Is the volcano the best vaporizer?
The history of vaporization is unfolding in front us, and if a single product was to be named as founder of the vaporization industry, it would be the Volcano by Storz & Bickel.
What’s a Volcano Vaporizer?
The Volcano Classic Gold Edition is a 20th anniversary reissue of the Volcano Classic, the most popular and iconic vaporizer of all time.
This stylish tabletop vaporizer practically invented the market for modern alternatives to combustion, embodying the gold standard in vaporization technology since their arrival in European and American markets in the late 90s and early 2000s. But before they were expanding across the oceans or winning awards at the Cannabis Cup, Storz & Bickel were just a pair of gentlemen in pursuit of a higher and healthier standard for enjoying cannabis.
Markus Storz began his career as a “qualified graphic designer.” His artistic education would be a natural complement to his partner’s technical background, but that is not to say Storz didn’t possess a great deal of ingenuity himself. Unable to find a suitable herbal vaporizer that met his standards, Storz began development on the Volcano in 1996. As with many acts in the company’s narrative, the Volcano would arise out of a search for quality, consistency, and the highest standards possible.
Origins of the Volcano Vaporizer
The first iteration of the Volcano was created by using a heat gun in Storz’s cellar – namely, a Steinel from Switzerland. Though this process would prove unsatisfactory due to residual particles of carbon brushes, it was a necessary first step toward the innovation of the air pump found in the modern Volcano Vaporizer. The use of forced air was in response to the popularity of “bulb” (or “whip”) vaporizers, whose steady flow of heated air dispersed more evenly amid plant matter, ensuring a more efficient use of the herbal materials. Volcano patented a detachable balloon chamber for its vaporizer in 1998, which proved to be the jewel on the company’s crown.
The balloon was specifically designed to separate the vaporization and inhalation processes, keeping the patient out of contact with the vaporizer and the heat created by vaporization. Also, the balloon system allowed for a second party (a nurse or caretaker) to prepare a patient’s inhalation dose, and the balloon itself has little to no resistance on the inhale, making it perfect for the ill or disabled. The consistent and reproducible nature of the Volcano balloon made it an ideal delivery method for medicinal use and study.
Jürgen Bickel, a longtime friend of Storz, acquired his first Volcano in the same cellar where it had been invented. Bickel was a German civil engineer working in Peru, who specialized in potable water supply and treatment. Bickel preferred vaporization to smoking the local hash cigarettes, and managed to bring along Storz’s invention for personal use over his five-year stay in the Andes. Having found a kindred spirit in each other, the two entrepreneurs made the partnership official in 2002, and Storz & Bickel was born.
Bickel says attaining funding, patents, and industry certifications were arduous facets of forming the company, but necessary pillars of the business, especially with their sights set on the medical industry. The medical market compounded the company’s relationship to medicinal cannabis, but also necessitated a standard of quality that Storz and Bickel admired. In 2003 Storz’s and Bickel’s hard work paid off when the company was awarded the Dr. Rudolf Eberle Prize for outstanding technical innovation.
The Volcano Vaporizer: From Innovative to Industry-Leading
With cannabis gaining popularity around the globe and innovation as the company’s mandate, Storz & Bickel released the Volcano Digit in 2007. This allowed for more accurate temperature control designed to help pinpoint temperatures at which certain terpenes and cannabinoids vaporized, expanding the vaporizer’s applications in the culinary and concentrate markets as well as the medical one. This wave of innovation would be the first of many over nearly a decade of ceaseless invention. The Plenty arrived in 2008 and was the first vaporizer to combine air and radiation heating methods. This nod to both adult-use and medical cannabis would only further the company’s ethos on its way to achieving medical-grade certification in 2009.
The American market would finally get a Volcano of their own in 2003 after Storz & Bickel developed a compatible 110 Volt version. This would naturally lead to the company’s oversea expansion, landing them in Oakland, CA in 2005. In the meantime, Volcano grew as a household name and was featured at Cannabis Cups in Amsterdam and abroad.
The medical-grade materials and quality management systems (ISO 13485) that Storz & Bickel built into their manufacturing process certified their company and their products as the first medical-use vaporizers, ever. This prestigious distinction was something Volcano had been aspiring to since the company’s creation.
The next six years were dedicated to invention and innovation, giving the cannabis community the Volcano Medic (the world’s first medical cannabis inhaler), the Mighty and Crafty (mobile, battery powered vaporizers for the masses), and the Mighty Medic (a mobile, battery powered successor of the original Medic). With the introduction of the Mighty and the Crafty vaporizers, Storz & Bickel proved their continuous leadership in building high quality vaporizers with several first-to-market features such as vibration alarm, app control, and full hot air convection heating with additional conduction.
Volcano and Storz & Bickel continue to grow and align themselves with the health-oriented imperatives that helped start their company. This year, Volcano is building its “S&B Vapor Factory” in Tuttlingen, Germany, a town with a reputation for being the nexus of medical technology with nearly 500 medical device manufacturers located there. With an array of products and no sign of slowing down, Storz & Bickel continue to define the vaporization industry one product at a time.
What can you vape with the Volcano vaporizer?
The Volcano Classic is compatible with finely ground flower, and also contains a drip pad for use with concentrates.
How do you use the Volcano vaporizer?
Now that you’re familiar with the Volcano vaporizer, how does it work?
- Volcano base (Hot air generator)
- Drip pad
- Normal screen set
- Valve balloon with mouthpiece
- Filling chamber with cap
- Plug in the Volcano base. Make sure you put the Volcano on a sturdy, level surface near an outlet.
- Choose temperature. Start with the dial somewhere between 5 and 6 (around 350°F). See “Changing Temperatures” for more info below.
- Remove the filling chamber cap. Unscrew the top from the bottom.
- Grind flower. Make sure the flower is ground completely so the hot air has as little surface area to vaporize when the air moves through as possible.
- Fill the chamber with ground flower, then screw on the filing chamber cap. Do not fill too tightly, it should be loose enough for air to pass through easily, not completely packed.
- Preheat the flower if the control lamp is off.
- Flick on the red HEAT button, which will turn on the orange CONTROL light.
- Attach the filling chamber to the top of the Volcano.
- Wait until the orange CONTROL light turns off, signaling it’s ready to go.
- Before putting the balloon on the filling chamber, pull it tight and straight, so air can easily flow in and fill the balloon.
- Remove mouthpiece from balloon, attach to top of base.
- Flip the green AIR switch. Bag will begin to fill.
- Stay conscious of vapor density in the balloon.
- It’s important that the balloon does not become too full of vapor, if it’s getting taught to the touch it’s time to stop filling.
- Remove the full balloon unit. Never leave the filing chamber on the Volcano — beware, as this is a very hot surface.
- Attach mouthpiece to the valve on the balloon.
- Inhale and pass.
- Empty the balloon completely after use by pulling it tight and rolling to store.
The Volcano’s temperature control is operated by an easy valve that has 9 heat settings. It should be noted that heat temperatures for each setting varies by 10°F due to the convection air moving through the device.
- 1 — 266°F
- 2 — 288°F
- 3 — 309°F
- 4 — 331°F
- 5 — 352°F
- 6 — 374°F
- 7 — 396°F
- 8 — 417°F
- 9 — 439°F
The ideal temperature to vaporize ground flower is around 350°F, so begin by setting your dial to somewhere around 5 (352°F). For more terpene flavor and less vapor, turn the dial down. For more vapor — and a more intense high — turn it up (though this can scorch the flower).
What’s the appeal?
The Gold reissue of the Volcano Classic reminds us why these flamboyant vaporizers were so popular in the first place. Aside from being extremely well made and effective in delivering one of the cleanest methods of cannabis intake, they are fun to use, and always a crowd-pleaser.
Something about the presence of a Volcano is deeply comforting, stoking a nostalgic little flame in the depths of our unconscious. The performative aspect of the vaping process with one of these elevates a simple session to a kind of ritual, albeit a silly one.
Though $600 is a bit of a monetary setback for some, other’s wouldn’t bat an eyelash at dropping a few hundred on a piece of stoner history. Like a fine bottle of wine or fancy champagne, the Gold Volcano Classic is something that you break out in a celebratory setting, or if you simply want to make an everyday hang feel festive. With this chic yet retro twist on a classic, you can’t go wrong.
Bought my Volcano 4 years ago in Toronto and it sees daily usage (evening). I don’t see a reason to upgrade at this moment. I set my first 3 bags at 6 and my last (4th) bag at 7. Always does the trick.
…what is romance, but a mutual pact of delusion? When the pact ends, there’s nothing left.