychoactive compound. Additionally, since dabs are inhaled, it doesn’t take very long to feel their effects. The result of this combination is a swift onset of a really intense high. This can be very beneficial to medical patients seeking immediate and powerful relief or consumers who have a high tolerance to THC. Of course, the smaller the dab, the less THC is inhaled. However, even small dabs contain more cannabinoids than flower.   

Cons

This first disadvantage is true of all concentrates because of the process through which they are extracted: a dab’s flavor won’t be quite as strong as a flower’s. This is because the chemicals responsible for cannabis’ aroma and taste, terpenes, are extremely volatile. They’re lost easily—even smoked flower loses quite a lot of terpenes from combustion. Dabs, on the other hand, have lost a significant portion of their terpenes during the extraction process. 

While a high level of THC may be exactly what one consumer is looking for, it could easily be too much for another to handle. Since dabs are loaded with THC, it’s more difficult to avoid overconsuming THC than it would be if inhaling flower. There is a solution to this debacle, and that’s to dab high CBD, low THC products. The trick is finding them. Since THC is still the most sought-after cannabinoid, most products contain significant levels of it. But CBD products are on the rise as an increasing portion of the legal cannabis market is made up of people interested in the health benefits of cannabis, many of which are attributable to CBD.

Finally, science has not caught up with dabbing yet; we don’t know how the relatively new consumption method affects health. Since most research on cannabis uses weed with much lower levels of THC than what is available on the market, we don’t have a great idea of how consuming large quantities of THC at once can affect human health. There is plenty of evidence implicating cannabis in the treatment of an array of conditions, so it’s not like THC is poison—in fact, though it’s known for its recreational effects, THC has a unique therapeutic profile of its own. Even so, it wouldn’t be totally honest to pretend that the lack of evidence isn’t a risk factor worth considering.

Dabbing 101: What is a Carb Cap and Why Should I Use One? was last modified: by
Dianna Benjamin

About the author: Dianna Benjamin is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability--yet constant pursuit--to get it right.