What is a vaporizer?
The first vaporizers, before e-cigarettes and e-liquid, were for dry herb (aka weed). Cannabis users realized that they were defeating many of the plant’s medicinal benefits by smoking it, so they created a way to inhale THC without burning it, and that is what vaporizing is all about.
With the popularity of medicinal cannabis, many health professionals have been advising their patients to use weed vaporizers to medicate. They have found that these patients get all of the medicinal benefits of cannabis, without the harmful toxins associated with inhaling smoke.
You might have seen a person walking down the street blowing big clouds of vapor. Most likely this was an e-cigarette vaporizer, which has been used by many former smokers to quit smoking and get their nicotine fix, minus many of the harmful toxins associated with combustible tobacco.
The different types of vaporizers
Probably the most common of all the vaporizers is the e-cig. The term e-cig, short for e-cigarette is a device designed to vaporize e-liquid. E-liquid typically contains a form of liquid nicotine that is inhaled by the user and where it is then sent directly into their bloodstream.
Many ex-smokers have found that vaping e-cigarettes has been the most effective way for them to stay off regular cigarettes. Likewise, this technology has been recently applied to cannabis. There are e-cigs that can vaporize THC concentrates which we will be discussing later on.
Today we also have portable dry herb vaporizers that can fit in your pocket, but the first weed vaporizers were big in size and needed to be plugged into the wall. Those are now referred to as “desktop vaporizers”. Let’s take a look at some of their features.
Portable weed vaporizers
Just like personal computers, the original weed vaporizers were gigantic! Now we refer to these as “desktop units”, which still work great and have a purpose. However, in more recent years, dry herb vaporizers have been all about getting smaller and more portable.
One of the first ultra-portable vaporizers to gain traction would have to be the original Pax by Pax Labs. Unfortunately the $300 price tag discouraged a lot of people from switching over to vaping.
Another portable cannabis vaporizer is the Magic Flight Launch Box, which is still used by connoisseurs on the regular, to this day. Since then, we have noticed portable weed vapes hitting the market for under $200 such as the Mig Vapor Matrix, G Pen Elite or Cloud V Diamond.
Desktop Vaporizers are still used to this day, but are not very practical for travelling. That being said, they perform the best and can be great for parties and group sessions. The cannabis is loaded into the chamber and is usually inhaled through either a whip or a bag.
Whips – These are glass tubes that connect to the vaporizer. The user inhales vapor through this tube or whip as it flows directly from the chamber.
Bags – Vaporizers that use this system essentially collect vapor in a special type of bag that connects to the airpath. Once the vapor is accumulated, the user can inhale from the bag.
Bubblers – Some dry herb vaporizers have bubbler attachments. This can take dry herb vaping to a new level by cooling down the vapor thus making it a little easier to inhale.
Some vaporizers have a digital screen that allows the user to choose a specific temperature, typically somewhere between 300 F and 430 F, just before the point of combustion. Others simply have a dial that allows you to manually adjust the level of heat that is being put out.
Some desktop units, namely the Volcano by Storz and Bickel or the Herbalizer, are still considered the golden standard for all weed vaporizers. Desktop vaporizers are still the top performing form of vaporizer and portables and pens won’t be able match the performance of these larger units.
Weed vaporizer pens
You may have seen our Best of Dry Herb Pens page. In that section we have specifically chosen those particular vaporizers that have the form factor of a vape pen. Although rare, this type of product has been in high demand probably long before the technology was available.
The main advantage to using a weed vape pen would be portability and discretion. However, although bigger in size, portable dry herb vaporizers usually have more advanced features such as an LED screen with battery-life indication. More importantly, the user will typically get a more satisfying vape from a portable vaporizer versus a pen vape. The choice is subjective.
These are typically wax pen-style vaporizers that contain a special atomizer that is designed for vaporizing wax. Unfortunately, It can be extremely sticky and messy to work with. However, it provides a clean and powerful hit of THC with just a tiny dab of material.
Oil vaporizers may be identical in appearance to an e-liquid vape pen, however it contains a form of THC liquid concentrate, commonly referred to as oil. Many users have found this type of concentrate to be most convenient, especially when they are sold in pre-packaged cartridges. The cartridges typically contain both the oil and the atomizer in one.
To vape or not to vape? (that is the question)
Why would you use a cannabis vaporizer, whether it be a portable, pen or desktop unit? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of using a weed vaporizer to see if it is right for you.
Pros of vaporizing dry herb vs. smoking
Combustion-free – The cannabis or dry herb that you use will not be burned, therefore it won’t contain any of the toxins that are associated with smoking.
Less Odor – Since marijuana vaporizers roast your herb at low temperatures, dry herb vaporizers create less of a smell than traditional smoking methods, however no vaporizer will be odor-free.
Medical cannabis – Many medicinal cannabis patients have switched over to vaping their herb using a herbal vaporizer as recommended by doctors and healthcare professionals.
Less harsh – Using a weed vaporizer can be a lot less harsh than smoking, especially because many of them allow you to adjust the temperature.
Better flavor – You may notice that the flavor you get from a dry herb vaporizer is very different from smoking herb. You won’t get the taste of lighter fluid or burnt resin. Many people vaporize their buds because they are able to taste the flavor better.
More mellow – Vaporizing doesn’t have to be as intense as smoking. With the right strain of cannabis, using a low temperature, you can get a much more mellow effect. Some people may want a more intense feeling instead, vaporizing gives you those options to choose from.
Stop and Go – Vaporizing gives the user the option to stop and go during a single session, especially with vaporizers like the Firefly 2 with on-demand heating.
Health Benefits – Vaping is becoming the preferred method of using cannabis for medicinal marijuana patients and for many of the same reasons, it is also becoming widely accepted by recreational cannabis users.
Cons of vaporizing dry herb vs. smoking
Not cheap – Weed vaporizers are not cheap! The good news is that these vaporizers are more efficient than traditional smoking methods which can save you money on weed in the long run.
Needs to be plugged in/charged – You may never need a lighter again, but you are not going to be able to use your dry herb vaporizer unless it is plugged in or charged.
Cleaning/maintenance – Unfortunately cleaning and maintaining your weed vaporizer is essential to its performance. Many people don’t want to take the time to clean them, but for those who do, they would stress the point that it is well worth it.
Learning Curve – Many weed vaporizers require a period of learning in which you might not get the best results or end up wasting some material. However, once you do learn the proper way to use your marijuanna vaporizer, you will be rocking and rolling in no time!
What can you vape with a vaporizer?
The term “dry herb” is often used as a general term for cannabis (aka weed, marijuana), tobacco, or literally any kind of dried herb that you can vaporize. It is also a kind of clever way for companies to market their products for weed, without having to explicitly say it. When people talk about the term “vaporizer”, they are most likely referring to cannabis vaporizers.
Dry herb is essentially a code-word that means, “this vaporizer is designed for cannabis”. Similar to how bongs and waterpipes are for “legal tobacco use only”. Another term you may see is “loose-leaf”, not the one you used to write on in school, but rather dried cannabis leaves.
Types of cannabis
There are three main categories of cannabis: indicas, sativas and hybrids, which are a combination of the first two. Most strains are mislabeled as either indica or sativa when in fact they actually contain both, which often gets forgotten during the cross-breeding process.
Indicas tend to provide more of a body euphoria and for that reason are also referred to as “couch-weed”. Indica buds have bushier, shorter leaves than that of sativa.
Bubba Kush, Granddaddy Purple and Grape Ape are among the most popular cannabis indica strains.
Think of sativa as the opposite of indica. Contrary to “couch-weed”, Sativa provides more of a head than a body high. It has been known to be used for inspiring creativity and is good for social situations. The actual leaves are longer and thinner than those found on indica plants.
Some of the most notable sativa strains include Durban Poison, Lemon Haze and Jack Herer’s.
Most weed is actually a combination of the two. Hybrid strains are exactly how they sound, a hybrid of sativa and indica. The idea behind hybrids is to combine the best of both worlds. Some might be more sativa or indica dominant, while others are split straight down the middle (50/50).
Some notable hybrid strains include Sour Diesel, Purple Kush and White Widdow.
What about cannabis ruderalis?
There exists a third, lesser-known species of cannabis called ruderalis.
Originating from Russia, this type of weed grows faster than both indica and sativa and is much shorter in height. Despite being easy to grow, it is not very popular due to its very low THC content.
You may have noticed that some vaporizers are neither for dry herb or e-liquid. These are for use with concentrates, which are concentrated forms of THC, either in liquid or solid form. The most common forms of concentrates are wax, also known as dabs, and oil.
Concentrates use an extraction process to separate the active compounds, mainly THC, from the excess plant matter. It gets “straight to the point”, providing a much larger volume of THC per hit.
A guide to using weed vaporizers
What temperature should you vape at?
There are advantages to both low-temperature vaping and high-temperature vaping so the answer to this is going to be subjective. The fact is cannabis begins to vaporize at 285 F and will start to combust at around 392 F. The optimal temperature is said to be about 338 F.
Vaping at lower temperatures (285-338 F) will usually give you better flavor and will vaporize the herbs slower.
At higher temperatures, (339-420 F) the vapor production will increase, although the session might not last as long and you may run the risk of combusting your herb.
Finally, you may notice that the psychotropic effects of cannabis become more noticeable at these higher settings, but just keep in mind that it will also vaporize your herbs a lot faster.
Get on your grind
If you are planning to vape weed, you are definitely going to need a grinder. They are optional when rolling joints and packing bowls, but for vaping they are essential. Grinding is what will expose all of the THC crystals, aka trichomes, which will help to create more flavor and vapor.
There are many types of grinders but they can all be broken down into three categories.
Regular two-piece grinder – This type of grinder has two pieces that grind your herb when they are twisted together. The advantages to these type of grinders is that they are inexpensive and widely available. These are some of the most common and basic grinders.
Two-chamber grinder – These grinders have a chamber where you insert your weed and a separate chamber that it falls into once it has been ground. The advantage of these is having a separate storage compartment for your herbs.
Three-chamber grinder – These grinders look and function the same way as a two-chamber grinder, however they have a screen beneath where your herb sits, which filters out the kief and stores it in a third compartment. (Kief are the crystals, or trichomes, found in cannabis.)
Conduction vs. convection
You might have heard the terms “convection” and “conduction” thrown around a lot when talking about weed vaporizers. They do sound like confusing scientific terminology, but it is actually quite simple.
Conduction means that there is a conductor of heat, in this case, a heated surface that makes contact with your weed. This heating process tends to heat up faster and give you a stronger hit, but will run the risk of getting close to combustion.
Convection has to do with air. In this heating method, the dry herb material is heated by air, which takes longer, but will give off better flavor. Another advantage to this process is that you won’t need to stir your loose leaf around to ensure that it gets evenly vaporized.
Most vaporizers operate with a combination of both conduction and convection heating. For example, the weed might be touching a heated surface (conduction), however when you inhale, the air that is pulled inside is then heated thus increasing vaporization. (convection)
Radiant/Infrared is a third method of heating which uses a light source to heat herb. The end result is very similar to convection. This technology may also be used in conjunction with conduction or convection. The popular Magic Flight Launch Box utilizes this type of heating process.
Tips for vaping with dry herb vaporizers
- Always use a grinder to get the most vapor of out your herbs.
- Make sure that your herb is not too moist or sticky. The dryer the herb, the better the vapor production. Buds with higher THC content will tend to produce more vapor.
- Throw in some kief with your herb to increase potency and maximize vapor production.
- Wait an extra 10-15 seconds beyond when your device says it is up to temperature. Let it create a nice flow of vapor and you will typically have a better session overall.
- Make sure your weed vaporizer is charged before you pack it, the worst part about vaping is having your device die in the middle of a session. Not fun.
- Start at a low temperature, and work your way up towards the end. Once the flavor and vapor production start to die down, your session is over.
- DO NOT overpack your chamber! This makes such a huge impact on the heat distribution and overall efficiency of your dry herb vape. When it comes to herbal vaporizers, a little bit can go a long way. (Less is more.)
- DO NOT underpack your chamber! Don’t underpack either because then your loose leaf will just fly around and end up getting sucked in the mouthpiece. Don’t be cheap, pack enough so that the herb can “sit together”, but also make sure that air can travel in between.
- Wait about 15-20 seconds between hits, to give the vaporizer some time to create more vapor. It is not an e-cig where you can just press a button and it creates vapor.
- “A stitch in time saves nine”. Don’t be lazy. Clean after each session. This is incredibly true for cannabis vapes. If you wait, it is gonna get ugly real quick.
- Wait for your dry herb oven to cool down before cleaning, then gently use those little black brushes or a cotton swab to clean it. You can use alcohol for a deeper clean.
- Alcohol is your friend – You can use regular Isopropyl Alcohol to clean your vape, or you can purchase a bottle of grain alcohol such as Everclear, which works really well.