I’ve been an avid proponent of dry herb vaping for quite a while. Dry herb vaping gives the advantages that consumers loved about cartridge with the power of flower. Dry herb vaping is vaporizing the cannabinoids and terpenes that give cannabis all of its power, while not fully combusting the plant material, which means it’s far safer for the lungs thus a healthier way to consume.
The essentials for dry herb vaping will depend on how you consume. In the very least what you need to get started is a vaporizer, some dry herb, and a grinder. When I start to break down a typical vaporizing session, you’ll see where some other key accessories will come into play.
I have a lot of reasons I love dry herb vaping. I feel far better after dry herb vaping than I do after other inhalation based methods. I love that AVB can be reused, so I can get two highs for one price. I love that I can control the effects far more effectively than edibles and concentrates. I find that part of works for me medicinally with cannabis is the entourage effect, which I believe can be felt much more effectively by consuming the whole flower. I also like how I can activate or ‘tune in’ terpenes by changing the temperature of my vaporizer. For me, dry herb vaporizing harkens back to some of the rituals I enjoyed with combustion, with more advantages and fewer drawbacks.
The biggest thing you’re going to need to start a journey of dry herb vaping is a vaporizer. I have two main vaporizers that I use, a desktop and a portable. Selecting the vaporizers you want to use might take a bit of research and consideration into several factors before making a purchase. On the entry-level, these factors are budget along with where and when you consume. As you become more advanced in your needs as your understanding of cannabis grows, you might find you are interested in how each vaporizer heats the product (convection vs. conduction), and what type of accessories you might want (do you prefer water pipes and want to have a vaporizer that will allow for water pipe expansions? Are you a tinkerer and want to make custom modifications for your vaporizer?) will begin to drive your next vaporizer purchases.
For instance, the first time I had a vaporizer I had no understanding at all of its power. Ah, the folly of youth! I had to leave that vaporizer behind in a cross country move. It was over a decade later that I really took to vaporizing, and even then it took me a few months of vaporizing to be sure I wanted to invest in the desktop vaporizer.
Some other considerations will need to take into account your usage profile. Are you an at-home user or on the go sort? How frequently will you be able to charge your vaporizer? How much product does it take to get you to where you need to be? Do you have time to clean up after your dry herb vape sessions, or will you need to use something like dosing capsules?
A vaporizer will heat flower using convection or conduction heat. Conduction essentially means that the herb will be in direct contact with the heat source. Convection works by heating the air around the herb. In general, most believe that convection is the far superior method of vaporizing, but it really depends on the vaporizer. In most cases, entry-level vaporizers and a lot of portable vaporizers are going to be convection. It doesn’t matter — I’ve gotten some ripping hits off of my little handheld! Anything (save any plastic near any heating parts like is plaguing the design of some vaporizers) will be healthier than combustion!
Your budget may vary, and budget is one of the few key considerations to which vaporizer to purchase. The premier product for dry herb vaping is, of course, the dry herb, or flower.
This isn’t to say that you can’t use ANY concentrates in your dry herb vaporizer. You can still use a cotton pad or wire mesh pads made for the purpose, and some vaporizers will give you accessories to allow you to use concentrates. There are specialized vaporizers for concentrates. When I do use concentrates in my dry herb vape, I like to put a bit on a bed of flower, and then cover it with a bit more flower, and I don’t use concentrates in my portable vaporizers (except the Quant, which has a specialized accessory for that).
Forget concentrates for a moment, though, those are a feature, and not the main event — which is that dry herb. Let’s talk about that beautiful bud for a moment, yes? For the fullest vaporizer experience, you really want the most terpiest flower you can find, because it helps open up all that amazing vapor flavor. The best way to know the best bud for you, honestly, is to give it a good whiff. The nose knows. The more fragrant the bud, the more flavor you’ll get from the vapor.
Even if you can tear things into tiny, tiny bits — you are going to want a grinder. Ground bud burns more evenly, so you should be investing in one anyway, but for a vaporizer, it’s exceptionally key to get as fine and consistent of a grind as you can, because it gives a lot more surface area.
1. Grind the herb.
It’s vital to get as consistent and fine of a grind as you can to ensure airflow and more surface area to come into contact with all that hot air. If I’m using my desktop vaporizer, this is also the point at which I turn the thing on — because it takes a while to heat up (don’t pre-heat your portable vaporizer).
2. Lightly Pack the chamber
Back in my days of a bowl packer, I used to really pack it in and then poke a few holes in for airflow. You don’t want to do that with a vaporizer, since you’re going to be using hot air to heat the herb and not a flame.
3. Heat the Chamber
If you aren’t using a desktop vaporizer that needs a pre-heat, now is the time to turn on the vaporizer itself. My portables all turn on with five clicks. Your user’s guide is your friend here. For my more advanced portables, I can key in different temperatures, but in some cases, you may only get a choice between high, medium, or low. A list of my favorite temperatures (and why!) is here, and my preferences are based on the terpenes and cannabinoids I’m looking to emphasize from session to session.
4. Take that delicious, delicious hit.
Aaaaaaaah. I vary how I hit depending on the vaporizer. For my desktop vaporizers I most often fill balloons, so taking a hit entails waiting for a balloon to fill and then breathing in the vapor from there. For my portable vaporizers, I breathe in steadily, or sometimes I take little breaths to pull air at varied speed around the bud.
5. Repeat until toasty (or the vaporizer auto-ends the session)
6. Turn off the heat.
For portable vaporizers, everything is on a timer and it will stop when the time is up. For a desktop vaporizer, it’s up to you. Since the desktop vaporizers also feature deeper chambers, you might want to give it all a stir and see if you get more hits out of it.
7. Empty and save the AVB.
One of the absolute biggest reasons to use a dry herb vaporizer is to save the AVB so you can use it to cook with or make tinctures. THIS STUFF IS GOLD! But here’s where you’ll want to pause and have some considerations. If you’re on the go, then you’re going to want a place to STORE that AVB. At home, easy peasy. If you plan to have more than one session, you’ll need to consider if you can have a container sitting around, or if you’ll want to use an accessory such as dosing capsules, which you pre-pack with product for on the go use (and you can pop out). If you don’t use dosing caps, then you will also want some sort of pick or tool to help clear out the chamber.
8. Clean it.
After an appropriate amount of time has passed, you’ll want to take a bit of isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab or some such and wipe everything down. Cannabis is a sticky, beautiful plant, and it will absolutely gunk up the works in your vaporizer.
Every so often (I know when, trust me) I’ll deep clean my vaporizers. For balloons, they get to be too sticky, and replacing them with oven bags (turkey size) is an economical way to keep things hitting smooth. Other parts, especially glass parts, can be soaked in isopropyl alcohol to remove a lot of the build up.