Curious about using a flower vaporizer for your cannabis needs? Vaping is becoming an increasingly popular method to consume cannabis, but it can seem difficult to get started on. With so many different options when it comes to vaporizers, it’s easy to get lost or intimidated by the technical jargon. But the truth is, once you get set up with vaporizing, it’s a simple, convenient and healthy way to consume cannabis flower.
Not sure how to get started? Don’t worry. We’re here to make the process easier for you with this simple primer on how to get started using a flower vaporizer.
How Vaping Marijuana Works
Vaping is a method of cannabis consumption where, like smoking, the active chemicals in the cannabis plant are first heated and then inhaled.
The main difference between smoking and vaping cannabis is the amount of heat applied. With smoking, the cannabis is actually burned and turned into cannabis smoke. Meanwhile, vaporizers use lower levels of heat. This means that instead of smoke, it creates a cannabis vapour.
Most vaporizers are made up of a few different parts that work together to use low heat to create vapour:
- Energy source: Every vaporizer needs an energy source. This may be a battery or a plug.
- Heating method: The heating method is what actively heats your cannabis. This is usually some kind of electrically powered heating coil.
- Bowl or chamber: The bowl or chamber of your vaporizer holds your cannabis and provides some level of contact with your heating source. It allows you to heat your cannabis into vapor, in a controlled space, without burning it.
- Delivery system: A delivery system transfers the vapor from the chamber where it’s heated to the user. This may be a simple direct draw, a tube attached to the vaporizer (often called a whip), or a balloon that inflates with vapour, which you then suck back out of the balloon using a mouthpiece.
Cannabis Vaporizer Options to Consider
First things first, you need a vaporizer. And looking at the list above, there’s a lot of variety on the market. So, choosing the right cannabis vaporizer for your needs is the first step in your vaporizing journey.
It’s always a good idea to read the reviews for different vaporizers to make sure you’re buying one with a reliable reputation. But, even among the best vaporizers, there are a few factors to consider when choosing the right one for you:
- Portable vaporizers vs. desktop vaporizers: The first decision you need to make is whether you want a portable vaporizer or a desktop model. Each has its benefits.
With a portable vaporizer, you get the ease of consuming on the go, but you pay for this benefit. Portable vape pens can be lower in quality than the desktop models are. Plus, they can be quite pricey. For some, this is a worthwhile compromise to have the ability to take their cannabis with them. But if you tend to only use cannabis at home, then a desktop model may be a more affordable or functional option.
- Conduction vaporizers vs. convection vaporizers: Another factor to consider is the type of heating method your vaporizer has: conduction or convection.
With a conduction heating method, heat is directly transmitted to your plant material through a substance like metal or ceramic. So, it works like a frying pan, heating the parts of the plant that are in direct contact with the heating element. This method is often the fastest because the direct contact causes some of the cannabinoids to be vaporized fairly quickly. It’s also usually found on less expensive vaporizers, so can be economical.
That said, this method has problems with evenly distributing the heat, so you may find some parts burn while others are under heated and therefore wasted. A good tip is to stir your cannabis in its chamber after each inhalation to help reduce this problem.
Convection heating, on the other hand, works more like cooking with steam. The heat rises and circulates throughout the chamber, offering a more even distribution of heat than you find with conduction. For this reason, many prefer convection heating for flower vaping. It helps avoid burning some of the plant material, while under-heating the rest. Most times, this results in an even and consistent vaping experience.
Another thing to think about is how this even heating helps preserve terpenes (the flavourful and therapeutic chemicals in cannabis), so it may also have a better taste and effect then you’d find with conduction. The only real downside is that convection vaporizers tend to cost more than conduction vapes.
- Battery life: If you’re going with a portable vaporizer, battery life is an important consideration. For those who vape more frequently or require higher doses, you’ll want to ensure you have a large enough battery that you aren’t constantly having to recharge.
- Temperature control: Finally, consider the amount of temperature control that your vaporizer has. Some simple vaporizers are set at one temperature, and if you like the setting, it’s no problem. But people differ in terms of the temperature that works best for them. Some prefer a lower temperature, which preserves terpenes, while others prefer a higher temperature, which activates a higher ratio of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
For more variability and control, look for a vaporizer that allows you to set your own temperature, or at least has several options to choose from. This way, you can test out the possibilities and find the temperature that fits you best.
How to Use a Marijuana Flower Vaporizer
Once you get your vaporizer, be sure to read the instructions thoroughly before you get started. Each vaporizer has its own peculiarities, and there may be differences in how to operate each.
The following is a general set of instructions, which applies to most vaporizers on the market. But keep in mind that there may differences depending on what you’re using.
- To use your vaporizer, start with some cannabis flower and a grinder. You want to make sure that you grind the marijuana first so you get the cannabinoids in the center of the bud and on the outside, too. This will help your cannabis heat quickly and evenly. It’s also important the cannabis flower is dry. Wet or moist cannabis (such as fresh cannabis that hasn’t been fully cured) doesn’t vape well.
- Once you have your dry, ground flower, pack it gently into the chamber, leaving some space for airflow.
- Close the chamber back up (however that works on your vaporizer) and activate the heating element. On some vaporizers, this is a simple button you push, while others require setting a temperature first. As mentioned earlier, people differ on their temperature preferences, but on average you want the temperature to be around 338 degrees F. Either way, you’ll have to wait a small period of time for your cannabis to heat and produce vapour.
- When your vaporizer gives you a sign that it’s ready to use (on most vaporizers this is a flashing or colour-changing light, or maybe an audible beep), you can take an inhalation through the mouthpiece. This may be a simple draw, a tube or a balloon, depending on your vaporizer.
- Put the mouthpiece to your lips and inhale as you would breathe normally. Some folks like to hold the vapour in their lungs for a moment before exhaling.
If you’re already used to smoking cannabis, get ready for a different experience when vaping.
Many complain on their first try that they aren’t getting any vapour.
But this illusion is because vapour doesn’t look or feel the same as smoke. With vaping, you should expect lighter, cleaner clouds than the thick grey smoke you get when smoking cannabis. It can be a much smoother inhale, so you may think you’re only getting air. But be careful, you’re still consuming strong cannabinoids, and it’s easy to inhale too much if you think the light, smooth taste means you aren’t getting enough.
Try a small amount for your first time and wait at least 30 minutes before you try a second dose.
Photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon