Vaping cannabis has actually been documented in human culture as early as the time of the ancient Egyptians (in more archaic forms, of course). Early vaporizer designs consisted of crude rocks, metals and ceramic pots, whereas now they’re mostly made of plastic, metal, and (still) ceramic. Just like the trial and error that came before, there are several ways to mess up using your herbal vaporizer. As beginners, people can find themselves heavily reliant on the internet, peers, and store assistants for information. However, sometimes people can be misinformed and, in turn, have a bad experience, potentially turning them off of herbal vaping for good.
1. It’s not a bad device, you’re just too good for it
The easiest way to explain this would be with a comparison between those vaping nicotine and vaping cannabis. If you’re a heavy analog smoker, then you may find yourself requiring something slightly more heavy duty than what a light smoker would go for. But where a heavy cigarette smoker can simply use a higher nicotine level in their e-liquid, a cannabis user will often have a harder time finding higher THC levels. In other words, if you’re looking to vape herbal product and you find your device is weak, often times it’s because it is.
A good amount of lower-end herbal vaporizers are designed for the more social user—somebody who’s not an overly frequent user or who’s looking for something portable with a simple setup. On the other side of things, you’ll find people who need something a little more serious. Desktop vaporizers obviously have their limitations, but there’s usually a good reason that you have to plug it into the wall. Personally, I’ve heard a few people note that desktop devices are the closest experience to traditional combustion. However if you’re not looking to plug your smoke machine into the wall just to use it, several portable devices are out there ranging from $200 to $400 that can actually pack a punch with advanced features such as thicker airflow, adjustable temperature settings, replaceable screens, larger chamber sizes, interchangeable mouthpieces, replaceable batteries, custom covers, carrying cases, and wax and herb dual-functionality among other benefits.
2. Clean frequently
This might sound obvious, but it’s actually quite common for people to think they only need to clean their vape on a weekly basis when they use their device’s full battery more than twice daily. This cleaning schedule works great if you only have 1–5 sessions the entire week, but with heavier use, you’ll also get a heavier flow of residue build-up throughout the chamber and mouthpiece. Cleaning doesn’t have to be a full-fledged disassembly of your device with cloths, isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs and resin picking sticks on a daily basis, but it should stay consistent. Keeping a device clean, let’s say used daily, should consist of small screen wiping and mouthpiece clearing every day, and full cleaning every week. A variation in frequency of use, whether it’s more or less, is what would justify more or less cleaning, helping to improve the longevity and performance of your device overall.
3. Master the trifecta of grind, size, and temperature
Have you ever, out of curiosity, ground up your bud to a fine dust just to see how it lights up? Well, in pretty much all cases with herbal vaporizers, never do that. When purchasing a new device, it’s important to keep in mind how fine you should make your green. A thin screen with extremely tight mesh will make most work done by hand almost useless. In these cases, if you don’t own a grinder, get one, but a knife or scissors can work if you’re in a pinch. For those out there with thicker screens, you might want to consider the opposite advice. Sometimes breaking up some bud with your fingers creates the perfect consistency required.
On that note, let’s talk about how you much to actually pack. Similar to rolling a joint or packing a bowl, you should definitely keep an eye on how much you put inside the chamber. The more weed that’s packed, the tighter the airflow going through it will be. It’s common for people (especially eager beginners) to cram as much as possible into the chamber, only to be stunned when they pull their half green-half black puck out of the chamber after a failed session.
Which actually leads to temperature, the variable in the equation of vaping cannabis that only affects mid- to high-end devices. Without a variable wattage or temperature setting, this doesn’t apply to your device, which means it’s important to judge how much herb is in the chamber, and whether or not it will stay behind the screen or fly right through.
In regards to mastering the trifecta of the three, lower temperatures are suitable for longer sessions creating an even heating of the chamber, assuming you have a relatively full chamber with a finer grind. This particular blend of criteria is actually ideal for peak flavour in a herbal vaporizer. Just like cooking food, a hotter temperature is going to justify a shorter session, so you’ll benefit from upping the coarseness of your grind and using a looser pack to avoid burning.
4. Be patient and pay attention
This point is more directed towards beginners. If you find yourself getting stronger effects than desired, this might be due to the longer delay when vaporizing weed as opposed to combusting it, which is certainly something to adjust to. On the other hand, you might find yourself getting little to no effects, regardless of the device you’ve selected. In most cases, the level of visible vapour emitted is extremely minimal, which is accompanied by a smoother hit. This actually benefits a heavier user in the sense that they can take larger pulls and hold them in longer, helping to maximize the effects. Ironically, this is also most lighter-smoking beginners’ downfall. It’s important to figure out how much is enough for you, but most devices are designed to have a reasonable amount of flexibility.
5. Figure out how long to vape for
All devices have varying session times which, most of the time, are not visible. So you have to figure out what amount of time works best to get an even bake on all of your material. This actually ties into #3 in regards to measuring how much you put in, how fine it is, and what the temperature is. As I mentioned, higher temperatures correlate with shorter cooking times, and this means the opposite is also true. If you’re out and about, maybe a hotter temperature is beneficial. In these cases, you might find yourself taking more frequent and harder pulls to save time. If you’re not very concerned with saving ABV (already-been-vaped) cannabis, then this is a good approach for the on-the-go vaper. On the other hand, lighter temperatures and longer sessions may be best when you want to sit down and enjoy the session with friends.
At the end of the day, the questions is “how long is too long?” The answer to that is highly subjective and fiercely debated in the community. I recommend anybody who is even remotely interested in the world of cannabis do some reading on ABV and its many applications, as well as the process of decarboxylation of cannabis. In regards to getting your herb to an ABV state, you’re looking at a cooking range of 5-10 minutes on light to mid-range temperatures. High temperatures are not recommended. And if you’re not interested in ABV, simply ditch your chamber when it starts to taste bad and more on the burnt side. Once that happens, it’s gotten to a point where the THC is primarily vacant.