Cannabis oil has become immensely popular over the past few years, however, the substance in its variety of forms faces a fundamental problem: how do you consume it effectively? While it is possible to simply blend and smoke oil with raw cannabis, other methods are preferred to avoid waste and inefficiency. To address these issues, the smoking accessory industry has responded with innovative solutions for vaporizing including dabbing and electronic vaporizers.
The tool used for dabbing oil, known as a nail, has undergone tremendous changes through the years, utilizing various materials and designs. In its current state, the preferred tool and material is a quartz banger, which is a small bucket with a tube fixed at the top that feeds into a water pipe. The banger is heated from the bottom with a blowtorch to the desired temperature, at which point the user will wait for a short period of time, typically 30-45 seconds. When cool, the user will dab cannabis oil in the hot bucket, vaporizing the oil. The vaporized oil is covered with a carb cap—a sphere or spinning top shaped tool with a restricted air hole—that sits on top of the bucket to direct air against the vaporizing oil. Once capped, the user will inhale through their water bong. Quartz has the benefit of managing extreme heat fluctuations remarkably well, while not giving off any flavour.
The last popular material for nails was titanium, which although durable, has a tendency to give off a metallic taste. Another issue with titanium was the expense and necessity of purchasing a pure titanium nail. Most cheap titanium nails are riddled with impurities, which can contain metals that give off minute amounts of harmful gasses when heated. Quartz, on the other hand, even in its cheapest and most basic form, does not give off any harmful gasses. The relatively malleable nature of molten quartz has resulted in some unique designs. In particular, Highly Educated out of the US manufactures nails that take advantage of this malleability, with unique innovations. For example, by injecting thousands of small bubbles into the base of their bangers, Highly Educated found that this affected area was capable of holding heat for much longer periods of time. Users were now able to consume larger amounts of oil at lower temperatures, creating a smoother vapor and accentuating the natural terpene flavour of the cannabis oil. Overall, the trends in dabbing have led towards higher quality products that accentuate the taste of oil, at low, mid-range, and expensive price points.
A basic cannabis oil vaporizer is a battery-powered device that heats an oil-soaked coil to the point of vaporizing. These coils are usually a small bucket with a material wrapped in metal filament placed at the base of the bucket. A mouthpiece is attached to the top of the coil where the vapor is inhaled. A massive variety of these devices are available. Vaporizers may come with multiple temperature settings, unique coil materials such as ceramic, quartz and cotton, multiple coils that feed into a singular mouthpiece, auto-regulating temperature settings, onboard cannabis oil storage, and even vaporizers disguised as lighters.
Despite all these features, it is important to note that the largest shift that has taken place in the cannabis oil vaporizer market is quality. Through innovation and customer demands, the market for lower quality vaporizers is being largely rejected. Customers are demanding reliable vaporizers with uncorrupted flavour. An example of this shift is Puffco, a vaporizer manufacturer out of the US that launched their handheld unit, the Puffco Pro, in 2014. The Pro was designed with a ceramic coil wrapped in a titanium filament, and although it was considered a success, many customers complained of poor battery life and flavour. After their initial product launch, Puffco abruptly and inexplicably ceased production of the Pro long enough for competitors to take over market share. After the vaporizer market had all but forgotten Puffco, they launched their updated model, the Plus, in 2016. It featured a ceramic bucket with an element tucked underneath the ceramic, thereby allowing the cannabis oil to be heated without directly touching metal. The updated model created better tasting oil, with even vaporizing, that revolutionized vaporizer accessories. Puffco used the success of the Plus to follow up with the also massively successful Peak, a portable electronic dab rig that sells for over $350, a price point very few portable dab rigs were sold at.
Consumers are becoming increasingly well informed when choosing their smoking accessories, just like any other electronic device. It is important to realize that consumers no longer need to claim that their bongs are for tobacco and vaporizers are for essential oils. We are in a period where consumers know what to expect from their smoking accessories and are willing to pay for quality.
Photos courtesy of Simon Booth