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The Science of Reverse Dabbing — Using The Cold Start Method

heating a dab nail

The Science of Reverse Dabbing — Using The Cold Start Method

The cold start method of dabbing is a perfect way to prevent the flavonoids and medicinal terpenes from vaporizing completely.

For those dabbers out there reading this article, you've probably heard of "cold start" dabbing already. If you're not familiar with this, read on.

Not that long ago, the cannabis press, blogs, and influencer world were all abuzz with cold start dabs.

So what is it, I hear you ask? 

It's a method to dab that starts from an unheated (hence the term "cold") nail. Place the concentrate in a nail (preferably a quartz banger), heat the device, and then inhale once those vapors start to rise out from the bubbling concentrate. 

dab tool and wax

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Regular Dabs Vs. Cold start Dabs

Usually, the dabbing process begins by heating the nail, placing the concentrate on the hot nail, and immediately inhaling it. 

Many dabbers will recommend that once your nail is heated, you wait ten seconds or more to allow it to cool a little before dropping in a dab. 

The downside of this method is that (bar using a thermometer) you can never be entirely sure that you are dabbing at the lowest possible temperature. 

Because cold start dabs are performed in reverse order, they are also called "reverse Dabbing."

You may be asking, "Why would someone start with cold nails instead of hot nails?" To preserve the dabs terpene profile is why. 

heating the nail

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Use a Cold Start Dab to Retain Terpenes

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in plants, it's these that give the fruit its sweet aroma and cannabis its abundant flavors. There is some evidence that terpenes may also influence the mood of some of those cannabis effects, such as calming or euphoric feelings, and even affect the medicinal properties of certain cannabis plants.

Another benefit of cold start application is that it minimizes the degradation of your concentrate. Although studies have shown that dabbing poses little, if any, health risks (excluding those coughing fits), vaporizing concentrate at the lowest possible temperature ensures that fewer potentially harmful products, such as methacrolein or benzene, end up in the lungs.

heating a banger

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Step 1: Use a clean quartz banger

To get the most out of this method, use a clean quartz banger for the nail. 

These nails are shaped like small cups or buckets. This shape will help let you observe the vaporization as it takes place. 

This is helpful as you need to see when the vapor starts forming to know when you need to inhale.

It does not need to be right out of the box clean, but it should not be caked with a brown oily residue either.

Step 2: Heating element

Use a dab tool to place your concentrate in the cold banger, and use a torch to heat the nail slowly. 

Keep the flame a little away from the quartz surface. Having the torch too close will risk flash-frying the concentrate and burning off all the good stuff before your lips reach the dab rig. Or, if the flame is too far away, it won't heat.

If the flame is kept in the Goldilocks zone, the concentrate should be seen to melt into the oil. This oil will then start bubbling. Bubbles are your cue to prepare for the dab.

Step 3: Dabbing

Once you see the vapor rising from the boiling oil you can begin to draw through the pipe. 

As long as it's bubbling, you can keep inhaling. Using a carb cap can prevent vapor from escaping and direct the vapor through the dab rig. Terp pearls and a directional carb cap can maximize the surface area and evenly vaporize the wax. 

Once the wax stops boiling and has all vaporized, or you're let with dark mush, then you're all done.

Step 4: Clean your nails

Keeping your nail clean will help preserve the flavor as well. So once finished, wipe a dry plain cotton Q-tip along the inside of the nail to remove any remaining concentrate. 

One Q-tip should be sufficient, although, with larger dabs, a second could be required. There is no need to use alcohol or any other type of solvent at this point, especially not if the nail is still hot.

You want to keep the quartz banger as clean as possible so that you can easily see the condition of the heated concentrate. In addition, leaving old dab residue on your nail will impair your ability to get clean, fresh dabs every time.

Step 5: Experiment

This is not a step; more extra notes to be aware of. 

The efficiency of cold start dabbing depends a lot on your equipment. Your torch, nail, concentrate, etc. 

Using a shop-sized propane torch will require more fineness than a hand held butane torch, for example.

Some concentrates are also more volatile than others: terp sauce will need less heat to vaporize it than budder or shatter, for example. 

Because of these differences, you may need to experiment with cold-start dabs before you find what works for you. 

You may find that shorter flames or larger nails are more effective for you.

What If I Don't Like Torches?

Electric Nails can be set at a certain temperature. Something like the Lookah Q7 enail is ideal sorted to cold start dabs and gives great accuracy over the temps. Once you find the best temperature for a certain concentrate, you can recreate that dab over and over with ease. This brings great consistency to your dabbing. 

Newer product technologies can also mimic the cold start process. For example, a portable electric dab rig (Like the Unicorn Lookah), This e-rig uses a porous quartz core in a ceramic cup resulting in fast heat-up times and the purest flavor. 

Compared to the 3 minute heating and cooling process with a traditional dab rig and torch, the Unicorn e-rig heats up in mear seconds.