by Shannon McMullin
As we usher in a season of colder weather and holiday gatherings, many consumers begin to look for more discreet alternatives to smoking cannabis. For matching or exceeding the experience of smoking without the odour and ash, the best alternative is vaping cannabis. Instead of burning through combustion, users heat up cannabis flower, oils, and extracts and inhale the vapour it produces. There are several different methods that consumers may use to vape cannabis, each catering to different user experiences. Read below to discover the benefits of each vaping method, as well as tips for getting the most out of your experience!
Aside from its more subtle presence, many consumers prefer vaping over smoking because they find it gentler on their lungs while consuming. Because there is no burning plant matter, users only inhale the most essential cannabis compounds, eliminating many of the harsher compounds of smoke. This also allows for a better flavour profile, as many terpenes have a boiling point exceeded by combustion. In addition to flavour, temperature control also allows consumers to control dosing and potency.
When choosing your vaping experience, it is important to consider your intention and experience level with cannabis. Below are the three most popular formats of cannabis vaping, ranked from the most accessible to casual users to formats preferred by more experienced connoisseurs:
510 CARTRIDGES AND DISPOSABLES:
One of the fastest-growing product categories in the legal cannabis market, 510 vape cartridges, are named for the threading that connects the rechargeable battery to a small cartridge pre-filled with a cannabis extract. When activated, the battery heats the cartridge’s atomizer to a high temperature which turns the extract into vapour to be inhaled. This is usually done through a simple button press, though many battery models also offer draw-activation and pre-heating. For those who wish to try a low-commitment introduction to vaping, or are looking for an easy on-the-go option, consider an all-in-one disposable vaporizer. Hardware varies by company, but the experience and convenience is similar to that of a 510.
Both 510s and disposable vaporizers have a myriad of options to choose from, offering many different combinations of THC, CBD, and minor cannabinoids such as CBG and CBN which tailor the experience even further. In addition to the naturally-occuring flavour profiles of the plant, many cartridges combine cannabis distillates with botanical terpenes to create great-tasting draws reminiscent of fruit, mint, and more! If a more natural, true-to-strain flavour and experience is more appealing, look for a cartridge marked ‘full-spectrum’, ‘live resin’, or ‘live rosin’. Instead of distilling cannabinoids and adding terpenes from other plants, these cartridges are filled with extracts that maintain the full terpene profile of the original strain, creating a more well-rounded and fulfilling high.
Flower lovers definitely don’t have to miss out on the benefits of vaping! Though results may vary by moisture content, any dried cannabis flower can be vaped, making the options truly endless. Ground flower can be packed into the chamber of a device that uses either conduction (where the surface of the chamber becomes evenly heated, like a frying pan) or convection (where air inside the device is heated, like an oven) to draw vapour from the flower, which is then inhaled through a mouthpiece. These devices are usually electronic or battery-powered, and range from sleek pocket-sized devices to larger, more powerful tabletop models.
One of the biggest benefits of vaping cannabis flower is that it is the best way to get the most out of your product. Vaping requires less flower than smoking to feel its effects, and the same amount of flower can be used at different heat settings to draw out the most flavour, cannabinoids, and terpenes.
Dabbing cannabis concentrates is usually reserved for more experienced cannabis users due to the higher potency and dedicated set-up (or “rig”) associated with it. A dab rig itself looks similar to a bong with its water-filled chamber and upright mouthpiece, but instead of a bowl piece, a special nail made of titanium or banger made of glass, ceramic, or quartz is attached. The nail or banger is heated by a torch before adding cannabis concentrates such as shatter, badder, live resin, or hash. The hot surface turns the cannabis concentrate into vapour which is then inhaled through the rig. Like flower vapes, electronic dab rigs and portable devices are becoming increasingly popular for their ease of use and temperature controls – there are even vaporizers that are compatible with both concentrates and flower.
Selecting the vaping method that works best for you is the first and most important step to blowing big, flavourful clouds. Here are some things to keep in mind for your next vaping session:
To ensure that you are getting the most out of your vaping experience, it is essential to select temperature that brings the best out of your bud.
For concentrates and extracts, temperatures between 310-315 degrees fahrenheit are ideal to extract the most cannabinoids. For flower vaping, temperatures between 350-400 degrees are recommended. As with consumption, the adage of “start low and go slow” can also apply to vaping temperatures – you can always turn the heat up if needed, but you can’t un-burn your cannabis!
Most electronic flower and concentrate vapes will have custom settings with a display (usually a light or screen) to indicate when the proper temperature has been reached. Premium 510 vaporizers may also have custom temperature settings, but the most popular ‘pen’ style batteries usually operate with three main heat settings, measured by voltage:
2.6V – The lowest heat setting, best for distillate or oil blends. It is recommended to start all cartridges on this setting to avoid burning the coil, which can produce an unpleasant flavour. This is also the best setting for more discrete vaping, as the clouds made from exhaling are much smaller.
3.3V – A medium setting. If you feel like you are not getting a potent enough hit from the 2.6V, try increasing its settings, as some terpenes and cannabinoids will need a higher temperature for effects to be more pronounced. This setting also gives off thicker, more fragrant vape clouds.
4.0V. – The highest heat setting. This should be reserved for cartridges with thicker, full-spectrum inputs, such as live resin or rosin, and used sparingly to avoid burning the coil. Many terpenes may be burnt off at this point – resulting in a loss of flavour. However, many consumers enjoy the more intense hit and thick, white clouds this setting produces.
KEEP IT CLEAN!
Whether you choose to vape flower or concentrates, keeping your piece clean is an absolute must to maintain even heating and ensure a clean hit every time. Get acquainted with isopropyl alcohol and the cleaning tools of your choice (pipe cleaners and cotton swabs being the most common) and be prepared to thoroughly clean your device or rig after each session. If you’re using lower temperatures, make sure to save that already vaped bud (or AVB) in an airtight container – this can be used to infuse oils and fats for making edibles!
Tidy storage of your 510 cartridges and batteries ensures that the hardware continues to operate properly, and the extract inside kept at its best. After each use, make sure to disconnect the 510 cartridge from its battery and ensure they are stored upright in a cool, dark place. Leaving the battery on its side or attached to the cartridge may create leakage or clog the mouthpiece.
Vaping cannabis can be just as enjoyable as smoking with the added benefits of portability and covert usage. The tips above are just the beginning of the wide world of vaping – for more burning questions on extraction methods, vaping hardware, and more, follow our #DearPlateau series on Instagram!