Why Carb Cap? Elevate Your Dabbing


The evolution of dabbing has taken some wicked turns. What was once the epitome of high tech dabbing now sits wayside as new methods assist in the full expression of what dabs can be. A brief history of dabbing will have you realize that carb-capping is the only way to go, and read on for a HIGH TIMES how-to of the latest methods of harnessing the flavor of a dab.

Take the nail and dome, for example. Once a coveted piece of equipment that gave canvas to the fanciful visions of glass artists, the dome now sits collecting dust amongst the ruins of pot’s performance past. Concentrate dishes, charcoal pucks and swing arms all remain as relics in the sweeping history of dabbing. Removing a slightly stuck, oily dome in order to heat your nail, then quickly placing it back before doing the dab was considered unnecessary and added too many steps to the process. The frustration this old process created gave birth to the domeless nail, which rendered domes and their accompanying nails mostly obsolete.

The more dabs people did on domeless nails, the more they refined the technique. Dabbers realized that it was prudent to let the nail cool down a bit after torching it to avoid taking a dab on a red-hot nail. Through trial and error each dabber figured out how many seconds it took their nail to cool down to the right temperature (a loose range between 350-500 °F). This technique prevents chemical decomposition of the flavor compounds in hash oil, which can turn a good dab into a harsh and acrid tasting mess.

A well done low-temp dab should taste almost exactly like smelling the fresh flower of the same strain, but it’s a doubled-edged sword. By the time the nail cools down to the right temperature, it doesn’t hold enough heat to vaporize your dab, and a lot of it ends up in a puddle on the nail. Cue the carb cap…

The carb cap is exactly what it sounds like, a carburetor for your rig. It restricts the amount of airflow to your nail, allowing you to collect the last bits of your oil to punctuate the end of your hit. By capping the nail, you restrict the airflow into the rig through just the small contact area between the carb cap and the edge of the nail. While inhaling strongly, the reduced airflow places the entire rig under low pressure, including the oil that pooled on the nail without vaporizing.

Under low pressure, every component of the hash oil suddenly has a lower boiling temperature—what once boiled at high temperatures can now do so at much lower temperatures, giving you a bloom of thicker, better tasting smoke. The carb cap lets you actually finish the dab, instead of wasting it in a thick, sputtering puddle.

Want to take it a step further and really enjoy your dab to its fullest? Allow your nail to cool off to a slightly lower temperature than you would normally. Place your dab on the nail and watch it melt and slowly bubble without producing any vapor, then cover the nail with your carb cap. The slight vacuum created facilitates the oil to vaporize into a dense plume of vapor even on a not-so-hot nail.

This technique is a way of approaching your nail from a lower temperature, and dropping the pressure around it as you cap results in a more flavorful experience and a clearer, more directed high. On the other hand, scorching the nail and letting cool down—the high-temperature approach—results in a much more scatterbrained and muddled effect.

By now, we know that terpenes and flavor modify the effect and potency of your high. This latest method of carb-capping should result in a purer, more natural high by avoiding the acrid and burnt taste caused by high-temperature decomposition. Use those carb caps; let your oil boil and your high fly.

(Photo by Dan Skye)

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