As a general rule — where dabbing or almost anything else is concerned — you should do whatever works for you and not worry too much about the next person’s opinion. Having said that, if you dab off anything other than quartz you need to seriously reevaluate your life and figure out why you don’t love yourself enough to get a proper banger for your dab rig.
Whether sparking up a torch or turning on an e-nail, you need to decide which material you want to heat and dab off of, and you have three choices: titanium, ceramic or quartz. As with most multiple choice questions, if you blindly guessed “C,” you got it right. When it comes to getting the cleanest, most flavorful hit, it’s all about low-temp dabs and when it comes to low-temp dabs, it’s definitely all about quartz.
Of all the materials available, quartz heats up and cools down the fastest, making it ideal for low-temp torch dabs. It generally takes 10 seconds or less to heat a quartz banger evenly and less than a minute for it to cool to the ideal temperature for a perfect dab. There are situation-specific benefits to the other two options — obviously nothing beats titanium on durability — but when it comes to enjoying high-terp/low-temp dabs, there’s no question that the choice is quartz.
OK, So What’s a Banger?
Now that you know quartz is the way to go, let’s talk about how a banger differs from a nail. As the name suggests, a dab nail has a flat, sometimes slightly recessed heating surface perched atop a thin stem. The original nails were the centerpiece of a dome rig and were generally made of titanium, adding to the nail-like appearance.
A simple banger evokes a tiny glass basketball hoop, if the hoop was a closed-bottom bucket instead of a net. The pole supporting the hoop, in this case, is a stem that fits into the dropstem of a dab rig. The stem can be internal or external, meaning it either fits into or over the access point for the dropstem on your rig. As a general rule, go for a dab rig that accepts internal stems to avoid getting melted oil dripping on the outside of your rig.
The physical design makes a banger the superior choice for taking larger dabs, because where a nail has only so much surface area to accommodate your dab, a banger is basically a bucket.
There are numerous variations on the banger, including a popular but less common type known as a “trough” banger. Envision a barrel turned on its side with a long strip cut out of the side facing upwards and you’ve got the basic idea. Some find it easier to keep a trough banger clean, but ultimately the style is up to you.
Regardless of the physical style, even the most meticulous dabbers find it difficult to maintain a quartz banger indefinitely using Q-tip tech (swabbing the nail after each hit with a Q-tip to absorb the leftover melted material), so many have started using quartz inserts. These fit inside your banger and absorb its heat through conduction. They can either be preloaded and placed inside a banger before heating or dropped in after heating. It takes some practice getting used to it, but the inserts greatly extend the life of your banger.
Even though they are by definition “domeless,” a banger really needs a carb cap to fully deliver a low-temp dab. The type of cap used is generally a matter of personal preference, and the options range from simple paddles with a hole for airflow to “directional” caps that allow airflow to be directed manually.
The latest evolution in banger and carb cap combos is the introduction of “terp pearls” or “terp twisters,” quartz beads placed inside the banger that — when paired with a vortex carb cap — spiral around the banger rapidly, agitating the liquified concentrate and maximizing vapor production.
Another less common (but cool and kind of useful) riff on the standard quartz banger is the use of thermochromic quartz flakes that respond to torch heat by changing color. Not only does it look cool, but it can also be used as a visual cue for when your banger is at the ideal temp for a dab.
And, as with any borosilicate glass product for consuming cannabis, there are several high-end expressions for lovers of “functional art glass” who simply can’t stand to spend less than a rack on a rig. To be fair, if you just blew upwards of $100,000 for a Fab Egg at auction, you might as well drop the extra $400 or so on an authentic Mothership Honeypot set with a hinged swing banger. Thankfully for the rest of us, a simple quartz banger can be purchased for much closer to $20, and with proper care, it can last for years.
There are dozens of variations and styles, but if you want to really appreciate the terps in your dab and enjoy the cleanest, most accurate expression of them, the quartz banger is king.
5 Types of Bangers
There are too many physical variations on the quartz banger to list them all, but here are five that capture the possible spectrum the quartz banger can encompass. These bangers range in complexity from simple pieces with novel design changes, such as rounded bottoms or a rectangular shape, to elaborate mechanisms with moving parts. Here are some unique but relatively common riffs on the basic banger.
1) Opaque “Gavel” Banger
Most quartz bangers have one thing in common — you can see right through them. Whether it’s attached to a prismatic heady rig or a scientific glass piece, most bangers are transparent. “Gavel” bangers have an opaque quartz base, which heats up faster and retains heat longer.
2) Thermal Banger
A thermal banger has a “double wall” design that delivers some of the benefits of using an insert, allowing for bigger dabs at lower temps.
3) Grail Banger
A grail banger has a slightly flared base with a thick base similar to the opaque base of a gavel banger. It also has a slit or slits near the base, allowing for even airflow over the melted oil.
4) Quave Club Banger
The Quave club banger runs upwards of $170 if you get an authentic one from Quave CB, but there are many copies that utilizes the same slanted top design, which some dabbers feel improves airflow.
5) Bucket/Swing Banger
A bucket or swing banger combines a quartz banger with a “honey bucket” that can either be built into a rig or attached with a modular unit. One of the most sought-after examples comes from Mothership, a high watermark/price-tag-setter of the borosilicate world.
TELL US, have you ever used a quartz banger?
Originally published in the edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE
Made with no more than water, heat, pressure, and a few tools, hash rosin has become one of the most prized forms of cannabis resin today. Most hash rosin is made by squishing ice water hash instead of flower at the right temperature and pressure levels for yields that fail to rival solvent extractions. It also requires high-quality and properly maintained starting material to match the flavor and melt-quality of something made with hydrocarbon solvents.
There are also varying qualities of hash rosin. But thanks to the taste of concentrate connoisseurs, products like live rosin have become the most expensive and limited cannabis products being sold today. To better understand the many forms of modern hash rosin, I sat down with four premiere solventless extractors from Michigan with varying perspectives during the last High Times event in Detroit.
Today’s hashmakers press their hash into rosin and don the titles of solventless extractors. The extractors I spoke to have several years of experience working with rosin.
After originally outsourcing their plant material to other hashmakers for years, the founder of Superior Flowers, Kerry, started Superior Solventless to create some of the highest-grade single source hash rosin in the state. Seeing jars with his labels in the stashes of most other competing local hashmakers I’ve met speaks volumes to how much his work is respected in the community.
Tyler of Wojo Wax recently took home a second-place medal for Best Non-Solvent Concentrate with their single source Cream D’Mint at the Michigan Cannabis Cup in 2019. Tyler said he has been making hash for about 2 and a half years but feels he really found his groove after taking a hashmaking consult in Las Vegas about a year ago.
Anthony AKA the Organic Mechanic, has been growing and making traditional hash for over 15 years with a focus on pressing rosin over the last two to three years. He’s a hash veteran that I’ve seen doing live demos and pressing hash and flowers that guests bring to his booth at the Cannabis Cup over the last few years.
Mark from Covert Extracts is one of the first to introduce mechanically separated hash rosin to Michigan cannabis consumers. Using the technique, he took first place for Non-Solvent Concentrate with the mechanically separated Mother’s Milk THCA and terpenes grown by Ghostbudsters Farm at the Michigan Cannabis Cup in 2019.
Not All Hash is Made Equal
When it comes to hash rosin, terms like 90u and 120u are different parts of the trichome separated by size. The “u” or μ to be accurate is a measurement that refers to the different micron sizes of the holes in the multiple bags used to filter and separate trichomes from the rest of the plant during the “washing” process.
“Washing” is slang for making ice water hash. More specifically, it is when plant material is put into a bucket of ice water and stirred before it is strained, leaving only hash behind. However, it’s worth noting that dry sift hash can be made without water and ice but most of the live rosin on shelves today is made by turning ice water hash made with freshly frozen materials into rosin.
In fact, all four of the hashmakers I interviewed use ice
water hash over dry sift material when making their rosin.
Beyond that, different hashmakers include or exclude certain trichome sizes from their final product. As a result, certain jars of hash and rosin being sold on the market are labeled as 90u, 120u, full spectrum or some range in between.
Differences in Micron Sizes
Kerry of Superior Solventless broke down the differences
between the separate micron sizes and what they mean to consumers.
He compared washing flowers to straining pasta. Big holes
let the water out and keep all the stuff you want isolated from falling through.
However, in the case of making hash, multiple strainers with smaller and
smaller holes are needed to separate the different parts of the trichome from
the rest of the plant.
“So, when you’re looking at something like 120u [up close], you’re going to see things that are intact. Basically, a stalk and glandular head right up on top. Then, when you see a 90u or a 73u, you’re mainly going to see heads. Heads that have been knocked off the stalks. You can even see them both individually in the 73 and 90u. That generally is what melts really well. Followed down by 45u and 25u.”
The trichome head has proven to be the most prized component of the plant. The fact that they mostly end up in the 90 and 73u bags as Kerry describes is why jars of pure 90 or 73u hash rosin have become more expensive and desired than full spectrum hash by some.
To get a better idea of what goes into the rosin I’ve been
smoking, I asked the four hashmakers what sizes they include in their final
product and why.
What is Full Spectrum Hash Rosin?
When asked if they leave the 25u or anything else out of their full spectrum rosin Kerry replied, “We do not. Our motto or our philosophy and principle is to be full spectrum from the beginning to the end of the process.”
According to Kerry, the 90u and 73u are the “meat and
potatoes of your dinner plate” and make up the majority of the weight of the
yield. In fact, he claimed 90u alone “makes up 70 percent of your wash.”
He warned consumers that if they see a product that’s
labeled 90u and you see that same strain from the same company in full spectrum
form as well, there’s a chance the 90 or 73u were left out of that full
spectrum. That means you’re only getting about 30 percent of the actual hash
spectrum despite the full spectrum label.
When asked if he prefers to smoke 90u over full spectrum
Kerry said he personally feels 90u lacks certain flavors and the “entourage
effect” from missing cannabinoids that would have been in the full spectrum.
“We have one product. That product is all full spectrum. From there we manipulate the consistency,” he said.
The other three hashmakers I spoke to leave what they perceive as the less desirable ends of the hash spectrum like 25 and the much higher microns out of the final product.
Which Microns Make the Cut?
In response to what goes into their full spectrum, Anthony from
the Organic Mechanic responded, “45-159u is what I use for my full spectrum.”
He added that he leaves out the 25 and the 159 because “in my personal opinion, it’s all the broken stalks and little pieces of heads that fall through.”
Anthony also added that you would have to wash an extremely large
quantity for the 25u to amount to anything worthwhile.
Tyler of Wojo Wax agreed by saying, “like Anthony said, I
catch 40 to 159. I’ve done 25 before and never went above 159u. My reasoning
for it is it just makes the color a little bit darker and a lot of people base
it [the quality] on color. I didn’t notice much of a difference as far as
effect. Yields are obviously a little bit better if you are throwing in those
bags, but I’ll sacrifice that yield for the lighter color.”
Covert also found that, in his experience, the 45 to 159u
range for his full spectrum rosin was the best for maintaining the flavor of
the original plant. The remaining hash that get left out of smokable product is
still used in capsules or edibles.
I asked Kerry why he felt less inclined to leave out the 25u
and he admitted, “the 70u is going to be white, the 25u or the 159 and above is
definitely going to be on the greener, darker, less smelly side.”
But he added that he believes the ends have beneficial properties and those parts make up a much smaller portion of the weight of the wash.
Furthermore, when you make rosin, “you’re taking all the hash and you’re putting it through an entire filtration process again and you can look at that bag and you can see what’s leftover.”
Never Judge a Book by Its Cover
Hashmakers are tasked with selecting strains of flower that
will provide a sustainable yield and desirable characteristics after being
washed and pressed into rosin.
When asked what his favorite strain to wash was, Kerry of Superior
Flowers responded, “I would say Purple Pebbles as well as TKP currently. The
TKP was very deceptive when I was running through the pheno hunt. The plant to
the naked eyes doesn’t look covered in frost like the Cookies strain.”
Despite the lack of visible frost on the plant, he assured
us the yields from washing the TKP were surprisingly high.
And vice versa, he added, “if you’re familiar with the MAC, looking at it you would think ‘wow, that thing is covered [in frost], if it gets washed it’s going to do phenomenal,’ but sometimes that’s not the case and you never want to judge a book by its cover.”
Tyler’s current favorite plant to wash is Sundae Driver
because it “checks every single box from nose to taste to yield.”
He described it as a delicious dessert dab with fruity flavors
that speak to the Grape Pie half of its lineage.
The Organic Mechanic had similar woes with MAC and Tyler
from Wojo Wax agreed that he’s washed material that was frosty in appearance
but only yielded .3% — and when you’re getting that little in return, it
becomes impossible for hashmakers to keep their lights on. To put that .3% into
perspective, yields for hash-friendly strains like GMO can be as high as 8%.
Anthony from the Organic Mechanic said his favorite strain
to wash is GG#4 because it has been consistent in every category including
yield, potency and smell.
“The color on it is beautiful, the taste, the yield, the
terp on it is just loud. Everybody that has got a hold of it likes it. Also, Cherry
Punch from Greener Thumb’s outdoor grow is another one of my favorites because
of the terps.”
Mark, the lead extractor for Covert Extracts says his
current favorite is the mountain cut of Tropicanna Cookies bred by Harry Palms
and grown by Ghostbudsters Farm because of the prominent terpene profile. He
gave GMO an honorable mention as well because “it dumps, it’s stinky and it
checks every box for me. It’s my go-to.”
Mason Jar Test Wash
Tyler admits he made the mistake of judging how well a
strain would wash based of the quality of its appearance. After putting in tons
of work processing an extremely large bulk of flower for a friend that ended up
looking far better than it yielded, he learned his lesson the hard way.
Since it is impossible to rely on looks alone to tell how
well a strain will wash after the harvest, Tyler recommends paying attention to
genetics and performing a small mason jar test before washing an entire grow
and being surprised it didn’t yield enough to break even.
Tyler said that when sourcing starting material, solventless
extractors “have to truly look for what strains are going to wash well. You
gotta look at the parents and then as you’re growing them too, you can tell by
the size of the head if you’re scoping it. A new thing that we started doing is
doing a test wash. You can put a small amount of flower in a mason jar with
water and ice then start swishing it around to see if those heads fall off because
it can be the frostiest plant ever like the MAC and not dump at all. It’s got
to want to let that head go because we’re not after the stalk.”
With the mason jar test wash method, Tyler says only about a
half ounce of flower is needed rather than using a whole plant or more when it
might not yield much.
Live Rosin vs. Cured
Most modern hashmakers exclusively work with “live” or freshly
frozen starting material. This is best illustrated by the fact that only one of
the four hashmakers I interviewed for this article currently processes dry or
I asked Anthony from Organic Mechanic if he preferred using fresh frozen starting material over cured and he replied, “I would do either one if the product was taken care of.”
However, he finds flavor can be lost during the curing process.
On the other hand, the other three hashmakers exclusively
work with live products for a number of reasons.
Kerry said in his experience at Superior Solventless, he observed differences in the yield, color, potency and consumer demand.
Tyler used both live and cured products before the Wojo Wax team deciding to only use freshly frozen flowers. Tyler says that in his experience, the yield was higher with cured material. Despite this, he exclusively runs live material because of the enhanced flavor and the fact that it melts better in his experience.
Mark prefers live because it “tastes better, the color is
obviously better” and that’s been enough to keep him exclusively working with
freshly frozen flowers.
Single Source vs. Outsourcing Flower for Hash Rosin
I asked a few of the hashmakers if they noticed any
differences when extracting flower they grew themselves versus outsourcing plant
“This is probably my favorite question so far because this
to me is where you really get your difference [in hash quality]. We do
everything single source,” said Tyler of Wojo Wax.
He says the reason for this is, “growing for hash is different than growing for flower.”
Growing for Hash
“For starters, I’m not defoliating as much as I am for hash
because I’m trying to get as much surface area as much as I can. On top of
that, I crank my room down as cold I can possibly get it for the last three
weeks because that preserves the terpenes which is what we’re ultimately after.
Another reason is because I’ve taken [other] people’s materials and it doesn’t
always yield well. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news to somebody that
they’re getting .3% back on a wash.”
When asked if he also noticed a difference when washing the
same strain from his own grow compared to somebody else’s, Kerry of Superior
Solventless admits the experiences were not the same.
“For example, we washed Wedding Cake that we grew and got
5%. We washed someone else’s and got 3%.”
Mechanical Separation vs. Jar Tech
There are two additional ways for hashmakers to further process hash after it has been turned into rosin. Using these techniques, they can turn the consistency of their rosin into something closer to a live resin sauce.
One is called “jar tech” which just about anyone should be able to do at home with a jar of fresh-pressed rosin, a source of heat, time and practice. The consistency it creates has been called jam or “caviar” by Superior Solventless and it contains small crystals with a more liquidy high-terpene layer. The layers combine to create an applesauce-like consistency that is less likely to change at room temperature than fresh-pressed rosin.
Unlike the washing and pressing phases, the hashmakers I
spoke to claim little to no weight is lost after a jar of hash rosin undergoes
the “jar tech.”
On the other hand, the other technique which involves
mechanically separating THCA out of the oil comes with a more significant yield
If you come across a jar of solventless rosin with large THCA crystals and oil in it, they were most likely mechanically separated with a press and filters. Then, the crystals are melted down and manipulated into a shape of choice. Usually, they are made to mimic the appearance of popular live resin extracts made with hydrocarbon solvents.
According to Mark of Covert Extracts to make mechanically separated THCA, “you need wax rosin in order to make mechanically separated THCA.”
From there, he says, “to separate the THCA from terpenes I usually press the rosin wax in a 25u press bag at about 135 degrees to start. With a very low pressure at first before building to almost max pressure. Then, I repeat at different temps until I feel enough terpenes are separated. From there you can take the THCA and melt it down into a glass-like consistency at around 240 to 250 degrees.”
Comparing it to the jam tech or fresh press, Mark said it is a “long process and you have about a 25% loss in yield but potency and appearance of the final product sets it apart.”
The process appears to further isolate THCA in hash rosin with Mark claiming to have “had some testing out at 92% THCA.”
There was a point in time when most hash looked the same. It was a dark brown or green in color and stretchy. Traditional hash commonly came in a brick, ball, or bullet that may have traveled inside someone’s ass before getting to you.
Fortunately, today’s hash has is far more refined and versatile. It looks more like a lighter colored oil that can take on the form of dry sift, ice wax, rosin, live rosin, jam, or mechanically separated hash rosin. Not to mention the various consistencies that rosin can be shape-shifted into, like cake batter, sugar, or applesauce.
Over the last 10 years, the art of separating
trichomes and terpenes from plant material became a true science and we’re
going to take a look at the road that got us to today where we now have the
best hash in history.
Hash has an important place in the last decade. Not only because we all got blasted, but because it led to some of the decade’s biggest medical advances in cannabis. If not for a bunch of monkeys in Israel eating some hash we wouldn’t know about CBD!
Now that we’ve set the bar for just how important concentrates were, let’s talk about what they weren’t at the beginning of the 2010s and, the truth is, they weren’t that nice. There were a few dudes doing wax OK in 2010, but for the most part, wax wasn’t purged that well, lost anything unique and special about the plant material, and smelled like some kind of dollar store scentless candles. Thankfully we’d get through this phase that lasted from the late 2000s to early 2010s at a decent pace.
Former High Times editorial team member Bobby Black was the main person covering the dab beat at the start of the last decade. He also was one of the folks that pushed to get a BHO category added to those early U.S. Cannabis Cups.
“At first, High Times didn’t even want to
cover dabs,” Black told Cannabis Now. “They thought it was too dangerous and
they didn’t want to cover it. I was like, ‘Look we have to cover this. This is
Black won the debate and provided the earliest
window into American dab culture. The tradeoff was that he had to put a lot of
disclaimers constantly reminding people to not try and make BHO at home.
One of the premier things to pull us out of the dab Dark Ages was dewaxed slabs of shatter hitting the world in 2010. I actually worked at a club in Berkeley that had been getting ISO melts from these UC Berkeley Chemistry students and feared the worst about where things were going. Then I saw a piece of gorgeous shatter from Rump Wax and figured everything was going to be OK.
For Black, his first experience with live resin stuck with him.
“I was at the Cannabis Cup in Denver, the
first big legal one, GiddyUp from Emotek came up to me, opened a little jar,
and I had never seen or smelled a concentrate as pungent as GiddyUp’s,” Black
The Live Resin fresh frozen era was certainly fun, and also the same time period ushered in the rosin age. While most were from a hair straightener, presses started to get dialed in leading to the larger commercial presses we see today. And the rosin tasted so bomb!
Then we figured out how important terpenes are to flavor and we started to understand how they interacted with the THC and other cannabinoids to define a lot of the experience you would have. We also quickly figured out concentrates were even better when they were wet and juicy.
I think the year everyone grew out all that
Tangie we didn’t need was when I first came across the earliest really
impressive sauces without diamonds. We’d start to see really nice whipped
batters with strong terpene profiles that are still delicious as hell, some of
the Strawberry Bananas from during the later part of the Obama administration
have an eternal place in my heart.
Eventually, we’d see terpenes and THC completely separated from one another and reunited in the form of diamonds and sauce. The modern debate now raged whether the best diamonds or batter rule all. Rosin is obviously as popping as ever because it’s easier to manufacture when it comes to permits, but a lot of people aren’t that good at it.
Also notice in that timeline that we didn’t
mention those nasty CO2 dabs that tasted like cough syrup, I’m glad that fad
lasted like a week.
Nevertheless, while all those wild things we mentioned were happening, the apparatuses we used to smoke concentrates went through their own revolution. Gone were the 2-foot bongs of yesterday as we moved on to smaller pieces that kept all the complexities of a dab’s flavor condensed for maximum enjoyment.
The transition from titanium to quartz was also welcome. The original carpenter style nails with a dome all sucked whether they were quartz or metal. Once e-nails came it seemed more bearable out of convenience, and then we started to see the hybrid nails with replaceable quartz rings. Thankfully the quartz bangers took over once China figured out how to make them.
We eventually went digital in an effective way as The Puffco Peak is basically the first generation iPod of dabbing. They’ve already upgraded the atomizers, so we’re excited to see what they come up with to improve it in the generations to come.
For much of the last decade, the dab scene was
where the cutting edge happened in cannabis. Lab testing, terpene awareness,
and arguably some of the greatest events and sesh parties to ever take place
have always been a part of this community. Hopefully, the industry in the 2020s
along with continued regulatory oversight can keep up with where dabs are
poised to go this decade.
But a cannabis business owner in Denver, Colorado says his company was the target of something much different: arson. The Dab Space Station—a party bus aimed at giving people rides to events so they could safely get high—recently caught fire and burned.
Dab Party Bus Totaled in Fire
Earlier this month, a dab-centric party bus known as the Dab Space Station caught fire during the middle of the night. The blaze completely destroyed the vehicle, which is now totaled and entirely out of commission.
The Dab Space Station was owned and operated by 33 year old Denver resident Ryan Skidmore.
According to a report from The Denver Post, Skidmore used the bus to transport people to parties, concerts, and events in the Denver area.
While riding, passengers could dab and otherwise consume weed. The whole idea was essentially to let people get high and go to events without having to operate a vehicle.
However, the Dab Space Station is now a thing of the past. In the early morning hours of November 4, Skidmore’s roommate woke up to see the bus, which was parked in front of their house, on fire.
She quickly woke Skidmore up. But by the time Skidmore reached the bus, cops and firefighters had already extinguished the flames.
Initially, authorities said the fire was the result of an electrical short or some other mechanical problem with the bus.
But Skidmore has a different explanation. He told The Denver Post that later on, after the fire was put out and authorities were gone, he entered the burned vehicle and found what he described as “two bottles . . . with rags in them.”
According to Skidmore, his bus caught fire because somebody planted two Molotov cocktails inside of it.
“I just hope whoever did this has the heart to come forward and maybe give an explanation,” Skidmore said. “It was a party bus, it was a relaxing environment. We were here to help keep people mellow.”
What’s Next for the Dab Space Station?
Skidmore has owned the bus for around three years. All told, he said he’s poured about $20,000 into it to keep it up and running.
In particular, he said the bus had a special light and sound system and an air ventilation system to cater to his dabbing clientele. The bus could hold 16 passengers at a time. In total, the vehicle was worth a reported $25,000.
Skidmore said that the bus was fully ensured during operation. But, unfortunately for him, not while it was parked and out of operation.
That means that it was not protected during the fire. And now, the bus has been totaled.
It’s unclear at this time what will happen with Skidmore’s dab-centric party company. But for now, his roommate has launched a GoFundMe page titled The Dab Space Station Funeral Fund.
“Since Ryan moved in with me in March, The Dab Space Station is ALL he would talk about and think about,” The GoFundMe page says. “I’ve watched him work his ass off to get this business up and running, only to have some cold hearted person set it on fire! This was his EVERYTHING!!! So I’m setting up this fundraiser to see if we can help him get through these tough times, and back up on his feet (or wheels).”
With the realization that concentrates that are closer to their pure starting material are of higher quality, there’s a strong push now for products that are clean, smooth, loudly flavored and kept as close to their original genetic expression as possible. The use of synthetic salts, foliar sprays and sulfur burners just won’t do. Even words like “organic” are no longer held in as great esteem these days, as there are many organic elements that one would not want to smoke or ingest. Dead ladybugs, insect feces and even the once popular sulfur burners impart organic material that can affect the taste, quality and healthiness of a cannabis product. Cleaning cannabis is not an option, unlike with most other crops.
Extremely high taxes, fees and exacting regulations make many growers and extractors focus less on quality and more on ensuring that their products can meet the necessary requirements to make it to the open market. What was once a highly profitable endeavor in the black market no longer works in today’s current legal regulated cannabis market (these days, the easiest way to turn a profit is to grow a larger quantity of lower-grade cannabis to make up for the smaller margins).
And as new regulations manifest, a great deal of cannabis fails required testing. What’s worse is that the incredibly popular world of concentrates has seen, in addition to THCA and other cannabinoids, concentrated impurities such as leftover nutrients, sugars, heavy metals and pesticides. These can impart an unpleasant taste, cause headaches, and cause discomfort to the throat, nose or lungs, not to mention making it harder to burn the product. Some of these contaminants can even prove hazardous to consumers’ long-term health. And a focus on regulations and quantity almost always means less attention is paid to detail, resulting in lower-grade products. In contrast, the unregulated cannabis black market had been very lucrative because growers and extractors don’t have to adhere to regulations and requirements that aboveboard companies adhere to, thereby dodging a host of rules, taxes and start-up fees.
However, the times are changing and the cannabis community is slowly learning not to accept subpar, low-quality products that are possibly untested and potentially unclean.
The concentrates world has quickly evolved to meet these greater standards. Producers are now turning away from the open blasting of concentrates—using cans of butane and glass or metal tubes to extract honey oil from flowers—and instead using highly sophisticated closed-loop machines that can extract 20-plus pounds at a time (and operate much more safely). The concentrates themselves have become cleaner, and the extraction process has gone from being dangerous to relatively safe when performed in the right conditions with the correct setup and knowledge. Better practices are being followed—for instance, using uncured, fresher material, known as live resin, to produce higher-grade concentrates—that result in increased terpene retention and outstanding taste.
Additional refining processes like winterization—a technique that uses cold temperatures and time to allow the fats, waxes and lipids to separate from the main body of cannabinoids—help create a product that is especially smooth and easy on the lungs.
The advent of sauce (named for its similarity in appearance to applesauce)— resulting from an extraction technique that keeps the extracted cannabis material in its liquid solvent, allowing time to separate the THCA from the terpenes— has given consumers another popular form of concentrate. This supported two new advancements, the creation of truly high-potency, beautiful THCA crystals that form during the process as well as the ability to lake cannabis flower that has little smell or zest and turn it into flavorfully loud sauce.
A jar of sauce with a quarry of beautifully shiny THCA crystals swimming in a runny, oily sea of terpenes has great bag appeal and can assault the nose like a fresh pot of coffee. Consumers also have the ability to change the ratio of THCA to other cannabinoids as they apply sauce to their dabbers, allowing them to tailor their consumption to their own taste.
The Vape-Pen Boom
While the dabbing revolution continues among connoisseurs, the most popular way to consume cannabis products is by using vape pens containing distillate. Most vape cartridges are produced using a fractional distillation process. This is a technique that uses a base solvent, such as butane or ethanol, to extract the cannabinoids from the flower. The resulting extract-laden solvent is then run through a roto vape—a flask that rotates in a warm water bath to evaporate all liquids into vapor. These liquids then re-condense in separate chambers, leaving behind a base liquid of THCA distillate with few other cannabinoids. All terpenes and flavor have been removed, giving the extractor the choice of reintroducing terpenes from cannabis, or the less expensive option of adding food-derived terpenes. While the end product when using this technique is not of particularly high quality, it’s cost-effective and allows for the manufacturer to satisfy the palates of consumers whose tastes have been honed to appreciate food flavors instead of the acquired taste of a gassy OG Kush or a funky Big Buddha Cheese strain.
At first, low-quality cannabis was being turned into distillate to meet the high demand of vape-pen usage. Commonly referred to as “hot dog water” or the “high-fructose corn syrup” of cannabis, it’s easy to make and works well in cheap disposable cartridges. Some producers use cannabis material that is unfit to consume as flower, turning a profit on what would be considered unusable product. However, this has resulted in a high percentage of cartridges failing testing miserably. And as the word has gotten out, the public is seeking out healthier, tastier and headier products. The best of the vape pens now no longer use distillate to power their cartridges but rather incorporate sauce, oil or rosin, providing a cleaner, higher-grade experience. Yes, there are still many cannabis products that are failing testing. But the situation is improving overall. In fact, cannabis has never been cleaner, healthier and headier than it is right now.
Software Vs. Hardware
Now that we’ve really begun to understand the intricacies of cannabis and the evolution of top-shelf concentrates, there lies a distinct shortcoming in the ways we consume cannabis. In many cases, the medicine is beginning to outpace the technology that we use to consume it. Many vape-pen cartridges use cotton wicks to draw the liquid to the heating clement, imparting a burned flavor and adding impurities to a clean concentrate. Oftentimes, if the wick isn’t wet from contact with the oil, it can burn and lend a distinctly charred flavor. Most cartridges come in 350-milligram to 1-gram sizes, with the concentrate contained in a single chamber and heated by a central clement. This means that the first few hits are fresh and flavorful and rich in terpenes. But after several draws, the concentrate’s flavor degrades and becomes less enjoyable. Three-quarters of the concentrate is turned into a low-grade sludge that one would be hard-pressed to consume if it weren’t in a cart.
More frightful are cannabis vape pens containing solvent-derived concentrates testing clean when they’re produced, but then testing dirty due to being housed in cheap, mass-produced metal cartridges. These disposable units can leach heavy metals, machine oil and other contaminates into the concentrate, adulterating the hash with harmful compounds. Furthermore, cheap, low-quality vape-pen batteries don’t have the capability to consistently reach appropriate temperatures to vape the oil.
The technology of consumption is lagging behind in the concentrates industry. The tech supporting the world’s most popular form of cannabis product badly needs an upgrade.
Fortunately, there have been some advances in dabbing tech. Coupled with the desire to be eco-friendly, many consumers have been waiting for a healthy way to enjoy cannabis that also results in the least impact on the environment as possible. Titanium nails were once the norm in dabbing concentrates. But this method could produce too-hot temperatures that burn instead of vaporize the essential oils, resulting in the flavor being off and an inherently unhealthy process. Titanium also expands and contracts through repeated heating, gassing off impurities and slowly degrading the nail. Yes, there’s even a thing called titanium-fume poisoning, which leads to many health issues. Then came ceramic, which is porous and takes forever to clean and heat up, but retains heat very well.
Concentrate consumers finally ended up turning to the same material that laboratories use due to its cleanliness and durability—quartz glass. The real problem was then twofold, though: the hassle of having to use lots of butane and a torch to heat the nail before waiting for it to cool down to an appropriate temperature, and the social acceptability of using a torch with a big flame in public—it’s a touch crackish. No matter how adorned a torch is and how artfully presented, the bulk of the public will most likely never approve of the sight of someone heating a glass element to consume a substance.
The newest products for consuming concentrates on the market utilize batteries and heating elements to provide a user-friendly and socially acceptable way to dab. Instead of a torch to heat a nail and timers to regulate the heat, electronic rigs now provide an easy and accurate way of enjoying concentrates. Dabbing a concentrate at high temperatures—and burning oil instead of vaporizing it—can result in the inhalation of any number of chemicals; some can even be carcinogenic. The ability to dial in specific temperatures on electronic rigs proves to be not only easier on the lungs but also produces a better flavor and more accurate effect based on the terpene profile.
While these devices do have some drawbacks—like the inclusion of ceramic bowls instead of a quartz surface, which provides the cleanest and safest dabbing experience—they do represent a significant improvement over the old standard. Being able to fully dial in specific temperatures is a welcome addition, especially compared with using the imprecise colored-light settings for low, medium, medium-high and high temperatures seen on older products. If a gram of good oil costs $60 to $80, a consumer is most likely willing to spend a good sum on ensuring the most efficient way to consume the headiest dabs.
Going with quality hardware makes not only for a better-performing device but also for a more reliable one. Nothing is worse than going on vacation to some far-off land and having your inexpensive pen or electric rig stop working. Hot-knifing on a stove is not an option for most people on the road. There are a few devices out there that work well, but they are very temperamental and require the most delicate of hands to clean and operate. Some companies have been forward-thinking, having introduced a plug-and-play ability with their products and allowing for heady glasswork to be incorporated into devices as custom attachments. This allows for opportunities to represent one’s taste in a most unique and individual way. The inclusion of handmade glass art opens up a whole new world of potential collaborations and creativity.
A Higher Consciousness
The desire to consume clean products safely and efficiently is finally overtaking the popular reign of cheap-but-inferior products of the past. Still, the battle isn’t over. CBD products and shops are popping up everywhere, and more people are consuming it now than ever before. You can find CBD products for sale in gas stations, grocery stores and at the mall. Even the fine chocolatier in my small hometown offers CBD candies for sale. NYC bodegas offer CBD products and knockoff THCA vape cartridges. However, most of these products are made with unregulated Chinese hemp, most likely grown with harmful chemicals.
US-grown and state-regulated products are slowly meeting the new needs of consumers by providing compliant products without sacrificing quality and reverting to profit over patients. So don’t settle for inferior cannabis products. Support companies that work to represent the plant and community in healthy and beneficial ways. You are what you consume and what you surround yourself with, so never settle for anything less than the best the cannabis community has to offer. Always insist on higher standards.
This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue. For subscription services, click here.
The art of consuming concentrates has undergone several evolutions over the years. Each advancement in dabbing has improved the efficiency of the experience, leading to more flavorful dabs as well as a more convenient cleanup. This evolution is probably best illustrated by the massive shift that occurred when connoisseurs first stepped away from hot dabs off of metal nails and moved on to new techniques in the quest for flavor.
When the first amber-colored extracts surfaced, concentrate fans were happy just to have a way to consume them—even if it meant using a harsh red-hot knife. The hot-knife concept was the basis for the first bongs made for concentrate consumption. These were made with skillets, which were like hot plates directly under a tube that filtered vapors through water for cooler, larger hits.
The next innovation in concentrate consumption represented a step forward and two steps back. It was a nail that fit into male joints with a borosilicate globe or dome around it to partially keep the vapor from escaping. This required glass water pipes to be made with male joints for the first time.
Additionally, the dome would have to be removed before each dab, and it would sometimes get stuck once oil built up in the joint. Thanks to the mess and extra steps it required, it didn’t take long for domes and nails to be replaced by the simplified, all-in-one domeless nail.
This is when the transition to lower-temperature dabs for flavor and comfort began. People started to let their domeless nails cool for some time after heating them up, which made hits less harsh. The carb cap was then introduced to allow vaporization to occur at a lower temperature for smoother, tastier dabs. Caps helped reduce the size of puddles left behind on the nail without compromising on flavor.
Another step in the quest for better-tasting dabs was the introduction of quartz in place of titanium and ceramic nails. On top of improving flavor, quartz nails provided an easier-to-clean surface.
Another major shift occurred when the glass artist Quave took the nail design a step further by introducing the quartz club banger (see photo)—the shape made it easy to insert a Q-tip inside for smoother cleanups, and it retained heat for longer-lasting low-temperature dabs. The quartz club banger’s top (the bucket) was cut at a 45-degree angle, inspiring tons of copycats for some time before the next step in the evolution of low-temperature dabbing—the thermal banger.
Pukinbeagle Glass introduced us to the thermal banger with a jacketed design. It was the first such device that used a bucket within a bucket. Thermal bangers also introduced us to the concept of flat tops and bubble caps.
While popular, this design had a flaw: Oil could leak between the two layers of quartz (the bucket within a bucket). Fortunately, quartz makers took the advantages of the thermal banger and tweaked the design. As a result, most bangers today feature flat tops without the jacketed design, and most dabbers use bubble caps.
Now most low-temperature dabs are dropped after heating all around the bucket of a quartz banger for close to a minute and after another minute or longer for things to cool down. The temperature starts high and rapidly decreases after the extract is dropped and vaporizes.
The ideal temperature for a full-flavored dab can range from 350 to 500°F. Unfortunately, most bangers don’t have the heat retention to stay in that range for long enough to completely vaporize a dab. As a result, puddles containing leftover terps and THC can be left behind, especially after big globs. Reheating the puddle to completion usually results in a harsh, flavorless hit. Even with a carb cap, you’ll usually end up sacrificing some of your concentrate with low-temp dabbing.
To completely finish a dab in one go, you’d have to drop the oil in earlier while the nail is hotter. That sounds reasonable; however, the problem is that THC boils off at 315°F, and most terpenes boil off at a much lower temperature than that. To finish a dab, you would be dropping it in while the nail is well over 500°F.
In addition to the harshness of dabbing at such high temperatures, a lot of your terpenes and cannabinoids will be scorched before they can add to the flavor and potency of your dab. Not to mention that research from Portland State University published in the journal ACS Omega found that dabbing at temperatures above 600°F could result in the release of noxious chemicals.
Fortunately, the latest step in the evolution of dabbing resolves this issue. Cold starts are like reverse dabs. Instead of getting a surface raging hot and waiting to drop the hash in, the extract is added to the surface while it’s still cold. The temperature is then gradually increased. This practice prevents waste while preserving flavor, time and butane with the proper tools. It’s a simple but effective method, and more and more products are being made with this concept in mind.
Taking some inspiration from the inner bucket of the Pukinbeagle thermal design, Eternal Quartz made a removable quartz bucket so it could be cleaned or used on different bangers. Shortly after creating these “quartz inserts,” the company started experimenting with different ways of taking “meltshot” videos. That’s when Eternal first tried out the “insert drop” technique and cold-start dabbing commenced.
The insert-drop method allows the temperature of the concentrate within the quartz insert to slowly increase as heat transfers from the outer layer of the heated banger. This causes vapor production to last longer than it would with traditional low-temperature dabs.
To do a cold-start dab with an insert, you need to put your hash in the insert and set it aside. Heat the bucket of your banger as you normally would and, after waiting a bit, drop in the insert. The wait time depends on the size of your dab and the heat retention of your banger. It can be anywhere from five to 40 seconds. On your final pull, the oil should be much darker and tackier than when it started.
After Eternal Quartz got things started for cold-start dabbing, other companies took the idea and ran with it. Riding the cold-start wave, OG Quartz created a banger design with an eye on convenience. The OG Quartz banger’s walls are three millimeters thick with a wide and curvy bottom that is easier to Q-tip than any other banger on the market. You’ll need a cap from OG as well. The inner wall of the flat top and the carb caps designed for the banger are tapered for proper seals. The stem reaches deep into the banger with a 45-degree cut at the end, which allows airflow to tornado through, constantly spinning the oil around the bottom of the bucket.
The carb cap’s wide diameter, combined with the bucket’s shorter diameter, thick walls, curved sides and dense bottom, allow for heat to transfer slowly enough through the banger to provide flavor without burning.
To do a cold start with an OG Quartz banger, you can either load your hash onto the end of the carb cap or onto the bottom of the bucket. Depending on the type of extract you’re using (less heat for rosin, more for THCA crystals) and the strength of your torch, you’ll need to heat the bottom of the banger for about five to eight seconds before the first hit. The oil should begin to bubble and vaporize when you inhale.
The cap is designed to be cleared like the bongs OG Quartz has been making for 22 years—well before dab rigs were a thing. When vapor stops forming, there might still be a puddle. After the initial hit, you can provide three-to-five-second bursts of heat to finish off the remainder. This method will save the dabbing community tons on butane as it only takes 15 to 20 seconds of heating to finish an entire dab. With the proper amount of torching, you should get all the flavor and potency in the extract without any burning.
The concept of cold starts is improving the world of electronic vaporizers for concentrates as well. In fact, the Peak by Puffco takes advantage of cold starts for flavorful dabs, as the device works best when concentrates are preloaded into the ceramic cup before the atomizer is fired. As heat is transferred into the cup, hash oil goes from cold to hot so you can enjoy all of the terpenes that boil off along the way. If there is anything worth vaping left behind, you can hit the boost setting or reheat the puddle on a lower setting to finish it off without any burning.
Every time we think we’ve found the best method of consumption, a new innovation arrives and changes the game. Cold starts are the latest step, but there will doubtless be a new technique that improves consumption as we continue on our journey to the perfect dab.
If you taste burning oil and everything on the banger is too dried up to be easily Q-tipped, you dropped your dab in while the bucket was too hot. However, if you’re not getting much vaporization and a huge puddle is left behind after your dab, you waited too long. Experiment to find the perfect-temperature dab.
While insert drops provide some of the most rewarding dabs in terms of flavor and vapor production in one heat-up, there are additional steps and tools involved with cleanup. It helps to have reverse tweezers, a shot glass full of isopropyl alcohol and paper towels on hand to get the job done quickly.
California cannabis manufacturer Apex Extractions announced on Tuesday that it is launching a new subscription program that will deliver top-quality cannabis concentrates directly to California consumers. The Apex Fresh Club, as the program is known, will send a selection of three concentrates with cannabis sourced from some of California’s finest cultivators to a discerning clientele.
The Fresh Club
Scott Benson and Ted Hicks, who share the reigns as co-chief executive officers at the company, said in a press release that the new service will allow consumers who have come to trust the quality of Apex Extractions a regular opportunity to enjoy its premier offerings.
“The response to our products has been overwhelming, and optimizing our clients’ experience is our biggest priority,” they said. “Introducing this subscription service will help us get our product in the hands of cannabis connoisseurs quickly providing the best possible experience.”
Benson said in an interview with High Times that The Apex Fresh Club will be a way to connect artisan growers in California with consumers who have an affinity for top-shelf cannabis concentrates, allowing them to realize the full potential of each strain offered.
“I think this subscription program is really important for people who want great products and we really want to serve that market,” said Benson.
Each month, subscribers will receive a curated selection of three of the finest concentrates currently available from Apex for $139, including state excise tax. Offerings will feature some of the best concentrates available from California’s small-crop cultivators, including winners of the High Times Cannabis Cup.
The club will be the best opportunity to acquire the concentrates that are most in demand, Benson noted, saying that “some of them are going to be really rare because it’s going to be really small boutique batches.”
Cutting Out the Middle Man
The key to bringing cannabis connoisseurs the finest quality concentrates, he explained, is getting them into the hands of customers as quickly as possible. To do this, the Apex Fresh Club avoids the usual retail supply chain, allowing it’s delivery partners to deliver each month’s selections at the peak of freshness, giving them the opportunity to enjoy each concentrate while terpene and flavor profiles are at their best.
“And if you love it as a subscriber,” Benson added, “then it will be at the stores afterward and it’ll still have a great taste profile, but you will have gotten to experience it first, at it’s prime.”
When customers sign up for the Apex Fresh Club on the company’s website, they will be given the opportunity to customize their experience by rating their preferences for sativa, indica, or hybrid dominant strains and whether they’d like concentrates or live resin in disposable vape pens and vape cartridges. Carts should be available beginning with the August shipment.
To preserve the quality of its extracts, Apex worked with hardware manufacturers to produce pens and cartridges that operate at a lower temperature and deliver the best terpene profile and flavor. Benson explained that many pens and cartridges on the market have coils that heat the product to too high a temperature, destroying terpenes and giving the remaining concentrate a burnt taste. The Apex Fresh Club solves that problem with its premium hardware.
Oakland-based Apex Extractions has been producing top-quality full-spectrum concentrates since the beginning of Calfornia’s regulated cannabis market in January 2018. The company has earned numerous awards for its products, including High Times Cannabis Cup winners such as Banana Pudding and Sled Dawg selections as Best Sativa Concentrate, Papaya Sauce for Best Indica Concentrate, and Best Hybrid Concentrate trophies for a Starburst OG x Dosido and Wedding Crasher #18. Apex Extractions concentrates, pens, and vape cartridges are available at licensed dispensaries throughout California.