Are you new to the marijuana concentrates world? Do you know what ‘dabs‘ are? If you consume marijuana often enough, chances are you have taken at least one dab hit by now. For those of you that have yet to take a dab hit, maybe due to unavailability in your area or because you are a new consumer, you should really check it out. They say a dab will do ya, which is true. If you are like me, and you like to ride the ‘higher high’, dabs are the way to go. Anytime you are consuming concentrated forms of marijuana, you will get higher faster than if you were smoking a joint of flower.
For a long time I didn’t know how to tell if the dabs I was consuming were good or bad. I have a long history consuming flower, so I can tell how good the flower is very easily by sight, smell, taste, etc.. But concentrates are a different thing. Some of my usual measurements (smell for instance) of quality translate to concentrates, but not all of them do. For a long time I think the general assumption was that the clearer/lighter colored the cannabis concentrates, the better they are compared to darker dabs. I’m here to tell you that that’s not necessarily true. I know there are people that will argue until they’re blue in the face against that claim, but I know it to be true because I recently visited my friends at Udoxi Scientific and did some research. The results were surprising to both me and my little brother that came with me. I figured I needed another person to help with the research, plus he is brand new to the dab world (took his first dab the day before the visit to Udoxi).
Udoxi Scientific processes cannabis into concentrates for growers. Their concentrates are second to none, and that’s based off of my experiences consuming concentrates all over the Western United States. There are certainly people out there that consume more concentrates than I do, but I consume more dabs than most. A lot of concentrate makers are making dabs in their garage with primitive equipment. Udoxi is operating on a whole other level. Their facility is world class, and the owners have strong backgrounds in agriculture, chemistry, and engineering. I don’t say these things because I’m paid to do so. I’ve never received even one penny from Udoxi. I say these things because they are my unbiased opinion.
I was lucky enough to participate in a quality test at Udoxi. They brought out four slabs, as seen below, and asked which one I thought was the best based off of appearance alone. Naturally, I ranked them in order of how clear they were. How would you rank the slabs below? I pre-apologize for the picture quality – I’m a writer, not a photographer:
The four concentrates above are the Blue Cheese strain, OG strain, Cherry Pie strain, and Black Cherry Soda strain. After looking at the visual appeal, we then got down to business trying out each one. We made sure to take low temp dabs to maximize the flavor. The first one I tried was the Black Cherry Soda, which was the clearest out of all of the samples. Based off of how most people measure dab quality, this would have been the best one since it was the clearest, as seen below:
The first thing that I did was smell the slab. The slab really lacked any smell at all, good or bad. It was like I was smelling nothing at all. After taking a couple of hits, it because obvious that there wasn’t much flavor either. There wasn’t much bite to the hit, on the exhale or the inhale. It didn’t seem to get me high that fast, certainly not as I originally expected it to. The Black Cherry Soda sample wasn’t bad, or good, there just wasn’t anything distinct about it.
The next sample that I tried was the darkest, the Cherry Pie strain. I wanted to get as polar opposite of a sample as possible for this exercise. Plus I could tell Jason from Udoxi was likely trying to play with my brain while proving a point that clearer doesn’t necessarily always mean better. So I took a hit of the sample below:
The second I picked up the slab of Cherry Pie I could tell it was much more special than the previous slab. The smell was heavenly, and instantly memories started flooding my brain from when I bought bud from people in the past who used to grow flower that smelled similar to the slab. The couple of hits that I took of the sample didn’t disappoint. There was a very distinct bite to each hit, and not in an overwhelming ‘too big of a dab hit’ kind of way. But in a subtle way, with small coughs resulting during the exhale. Also when I exhaled, I involuntarily started smacking my lips, and swirling my tongue in my mouth in an attempt try to get as much taste out of the hit (the sample tasted that good). It truly tasted like Cherry. The flavor from the flower came through in the concentrates significantly. The front end of the hit was smooth, and the back end was flavorful, just how I like it. Almost instantly I felt the head buzz coming on, and relaxing, tingling feeling down my back.
Had I closed my eyes and taken each hit, and then been asked to guess which slab I had just sampled from, I would have came up with opposite results. But knowing what I was consuming, the proof was in the pudding, the darker was clearly better, and not even in a close way. Don’t get me wrong, the Black Cherry Soda was OK, it’s something I wouldn’t mind smoking anytime of the week. However, if I’m going into a store or dispensary, what I hope to come home with is definitely something that is more like the Cherry Pie, hands down.
The other two slabs were slightly darker than the Black Cherry Soda, as seen below (Blue Cheese and OG, in order). They were both better than the Black Cherry Soda, but definitely not as good as the Cherry Pie:
I learned two things that day at Udoxi Scientific. 1) I’m a very lucky person to be able to go to a dab lab and quality test dabs. 2) Just because a concentrate is clearer, does not always make it better/of higher quality. Sometimes that is true, but it’s not simply because of the color, it’s because of many other factors. The rest of the afternoon at Udoxi was spent going over just what those factors are.
One thing that the guys at Udoxi hammered into my brain over and over is that the most important thing about determining whether dabs are good or bad is how clean the dabs are. Are the dabs free from contaminants? Are the dabs as free from solvent residue as possible? The only way to know those things for sure is to have the concentrates tested, and at a quality, reliable testing facility. There are a lot of crappy testing facilities, in Oregon, and in other states where the marijuana industry is present and growing. All one needs to do to prove that is take your concentrates from one testing lab to another. One lab will find mold, while another doesn’t. One lab will have one result for THC and/or CBD, while the next lab has a completely different result.
Something that a lot of people don’t realize is that most marijuana laboratories don’t test for pesticides, or they use equipment that doesn’t do a proper job of testing for pesticides. A lot of people think that consuming the solvent residue is the thing to avoid. In actuality, the amount of CO2 or butane is way, way below the allowable amount for human congestion as recommended by the FDA. But pesticides are a real problem. Consuming concentrates that have pesticides can post real health risks, many of which are unknown at this time. Good dabs are pesticide free.
This creates a very lame situation for consumers, because growers and concentrate makers will go around from lab to lab, ‘lab shopping’, looking for the most favorable results and pass those along as fact, even if that’s clearly not the case. They don’t go to the laboratory with the most accurate results and best equipment, they go to the one that is going to give a result that is hopefully going to boost their sales. So when you are in a dispensary or store trying to make a decision on which dabs to get, take the results as more of a suggestion than anything, unless it’s from a lab that you know or trust.
But if the dabs you are buying have been tested at a reputable facility with a knowledgeable staff that is using solid equipment (and everything is clean), then you can begin the next step of the analysis of the dabs’ level of quality. Obviously the higher something tests, the more potent it is, and to most people, that makes it better. It does to me, because I want to get as high as possible. Always. But I understand that’s not for everyone.
The next factor that is big when determining concentrate quality is finding out what material was used to begin the concentrate making process. A reputable store, dealer, dispensary, etc. will be very forthcoming with what went into making the concentrates, and hopefully even have examples on hand. Concentrates made from nugs are going to be better than concentrates that are made with trim (for the most part), and the better the nugs/trim that went in, the better the concentrates that will come out. It’s not coincidence that the best concentrates I’ve ever smoked are made from the best flower I have ever smoked.
A big factor that goes into making quality dabs is how the material is stored and grown. All to often I see people grow a bunch of outdoor, where the plants are out in the elements, harvest the outdoor, and the trim sits around for a long time collecting dust in a garage or basement. Then months later the person turns the trim into concentrates, and the end product isn’t that good. It’s usually good enough to consume, but it’s not as good as it could be.
Plus people pump the plants full of nutrients that are mostly heavy metals. The storage and feeding combine to make dabs that taste overly harsh, and don’t test that high. The best dabs I’ve ever consumed were grown virtually all organically, were harvested, properly stored, and taken just a couple days later to the dab maker to be turned into concentrates. The end result under those circumstances is a big slab of world class dabs. The type of stuff that I daydream about in my cubicle all day :)
Two factors for determining dab quality that are very similar to determining if marijuana flower is good or bad is smell and taste. Smell and taste is a subjective thing. I like something that smells and tastes like the Cherry Pie dabs I was talking about earlier in this article. I want it to feel like there is a party in my mouth, and have smells that make me smile. I like dabs that make me crave them even when they are not around, much like a type of food that I love.
Are you a dab veteran? How do you determine if dabs are good or bad? Please put your tips and tricks and measurements in the comments below so that others can benefit from your experiences. I want to give a special thanks to Udoxi Scientific for helping me put together this article. They are stellar at what they do, and growers and consumers are better off for it!