Today you’re getting the results of our month-long review of the Volcano Vaporizer. We tested the Volcano on every possible metric a vaporizer can be tested on:
- Vapor quality;
- Ease of use;
- Efficiency, and many other metrics which you’ll learn about today.
You’ll also get various comparisons of the Volcano to other desktop vaporizers throughout the article. So you can think about if there may be better options available for you.
The best part? You’re getting simple but effective tips to optimize the performance of the Volcano Vaporizer.
Volcano Vaporizer Review Summary
Pros and Cons
- Most reliable vape of all times (functions the same for 10+ years)
- Official medical/safety certifications
- After 15 years, STILL the most potent and best flavor producing balloon-style vaporizer
- Great for large groups or parties
- Foolproof, very easy to use
- Not efficient, needs at least 0.2 grams to produce good vapor
- Not the most practical for quick solo vaping
- Can’t easily attach to a bubbler
Extraction Speed and Clouds (4)
Even though the Volcano Vaporizer is a balloon-style vaporizer, and balloon-style vaporizers don’t provide the hard-hitting rips you would get with a powerful direct-draw vaporizer like the Flowerpot…
The Volcano Vaporizer will get you medicated properly.
It won’t produce bong-like rips. But one balloon can send provide multiple users with enough vapor to feel the effects properly.
If you’re wondering why balloon-style vaporizers can’t provide as hard-hitting rips as direct-draw vaporizers, this is the explanation:
Anytime there’s a step between your bowl and your mouth, your vapor will get mixed up with air. This decreases the density, the cannabinoid-to-air-ratio and therefore brutality of your hit.
But if you inhale as much vapor, you will feel very similar effects as with a direct-draw vaporizer.
Because a Volcano balloon-bag is huge and filled with LOADS of vapor, you can take very large and deep draws from a balloon bag, many in a row. They just won’t be super brutal.
But if you’re looking for those huge and brutal rips that will completely kick your ass, a balloon-style vaporizer, including the Volcano is not your best choice and you should check out the Flowerpot.
Vapor Quality (4.5)
Flavor-wise the Volcano Vaporizer is not among the finest of the finest. It being a balloon-style vaporizer doesn’t help in this regard either.
There are two (2) reasons for this:
- Condensation: terpenes easily condense onto the balloon, making the flavor lose its intensity;
- Mixing of air with vapor: because the balloon bag is filled with air already, your vapor will lose on density, making the flavor lose its intensity;
Don’t get discouraged though:
The flavor definitely is above average. Of all the balloon-style vaporizers I tested, the Volcano definitely comes out on top.
There is one plus side to balloons in terms of flavor:
- Your vapor will always be cool and smooth.
So unless flavor really is the most important metric you rate a vaporizer on, the Volcano will be perfectly fine for you in terms of flavor.
The Volcano Vaporizer is the only vaporizer which is officially qualified as a medical device in two (2) countries (Canada and Israel). It’s by no means easy to get such a certification. Any such device is subject to vigorous and extensive testing before it’s given such a certification.
It’s also the vaporizer most used in scientific research. Although this does not necessarily mean the Volcano Vaporizer is safe, it does say something.
Here’s the deal:
Since the Volcano is the ONLY vaporizer that’s certified in 2 countries as a medical device, it also is crowned Herbonaut Desktop King of Safety.
On top of the medical certifications, the Volcano Vaporizer has been “tested and certified with regard to its electrical and mechanical safety and reliability” by the Southern Technical Inspection Association in Germany.
The heating element and air path
The materials used in the ‘Bentley of vaporizers’ should be all food-safe and heat-resistant. Storz and Bickel does like to use plastic in their products and the filling chamber/bowl of the Volcano is made of plastic and is placed over the heating element.
Although plastic doesn’t have a great name in terms of safety, I personally do trust Storz and Bickel on this one being heat-resistant and food-safe (medical certifications…enough said).
The heating element is made of steel clad ceramic, while the heat exchanger is made of aluminum alloy.
There have been some concerns in the vaporizer community about small aluminum particles potentially polluting the vapor coming out of vaporizers that make use of aluminum heating elements or heat exchangers. But it was proved in an independent test that with the Volcano at least, no such thing occurs.
The Volcano balloon bags are made from PET plastic. These bags basically are oven hoses normally used to cook food in the oven at temperatures up to 392°F / 200°C. According to Storz and Bickel, the temperature of the hot air /vapor in the balloon bag reaches a maximum 266°F/130°C, well below the degradation temperature of PET.
What’s the bottom line?
Even though glass really is the preferred material from a safety standpoint in all regards and the Volcano has no single part of glass in it, it’s the only vaporizer that:
- Is certified as a medical device;
- Has undergone independent technical tests;
- Is used in almost all scientific studies about vaporizers and vaporizing as the go-to vaporizer to do tests with.
It currently is the best choice if safety is a top priority for you.
Reputation and Reliability (5)
I dare to say the Volcano Vaporizer is the most reliable vaporizer ever made.
It has been around since 2000 and Volcano vaporizers working for 10+ years is a common occurrence.
The build quality of the Volcano is just really good. It’s German engineering at its finest.
Because the Volcano is so reliable and it’s Storz and Bickel’s first vaporizer, Storz and Bickel has a great reputation.
Only more recently did their reputation take a hit because of the above-average defect-rate of one of their portable flagship vaporizers: the CRAFTY. The later (2017 and later) models of the CRAFTY improved significantly in reliability though, and these newer models of the CRAFTY are just as reliable as the average portable vaporizer. Even Storz and Bickel makes mistakes, but they’re quick to correct their mistakes.
The Volcano vaporizer comes with a 3-year warranty and their customer service has a decent reputation.
What’s the bottom line?
If you’re looking for a reliable vaporizer that will last 10+ years, you couldn’t make a better choice than the Volcano.
Ease of Use (5)
The Volcano Vaporizer is extremely easy to use.
There’s zero risk of combustion. And, as long as you use the minimum amount of herb that’s needed to cover the screen in the bottom of the bowl and use the right temperature, there’s zero risk to mess up the quality of your vapor.
These are more so the perks of the Volcano being a balloon-style vaporizer, than the Volcano itself. Balloon-style vaporizers in general, are extremely easy to use.
What gives the Volcano Vaporizer an edge over other balloon-style vaporizers?
Its patented Valve Balloon System really is the most convenient way to inhale vapor from a balloon bag, that I’ve ever come across. The clickable mouthpiece on the balloon makes sure no vapor gets released unless you click it. This is unlike most other balloon bags where you have to put your finger on the opening of the mouthpiece to stop vapor from dissipating into the air.
The clickable Valve system just really feels like a solid, high quality and durable inhalation system in general.
A balloon-style vaporizer never has any draw resistance. The Volcano Vaporizer is perfect for any medical patient who has trouble inhaling with power/force.
Cleaning the Volcano is easy:
The only parts that you’ll regularly need to clean are the screens in the herb chamber and the herb chamber itself. Do this every couple of sessions and you’ll keep a nice airflow in your chamber. What this does is keep your vapor potent and tasty.
For deep cleaning, you’ll need to clean the rest of your Valve as well (you will either have the Easy Valve or the Solid Valve). Do this every 20-30 sessions and you will be fine (a full tutorial can be found at the end of this review).
The balloon bags and the rest of the vaporizer don’t need any cleaning! You simply replace the balloon bag.
Being a balloon-style vaporizer, the Volcano Vaporizer is definitely not the most efficient vaporizer around. There are two (2) reasons why a balloon-style vaporizer is bad for efficiency:
- Condensation: cannabinoids and other compounds easily condense onto the balloon;
- Dissipation: anytime there is a step between the bowl/filling chamber and you, vapor is bound to dissipate into the air;
Another less efficient feature is the large bowl of the Volcano. It has a large surface area, which is great for effective extraction of large quantities of herb, but less good for the minimum amount of herb that you’ll need to produce decent vapor.
For decent and visible vapor production, you need to fully cover the screen at the bottom of your herb chamber. If you grind your herb fine, this will amount to 0.15 grams approximately. This is still much more efficient than smoking, but less efficient than a vaporizer with a smaller bowl.
But it is possible to reduce the minimum amount of herb that’s needed.
This way, you can use the Volcano with even 0.05-0.1 grams of herb very effectively:
In the past, if you were a solo user and efficiency was important to you, it wasn’t a good idea to get a Volcano. Using a minimum of 0.15 grams each and every vaping session is not very efficient.
But now with the dosing capsule adapter and dosing capsule, you can easily get the Volcano, even you mostly vape alone.
For group-vaping you still couldn’t make a better choice:
Its large bowl makes sure you can load up bag after bag, up to 5/6 bags I find, if you pack your filling chamber up to 80-90%.
Also, the balloon bags with the Valve are:
- Foolproof to use, and;
- Easy to pass around.
Both these features add to its group-friendliness.
Temperature Control (4.5)
The two different versions of the Volcano (Classic and Digital) slightly differ in the exactness of their temperature control.
The Volcano Digital has really precise temperature control: you can control your temperature by 2.7°F /1.5°C increments. And you can easily choose your exact temperature with the plus and minus buttons on your unit.
The Volcano Classic has less precise temperature control. You can control your temperature by 7.2°F/4°C increments. And you have to do it with a dial, this in and of itself is less precise than buttons.
Even though the Classic version has less precise temperature control than the Digital, it still is exact enough for 99% of users.
Also, the temperature of the Volcano will stay consistent all throughout your session. Again, this is more so the perk of it being a balloon-style vaporizer.
Let me explain:
Balloon-style vaporizers can easily keep a constant and consistent temperature in your bowl/herb chamber. They can do this because they provide a constant and consistent air-flow in the herb chamber. This is unlike direct-draw or whip-style vaporizers, where the airflow is directly correlated to the speed and strength you draw with.
There’s also a difference in the range of temperatures both the Classic and Digital can reach:
- Volcano Classic: 226 °F – 446 °F / 108 °C – 230 °C
- Volcano Digital: 104 °F – 446 °F / 40 °C – 230 °C
If you’re only vaping cannabis, this difference really doesn’t matter, because cannabis should be vaped at 320°F(160°C) at the lowest. However, if you’re vaping other herbs then it could matter (depending on the optimal vaping temperature of your specific herb).
The Volcano Vaporizer really is a characteristic Storz and Bickel vaporizer:
- It’s built and looks like a tank;
- It’s built to stand the inescapable test of time.
The type of materials used aren’t necessarily anything special:
- Aluminum, stainless steel and different types of plastic.
However, the quality of these materials and the overall build quality of the Volcano is really well.
I’m not saying this because Storz and Bickel advertise all of their materials as food-safe and heat resistant (although I do believe that). I’m saying this because my 8 years old Volcano still looks and operates almost the same as the day I got it.
It’s not the sleekest or elegant vaporizer. But it is quite discreet. It could easily blend in with your regular kitchen equipment.
If you’re looking for:
the easiest to use;
- The most reliable vaporizer of all times;
- The only vaporizer with official medical certifications;
- The most potent and best flavor producing balloon-style vaporizer;
the Volcano is your vaporizer.
But even the Volcano has downsides.
It wouldn’t score so high in all these categories if it wasn’t a high-end vaporizer. And its price does reflect that. The Volcano definitely is no budget vape (with an average price of $400-$500). The ‘Bentley of Vaporizers’ also has a Bentley price tag.
Even though the Volcano is pricey, it lacks in some areas. If you’re looking for the hardest hitting and tastiest vaporizer, there are better options than the Volcano. If potency and flavor are an absolute top priority for you just avoid balloon-style vaporizers in general and go for a direct-draw beast like the Flowerpot.
Also, if you ’re a solo vaper and find efficiency important, the Volcano with its large bowl, will not be your best friend. It being a balloon-style vaporizer doesn’t help in this regard either.
What’s the bottom line?
The Volcano Vaporizer IS expensive, it’s an old design and not the best in terms of potency, flavor, and efficiency.
It’s the safest, most reliable, easiest to use, the best group-/party-vaporizer and just best balloon-style vaporizer overall.
Where to buy the Volcano Vaporizer:
Volcano Vaporizer Tips and Tricks
How to grind your herb:
- Use a fine grind. Go as fine as you can with a regular 2-piece grinder. Don’t use an electric coffee grinder or something similar like the Magic Flight Finishing Grinder.
How to pack your bowl:
- The minimum amount you need to pack your bowl with is the amount that’s needed so the bottom screen in your herb chamber is fully covered with herb (this is approximately 0.3 grams).
How to draw:
- Your draw patterns won’t have any effect on the quality of your vapor.
How long to store vapor in your balloon bag:
- 15-30 mins MAX: a recent study found that after 5 mins only 2% of the THC condensed onto the balloon bag. After 180 mins no THC could be found in the vapor extracts. Basically the longer you wait, the more your vapor will lose its potency and taste. I find after 30 mins the vapor really looses too much of its potency and taste, so I’d rather fill up a new balloon then. So don’t believe any stories talking about storing vapor up in balloons for hours on end.
The best temperature fully depends on what exactly you’re trying to achieve with vaping. What are the main effects you want out of your herb? I dedicated a full article on this subject, click here to see what vaping temperature is best for what effects.
With that said, I will give you my personal modus operandi.
With the Volcano Classic:
- If you will vape only 1 bag start with the dial at 6. If you will vape more than 1 bag start with the dial at 5 ½ and increase it ½ points per successive bag up until YOU find the taste deteriorates too much (for me this is at 7).
With the Volcano Digital:
- If you will vape only 1 bag start with the temperature at 365°F / 185°C. If you will vape more than 1 bag start with the temperature at 365°F / 185°C and increase it 9°F / 5°C points per successive bag up until YOU find the taste deteriorates too much (for me this is at 392°F / 200°C).
Stir your herbs
- Stir your herbs between each balloon bag fill. This makes sure you will get maximum extraction of all the compounds in your herb.
Volcano Easy Valve and Volcano Solid Valve
Besides having to choose between the Classic and the Digital version of the Volcano, you will have to make a choice between the Easy Valve and the Solid Valve.
The type of Valve of your Volcano refers to the type of balloon system.
The Easy and the Solid Valve slightly differ in their application and use.
Here are the differences:
|You replace the whole Valve every time you need a new balloon bag.
|You only replace the balloon bags, not the Valve itself.
|Will cost you around $10 per balloon bag.
|Will cost you max $0.50 per balloon bag (20 times cheaper).
|Besides the filling chamber, requires no cleaning.
|Fixed size balloon bags: (2 ft/60cm) and “XL” (3 ft/90cm).
|Custom size balloon bags.
Keep in mind there are ways to tinker a new balloon on the Easy Valve. The question is, why would you get the Easy Valve if you’re going to replace balloon bags anyway? Just get the Solid Valve.
If you want my recommendation: just get the Solid Valve. Yes, it is a little less ‘easy’ but it will be much cheaper and it’s just more robust and durable overall.
Differences Volcano Classic and Hybrid
So should you go for the Classic or Hybrid version of the Volcano?
Check out the differences below and decide if the Digital is worth its extra price. For me personally, it isn’t!
|$479 / 379€
|$599 / 479€
|The temperature to be set and adjusted with a dial.
|Digital LED display with set and actual temperature (°Fahrenheit or °Celsius).
|Temperature accurate within 4°C.
|Precise electronic temperature control, with temperature accuracy within 1.5°C.
|Vaporizes at temperatures between 108 – 230°C.
|Vaporizes at temperatures between 40 – 230°C.
|The device stays on until you switch it off.
|Automatic switch-off after 30 minutes.
Deep Cleaning Tutorial
What you’ll need for the big clean-up:
- Isopropyl Alcohol;
- A sharp metal object like a stir tool or screwdriver;
- A jar with a lid, big enough so it can store the Volcano filling chamber and the Valve parts;
- A bowl or large cup with soapy water;
- Some paper towels.
The cleaning process of the filling chamber:
- Carefully but fully disassemble your filling chamber;
- Put the metal pieces in your jar;
- Put the plastic pieces, including the O-Rings into the soapy water.
The cleaning process of the Solid Valve:
- Take the mouthpiece off of the balloon attachment;
- Carefully but fully disassemble the mouthpiece;
- Put the metal pieces in your jar;
- Put the plastic pieces in the soapy water;
- Fully disassemble the Valve itself (this is the part on which you attach the balloon and the mouthpiece);
- Put the metal pieces in the jar;
- Put the plastic pieces, including the O-Ring into the bowl (or cup) with soapy water;
- Now fill your jar with the Isopropyl Alcohol until all parts submerge under the alcohol
- Put some salt in the jar;
- Put the jar away for 5 minutes;
- In the meantime clean the plastic pieces in the soapy water, once their clean rinse with warm water and dry them up with your paper towels;
- Get your jar with metal pieces and shake it for 2 minutes;
- If there’s any resin left on any of the pieces, scrape them off with your sharp metal object;
- Rinse your metal pieces with warm water and dry them up with clean paper towels;
- Carefully assemble back all the pieces.