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Why Does My Vape Cart Taste Burnt? (Delta 8, CBD, THC)

Hayley Heidelbaugh
January 30, 2024

Vaping is a convenient, beginner-friendly way to consume cannabis extracts—doubly so if you’re working with a 510 thread cart and compatible battery. Usually, that means a simple session without problems. Unfortunately, that isn’t what always happens.

Your oil shouldn’t taste like it’s been scorched, and you certainly shouldn’t get a burning sensation in your throat with every puff. This applies to both new and partially used weed carts.

The whole range of cannabis products, including both marijuana- and hemp-derived THC carts, are meant to be enjoyed, after all. A burnt hit on your delta 8 cart or HHC cart is enough to ruin a session.

We’ll look at ways to prevent and fix a burnt-tasting cart, but first, let’s explore the common reasons it happens to begin with. With a little knowledge, weed vapers can mostly banish burned hits from their experience.

Why does my cart taste burnt?

Identifying the issue behind the burned flavor can help with repairs or even let you know when it’s time to toss your product. Some solutions are quick and easy. Other times, you’ll need to accept the loss and start over with a new cart.

Excessive voltage

High voltage is one of the most common causes of burnt hits, but fortunately, it’s also one of the simplest fixes.

Make sure your battery’s voltage isn’t cranked up too high. Certain devices can go all the way up to 4.0 volts or beyond, although this is unnecessary for weed oil carts. Most cannabis carts perform great at 3.0 volts and often at lower settings than that. Lower power settings also lead to better-tasting hits, preserving the delicate terpenes that are destroyed with high heat. The higher your voltage, the more you sacrifice flavor and aroma.

Just follow this rule of thumb: with every new cart, start vaping at your battery’s lowest voltage setting. You can find the perfect heat setting by slowly increasing the power after you assess vapor output, flavor, and effects.

Improper storage

Cannabis oil is fickle, and carts need to be kept in the right conditions. There may be an expiration date on the package, but it’s fully possible for oil to go bad more quickly, especially if it’s not stored properly.

Keep your carts away from sunlight. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can do ample damage to your product, and will destroy valuable terpenes and cannabinoids, reducing the flavor and potency. Excessive sunlight exposure can damage the oil and lead to burnt-tasting, unpleasant hits.

This doesn’t mean that your oil carts should be left in frigid conditions, either. As long as they’re away from sunlight, a moderate or slightly cool room should do the trick. Cold environments can lead to thicker oil and a coil that’s harder to saturate, especially if you aren’t priming your cart or preheating the battery. This can also result in dry, burnt hits. It’s all about balance.

Low on oil

It’s tempting to drain your oil carts to the last drop, but this won’t work in your favor—even if it seems like the cost-effective option.

When a cart is low enough on oil, the remnants can’t make effective contact with your product’s heating mechanism. The coil will heat as intended, but little to no oil will be vaporized. This will either result in dry or burned hits or sparse, poor-tasting vapor. Neither is desirable.

Dispose of your prefilled vape cart when it’s around 95% empty. On the other hand, weed vapers using a refillable 510 thread cart should reload at this point.

Poor-quality or black market oil and counterfeit carts

Usually, if your cart tastes burnt right out of the package, it comes down to a voltage issue or an unsaturated coil. There are other instances where the oil may be low-quality and unsuitable for vaping in the first place.

You can start by ruling out the more common causes of burnt oil. Also, make sure to consider where you purchased your cannabis cart and whether the seller was trustworthy. Fly-by-night companies may use poor-quality oil. They may also use ultra-cheap carts that don’t deliver oil efficiently to the atomizer.

Did you review the certificate of analysis (COA) before making your purchase? If you haven’t already verified third-party lab testing, take a peek at the manufacturer’s website. If there is no website, or if your product doesn’t look like what they’re selling, you could have a counterfeit cart.

Check the cart’s packaging for batch and lot numbers, as well as a full breakdown of its cannabinoid contents. No reputable seller will fail to disclose this information. Even better, check the package for a QR code. This is becoming a standard practice for many brands. Use your phone camera to scan the code, and you should be directed right to the COA. It’s an efficient way to verify that the cannabis cart is authentic.

THC cart label with QR code and production details
THC cart label with QR code and production details

Unsaturated or unprimed coil

Your cart may look simple, but it’s actually composed of several components working together to heat your oil and produce vapor.

A ceramic or metal coil is built into your cart’s atomizer, which is the piece responsible for creating vapor. Contained within some coils is a wick. Once the element is saturated with oil, it heats up, and the atomizer produces inhalable vapor. All it takes is the user firing up their battery.

There are ways to manually prime a new coil, as well as saturate one that’s already been used. Those techniques are especially useful if your cart was left in colder conditions or hasn’t been touched in a while.

First, position your cart upright for several minutes, allowing oil to settle towards the heating element. Taking several short, dry hits and rubbing the cart between your palms helps to loosen its contents and further saturate the coil. Some vape batteries have a preheat function, but that’s mainly useful if you’re dealing with overly thick, cold oil.

An unsaturated, unprimed coil won’t vaporize effectively. Burnt hits are a common result.

Clogging

Clogs put a lot of stress on your device, whether they develop in the mouthpiece or deeper down the airpath. Drawing hard on a clogged cart can flood the chamber with oil. Flooded chambers are notorious for causing a burnt aroma and taste.

Vape carts that are full of oil yet produce little to no vapor could have a flooded chamber. This is the opposite of the scenario presented above; rather than an unsaturated heating element, it’s an oversaturated one, effectively drowning the coil. Your coil can’t heat or vaporize properly if it’s overwhelmed with oil.

Although priming is important, don’t prime your coil long before you’re ready to use the cart. Leaving a primed coil unattended for extended periods of time increases the flooding risk. Using your cart regularly is one of the simplest ways to prevent this type of clog.

Refillable carts can be disassembled and cleared out manually. With prefilled carts, try flicking the device from side to side to dislodge oil. Then, blow gently into the mouthpiece before firing up your device a few times. Patience and persistence are required when solving the problem of a clogged cart.

Do burnt carts still get you high?

If you’re using psychoactive cannabinoids and the cart has previously gotten you high, then there’s a chance it still will.

Time to address the big “however.” Burnt carts may be missing a good chunk, if not most, of their intended potency. Cannabinoids and terpenes are volatile substances and can easily be destroyed by heat or sunlight. When you leave carts in unfavorable conditions or crank your voltage up to the max, you’re losing cannabinoids—including delta 8 THC, HHC, and delta 9 THC.

A burnt aftertaste can also mean low-quality or black-market carts. You have no way to confirm what these products actually contain. They may not feature the active cannabinoids you were expecting, or at least not in the correct amounts. It’s hard to say whether a low-quality cart will get you high; even knock-off “delta 8” carts may or may not be psychoactive. Or they might be more intoxicating than expected.

Partially or fully clogged carts can also taste burnt. In these instances, you probably aren’t consuming large quantities of vapor. A burning sensation in your mouth or throat may be all you’re receiving. You won’t get high without vapor.

Is it safe to vape a burnt cart?

Although burnt carts aren’t necessarily unsafe, they can be. The risk isn’t worth it, especially when you’re also having a lackluster experience.

Burnt-tasting oil can point to a host of production issues, so stop vaping right away if a new cart tastes off. Moreso, if voltage adjustments or a different battery do nothing to change this. Low-quality, foul-tasting oil is a huge tip-off that your cart is counterfeit. Knock-off vape carts can be risky to consume.

Only purchase vape carts from trusted retailers with transparent safety testing. The hemp industry is unregulated, so it’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to get their products third-party tested. Always locate the COA before buying a hemp-derived vape cart. There’s no way to verify the oil’s contents without one.

In other cases, a burnt taste is the result of sunlight or heat exposure. This can damage your cart’s active ingredients, absolutely, but that isn’t the only risk. Mold or bacterial growth is also possible.

Can you prevent burnt carts?

Yes, there are many ways for users to prevent burnt carts. This sort of situation can’t always be avoided, of course, but it’s possible to reduce the risk.

Preventing clogs can go a long way to avoiding burnt hits. One of the simplest ways to minimize your risk is taking gentle hits that don’t exceed three seconds each. Long, aggressive draws can pull more oil into the cart’s chamber than the coil can handle. Frequently taking hits like this can lead to chamber flooding and sparse, burnt-tasting vapor.

Storing carts in optimal conditions will also keep your clog risk low. Sunlight is one of cannabis oil’s worst enemies, and regular exposure will do severe damage to your product. Store carts in a drawer or storage container, preferably somewhere dark and cool. Even if your cart is unopened, it’s a good idea to take the correct precautions, especially if you aren’t going to use it for several weeks or more.

Lastly, stick to trusted cart sellers. It’s typically possible to avoid black market, low-quality carts before you even spend money on one. High-quality carts are a bigger investment upfront, but at the very least, you probably won’t need to dispose of them after just a few puffs.

How to fix a burnt cart

Prevention is preferable, although some burnt carts can be repaired. Others will need to be scrapped.

Voltage issues are the simplest by a mile. Chances are, you don’t need to vape your oil cart at 4.0 volts, or maybe even at 3.0 volts. Settings well beneath are sufficient to vaporize and get the most out of cannabis oil. Priming or saturating your coil is another quick fix. This may be required if you’re vaping a new cart or one that’s spent time in storage, particularly those left in a cold environment.

You can also determine whether or not your cart is clogged. If you have reason to suspect this is the case, take the appropriate next steps. We described a possible solution above. Still, not all severe clogs can be resolved. Disposable carts aren’t always the most resilient.

Some instances of burnt-tasting carts can’t be reversed, unfortunately. You’ll need to start fresh if your prefilled cart is too low on oil. Sun- or heat-damaged oil isn’t fixable, either, though you can prevent further damage—but you probably shouldn’t vape what’s left. If your carts are regularly going bad before their expiration date, something is likely wrong with the storage environment. Consider a new storage plan.

I'm a Pennsylvania-based cannabis enthusiast and writer. As a part of the Vaping360 team, I'm eager to help cannabis consumers explore vaping and get the most out of their experience. You can also find me @faeberrystudios on Instagram.
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