I’ll never forget my first time. It was my junior year of college, back when Facebook was just a couple of years old. I had just returned from a year abroad to tackle my senior year. Coincidentally, a friend was assigned to live in the room across the hall from me. He popped into my room and said, “Want to stop over for a cocktail and a Volcano?”
I was down for the drink but had no idea what the Volcano was. Anyway, the drink turned out to be a bit of a bait-and-switch — my friend just squeezed a lime into a tequila shot and sipped it like a martini. The Volcano, however, ended up being a revelation.
The Volcano, which celebrated its 20th birthday last year, is a tabletop vaporizer for cannabis flower. When it comes to weed gear and stoner culture, the device is regarded as an iconic crown jewel. It was designed and is manufactured by German company Storz & Bickel, which these days is owned by cannabis corporate giant Canopy Growth Corp.
“Storz &Bickel quite literally invented the vaporizer market,” Jurgen Bickel, co-founder of Storz & Bickel told me in an interview for Forbes last year. He’s right. But how has it held up over time? Leaps and bounds have been made when it comes to vaporizer technology, with one of the greatest changes being the portability of devices nowadays. The Volcano, which is intended to be stationary, needs to be plugged in to be used and also is heavy and cumbersome to carry around.
Why use that when I have a trusty PAX 3? Which is basically just a fat version of the brand’s pocket-sized vape?
Part of the answer comes from knowing how the Volcano works. There’s a chamber to deposit the ground buds, which is then affixed to a conical base. A big, deflated, clear balloon bag with an orange plastic mouthpiece on the bottom is inserted into the base, on top of the flower chamber.
All that’s left to do from there is to flip a switch, be impressed with how loud the vacuum is, and watch the balloon bag fill up translucent air within a matter of 20-30 seconds. The balloon comes off the base easily, from which, a person is expected to inhale. The idea is that a bag is good for three or four people each to take a hit. One bag for one person is also another way to do it, and a good way to ensure couch lock on the horizon.
It’s cool, kitschy, and incredibly fun. Seriously, watching that balloon inflate will give you the giggles pre-sesh, which is saying something.
Hype and charm aside, this still the best dry herb vaporizer on the market. The Volcano’s present iterations have additional bells and whistles, but not too many, lest it deviates too far from its original and near-perfect simplicity. The original dial still remains, with temperature settings between 1-10. I have found that Between 6 and 8 are the optimal temperatures — the heat intensity results in a clean, potent, and intense vape cloud with the best flavor a vaporizer can produce. In general, it’s helpful to remember that the lower the temperature, the more flavor will be preserved, but the high will also be less potent. Finding the sweet spot for your preferences is part of the fun.
Last year, Storz &Bickel released a gold Volcano for the device’s anniversary. This year, they have again deviated from the silver base to release a chic, limited-edition version of the original. Called the Onyx, it retails for $699 and features a scratch-free interior coating and matte black exterior. The Onyx Volcano also is treated with a damage-resistant powder coating to ensure longevity. After trying it about eight thousand times, I can confirm: it’s still the best vaporizer on the market, portable or not. The Onyx also comes in a “Hybrid” model, which also has an inhalation tube, akin to a hookah, in addition to the balloon and sports a digital screen for numerical temperature reading.
What other weed smoking device comes with a self-made dorky documentary?
While the presence of a tabletop vaporizer may seem like an intense foray into the land of weed gear for some people, the truth is that it should be considered a required item for anyone who smokes regularly. Firstly, vaping is healthier than any other combustion method. Secondly, the Volcano’s base is easy to store in a cabinet, closet, or under a bed — to give a few examples — and only occupies the same shelf space that a small houseplant would. The flavor is unbeatable, as far as either vapes or smoking is concerned, and Storz & Bickel has a good track record for longevity, producing well-made products that don’t often break.
It’s an investment, sure, but a worthy one. If you like to smoke.
When I think back to 2007, when my 21-year-old-self huffed out of a Volcano for the first time, I smile. That stoned college kid had no idea that, one day, weed writing would ever be a job she could have, much less that weed would ever be legal and that she’d one day be paid to vape from a Volcano to then review it. What a time to be alive.
To celebrate, I think I’ll have a hit from a balloon. What better to make me marvel at life’s strange turns?