Weed smoking has been around for thousands of years but vaporizing has only been around for a few decades as a popular way to get high. In recent years vaporizing has risen in popularity dramatically both in terms of pot and nicotine. But how safe is vaporizing pot? How efficient is it compared to smoking. After smoking (and only smoking) for two decades I got to try out a VOLCANO DIGIT Vaporizer made in Germany by Storz & Bickel. They retail for between $400-$500 depending on which package you choose. But I got to try one for six months for testing purposes.
I enjoy smoking marijuana, the act of smoking feels good to me. Only rarely have I had the desire to vaporize instead of smoke for health reasons. So for me the operative indicator was efficiency and potency. How would using the VOLCANO change my consumption rate? How high would I get by comparison?
My regular consumption is around 7 grams per week. After I started using the VOLCANO the first thing I noticed was that I got a lot higher on a lot less pot. The second thing I saw was that the brown, leftover weed that came out of the vaporizer was never fully decarboxylated. This meant that I was able to further extend my pot’s efficiency by making butter from the vaporized weed. I even began utilizing what I called “vape shake” leftover from the VOLCANO. After vaporizing, I use the leftovers directly in food such as pancake batter to great effect. Efficiency of use is definitely one huge advantage to vaporizing weed in this fashion.
For more information on making weed butter, read our step by step instructions found here!
One advantageous feature of the VOLCANO DIGIT model is the ability to adjust temperature to the exact degree desired with a front-panel digital LED display. A quick Google search told me that around 365 degrees is a great place to start in terms of temperature. Experimentation was half the fun, as the VOLCANO allowed me to turn the temperature up to a maximum of 450 degrees. This was actually slightly over the line of vaping and on into burning somewhat.
I developed the standard practice of starting my vape session at around 365 degrees. VOLCANOs use a bag-system to capture the weed vapor and come with a small one-way valve to cap each bag. This allows the user to inhale as much vapor as they wish, capping the rest for a second hit. I’d turn the temperature up slightly to maybe 370 for the second “bowl”. After two bags of vapor I generally didn’t need any more.
In fact I had one complaint about vaporizing in such a way. Unlike smoking with small hand pipes, I found myself somewhat unable to take “small hits” with the VOLCANO. Clearly you could share one bag of vapor between two folks and both get a smaller hit. However, the time invested in letting the machine “warm up” ruined any notion of “taking a quick hit” similar to using a one-hitter while smoking.
During this testing phase I continued to smoke bowls with fire in the traditional way from time to time. It became clear that smoking has its own appeal and the sensation of inhaling vapor won’t necessarily satisfy the need to inhale smoke.
If we wanted to only get “a little stoned” or didn’t have time for the VOLCANO to heat up (usually around 5 minutes or so) I opted for the tried-and-true smoking method. However it really was nice to have all that “vape shake” as leftovers for use in various foods or butter.
I found it impractical to use the VOLCANO as my sole means of achieving head-change. The VOLCANO is definitely a “home piece”; it came with a sturdy carrying case with form-cut foam inside for a snug fit and pockets for three bags and three mouth-piece valves. Even with such a sophisticated transport apparatus it’s just not feasible to tote the VOLCANO around. It was obvious nearly instantly that it would stay at home when we traveled.
Storz & Bickel also produce smaller handheld vape units for folks on the go but I’ve been so far unable to procure one of these for testing. They generally run about $300-$350.
This wasn’t my first experience with vaporizing pot. I’ve crafted home made versions that were not nearly as advanced as the VOLCANO. Degree-by-degree temperature control is absolutely its best feature. The control afforded by such a feature is why they sell so well and at such a price.
In the end I smoked 33% less pot overall but got immeasurably higher per session than smoking. Again, I did smoke as well as vaporize mainly because of the impracticality of vaporizing in every situation. Weed vapor is definitely much more tasty probably because terpenes usually destroyed by the open flame of a lighter were present within the inhaled vapor. Nuances I had never noticed in my regular weed supply came forward and were especially nice (more on terpenes in a future blog post).
It was also nice to have the option to either crank the VOLCANO temperature up ever higher to squeeze every last bit of THC from the plant matter -or- vaporize the stuff gently (for a less intense high) and have leftovers for processing into food.
Generally I don’t experience a large amount of lung irritation from weed smoke. Vaporizing is gentler and I found that calmer lungs made for a more solid high. Even months on, after the novelty of the new device had worn away, I still used the VOLCANO nearly daily. There was some wear-and-tear upon the bags over time and I did lose one of the mouthpiece parts. Thankfully, the VOLCANO comes with three bags and four mouthpieces so I was able to continue use despite my foolishness.
The bags, over time, do tend to build up a small amount of residue. This didn’t happen, however, for months. And what did build up was extremely scant. The build-up was really nothing compared to what builds up inside a pipe or bong having been smoked through. Even when one bag started to visibly show signs of use, again, there were two more bags included to give us a fresh hit every time.
With a $500 price tag the VOLCANO will remain permanently out of financial reach for some. But for the herb connoisseur interested in tasting every last juicy terpene, looking for a maximum high from minimal usage the VOLCANO is a titan in its field. When the time comes to sign a new lease on a new home, the VOLCANO packs up neatly and discreetly and travels really well. For those with the monetary resources to procure such a device, the VOLCANO has precious little down-side to speak of.
Even before the trial period ended I was back to daily smoking in the traditional fashion. At the end of my 6 month demo of the device I was only firing up the VOLCANO maybe twice a week at the very most. Reasons for this are varied but mainly I grew weary of the operation routine; heating up the element, filling up a bag, inhaling the bag, repeating this process for others in the vape-circle.
Conclusion of The VOLCANO
Ultimately we are creatures of convenience and routine. The VOLCANO wasn’t revolutionary enough to dissuade me from my decades-old practice of grinding herb, packing in a glass hand pipe and applying open flame; at least not entirely.
After discussing the experience with my wife we agreed we weren’t at all eager to spend the $500 ourselves for a VOLCANO of our own although we were glad for the opportunity to test and try. We both look forward to testing smaller handheld vaporizers in the future but aren’t expecting to stop smoking any time soon.
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