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What is cold-start or reverse dabbing?

Published on December 17, 2018 · Last updated July 9, 2021
Oil for dabs is extracted from dried marijuana flowers
(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Cannabis concentrate enthusiasts likely are familiar with low-temperature dabbing. With reduced temperatures and a cooler nail surface, you’re able to preserve the flavors and terpenes in your dabs.

Traditionally, low-temp dabs are achieved by pre-heating a nail and loading concentrates onto that nail. But instead, you can load concentrates onto a cold nail first and then slowly heat it.

Proponents of this method call it “cold start” or “reverse” dabbing, or even “dabbing cold,” and this technique is gaining popularity.

Methods for heating preloaded concentrates on a cold surface have been around for a whilehealth stone dabbing, in which concentrates are loaded onto a porous stone in a nail, was a trend before quartz nails and low-temperature dabbing even existed.

Cold start dabbing takes this same concept and reformats it for a new generation of dabbers who have moved on to better technology, especially with the use of quartz and borosilicates.

How to cold start dab

How to reverse dab

(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

To achieve a proper cold start dab, you’ll need a nail, preferably a banger. The bucket design of bangers allows for a more even distribution of heat, which is imperative when trying to warm concentrates on a cold surface. A standard quartz or ceramic banger will do, or even a thermal nail.

Once you have your dab gear, load your concentrate into the banger or nail. The nail must be clean, as you don’t want to torch any residuals that have caked onto the surface from previous dabs.

Once loaded with concentrate, apply the carb or bubble cap to the nail. Ignite your torch and slowly heat the underside of the nail with the flame several inches away. The idea is to bring the heat up to a temperature where the concentrate begins to bubble and turn into a vapor. Typically, this takes less than 10 seconds.

At this point, power down the torch, rotate the cap to create convection, and inhale. Depending on the amount and type of concentrate loaded, you should get 1-2 pulls, with a more flavorful initial pull.

Benefits of cold-start dabbing

Cold start dabbing is great for people who wish to achieve a flavorful low-temperature pull without having to wait for the nail to heat and cool after each hit. It’s great if you’re pressed for time.

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Dabbing cold will also preserve your hardware better than traditional dabbing techniques. By subjecting your nail to less heat, you reduce the potential for breakage and residual buildup. Quality quartz nails and borosilicate directional caps aren’t cheap and can break easily.

The cons of dabbing cold

Dabbing cold can waste concentrates, as some material can be left in the nail after a hit. This char and residue should be removed and disposed of, so that you start your next dab on a clean surface and can get its authentic flavor profile.

This method isn’t conducive to taking more than one dab in a session, which can be frustrating if you plan to share your rig with friends or want to load up more concentrates. The time saved by cold start dabbing is essentially wasted when you have to wait for the nail to fully cool in order to clean it.

Ideally, cold start dabs are best when using borosilicates, but this type of hardware can be expensive and needs care. Dabbing cold is great if you’re strapped for time and want a flavorful single pull without having to stop and wait, and if you want to preserve the flavors of your concentrate.

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Patrick Bennett
Patrick Bennett
Patrick lives with his wife and daughter in Denver, where he spends his time writing, photographing, and creating content for the cannabis community.
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