Vaporizers are a relatively new addition to the dry herb connoisseur’s toolkit. Before vapes, there were plenty of ways to enjoy dry herbs. The on-the-go and social smoker might prefer rolling; the average smoker might use a pipe; and the true everyday dry herb aficionado will undoubtedly have a bong, along with the former two. While these are all great ways to enjoy dry herbs, all three have an unfortunate downside - they burn the herbs. Even if you’re consuming healthier herbs, the process of burning (combustion) produces toxins that aren’t great for your lungs.
That’s why vaporizers are so great. Not only are they convenient and discreet, but many of them heat dry herbs at a lower temperature, releasing vapor full of taste and aroma, without the dangerous byproducts produced during combustion.
Any device made for consuming dry herbs will use either combustion or convection. Combustion is the traditional process and involves burning the herbs to release key components of flavor and aroma. Combustion occurs at high temperatures, typically anywhere above 455°F. ‘Burning’ that occurs during combustion produces many byproducts. Two of the byproducts, carbon monoxide and tar, are harmful to our health. While some vape pens use combustion, a true vaporizer uses convection to ‘bake’ the herbs. This happens at temperatures under the combustion point of 455°F. Vaporizing at lower temperatures extracts the beneficial compounds from your dry herbs by moving hot air through them. This vaporization process does this without releasing dangerous toxins.
Vaporizers can be set to a range of temperatures and anything under the burning (or combustion) point of your dry herbs will result in vapor rather than smoke. While burning points vary for different herbs, ideal temperatures for vaporizing herbs ranges from 375°F to 430°F. Some dry herb vaporizers have a few settings while others can be adjusted to the degree. When using a new vaporizer, it’s always a good idea to start vaporizing at a lower temperature and increase it until you find the perfect vapor. As the temperature increases, the vapor will get thicker but will eventually get harsh and almost smokey. It’s best to find the point where the vaporizer produces a thick vapor, but it’s still tasty and smooth. Of course, the ideal vapor is slightly different for everyone.
The biggest difference between smoking and vaping dry herbs is the speed and efficiency in which they break down. Each herb type and variety will have different percentages of key compounds. Most of us want to consume the highest percentage of these key compounds and enjoy the best possible flavor and aroma that they provide. When burning herbs in a pipe or bong, the process is quick. Depending on the bowl size, herbs could be fully burnt in a matter of seconds. Often herbs are burned off because they are still smoking after you’ve taken a hit. That, or you’ve roasted the outside and left some goodness inside. More often than not, you end up tossing this otherwise good herb. In addition to burning all the beneficial compounds, you also end up inhaling a lot of plant matter.
However, vaping is totally different. Passing hot air over ground herbs slowly breaks them down, releasing key compounds containing flavor and aroma as vapor. Each pull breaks down the herbs more by separating individual molecules. After quite a few hits, the herbs get browner and lose flavor little by little. In the end, you are left with mostly plant matter that is void of color, flavor and aroma. Since vaping doesn’t require combustion, there isn’t any tar or carbon monoxide (the two most harmful byproducts of smoke) in the resulting vapor.
We’ve discussed some of the benefits of vaping but there’s gotta be a reason people still like smoking, right?
All dry herb vaporizers come with some type of temperature control. This may be just a few settings or it might be adjustable to the exact degree with a digital display. While some people prefer a thicker, heavier vapor, others are looking for a smooth, flavorful hit. However, we recommend setting your vaporizer somewhere between 375°F and 430°F. Between 375°F and 400°F will create a flavorful vapor and should vaporize most key compounds in your dry herbs. However, there may be some left even after most of the flavor and aroma is gone. As the heat increases, a higher percentage of important compounds will be released into the vapor. This only happens to a point: eventually the vapor will become harsh and lose it’s smooth flavor. Most herbs will begin to burn around 455°F so it’s best to stay significantly lower than this. That’s why we don’t recommend setting a dry herb vaporizer over 430°F.
Remember, if you just bought a new vaporizer and aren’t familiar with it’s heat settings yet, it’s best to start at the lowest heat setting and work your way up. Sometimes the actual temperature in the chamber will vary slightly from the set temp. That’s why it’s a good idea to start low with a new vape. Once you’ve gotten familiar with a pen, you’ll know exactly how to dial it in.
While we all have slightly different preferences, if you’re new to vaping, you might not know where to start. If this is the case, start at a low setting and take a few pulls. If your vapor is thin and tasteless, your vape isn’t hot enough. Keep adjusting it until you are exhaling visible clouds that hang around for at least 5-10 seconds before dissipating. If you start getting harsh hits that lack flavor and make you cough, the vape is too hot and you should turn it down. It may be hard to fine-tune at first, but once you find that perfect setting, it’ll be worth it.