Dab Decoding

Buying the right pot can be tricky, and buying the right dabs (the yellow-brown gooey sticky sap-like concentrate that doesn’t even resemble weed) can be even trickier. As a daily dabber, I want to write a brief guide on what to look for when you’re choosing from a selection of dabs in the store.

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The texture is often the first thing I notice with concentrate, as dabs will range in texture from wet and soupy, to dry and crumbly. Sometimes it’s like wax, other times it’s a translucent brick that shatters like peanut brittle, aptly called “shatter.” Dabs with noticeable crystals are at the top of the to-get list. If you notice a “shimmering” effect from the way the light reflects from the crystalline wax, it often indicates a high THC content. Top-shelf dabs will often be a crystalline sugar or a crystalline wax, or sometimes a fluffy earwax texture. Shatter is often high quality because the ability to literally “shatter” depends on having high levels of hardened THC crystals. If there’s not high-THC when the dabs are extracted, shatter cannot form.

It’s possible to find high-quality dabs in a variety of textures, and you’ll quickly develop your preference for texture once you sample a few varieties.

Color is often an important indicator of quality. Black dabs are an immediate no. Excessively dark coloring is from the plant pigmentation, called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the green color found in all plants, it’s essential for the plant, but it’s disgusting to smoke. Chlorophyll has a harsh plant flavor (think: lawnmower). Most dabs will carry a yellow to medium brown color, which is nice. A typical mid-grade dab option will have a light brown, semi-amber color, whereas light-yellow and especially clear or white dabs indicate the highest quality and tend to be most prevalent on the top-tier. Keep in mind that terpenes (the desirable aromatic compounds in cannabis) are sometimes yellow or brown, and appear more liquidy. Dabs with a vibrant yellow color or a sap coated crystalline are often especially tasty and high-quality.

In Washington State, where open cannabis packages aren’t even allowed in retail shops, it’s almost impossible to know what aroma the dabs will carry before purchase, so knowing how to visually identify quality dabs becomes even more important. Generally, look for the most crystalline “sugary” dabs with the lightest color. If you’re looking for high THC in particular, genuine shatter and anything with visible, shimmering THC crystals is a guarantee. If you’re going for all-around quality, look for the former plus a vibrant-yellow or sappy “terpene” portfolio that uses either a multi-phase extraction method or is live rosin/resin (albeit these will often be the most expensive dabs at the store).

Live resin is simply a cannabis extract made from cannabis that hasn’t been cured, typically from flash-frozen buds. Because the cannabis material is fresh and uncured, the terpene content of live resin is very high, which will often result in a soupier or more sap-like consistency (like honey). Live resin dabs are delicious to smoke at a low temperature and don’t pack as high

of a THC percentage as other dabs, which makes them great “appetizers,” or good options for those who are new to dabbing.

Rosin, is simply a solventless extract. So, while live resin is a cannabis extract made from fresh cannabis using a solvent like butane, propane, or CO2, live rosin is made without a solvent (usually by pressing).

Ultimately, the preference for different types of concentrates depends on the individual. While certain types of concentrate, like shatter and rosin, are regarded as being more desirable, they may not suit everyone the same. Exploring different brands, textures, and other characteristics are the best ways to get to know your personal preferences. Happy dabbing!

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