How to do a reverse or cold start dab

Adam Parsons

Have you ever taken a cold start dab? Unsure of what it is? See, when you take a dab, you usually heat up the nail first, then drop your cannabis wax inside. With cold start (aka reverse) dabs, you heat up the nail after the wax is in. There are pros and cons to this method, and we'll discuss them all!

Dabbing is one of the most efficient and effective ways to enjoy cannabis, and high temperatures are usually involved—unless of course, you are into cold start dabbing.

The process for a traditional dab is simple: You grab a dab rig (bong-like glassware for dabs) with a quartz nail (a sort-of bowl made for cannabis concentrate), heat up the bottom of the nail with a torch, drop your dab in, put a carb cap over it, and inhale.

Thanks to that heat, your hit is instant, and you’ll be high before you know it. However, if a dab is too hot, or you take too many dabs, your throat can get sore. There’s no fun in that, so you may wonder if there’s a way to take dabs at a lower temperature.

Since you likely read the title of this article, you may have figured out such a method already exists! It’s called cold start dabbing, also known as reverse dabbing, and the process is a similar, yet backwards, variation on the traditional steps.

We’ll walk you through those steps in detail as we go along. First, though, we’ll give you a clearer idea of what cold start dabbing is. In turn, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages, and subsequently compare it to the standard process.


When we say “reverse dabbing”, you may think you’ll have to get the dabs out of the rig somehow. The true meaning becomes clearer, however, when we use the other name for the process: cold start dabbing.

The process, in simplified terms, involves taking a dab that’s heated up after you put it in the rig. Connecting back to the name, it starts off cold in the nail, and is heated up post-placement. Since the heat escalates from room temperature, rather than starting off blazing hot, it evaporates at a lower heat than it usually would.


As fans of low-temp dabs know, there are a lot of advantages to avoiding high heat. It’s not a perfect process, though, and there are some drawbacks to keep in mind.


To start, let’s discuss the many advantages of taking cold start dabs.

• Better for lungs: Since the dab isn’t getting nearly as hot as it does the old-fashioned way, the vapor entering your lungs is far cooler. That doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. In fact, as long as the nail is hot enough to decarboxylate the cannabinoids and terpenes, you’ll get just as high.

• Better flavour: Since the terpenes stay intact at lower temperatures, your dab will taste even better than it would out of a high-heat rig.

• Improved high: As many are starting to learn, terpenes may also affect the high itself, rather than just the flavour and scent. This plays into a theory known as the entourage effect, which posits that cannabinoids, terpenes, and other cannabis compounds work together to enhance their combined effects.

Pros of cold start dabs


Although rarely a deal-breaker, keep these drawbacks in mind before trying your first cold start dab.

• May drop carb cap: It depends on the shape of your carb cap, but warming up a cold start dab means your cap will be sitting on top of the nail for a good while longer. As it spends more time on top of the nail, the risk of it falling down and potentially breaking increases.

• More risk with torch: As you worry about keeping the carb cap on, you also have to make sure you’re carefully aiming the torch. The dab will require less heat than usual, but a flame is still a flame. That being said, you’ll be fine as long as you keep your eyes on it while heating it up.

• Takes getting used to: As you begin taking cold start dabs, you may find yourself pre-heating the nail without thinking. That’s totally normal, of course, as that’s how we’re usually taught to do it. As you do more cold starts, you’ll replace old muscle memories with new ones.


Without further ado, let’s cover exactly how to take a reverse / cold start dab.


If you already take dabs with a rig and a quartz nail, you’ve got everything you need!

If you have no supplies, you’ll need the aforementioned rig and nail, along with a metal poker known as a “dab tool”.

From there, make sure you have a carb cap. Ideally, you’ll want a cap that can safely sit in the nail’s opening, as you won’t have to hold it in place. Really, though, it’s fine as long as it securely covers said opening. After that, of course, you’ll need a torch (and butane to refill it) and your cannabis concentrate.


With all the equipment in order, it’s time for you to take a cold start dab!


Grab your dab rig and ensure the quartz nail is cold. Once that’s done, use the dab tool to measure out your dose of concentrate and place it in the nail.


Place the carb cap on top of the nail, ensuring it completely covers the opening. It’ll need to stay there for the length of the dab.


Begin slowly heating the dab, setting your torch to around half-strength, if possible. Inhale from the mouthpiece of your rig as the dab begins to bubble and evaporate.



If there’s still some oil left in the nail after your dab’s done, repeat steps two and three until it’s all cleared out.


Now that we know the ins and outs of cold start dabs, where do they stand relative to the old-school method? Well, you get high either way, and it takes the same amount of time to do one or the other. Sure, the need to hold the carb cap in place while heating can make it a bit more complicated, although that’s mitigated by buying a proper cap, which can be quite cheap.

It might be tough to get used to at first, but we imagine standard dabbing looked weird to you at first, too.

It all comes down to personal preference, but if you want tastier, smoother-hitting dabs that unlock the power of terpenes, cold start dabs are perfect for you.

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons

As a professional cannabis journalist, author, and copywriter, Adam has been writing about all things psychoactive, CBD, and everything in between for a long time. In an ever-changing market, Adam uses his BA (Hons) Multimedia Journalism degree to keep in stride with contemporary research and contributing worthwhile information to all of his projects.