Like getting arrested, eating a hot dog, or talking about your feelings— you can make dabs the easy way, or one of the many much harder ways.
Dabs are basically a concentrated extract of dry herb. That’s the simplest possible way of explaining it. Why would you want to smoke dabs? Well, why does anybody do anything? It’s better than another thing.
Dabs are kind of like espresso compared to regular coffee. A stronger, more concentrated, more powerful version, derived from the same substance.
The technique you use to extract the concentrate from the dry herb matter is what determines the type of dab you get.
As far as techniques go, there are many. But they can be divided into two main categories: this will burn your house down, and this won’t burn your house down. In other words, solvent-based and solvent-less.
Solvent-Less Extraction Methods (Safe to Make at Home)
Pretty much the only safe methods of making dabs without industrial grade equipment and a certification from the board of Southern Vancouver’s left nut are the techniques that do not involve solvents.
Dry sifting is a technique to make a form of concentrates called “hash.” If you have at least a three-chamber grinder with a built-in kief sifter (you probably do), you’ve already been doing this. If for some reason you haven’t checked the bottom chamber, please, go check it.
Screens with varying sized holes sift the dry herb, which separates the trichome heads from the stalk and plant matter. The yield can be varying forms of purity depending on the microns of the sifter. You might unfortunately recognize the term “micron” from trying to determine whether or not a face mask’s holes are small enough to block COVID-19 particles. A micron is a unit of measurement for determining the size of a hole in a microscopic screen. Your mom is 100,000 microns.
The kief you get from your home grinder usually contains a fine mixture of plant matter in addition to trichomes, so it’s not the Walter White method of dry sifting by any stretch. You also don’t typically get very high yields from this, as it can take multiple grinds before you even get a small dusting.
But, if you want to perform a fairly simple dry sift at home, here’s how you can do it.
What You’ll Need
- Dry herb
- Sifter box (different sized screens work best)
- Credit card
- Pollen press
- Funnel (or piece of paper)
Before you start: Chill your dry herb so it is more brittle, the trichomes sift more easily, and the plant matter is easier to work with.
Step 1: Grind your herb evenly as though you are about to smoke it.
Step 2: Spread it evenly into your sifter box and close the lid.
Step 3: Shake the sifter box and “card” the plant matter by swiping the credit card over the herb to break it down through the surface of the screen.
Step 4: Shake and repeat.
Step 5: Open the bottom of the bottom of the box and scrape together the collected kief with a credit card into a nice pile.
Step 6: Open your pollen press and stick the funnel inside. Fill it with kief to about 3/4 capacity.
Step 7: Screw the top of the press back on.
Step 8: Screw the handle tightly until it fully resists. This presses the pollen.
Step 9: Open the bottom portion and screw the handle to expel your pressed hash.
Hash can be graded depending on the quality of the melt— aka, how easily it “melts” off of the nail. Full melt refers to hash which contains only trichomes with no impurities or plant matter, and is incredibly difficult to make at home. Half melt is a little bit worse, as the name suggests. Kief is what you find at the bottom of your grinder. It won’t melt at all— rather, it will burn and crackle. But, hey, that could be kind of fun. Invite a date over and pretend it’s the fourth of July.
Ice Water Hash/Bubble Hash
Bubble hash is a type of hash named for its characteristically distinctive bubble texture. The way bubble hash is made is fairly similar to a dry sift, only you are incorporating the element of ice water. I am using the word “similar” in the sense that the basic principle is the same. It is much more difficult than a dry sift.
Counterintuitively, dry herb is not soluble in water. You can get it as wetter than a Cincinnati baptism and it won’t degrade the quality of the terpenes or trichomes.
With that in mind, the main idea beyond the process of creating ice water hash is that dry herb is broken down in ice water, which is then filtered through multiple layers of screens.
Keep in mind, making hash is an art. Many people have dedicated their entire lives to mastering these form of dab creation that I am attempting to summarize before 1:30 so I can get lunch. There are many, many variations of this technique.
But, in the sense that Picasso’s technique was “paint a picture,” here’s how to make bubble hash.
What you need:
- Filter bags of varying microns (you can find bubble hash kits, but the ideal ratio is a layer of 40 / 45u + 70u + 150u + 220u bags)
- Wooden spoon
- Egg beater
- Regular spoon
- Ice water
- 5 gallon bucket (or bucket comparable to bag size)
Step 1: Line your bucket with the filter bags starting with the lowest micron bag and ending with the highest micron bag.
Step 2: Fill the bucket with enough cold water to cover the bottom of the bags.
Step 3: Add your dry herb.
Step 4: Add ice until the bucket is filled almost to the top.
Step 5: Stir with a wooden spoon for about 15-20 minutes. Dab enthusiasts describe the importance of the sound this process makes, specifying that it should sound almost like a musical delicate churning of ice and water as opposed to a crunching of ice breaking. If you hear this distinction, add more water, as you could be breaking apart the herb such that more contaminants are being added.
Step 6: Pull out the bags one by one, draining them into the bucket.
Step 7: Once you remove each bag, turn it inside out and collect the material.
Step 8: Dry the collected resin by placing it in a cool, dark place. Like the one you’ve been in since middle school.
Dry Ice CO2 Extraction
This method is the evil stepsister of the ice water method. Technically, if you want to get philosophical, you could consider it a solvent based method-- since it is actually utilizing CO2. But, if you open that door, then you have to say water is also a solvent, and then you wake up and you're in a psychiatrist's office.
- Dry ice
- 5 gallon bucket
- 3 micron filter bags (73u, 160u, and 220u)
- Heat resistant gloves
- Razor blade or putty knife (to scrape kief)
Step 1: Fill the bucket with ground dry herb.
Step 2: Using gloves, place a corresponding amount of dry ice over the herb.
Step 3: Fit the 73u bag over the bucket and shake the bucket for about 4 minutes.
Step 4: Invert the bucket and strain the herb/ice mixture.
Step 5: Repeat this process to strain multiple times through the 160u and 220u bags.
You may be reading this thinking, “Okay, that’s great, but I’m not a rocket scientist. Whose dick do I have to suck to make some damn dabs? Is that a crime?” Well, actually, depending on where you live, that would be both solicitation and possession, so you would be lucky if you saw the light of day for quite a while.
Luckily, we’ve saved the best for last, because the final method of making solvent-less dabs is by far the easiest. And that little Rascal Flatts of a technique is known as pressing rosin.
If you’ve been reading this whole article thinking, wait a minute. Do I have problems with women because of my relationship with my own mother? The answer is yes! If you’ve been reading this article thinking, shouldn’t you just be able to squeeze the dry herb so hard that dabs just kind of ooze out? The answer is ALSO yes!
Rosin is basically what happens when you juice dry herb like an orange. To do this, you need an inhuman amount of pressure and heat.
The way you achieve this is with a press. Think of it kind of like a hair straightener. It’s basically two very hot plates that push the herb together. They range anywhere from low grade and affordable to high end and fancy schmancy. For a look at a few examples of some of the best rosin presses on both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between, check out our rosin press guide.
Here is our video for this technique, utilizing our lovely assistant, the Galaxy Rosin Press.
What you need:
- Rosin bags
- Parchment paper
- Dabber tool
Step 1: Place your dry herb into a mesh bag. We recommend specifically a rosin bag, but you can use any permeable mesh.
Step 2: Set the temperature on your apparatus of choice. Start low and increase as you become more comfortable with the technique.
Step 3: Place your bag containing the dry herb between two piecing of parchment paper. Be sure to leave plenty of space around the herb to ensure the rosin doesn’t spill over onto the plates.
Step 4: Once the stage is set and the plates are heated, press the plates together. The amount of time required will depend on the amount of herb, the temperature, and the pressure at which you press your… press.
Step 5: Use your dabber tool to collect your yield.
Solvent Based Extraction Methods
These are the methods that will burn your house down and turn you and your dog into a kabob, so this section is purely for expanding your knowledge nugget. The basic principle here is taking a chemically volatile solvent and using it to dissolve the plant matter of dry herb until only the trichomes remain. The solvent is then removed, typically by evaporation, until only the concentrate remains.
Butane Hash Oil, for instance, is a huge umbrella term that could describe pretty much any concentrate made using butane. Depending on the heat, humidity, and whipping, BHO can come in the form of shatter, crumble, budder, wax, sap, oil, etc. Butane is one of the most common solvents used professionally to create dabs.
It requires closed-loop extraction machinery to be done safely on a large scale, but they are so popular due to propane and butane’s wide commercial availability. Making them at home is pretty much a meth lab.
If you’ve ever enjoyed puffing on a vape cartridge, you probably reaped the benefits of CO2 Extraction. This method requires a supercritical form of carbon dioxide and, again, industrial equipment. Or, you could it the shitty way and use dry ice and a bucket. But, we already covered that.
Other solvents typically used are alcohol and Dimethyl Ether, or DME.
But, once again, it’s pretty much universally agreed the only way to go when it comes to making dabs at home is solvent-less methods of extraction. Before, you needed industrial grade equipment— but now that rosin presses have become more affordable than ever, you too can become the Gordon Ramsay of dabs (screaming at everyone and doing coke). Just kidding! Don’t do drugs. That’s illegal.