When dabbing, a small dose of cannabis concentrate is dropped onto a hot “nail” to vaporize the cannabinoids and terpenes contained within – all the good stuff. Cannabinoids are chemicals like THC, CBD, and other beneficial compounds found in cannabis (and concentrates), while terpenes are the aromatic compounds that give cannabis products their taste and smell.
For example, limonene is a terpene that’s also found in citrus fruits like lemons and limes (as well as “lemon” varieties of garden herbs, such as lemon thyme or lemon basil). These compounds (the primary constituents of cannabis concentrates) boil — or vaporize — between 315-440°F (157-227°C).
That threshold, therefore, is the minimum temperature range required to fully vaporize the cannabinoids and terpenes in your concentrate. THC dabs are, of course, ever-popular, but there’s something to be said for dabbing CBD isolate or concentrates, especially for medicinal purposes. The best part about dabbing CBD is the ability to achieve fast-acting symptom relief, even for intense symptoms.
The Temperature Trade-Off
With regards to dabbing, the temperature should be looked as a continuum from too low to too high — it’s a spectrum, after all.
Why you should Low-Temp Dab: You’ll get more flavor from your concentrate, which is especially nice if you’ve got your hands on a particularly tasty terpene-forward dab. You’ll also be able to take smoother, longer hits.
The downside: The vapor produced at lower temperatures isn’t as dense, produces milder effects, and may leave some concentrate behind (as opposed to fully vaporizing the concentrate as intended).
Why you should High-Temp Dab: You’ll create a deliciously thick vapor that’s dense and satisfying, you’ll feel the effects of your concentrate more intensely (due to more complete vaporization), and all concentrate will be consumed, leaving behind no traces or residue that can muddy the taste of future dabs.
The downside: At higher temperatures, you’ll lose some of the flavor intensity, especially the sweeter notes. The vapor becomes more bitter and, therefore, harsher on the lungs and throat. This, in turn, means it’s harder to take large hits without being reduced to a coughing fit.
Please bear in mind that this guide pertains to dabbing surface temperature, NOT the set temperature on an electric nail (which is likely higher).
0-300°F: Too low
This will result in minimal vaporization of available cannabinoids and terpenes, but not much – you will not be consuming anywhere near all the concentrate dropped on the nail. Expect the concentrate to leave a puddle of oil on the dabbing surface that produces little vapor (colloquially, “waste it to taste it”).
315-450°F: Low temp dab
This is the “sweet spot” for vaporization of all cannabinoids and terpenes while retaining maximum flavor. Dabbing at this temperature will produce a smooth hit that is relatively easy on the lungs and very terpene-forward in flavor. The effects will be pleasant, though milder than they would be at hotter temperatures.
450-600°F: Medium temp dab
This is a good middle ground for those seeking a balance of flavor and intensity. At this temperature, a mix of vaporization and combustion occurs, meaning that what you’re inhaling with your hit is a mixture of vapor and smoke. This means that a dab at this temperature may be harder on your lungs, especially if you tend to cough easily.
600-900°F: High temp dab
At this temperature, the nail may still be glowingly hot and combustion is certain to occur. This will produce a harsh, intense hit with thick smoke — a little vapor, but not much. At this temperature, you’re more burning your dab than flash-vaporizing it. Most of the flavor will be lost at this temperature, resulting in a dab that tastes bitter, harsh, and rather burnt. It’s effective, sure, but it probably won’t be the smoothest dab you’ve taken.
900+°F: Burning the dab
We don’t recommend taking dabs at this temperature – it is not pleasant. Even the tastiest of concentrates are rendered acrid and charred-tasting at this temperature. This level of heat is better suited to a kiln than to a dab rig.
Torch vs Electric Nail for Dabbing at the Perfect Temperature
Depending on your specific dabbing setup, you will either be using a torch or an electric heating element to heat up your nail.
With a torch, you can heat your nail anywhere from 0-1,000+°F (0-538°C). The same holds true for electric nails, or e-nail, which uses an electric coil to heat the dabbing surface – most coils can be set to temperatures ranging from 0-900°F (0-482°C).
The important thing to note with e-nails, in particular, is this: there is a consistent disparity between the temperature setting on the unit and the actual dabbing surface temperature across models. Meaning, although the heating unit is set to 680°F, the dabbing surface may only be 600°F. Click here to see the full study.
Furthermore, not all nail materials (electric or otherwise) are the same – each has different heating and cooling properties. The following properties hold true regardless of whether the nail is heated with a torch or an electric coil.
Titanium*: Boasts a quick heating and high heat retention, but provides the lowest flavor quality of the bunch
Ceramic: While it takes the longest to heat up, ceramic nails are durable, retain heat well, and produce good flavor.
Quartz (depending on thickness): Heats up reasonably quickly, cools down quickly and produces high-quality, delicious vapor.
*Not all titanium nails are safe for dabbing – there is a large variance in titanium quality and purity. Stick to manufacturers who utilize tested type 2 titanium.
As you might have surmised, the actual temperature at which you take your dab is the result of a unique combination of nail material, thickness, and the specific heating element used.
As you might imagine, there are different models of torches and electric units available – the 700°F setting may be too hot on one e-nail but just right on another. That said, a certain level of trial and error has to occur in order to find the perfect temperature for you.
Tips for Perfect Temperature Dabs Using a Torch
Given the manual element of heating a nail with a torch on traditional rigs, our recommendation is to focus on the variables you can control with each dab – how long you heat the nail for and how long you let it cool.
Using a timer during heat up and cool down will help ensure an accurate count with each dab. Try heating the nail for 30 seconds, letting it cool for 20, and then taking your dab. If it’s too hot, let it cool a few extra seconds; if it’s too cool, wait less time before dabbing.
Alternatively, you can use a heat gun to try and get a more accurate temperature reading of the dabbing surface. If you go this route, be aware that there will likely be a range of surface temperatures on the nail depending on which part of the nail the torch was aimed at.
The Perfect Temperature for Dabs on an E-nail
Don’t stress about the specific temperature setting on the heating element – what matters is the temperature of the nail surface. It is not unusual for a quartz e-nail to have a surface temperature that is 100°F lower than the set temperature on the unit.
With this in mind, you have to get to know your e-nail in particular, as your friend’s suggested dabbing temperature may be significantly too hot/cold for you. Most e-nails adjust the temperature in 10°F intervals, so making several small adjustments of 10-20°F at a time can help you find your preferred temperature.
What about vape pens?
The same temperature rules apply when using a vaporizer pen. In fact, many new vaporizer pens have adjustable heat settings for this very reason. On pen-style vapes, the increments by which you can adjust the temperature tend to be more precise, making them ideal for the dab connoisseur. Experiment with different settings to find the perfect temperature for you.
If you’re like us and always take your vaporizer pen on the go, we suggest transporting it in a discreet and protective stash box like a safety case. It has room for your all your stoner kit essentials like a vaporizer pen, dabber, concentrates, and more. Now that TSA released guidelines for how to take your vape pen on a plane, you can travel safely.