Storz & Bickel
If you’re a regular cannabis user, you’ve probably tried a Volcano vaporizer at some point. It could be argued that the company that makes it, Storz & Bickel, set the platinum standard for precision vaporizing.
In 1996, a German graphic designer named Markus Storz used a heat gun to develop the first Volcano in his basement. In 1998, he received a patent for his soon-to-be-iconic detachable vapor “balloon” bag, and brought the first Volcano vaporizers to market in 2000. Jürgen Bickel became a partner in 2002, and the first American models became available in 2003.
Storz & Bickel’s attention to detail soon became legendary. They used medical-grade materials and emphasized quality control, and their products were the first vaporizers that were of high enough caliber for dedicated medical use.
This shiny Teutonic tech is indeed shaped like a volcano. The original analog version uses a dial to change the temperature, using markers between one and nine. The subsequent digital version provides a touchpad to program a precise temperature for vaporization. Heated air passes over a chamber that holds ground-up cannabis (or concentrate placed on a pad), slowly filling up a clear plastic balloon by means of a powerful fan.
Storz & Bickel
Oh yes… the fan.
I own both analog and digital versions of the Volcano, and I’ve shared them with medical patients and at recreational vaporizer stations at events. For medical users, the balloon allows ease of use, and a patient’s desired effect can be maximized with the precise temperature controls. For social use, filling up the balloon makes for a fun consumption experience, whether you’re sharing it or finishing the whole thing yourself. In those types of settings, the noise of the fan is secondary to the benefits, and pleasure of watching the balloon fill.
But for daily home use, I’ve found the Volcano’s fan noise to be a hindrance when watching a movie or listening to music. I pull it out when the noise it makes isn’t a consideration, but it has fallen from my daily rotation of vaporizers.
Then the new Volcano Hybrid review model arrived, and it has been my daily go-to consumption device for the past 30 days. And it’s because of their new “Hybrid” addition, which provides a swiveling silicone tube, or “whip,” which allows you to sip your vapor—silently.
The whip sits atop a newly modified chamber, which you still fill with ground flower, or concentrates using the aforementioned pad. The digital keypad allows a changing of temperature in one-degree increments.
The Hybrid reaches the programmed temperature much faster than previous models. Because it still fills balloons, users can attach the whip and turn the fan on.
This provides a unique sensation of having one’s face inflated like the balloon itself, while feeling as though you are getting your cannabis vapor from a firehose. I found this turbo-charge feature was a delightful new way to modify my experience, but that’s just me.
The Hybrid is Bluetooth-enabled, and the app is a must-have. It wouldn’t work with my Android phone, but did fine with an iPad.
It offers two new options: The first is “Iterations,” which allow me to set up a repeating pattern of temperature changes within a predetermined amount of time. I can pop on the whip and not have to change the settings during a session, while the temperature goes from low to high, or whatever setting you’d prefer, for 30 minutes or more.
The other option, “Workflows,” works best with a balloon and allows the extraction of specific combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes by varying the temperature while you fill the balloon—for instance, you can fill half the bag at 330 degrees Fahrenheit, and the second half at 410 degrees. You can become your own marijuana mixologist to obtain super-specific tastes and effects.
I took the Volcano Hybrid to the NW Cannabis Club, and over the next three hours, people approached me and shared stories and memories of using the Volcano’s balloon. (“It used to get me so high” was a common shared statement.) A dozen people tried their own flowers and concentrates, all enjoying the whip option while discovering new flavor notes.
At $700, this isn’t an investment to be taken lightly, and it’ll be beyond the price range of many. But it’s a legitimate medical-grade vaporizer, and if it’s in your budget, it’s highly recommended.