Introduction to Vaporizing

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For this intro we're going to assume you know nothing about vaporizing. Now, you might have heard some things in passing from a friend or read some stuff on the net. But let's just forget all that for now. There's a lot of misinformation out there.

So what is vaporizing?

Simply, vaporization is the process of gently heating herbs in order to release active ingredients, causing them to rise into the air as vapor. Most vaporizers use hot air (convection), a hot surface (conduction), or a combination of the two.

Most vaporizers these days use convection to heat the herb which is downstream from the vapor path and separate from the heater. This methodology tends to heat the biomass much more evenly and effectively than conduction style heating.

Commonly, a user provides suction which causes heated air to be drawn through/over the herb manually (manual whip or direct draw) or air is forced through a bed of herbs by a fan. The temperature applied to the bed of herbs can be varied precisely with the use of analogue or digital controllers. At the same time, the user's draw speed (how fast air is displaced) and draw strength affect the vaporization temperature. Some users prefer to select the vaporization temperature to manage which active ingredients are released, others prefer a single temperature and varied draw speed/strength. Different temperatures release different proportions of active ingredients from the herb. The taste, type of high, harshness, and specific medicinal properties of the vapors are greatly affected by the temperature used.

How is it different from smoking? Why Vaporize?

Because it is much healthier than combusting!

Although both vaporization and combustion use heat to release the active ingredients, the major differences are the temperature used and the resulting by-products of each method.

When smoking, temperatures can reach ~800-900C. At these temperatures pyrolization occurs. This process not only chemically alters some of the actives (and thus, deactivates them), but results in harmful by-products including carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, naphthalene, tars, particulates and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

When vaporized, the herb stays below the point of combustion (approx. 230C). Desired active compounds are released, while harmful combustion by-products are dramatically reduced or avoided entirely.

After combustion, any remaining material is a black, soot-type ash. Since vaporizing doesn't burn the product, the structural integrity of the herb is for the most part maintained (the remaining material generally weighs less than the input material). Vaporized remains, commonly referred to as ABV (Already Been Vaped), are often saved by the user in order to further extract active compounds. Users can revape, cook with and/or make a tincture from the ABV in order to extract remaining actives. The color of the ABV can be a primary indicator of the difference between combusting and vaporizing.

Stripped of many of the byproducts of combustion, users often report a more refined and purer taste to vapors. Further, vapors are generally less irritating than smoke allowing the user inhale deeply and for a long duration. Many vaporists report a "cleaner" high relative to smoking, often void of the "couch-lock" experience and relative lethargy.

Many users report that they use less material when vaporizing as opposed to smoking/combusting. Also, the possibility of reusing/recycling the ABV allows a user to get multiple uses out of the same material.

What's the best vaporizer to buy?

Despite what you might have heard, there is no best vaporizer. What's the best car or the best fruit? It's a matter of personal preference. Luckily, there is s a wide variety of quality vapes on the market. You just need to do some research and figure out what best suits your needs.

When considering a vaporizer you should be thinking along these lines:

  • How many people will use it at once? large/small groups, or just 1 or 2 people?
  • Methods of inhalation: Will you use a bag, a whip, direct draw or a combination of methods?
  • Appearance of unit: Do you need stealth capabilities, minimal noise or power consumption?
  • Should it also be able to function as an aromatherapy device?
  • Cost: How much are you willing to spend?

Other considerations include: track record/reliability, type of heater, materials used, materials used in vapor path, parts and service warranties, company customer service, shipping costs, and aesthetics.