In this article we’ll look at the different types of dabs available, the best way to inhale your concentrate, and the best concentrate vaporizers that emerged from our extensive user testing.
Vaping vs Smoking Your Dabs
Concentrate vaporizers are a real breakthrough for dab users. Across the board, vaporizers are engineered to be way more user-friendly. And vaporization itself requires far lower temperatures than combustion in order to release the same active ingredients.
This gives you the same powerful hits as smoking but with a much lighter feel on the lungs, and a lower risk of developing chronic bronchitis.
The heat is usually supplied by an internal electronic heater, eliminating the need to use an open flame. However, if you prefer the ritual of a torch, there are battery-free concentrate vaporizers that rely on an external heat source.
The Benefits of Concentrate Vaporizers
Intense Hits. Concentrates provide a more intense experience than dry herbs: the plant material is reduced down significantly to create a high potency of your active ingredient. As a result, you can get much stronger hits with rapid onset and powerful effects. In fact, medicinal users find vaping concentrates the best way to get immediate pain relief.
Convenient. Concentrate vaporizers are quick and easy to use, taking away the intimidation factor of using a dab rig and torch. And you don’t have to worry about repeatedly loading or manipulating the sticky stuff every time you want a hit. Just load it up once and forget about refills until you’ve vaped through your whole chamber.
Discrete. Even where concentrates are fully legalized, not everyone wants to advertise the fact they’re taking a hit. If you’re used to smoking, not only will you find concentrate vaporizers much easier on the lungs, they also produce way less of the giveaway smell. And portable vaporizers can be taken anywhere, with many being pocket-sized.
Cost Effective. As opposed to smoking, vaping makes your material go much further because it eliminates the need for combustion. This is true of concentrates and dry herbs. So it’s much more cost effective in the long term once you’ve invested in a solid vaporizer device. We’ve listed our favorite brands below.
Internal Heating. Thanks to legalization, there’s a lot more innovation going on in the world of concentrate vaporizers. You now have the choice of using a device with a battery for internal heating, or you can keep it old school and use a torch. Pick the setup that’s engineered to suit your style of dabbing.
Types of Concentrates
Dabs categorize a whole range of concentrates, including kief, hash, rosin, live resin, shatter, crumble, honeycomb, budder/badder, tinctures and oils. All these options can be overwhelming to beginners, so let’s look at three main categories to use with your concentrate vaporizer.
Wax. Wax is the cheapest and most accessible type of concentrate, making it a good entry path for beginners. On the downside, it is the softest type of concentrate and can be pretty sticky, which makes it harder to manipulate without the right dab tools. Depending on the extraction process, the spectrum of wax concentrates range from crumbly to honey-like in texture, and includes sub-types like crumble, budder/badder wax, and honeycomb.
Oil. Used widely in CBD and edibles, oil concentrates are extracted using carbon dioxide instead of butane, giving them a thick and runny consistency. Oil is richer in flavorful terpenes and often used in vape pen cartridges, creating a convenient hit with a unique taste that differs from wax or shatter concentrates. You can make your own oil concentrate using alcohol to dissolve the resin, leaving you with syrupy residue. However, it is difficult to make your own oil without the proper space and equipment.
Shatter. This is the strongest hit you’re going to get from a concentrate. As the name suggests, it has a hard, glassy texture, resembling a honey-colored shard. The butane extraction process gives shatter its high potency, with as much as 80% purity, so start your shatter hits small. Due to its texture, shatter can be harder to dose, but it’s usually easier to handle than wax by simply breaking it up and popping it into your chamber.
The Best Concentrate Vaporizers
Exhaustive user testing has helped us identify the best concentrate vaporizers in 2020. There are detailed overviews of the winners below. To see them in action, check out Sneaky Pete’s video reviews over at his YouTube Channel.
#1 The MiniNail Concentrate Vaporizer - $249
AC Powered * Titanium * Temperature Control * Concentrate Only
We rated the MiniNail as the Best Overall Concentrate Vaporizer in 2019. Born in the USA, the MiniNail is built from high quality materials including quartz and titanium.
We’ve tested cheaper e-nails in the past, only to be disappointed with the build quality and performance. So if you’re into concentrates in any meaningful way, it’s worth spending the extra money on a system like this.
An e-nail is an alternative to the traditional torch and banger setup for concentrates. Some people prefer the ritual of using a torch and banger, but the advantage here is superb consistency, with digital temperature control eliminating the need for guesswork or timers.
In fact, one of the best things about the MiniNail is the capacity for accurate low temperature dabs. If you’re a beginner and find dabbing a little intense, this system makes the experience more manageable and is great for smaller dosing.
If you’re hardcore, the MiniNail can handle massive dabs too. It works the full spectrum, ranging from 400—600°F for dabbing, all the way to 1,000°F for burn-off cleaning.
We love that the MiniNail runs at very low power—about 20% of a normal e-nail—which makes it safer, cheaper to run, and longer lasting than other concentrate vaporizers. There’s even a two-year warranty on both the power/control box and the heating coil, which is almost unheard of in this industry.
Each MiniNail kit includes a power/control box of your color choice and a hybrid coil heating element. Choose from a premium quartz E-banger, including a glass carb cap and dabber, or a hybrid quartz/titanium universal nail, including a multi-tip dabber/carb cap tool. Both options include a 6-foot power cord and silicone dab mat.
Overall, the MiniNail rocks. You just dial-in your ideal temperature and then replicate that over and over with each use. You’ll never have a burnt dab, or a dab that barely cooks. The MiniNail is small enough to take anywhere, yet robust enough to be your daily driver, making it a frontrunner in the concentrate vaporizer space.
Torch Powered * Portable * All Glass * Dry Herb and Concentrate
The ELEV8R has an ingenious design which produces huge hits of pure vapor. Made by 7th Floor Vapes, this is one of the coolest and most enjoyable vaporizers we’ve used in a long time. The design is completely stripped down, almost all glass, to deliver 100% convection heating. Unusually in the vape world, it performs well with both dry herb and concentrate, which is a major selling point.
The ELEV8R is easy to use compared with other torch-based vaporizers. Heat the upper section for 10-60 seconds (depending on your type of torch) and then inhale.
The vapor quality is top shelf when you use it correctly: pure and lively, with zero coloration since the whole device is glass. The full convection and ramp-up heating give you the best of any strain, making it ideal for medical patients. Both dry herb and concentrates go a long way with the ELEV8R vaporizer.
Maintenance is also dead simple due to the all-glass design. We like to keep it super clean to see the vapor flow through. Just be very mindful of the glass tip which becomes extremely hot after use. You seriously don’t want to put the wrong end in your mouth. Once you gain familiarity with the ELEV8R and muscle memory kicks in, you won’t have to worry so much about making this mistake.
Overall, we can’t emphasize enough how enjoyable it is to use the ELEV8R. Discovering this piece was like discovering the Sticky Brick for the first time. It’s easy to stir up with a shake between each puff, and it gets high marks for efficiency. And, coolest of all, the all-glass design means you can watch the vapor from the moment of creation. It’s like a science experiment gone very, very right.
AC Powered * Desktop * Temperature Control * Dry Herb and Concentrate
The Ditanium provides incredible flavor and large hits for either dry herb or concentrate. It’s made in the USA from natural wood, pure grade two titanium, and quartz. The ceramic heater warms up in 30 seconds and you can dial it up to reach temperatures of 900°F for the biggest hits. For heavy users or medical patients, the ability to do combo dabs is very appealing and the strengths of the effects can be off the charts.
The recessed heater design means a safer experience than an open e-nail setup, and the Ditanium can be left on for long periods while maintaining a safe temperature for convenient, on-demand vaporizing. For vaping dry herb, start with the dial at the 12 o’clock position. For vaping concentrate, kick it up from 12 to the 2 o’clock position.
When using concentrates, the Ditanium works like a quartz and titanium e-nail. Hold the concentrate near the centre of the nail and let it melt down into the bowl. Be sure to inhale before you start melting it so you don’t lose any. If you want to do low-temperature dabs you can use the optional carb cap, while high-temperature dabs can put out some real blasts.
We’ve done some larger hits on the Ditanium and found them super smooth. This vaporizer is insanely efficient with your material. You can also do little tiny dabs, and if you’re inhaling when you start, you’ll get the entire hit. The flavor isn’t colored by the whip, however I did notice there was a small loss of terps along the way.
Combo hits on the Ditanium are crazy fun. Just fill up the handpiece as normal, then heat treat it for a minute or so. Then start inhaling and do your dab. Amazing. This option will be very appealing for medicinal and heavy-duty recreational vapers.
A step above most concentrate vaporizers in this price range, the Ditanium provides a compelling experience for both dry herb and concentrate. That’s quite the rarity among vaporizers and the main reason I recommend this one.
#4 The Min.E-Rig Portable Concentrate Vaporizer - $149 CAD
Battery Powered * Portable * Temperature Control * Concentrate Only
Sleek, durable, and ultra-portable, the Min.E-Rig from Vaping Fans is packed with innovation and style. The borosilicate glass-top water bubbler cools and filters the vapor, while the four fixed temperature settings makes it dead easy to use.
The Min.E-Rig has LED indicator lights and haptic vibration to let you know the current temperature and battery status. There’s a carb cap included in the kit, which fits the bowl perfectly, helping you get maximum vapor at lower temperatures.
The internal heating system is what makes this a truly portable concentrate vaporizer. The batteries are rapidly rechargeable (via USB-C) and replaceable. This increases the device’s modularity and you can get that brand new vape experience any time by just swapping out the batteries.
All in all, the Min.E-Rig is a nice-looking, wallet-friendly concentrate vaporizer designed for use on the move. The glass body gives a cool vapor, with a strong and steady performance. Charging via USB-C is lightning fast, and the device has several safety features like overcharge, low current, and short circuit prevention. If your priority is the power and performance of a concentrate vaporizer packed into a portable unit, this is the way to go.