Nail Temperatures and Flavor

If you ever want to make a room full of wooks gasp, here’s all you have to do: Prepare a dab and blast the shit out of the nail until it’s glowing whitish-red, then sizzle through that dab on the 1,200°F surface. Every flat-billed baseball cap in the room will flip, followed by a chorus of “Bro!” Someone will definitely want to address your high-temp dabbing problem.

There’s more going on here than slab snobbery, however. The low-temp dabbing creed has some merit: The different compounds that make up a concentrate have a range of temperatures at which they’ll vaporize (i.e., volatilize), as shown here:

THC: 314°F (157°C)
CBD: 347°F (175°C)
Beta-myrcene: 330°F (166°C)
D-limonene: 350°F (177°C)
Linalool: 388°F (198°C)

None of the things that a person wants to inhale require temps higher than 400°F to vaporize. Keeping the nail in the 350°F to 400°F range will deliver only the desired compounds from your dabs. Ideally, you want to leave a bit of residue behind—about three percent of the total dab. This portion is where the compounds that require higher temperatures for vaporizing collect. Higher-temp dabs can taste like reclaim, because when you hit a very hot nail, it never gets a chance to become reclaim—it goes right into your hit.

A great flavor hit is a slow process. Heat the nail a little past the target temp, then set the rig down and wait a few seconds. When the rig is ready, apply the dab to the heated surface and inhale slowly as it boils away. Use a carb cap to cover the bowl and allow some convective heat to help finish off the hit. The residue left behind is burned off when you prepare your next dab.

In the lower-temperature range (300°F to 400°F), the oils in a dab will boil (i.e., volatilize). In this phase, the molecules are essentially unchanged and transformed into a vapor state. At some point beyond this temperature (>450°F), these same compounds will burn, or oxidize. At the point of oxidization, the molecules are changed through a process of heat-induced chemical reactions. The next level of heat (>800°F) can cause oxidized compounds to combine and form new compounds; this is called polymerization. A red-hot Ti nail is roughly 1,200°F to 1,500°F, which means you’re not really dabbing on a red-hot nail—you’re inhaling exotic polymerized compounds created from cannabinoids.

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