Innovations in Dabbing: Cold Start or Reverse Dabbing

In the early days of dabbing, the only choice was to use high temperatures to heat up a nail or banger, load the concentrate and inhale. It produced a very harsh smoking experience that caused a whole lot of coughing. The newest innovation for a better dabbing experience is the use of low temperatures aka cold start or reverse dabbing. In this article I will explain traditional dabbing versus cold start dabbing, take you through the steps for cold start dabbing, provide the list of tools, discuss the benefits of using an insert, give the pros and cons for cold start dabbing and include tips for first time users of dabbing.

Traditional Dabbing: How to Dab

With traditional dabbing, it is not uncommon for dabbing beginners to overheat the nail or banger way beyond the optimum temperature of 550°F to as much as 1000°F. This can be avoided by using an eNail or electronic heating apparatus which provides temperature control.

Dabs that are too hot will result in discomfort in the throat and chest simply because the smoke is too hot. Even more important is that it is a waste of concentrates. Using too high a temperature will burn off the precious cannabinoids and terpenes.

  • Time consuming
  • May be stressful; requires heating the nail, allowing it to cool down adequately while loading the dabber and then applying the carb cap while maintaining a controlled temperature.
  • Wastes the concentrates if the temperature is too low or too high

What is Cold Start Dabbing?

Cold start dabbing uses the same process as high temperature dabbing. The only difference between the two is the use of lower temperatures which fall between 350°F-500°F when heating the nail or banger. It may be challenging to control the temperature using a torch and will require some trial and error and the use of a stopwatch. A more reliable way to  control the temperature is with the use of an eNail or a temperature gun. 

It is also known as reverse dabbing because you pre-load the nail with concentrate and then heat it instead of heating the nail first and then dropping the concentrate on it.

Tools For Cold Start Dabbing

  • Standard Dab Rig consisting of the rig, a quartz banger, dabber and carb cap. The bucket design of banger provides a more even distribution of heat. A banger made from quartz is highly recommended as it will retain the heat for longer at lower temperatures
  • Butane-filled Torch
  • Q-Tips for cleaning the nail after use

Steps For Cold Start Dabbing

  1. Assemble all the parts of your rig, making sure that the quartz banger  is clean. This will avoid reheating any residual concentrate which may taint the flavor of the fresh concentrate.
  2. Place the dab onto the dabber
  3. Place the dab inside the bucket of a clean, cold nail
  4. Place the carb cap on the nail
  5. Aim the tip of the torch flame a few inches from the base of the banger
  6. As soon as you see the concentrate bubble and vaporize (typically within about 10 seconds) remove the torch.
  7. Inhale as you clear the rig’s chamber completely by rotating the carb cap to create convection
  8. Expect to get 1-2 hits, however, it is possible to get multiple hits from one cold start dab depending on the size of the dab and your lung capacity.
  9. Exhale
  10. Clean the banger with a Q-tip
  11. Allow the banger to cool completely

Adding An Insert For Cold Start Dabbing

You can add an insert into the bucket before proceeding to the next step. It acts as another layer between the flame and the concentrate which requires applying heat for a longer period of time. Here are the pros and cons for using an insert:


  • Keeps the banger clean
  • Supports low-temperature dabbing; concentrates are vaporized through induction rather than direct-contact heat. Avoids cool-down time entirely, allowing the placement of the insert into the banger directly after heating it
  • Cheaper to replace the insert which gets most of the the wear and tear than the banger
  • Less likely to overheat the concentrate, preserving more of the cannabinoids and terpenes


  • Adds two steps to the dabbing process; dropping the insert in the bucket and removing it once it has cooled down.
  • Takes a bit of getting used to 
  • When dabbing with others, the next user will have to wait for the insert to cool before taking their next hit

Benefits of Cold Start Dabbing

  • Cuts down significantly on preparation time; users are reporting that they can dab in as little as one third of the time. It is crucial that the surface of the nail is clean before beginning the process.
  • Lower temperature means more of the cannabinoids and terpenes are preserved which also improves the flavor.
  • Less stress on your equipment will save you money. By reducing the amount of heat applied to the banger, the potential for breakage and residual buildup decreases 
  • Temperature control is less stressful

Drawbacks of Cold Start Dabbing

  • It may waste concentrates which may remain on the nail after inhalation. Be sure to remove all residue before proceeding to dab again.
  • Dabbing with others will require wait time for each person to allow the nail to completely cool between dabs
  • More wait time may be needed for multiple dabs per individual 
  • In order to get the most benefits, you will need to use borosilicate glass equipment which is durable and heat resistant but very expensive.

Tips when Dabbing for the First Time

  • Read up on what to expect from dabbing
  • Start with a clean nail to ensure that you can clearly see when your concentrate bubbles or when the vapor appears in the bucket. A dirty nail will almost certainly cause overheating of the nail which wastes the concentrates. You can clean a nail by soaking it in water and isopropyl alcohol for about an hour.
  • Start with a small amount of concentrate until you master dabbing.
  • Use a borosilicate glass directional airflow carb cap for the best results
  • Make sure your torch contains enough butane

Just in case I haven’t made it clear enough, ALWAYS clean your nail after every single dab.

Sources:, What Is Cold Start or Reverse Dabbing? Patrick Bennett, Dec. 17, 2018, Cold Start Dabs: How To Do A Reverse, Cold Start Dabbing: What Is It and How Do You Do It?, What Are Quartz Inserts and How Do You Use Them?, Dabbing Techniques: Cold Start Dabbing vs. Traditional Methods, Ashley Priest, Nov. 29, 2019