The Best Temperature to Dab at Explained by Science

Eric Vlosky
Last Updated at
10:57 am
January 8, 2024

The modern renaissance of cannabis that began with the passing of California’s first medical cannabis laws in 1996 and which has been accelerating sharply after Colorado was the first state to create a legal recreational market is showing zero signs of slowing down. What that means for consumers is that in mature markets especially, the variety of products available to them at an average dispensary would have been the stuff of a stoner’s science fiction novel a mere decade ago. Among all of the options that deliver the widest range of special flavors and unique effects are concentrates, with the pinnacle of extracted cannabis resins resting firmly in the realm of solventless varieties. In this exclusive TerpGuide article we’ll walk you through how to maximize the flavor of your dabs and achieve the sublime contentment that special terpene-flavorant profiles can offer. 

How Taking a Dab Actually Works

Whenever you vaporize cannabis, whether in dried flower or concentrated resin form, heat is required to perform a chemical reaction known as decarboxylation. This lengthy word, which is typically shortened simply to “decarb” is the process of conversion that the acidic form of cannabinoids, such as THCA, becomes THC which will induce psychoactive effects. It can occur at as low a temperature as 240°F, but this takes some time, whereas when you smoke flower with a lighter (even cheap lighters can reach well over 1,700°F) it happens almost instantaneously. The same is true for vaporizing dabs, which is most frequently done in electronic rigs or for the best possible flavor in a glass rig with a butane torch. With concentrates, a tiny amount is enough to deliver very potent effects since so many cannabinoids can be contained in very little volume. It’s both highly efficient and effects-wise often comes up and down faster than dried marijuana does. 

A crude analogy between smoking dried cannabis and dabbing a high quality extract is that if you love blueberries, smoking flower is the consumption of the entire blueberry bush, whereas fine concentrates are the equivalent of blueberry jam. While an imperfect comparison, it does help get the point across that properly made solventless extracts are just the pure resin of the strain itself without all of the other organic plant matter. We enjoy cannabis in both forms of course, but we would also argue that you get the most pristine representation of any given profile in live rosin form. 

Why Dabbing Temperature Really Matters

For those who dab regularly as a preferred consumption method, much is made about temperature both for flavor and vapor production purposes. The hotter you go, the more vapor you can create, but the harsher the vapor will be and at the expense of the delicate terpenes that make fine rosins and hashes worth the money. An important thing to remember is that the oft-cited boiling points of terpenes are worth understanding because it’s the temperature at which they convert into a vapor. This is what is also sometimes referred to as the activation point. The table below comes from a seminal 2022 study on cannabis extracts and their terpene content, specifically concerning how certain kinds of extracts might lose much of their therapeutic value by way of terpene loss in various products. If you look closely at this table, you’ll see that monoterpenes have the lowest boiling points, whereas sesquiterpenes and terpenoids have some of the highest. In the future we envision better, more ubiquitous terpene testing that allows consumers to more easily understand what temperatures they should be taking their dabs at for maximum terpene activation as well as flavor. As we’ll discuss in a moment, the optimal temperature range for the finest rosins and full melt hashes is usually at least 150°F above the boiling point of most terpenes which fully activates them but doesn’t destroy them. 

Terpene Class Terpenes Boiling Points (°C)
Monoterpenes (C10H16)
α-Pinene 155
Camphene 159
Sabinene 163
β-Pinene 166
Myrcene 168
Carene 171
Ocimene 175
Limonene 176
Terpinolene 185
Monoterpenoids (C10H18O) Linalool 198
Terpineol 217
Geraniol 230
Sesquiterpenes (C15H24)
β-Caryophyllene 263
Humulene 276
Sesquiterpenoids (C15H26O) Nerolidol 276
Guaiol 290

Another critical aspect to the temperature discussion when inhaling concentrates at temperatures above 322°C or 611°F, carcinogenic compounds such as benzene and methacrolein start to appear, especially at 750°F and above according to perhaps the only study available today on the topic. In fact, different tested types of terpenes have different rates of carcinogenic conversions, with limonene potentially creating among the highest carcinogens (although their terpene sampling range was very limited) at way higher than you’d ever dab temperatures. 

Source: Minor, Nonterpenoid Volatile Compounds Drive the Aroma Differences of Exotic Cannabis study by Abstrax 

What’s also been discovered just recently in a study that examined the relationship between strain’s aromas and their flavors is that in addition to terpenes, other minute, delicate organic non-terpenoid molecules known as flavorants have an outsized role in our experiences with cannabis. Their groundbreaking discovery is essentially that plants which produce very similar terpene profiles in nearly equivalent concentrations were perceived very differently based on their flavorant concentrations instead on a scale of how exotic they were perceived. Arcane sounding molecules such as esters, alcohols, heteroaromatics, aldehydes, and volatile sulfur compounds all comprise this important new category. These newly examined chemicals are only present at rates of approximately 1-3% compared to terpenes by relative amount. While the authors don’t speculate specifically about if flavorants are more or less delicate than terpenes, it stands to reason that the ways and temperatures at which the original cannabis was handled probably matter enormously to how aromatic and ultimately flavorful a given product is.

All of this said, in almost all cases for fine concentrates, the best temperature range to consume them is between approximately 450° - 530°F. A common refrain among connoisseurs that we tend to agree with is the adage “waste to taste”, because at the lower end of this temperature spectrum you’ll find there is plenty of liquid resin left unvaporized at the bottom of your banger or rig. If you want the best possible flavor containing as many volatile terpenes as possible at the expense of potency, stick to the lower end of the range. Most live rosins and solventless extracts however tend to dab their best around the 490° - 520°F mark, which is usually an optimal balance of vapor creation with minimal if any detectable flavor loss. This is the subject of intense debate in the aficionado community and we strongly recommend experimenting with different temperatures when you dab to find what suits your preferences best.

Dab Rigs and Vaporization Surfaces

If you’ve ever enjoyed fine wine or liquor, it’s hopefully been out of a glass and not a plastic cup. Just like great wine improves noticeably with some aeration and certain liquors can be at their best when cut with a minute amount of water, premium cannabis concentrates also require fairly specific conditions to provide the best experience. Glass, ceramics, and quartz are the most commonly employed materials manufacturers and glass blowers use to create the small chambers that dabs are inserted into. This is because each of these is highly temperature resistant, but not all of them are the same. You’ll find that most e-rigs these days use ceramic bowls, and that glass rigs are best accompanied by quartz bowls, otherwise known as bangers. 

Another surface that was very popular in the past but has since become much more of a niche purchase are titanium bangers, which were very common with early e-rigs. Titanium is incredibly durable, so the one upshot is that they never break, but titanium nails have fallen out of fashion largely because of how little flavor they pass along when used for dabs. Unfortunately titanium also expands when its heated. Most bangers are male jointed to fit into the female joints of glass rigs, so there's always a risk of cracking the neck of your dab rig when using one too. Lastly, titanium is prone to discoloration instantly when heated to dabbing vaporization temperatures, so no matter how well you try and clean it it will never look the same as the day you bought it.

It’s our opinion and that of most connoisseurs that quartz is the superior surface to dab from because it’s non-porous, easily cleaned, and able to withstand the extreme heat butane torches create. The non-porosity factor is critical because it allows for concentrates to be purely melted and vaporized without any change in flavor due to absorption by the material itself. For convenience’s sake though, most portable rigs such as Puffcos or dabX devices utilize ceramic chambers because they tend to retain heat better and are not prone to cracking as a result of constant temperature fluctuations. The tradeoff is mainly concerning the amount of time it takes to heat up a quartz banger to take your dab versus pressing a button or two and having it come to your preset temperature versus the taste difference these surfaces provide.

Optimal Cannabis Concentrate Dabbing Temperatures Chart
Our helpful guide to the best dabbing temperatures based on user preference.

How to Take the Best Dabs

Tying it all together, if you’re going for the best flavor possible that your extract has to offer, a cold start dab combined with a low temperature of around 500°F in a quartz banger is your best bet, hands down. The trade off with a cold start dab where you put the concentrate in the banger before heating is maximum flavor, but with less potency. If you want the best balance of flavor and potency however, follow these same steps with a standard hot start instead. It does take time to set up, heat up, and clean up, so be sure to have all of the tools necessary on hand prior to doing either. For special full melt hashes, the temperature utilized should go down at least 50°F compared to rosins and live resins. 

If all of the hassle of the ritual of the rig isn’t your thing (for our hash and rosin reviews we typically sample them in electronic rigs and quartz), make sure to use about the lowest heat setting your e-rig will allow for. Even though it should go without saying, you can’t exalt the essence of your concentrates without a clean device and if desired, fresh water. There is no faster way to pollute the unique profiles cannabis has to offer by getting lazy and not cleaning your rig, which is a step that should be performed regularly with high strength isopropyl alcohol. With the right temperature, contact material, and care routine, you can dramatically increase the flavor and overall experience of your dabs. Trust us, all the effort is worth it.

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