Now that you know how awesome vaporization can be, let’s go into the basics of how vaporizers work, and how to find the vaporizer that will best fit your needs.
Vaporizers are, on a “high” level, devices that heat up weed just enough to vaporize the moisture in the plant without burning it. The moisture that results from this heating process is then inhaled by the user, just like smoke, and blazedness is achieved. The weed can be heated to the point of vaporization in one of three methods. The first, and most uncommon method, is radiation. This heating method can be achieved by holding a magnifying glass over the weed on a sunny day, to concentrate the sunlight on the weed enough to warm it to the point of vaporization. The second is conduction, in which the weed is placed on a metal plate or similar surface, to which heat is applied. The weed is then warmed by the metal plate. The third, and most popular method, is convection. Convection heating is achieved by passing warm air over the weed, which warms it to the point of vaporization. Most vaporizers are small electric machines, either corded or battery-operated, which warm the weed by convection heating. There are also manual vaporizers, that look somewhat like a pipe and do require fire, which warm the weed by conduction heating. We will be talking about electric vaporizers in this post.
There are two main types of electric vaporizers, and they are differentiated based on their method of delivery. The first type is what are commonly called “bag” vaporizers. This type of vaporizer may look familiar to you if you have ever seen the movie “Super High Me” – this is the type Doug Benson uses in the movie. This type heats the weed, located in a chamber within the machine, by convection. An exhaust fan under the weed-filled chamber forces air that has been heated by a contained heating element, which is usually made of either ceramic or aluminum, through the weed. The fan forces the vapor out into a plastic bag, which is attached to the machine. The vapor-filled bag is removed from the machine, and the vapor is inhaled from the bag. The second type is what is commonly called a “whip” vaporizer. This type also consists of a machine with a contained ceramic or aluminum heating element; however, for this type, the chamber containing the weed is not contained within the machine. The chamber usually will look like a straight glass pipe, with the weed placed in one end, and a long plastic tube (the “whip”) coming out of the other end. The plastic tube ends with a mouthpiece, which is usually made of glass. The user holds the chamber up to the heating element, inhales through the mouthpiece, which draws air through the heating element and the weed, which heats up to the point of vaporization. The vapor is drawn through the tube and inhaled by the user.
Now that we have covered the benefits of vaporization, and the basic workings of bag and whip vaporizers, let’s talk about how to find the perfect vaporizer for you. The first item to take into consideration is your price point. How much are you willing to spend? Vaporizers vary in price, anywhere from around $100 to well over $500, depending on the bells and whistles of the model, so decide on that, and you will know where to concentrate your search. You may find that the vaporizer that fits your needs and/or preferred method of delivery will be more than you wanted to spend – if this is the case, I would definitely recommend waiting, and saving up for what you want. You will be happier in the long run, and for an appliance that you will surely use frequently, quality should not be sacrificed for a lower starting price.
Once you have identified your price range, it is time to do a little research on which specific brand and model is right for you. Plugging “marijuana vaporizers” or “vaporizing weed” into your favorite search engine will result in a ton of crappy search results, mostly pages run by the companies who make vaporizers, but don’t let this defeat you. The pages that are trying to steer you toward certain brands can still contain good information, so just make sure to read up as much as you can from many different sources before you make your decision. A few important features you should be looking for are the ease of use, how quickly the heating element heats up and how the temperature is controlled, the safety features of the machine, and the efficiency of the unit. You are going to want something that is easy to use (right?). Is it hands-free? It is a royal pain to have to hold the bag or whip up to the vaporizer, so if the device is not hands-free, look for an attachment that can make it hands-free. When the vaporizer is turned on, it usually takes a little while for the heating element to heat up to vaporizing temperature. You will want to look for one that heats up as quickly as possible, and that also has a temperature control that is easy to use. The temperature of the heating element is controlled by either an analog control, which is usually cheaper, or by a digital control, which is more expensive, but allows for more precise and steady temperature control. Safety is also something to take into consideration. Once some vaporizers heat up, they are much too hot to handle, but other models are cool to the touch and may be moved around while in use. Another point to consider is efficiency. You may not care that much about efficiency – you may just want to get profoundly stoned when you vape – but you may also want to just calm some period symptoms or ease some anxiety without getting super high. A vaporizer that will allow you to take a hit or two at a time might be ideal for your needs, if that is the case, so a bag vaporizer (where you have to fill the whole bag with vapor) might not be for you. The whip would most likely work better for you, because you can vape less weed at one time.
Once you have looked into these factors, and taken your price range into account, read up on other users’ experiences. There are many forums all over this fine Internet where the pros, cons, and user experiences of all types of vaporizers are discussed and debated – go read all you can, and feel free to participate! Vaporizer devotees tend to be pretty passionate about their THC delivery method of choice, and are almost always willing to share their knowledge and opinions. Another way to find out about specific brands and models is to go visit your local friendly headshop, and ask the employees for advice. Don’t worry about looking like a n00b; vaporization is still relatively new to many people, and everyone I have talked to at my local shop loves to talk vaporizers. The employees are the ones who know which models sell, which get complaints and need replacement parts, and which get nothing but high-fives. Tell them your price range, what features you are looking for, and they should be able to help you find your perfect vape. This is how, after I researched it extensively on my own, I made my final decision: with the help of the headshop guys and girls. I had two specific models in mind, and went with one because an employee told me that the each of the two units he sold of the other model were brought back into the shop because they failed. I went with the model that had had no complaints, and I have not had any complaints about my choice, either – it is still going strong after more than a year of being used multiple times per day.
Once you have purchased your vaporizer, and gotten it home or have had it delivered, I’m sure that you will be super-stoked to try it out. STOP. Read the directions first! Your vaporizer will come with directions (and in some cases, even with a carrying case, replacement screens, and/or a poker), and you will need to read them. I know this can be hard; I have a camera that I still don’t know how to use completely, and I have had it for six months. I like to rip open the packaging and just get down to business. If you’re like me, try your hardest to fight that urge, and read (and follow!) the directions thoroughly. Otherwise, you might end up cooking your weed, or not getting as much as you could get out of your weed.
Finally, here comes the fun part: try it out! Vaporizing effectively takes practice, and you might not master it right away. You will need to find the right temperature setting for your environment, how hard to inhale, and the precise amount of weed that you will need in order to vape your perfect bowl. You will find that you can use less weed to get higher than you would if you were smoking out of another device (pipe, bong, or joint). It will amaze you and make you love it even more. When you take that first good hit, brace yourself, because you will be surprised at how great it tastes – like the purest of pure, like freshly-cut grass, like the best stuff on Earth – you get the picture? When your bowl is done, the weed will taste a little toasty, kind of like burnt popcorn, and the weed will turn brown. Save your vaped weed! As I mentioned before, one of the great advantages to vaporization is that you can re-use your vaped weed. I keep mine in a small airtight container, and save it up until there is enough to make edibles (you can smoke your vaped weed, too, but it tastes gross and I much prefer “baked” goods!). In the next and final installment of this series, we will talk about edibles in general, and I will share my absolutely delicious dark chocolate and Grand Marnier weed truffles recipe, as promised.