Vaporization is one of the most popular methods of cannabis consumption. It is often regarded as a ‘safer and healthier’ method of using weed than the traditional tactic of rolling up and smoking a joint. While smoking involves combustion, which is extremely harsh on the lungs, vaporization heats weed to the point where its compounds are boiled off and turned into vapor. You inhale this vapor and get high, or you can relax and treat a medical condition if that’s the reason you’re using marijuana.
Most experts suggest that the ideal temperature range for vaping weed is between 356 and 410 degrees Fahrenheit. The lack of combustion during the process means you benefit from a cool vapor that doesn’t irritate your lungs, eyes, throat or skin.
Every popular product has a starting point. For example, most people point to the Model T Ford as the ‘birth’ of modern automobiles, even though Karl Benz built his version almost a quarter of a century beforehand. As far as vaporizers go, the Volcano Vaporizer is the beginning despite there being a long history of such devices before the development of the Volcano. In this article, I will briefly look at vaporizers throughout history followed by details on the development of the Volcano, which was first released in 1999.
Vaporizers in the Past
While Herodotus has a sketchy reputation when it comes to battles (he is known for exaggeration; especially with regards to the size of armies), he is still regarded as one of the best ancient sources. During the 5th century BC, Herodotus wrote that the Scythians vaporized hemp-seed and threw it on red-hot stones. It vaporized and, once the Scythians inhaled it, they shouted for joy!
Irfan Sheikh of the Iranian Safavid Dynasty is credited with inventing hookah in the 16th century. This is considered as a key step towards the creation of the modern vaporizer. In 1930, Joseph Robinson had his patent for a mechanical butane ignition vaporizer approved, but is given minimal credit for his achievement. The smokeless, non-tobacco cigarette was available by the 1960s and was created by Herbert Gilbert.
A man named ‘Eagle’ Bill Amato is often called the “father of the modern cannabis vaporizer”, since he developed a safe and effective vaping device in the early 1990s. A Canadian company named BC Vaporizer claims that it invented the first electrically charged vaporizer based on Amato’s design. Even so, it is a German firm that has grabbed the glory, as the Volcano vaporizer came at the turn of the millennium and blew the competition away.
The Volcano Erupts
Today, the German firm of Storz & Bickel is one of the most renowned manufacturers of vaporizers in the world, and its success can be traced back to 1996. This is the year when one of the company’s co-founders, Markus Storz, began his quest to improve the standard of cannabis consumption devices. He was a qualified graphic designer by trade, but his ingenuity, curiosity, and love of marijuana took his career in an unexpected direction.
Storz started to develop vaporizers in his basement, and the first version of the Volcano was developed using a Steinel heat gun. Although this initial experiment was a failure, Storz soon found a way to create the air pump found in the final version of the device. At the time, ‘whip’ vaporizers were popular because they allowed for a steady flow of heated air to evenly heat the herb, allowing for greater efficiency.
Storz patented a detachable balloon chamber for the Volcano in 1998 and it was an innovation that helped the vaporizer destroy its early opposition. The purpose of the balloon is to separate the inhalation and vaporization processes. This is crucial because it ensures the vapor you receive is cool and refreshing; the balloon is also ideal for disabled users because it has little resistance when inhaling and a nurse or caregiver can prepare the dosage.
Although the Volcano became available by the end of the century, it was in 2002 that Storz and Bickel was formed. Jurgen Bickel, a friend of Storz, first used the Volcano in the very basement it was conceived. He was a civil engineer working in Peru and wanted to vape his weed because he preferred it to the Peruvian hash cigarettes he had been using. Bickel brought the Volcano with him to South America and, when he returned, he formed the company with Storz.
At 3.5 pounds, the Volcano was very light for a desktop model, measuring just 18 centimeters high. It offers a temperature range of 266 degrees Fahrenheit to 446 degrees, which is more than sufficient. Your weed is heated via full hot air convection and there is basically no draw resistance from the easy valve balloon. You need to plug the device into a wall socket, and its 6.5cm3 filling chamber is enough for sharing. We recommend availing of the 3-year warranty option, even though the Volcano is a durable and reliable device.
The Volcano had long since replaced Amato’s globe vaporizer as the industry leader and the duo received the Dr. Rudolf Eberle Prize for technical innovation in 2003. Storz and Bickel lived off the success of the Volcano for several years before finally releasing the Volcano Digit in 2007. Although it didn’t provide an improved level of flavor or vapor, it was more accurate than the original thanks to the digital temperature control.
Meanwhile, Storz and Bickel developed a compatible 110-Volt version of the Volcano for the American market, which was released in 2003. Within two years, the firm had an office in Oakland as it looked to expand into North America. The device was also a regular recipient of international awards such as the coveted Cannabis Cup bong. The premium quality materials and quality management systems used by the company in the creation of the Volcano ensured that it became known as the first marijuana vaporizer certified for medical use in 2009. The Volcano Medic was released in 2010.
Innovation & Rip-offs
With its success assured, Storz and Bickel finally expanded their product range and have released the Medic, the Mighty, and the Crafty, amongst other offerings. The latter duo are powerful, portable devices and feature an array of ‘first to market’ features including App Control, Vibration Alarm, Hot Air Convection Heating with additional conduction, and a Flipable mouthpiece.
Innovative companies are often the victim of shameless rip-offs, and Storz and Bickel are no exception. A few years ago, a product called the Phantom Vaporizer was released, and it was a clear rip-off of the Volcano design. It looks almost exactly like the Volcano but is several hundred dollars cheaper. Rather than being assembled by skilled engineers in Germany, it was knocked up in China on a tight budget.
While you may save anywhere between $400 and $500 by purchasing a Phantom, don’t expect it to perform in a similar vein. First of all, its valve set doesn’t clip to the device securely like the Volcano, so you have to hold it in place while filling a balloon with vapor. Secondly, the cheap plastic material doesn’t withstand heat particularly well. Thirdly, the Phantom’s temperature reading is wildly inaccurate. In other words, if you buy the cheap Phantom and expect Volcano-standard quality, you’re in for major disappointment.
Final Thoughts on the Volcano
Although it is a touch premature, we want to say ‘congratulations’ to Storz and Bickel on what is soon to be the 20th anniversary of the Volcano Vaporizer. While it may be old, it is certainly not ‘old-fashioned’, and it continues to outperform the majority of desktop vaporizers on the market. If you’re looking for more accurate temperature control, choose the Volcano Digit, but there is no need to do so if you already own the Classic.
As for Storz and Bickel, the company continues to expand and add to its impressive range of vaporizers. The Crafty and Mighty are two of the finest portable vaporizers around and both are relatively affordable. The organization has aligned itself with marijuana use for medicinal purposes and with an increasing number of American states legalizing weed for this reason, the future of S & B looks bright. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in purchasing a Volcano Classic vaporizer, it is available on the company’s official website for under $500.
Recommended Portable Vapes – Our Best Picks
- Da Vinci IQ
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- Warm-up: 80 sec
- Battery: 25 Min
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- Atmos Jump
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- Battery: 30 to 40 min
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- G Pen by Grenco Science
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- Warm-up: 30 sec
- Battery: 1-2 hour
- Temp: 200°F to 428°F
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