Vaporizers: benefits, how they work, and how they differ
Vaping is a superb way to inhale cannabinoids and terpenes. Unlike smoking, users have more control and can get more "herb" for their buck. Plus, it's healthier. What's not to love?
Vaporizing (or vaping) cannabis may not be as old as smoking the herb, but it’s still been used for hundreds if not thousands of years. And vaping is not exclusive to cannabis. Vaporizers are used to enjoy a variety of herbs and substances. That said, cannabis is certainly one of the most popular “herbs” used.
Vaporizers are not only used for inhaling substances through the mouth and lungs. Chefs also use these tools to infuse food or enhance flavours that might otherwise be spoiled by higher temperatures.
When it comes to vaping cannabis, you are truly spoiled for choice. To help you thin out the options, we’ll go over what vaporizers are, the parts they contain, and how they work.
WHAT IS A VAPORIZER?
In essence, a vaporizer is a device used to heat cannabis and other substances to the point where active compounds boil and vapor is emitted. This vapor is then inhaled, and the active compounds make their way into the bloodstream through the alveoli in the lungs. This process is different from smoking, which relies on combustion.
While the most common vapes today are small electronic devices, this was not always the case. Jamaican steam chalices and water pipes are traditional forms of "vaporizers".
ANATOMY OF A VAPORIZER
Vapes come in all sizes and shapes. They can be mounted on a table or placed in your pocket for on-the-go use. However, there are some common elements shared among all of them. These include:
• A heat source (a battery or direct heat source such as a butane torch)
• A heating chamber (atomiser)
• A bowl/herb chamber (into which the oil or herbs are placed)
Special devices come with all sorts of fancy extras, but the above parts are compulsory with most vapes.
HOW DO VAPORIZERS WORK?
Vaporizers heat up their contents in two different ways: conduction or convection. Although there are many types of vaporizers on the market, narrowing them down based on heating mechanism can help you determine which is the best model for you.
Conduction heating is a very simple concept. It operates by heating contents via direct contact with the heat source. This form of heating results in faster heat-up times and stronger draws, but it poses a greater risk of burning your herb.
Convection vapes work in a similar fashion to convection ovens. They use heated air or steam to warm the herb or oil indirectly. This tends to lead to a more evenly heated substance. The heating coils are in a separate but adjacent chamber. Sometimes, these vapes also use mini fans to circulate the heated air.
Hybrid vapes utilise elements of both conduction and convection. This means a vape with a heating system similar to a convection device, but with a heat source that is closer to the herb or oil chamber.
WHAT TYPES OF VAPORIZERS ARE THERE?
Aside from the style of heating, vaporizers can be further broken down according to their size and features. Here too, there are many options available, as some vapes will suit certain individuals more than others.
• DESKTOP VAPORIZERS
Desktop vaporizers are not designed to be mobile, in the same way a desktop computer stays at home. They are placed on a table or other secure surface, and they’re often quite large and powerful. To use these devices, the vapor is often released into a balloon bag on top of the unit, and is then inhaled through an attached mouthpiece. These balloons can store vapor for up to eight hours and tend to heat contents evenly.
• PORTABLE VAPORIZERS
These are handheld, portable units. Discreet, easy to use, and with powerful heating systems and adjustable temperature controls, these vaporizers are the perfect middle-ground between desktop vapes and vape pens. These devices can be taken on the go, but still make for pleasurable vaping at home. The size of these devices is also somewhere between mammoth desktop models and super-stealthy pens.
• VAPE PENS
Vape pens are a smaller, more streamlined version of portable vapes. They look like a pen and function with the press of a button. They consist of three parts: a chamber, a battery, and a heat source. They also take only seconds to heat up, and many vape pens come with pre-set temperature controls. These vapes are extremely convenient and often inexpensive, and come in both reusable and single-use forms.
Not all of these vaporizers work with both herb and concentrates, although some do. Cannabis flower and extracts have different heating requirements and can ruin a vaporizer if it's not compatible with your chosen substance. Make sure to do some research on your vape before you buy. Some of the premium portable vapes out there use a hybrid heating system _and_ can handle both herbs and concentrates, but they are often expensive!
HOW TO USE A VAPORIZER
Regardless of which heating method is used, vaporizers are designed to avoid combustion. The process of using one to enjoy cannabis is not difficult, though it helps to have a general understanding of what it entails.
1. Grind your bud to a nice grade: small granules, but not powder. Crumble your concentrate if using a solid extract (like hash).
2. Load the bowl or chamber about three-quarters of the way full. Your chosen vaporizer will often detail how much your bowl can hold. Pack the herb well, but not too tight, to produce thick, heavy draws.
3. Set the optimal temperature and preheat. Most cannabinoids vaporize at around 160–180°C.
4. Draw hits using shallow, steady breaths. Avoid holding vapor in your lungs.
DON’T FORGET TO CLEAN YOUR VAPE
One of the most important tips for vaporizing effectively is regular cleaning. Make sure to read the instruction manual that comes with your device. This way, it will run properly and produce clean, smooth vapor time and time again. Replace screens regularly and use only applicable cleaning solutions.
THE BENEFITS OF VAPORIZING
• IT’S HEALTHIER
When you vape cannabis, you are doing yourself a huge favour. Studies have shown that smoking cannabis is linked to many of the same respiratory problems caused by tobacco. Some studies have also shown that cannabis smoke contains higher concentrations of dangerous chemicals than vaping.
• MORE CONTROL
• MORE EFFICIENT
Combustion (regular old smoking) is more wasteful: Vaping is a far more efficient use of your precious weed. Plus, you may even find it saves you money on your canna-bill.
• RICHER HITS
Smoking cannabis destroys terpenes. Vaping helps preserve more of the essential oils found in the plant.
• LESS ODOUR
While aficionados love the smell of burning weed, there are others who don't. Vaping helps conceal the characteristic scent of cannabis.
DISADVANTAGES OF VAPORIZING
Every good thing has a downside. This is true of vaping too.
• INITIAL COST
Vapes cost money. Good vapes can cost hundreds of euros. But in the end, you get what you pay for.
Vapes are little machines. They have to be maintained. This includes cleaning them regularly. It also includes making sure the power source is properly maintained. Batteries must be stored, etc.
• LEARNING CURVE
Vaping "feels" different than smoking. It takes a while to get used to the process, from inhaling to understanding how much to ingest. Practice, practice, practice.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON VAPORIZERS
Vapes are a cleaner, more convenient, and more efficient way to enjoy your cannabis. If you are ready to give it a go, consider the factors above before making a purchase!