The explosion in the popularity of vaping is evident for all to see. Vapers are everywhere – walking down the street, in the park, out shopping, at festivals, at the beach – the list goes on. In 2019, it is far less common to see someone lighting up a cigarette in public; many of them opting to quit the habit and opting to vape instead.
It is extremely hard to quantify the number of people vaping in the world. We can get a rough idea however when we look at the UK and US statistics. It is reported that around 3 million people in the UK use a vaporizer and over 9 million in the US. This gives us an insight of the enormity of the vaping community.
With such a massive demand for vaporizers it is of no surprise that variations in brands, models and purpose now exist. The options are extensive to say the least and vapers are now able to choose between vape pens, dry herb vaporizers, wax pens, atomizers, desktop vaporizers, CBD vaporizers to name just a few!
For vapers interested in a more herbal experience, a frequently asked question is ‘Can I vape my concentrate in a dry herb vaporizer?’ In order to answer we have to understand the fundamental differences of a vaporizer optimised for herb and one that is designed for concentrate.
What is a Dry Herb Vaporizer?
A dry herb vaporizer is also commonly referred to as a weed vaporizer and herbal vape. All mean the same thing; a type of vaping device that heats a variety of herbs to a specific temperature.
The heat can be set very high, but below the point of combustion that would be reached when burning a joint or a bowl.
Traditionally, the herb is ground down finely, packed into the heating chamber and then baked. The cooking method can be conduction or convection or a hybrid of the two.
Heating the herb releases the beneficial terpenes and cannabinoids of the herb. Different temperature settings will determine exactly which and how many terpenes and cannabinoids are produced.
Dry herb vaporizers are usually simple and convenient to use. They are primarily powered by a battery. Heating the herb to the desired temperature can take as little as 20 seconds.
The vaporizers come in an array of shapes, sizes and features but fundamentally all serve the same purpose – to produce clean, smooth, medicinal vapor – in place of smoke.
What is a Wax Pen?
Firstly, wax pens are also known as dab wax pens, concentrate pens, weed pens and dab vaporizers. Let’s remove the potential confusion between them; they all mean and are the same thing.
Wax pens were designed for people who enjoy dabs. Dabs are concentrated doses of cannabis that are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids using a solvent like butane or carbon dioxide, resulting in sticky oils also commonly referred to as wax, shatter, budder, and butane hash oil (BHO). Traditionally, dab rigs are set up to heat the concentrate and the vapor is inhaled using a bong or bowl.
The introduction of wax pens has given dabbers a much simpler, safer and durable way to vaporize their concentrate, avoiding the complexity of setting up a rig.
Dab wax pens are extremely popular due to the significant high achieved from the concentrated THC. The potency is far greater than that from cannabis bud. While bud tends to test between 10 to 25% THC, concentrates typically range between 50 to 80% THC. This of course depends on the strain and quality of the cannabis plant used.
A wax pen is a small vaporizer that is the size of a pen and is powered by a battery.The pens heat using a coil with either a conduction or convection system. The user can set the pen to their preferred temperature. This avoids combustion of the oil. As a result, the vapor is far cleaner and smoother than achieved by a dab rig and eliminates harsh smoke, burnt seeds and tell-tale odors.
There are several coil options available, such as the dual rod quart, ceramic coils, or titanium coils. The cannabis concentrate is placed on the coil in a conduction heated wax vaporizer. A convection system means the dab does not come into direct contact with the heat source. Hot air is passed through, heating the oil evenly and efficiently.
As the coil heats, it creates a vapor from the cannabis concentrate or wax. The vapor can then be inhaled into the lungs via a mouthpiece..
What are the similarities between a Dry Herb Vaporizer and a Wax Pen?
Now that we have ascertained what each vaporizer is, let’s outline what similarities they have:-
To begin with, both styles of vaporizer are portable. The extent to which they are truly portable varies in relation to the size and weight of the device. Clearly a pocket-sized wax pen such as the Hashmate, gives truer portability than a dry herb vaporizer the size of the Mighty.
The fact, however, remains that the essence of portability is captured with both styles. These devices can be carried around anywhere with the user, in a pocket or bag. Just like a mobile phone, the convenience of being able to charge whilst out and about gives these vaporizers additional portability. Dry herb vaporizers and wax pens are designed to be portable and therefore most are encased in resilient materials, affording them the odd knock or drop.
When you consider the alternative methods of inhaling herb and cannabis oil, using a vaporizer is far more discreet.
Firstly, vaporizing rather than burning the matter significantly cuts down on both strong smell and the amount of paraphernalia required. The obvious giveaways of smoking a spliff and dab rig set ups have been replaced. The vaporizer is a smart, simple device that draws very little, if any, attention whatsoever.
Whilst these vaporizers will still emit an odor it will not be anywhere near on the scale of smoking. The vapor does not cling to clothes or hair and simply dissipates into thin air leaving no trace.
A wax pen and some dry herb vaporizer pens such as the Pretty Plus are so discreet they are often mistaken for a regular e-cigarette.
Lastly, it is in the users control exactly how discreet they wish to be when vaporizing. Vaping at lower temperatures will reduce the density and size of vapor clouds. This will also minimise the herby whiff.
Although vaporizers vary greatly in technology and features most remain very easy to use. Whether vaporizing wax or dry herb the mechanics of a portable vaporizer are pretty basic and easy to get to grips with.
The main control features centre around switching the vaporizer on/off and setting temperatures. It may take the user a bit of time to find the optimum temperature suited to them but this is trial and error at first. The means in which to try out different temperatures is simple and self-explanatory on both types of vaporizer.
As with most things these days, if the user ever does find themselves confused, there is endless information and suggestions online to guide them in the right direction.
What are the Differences?
With the similarities established, let’s now focus on the real differences between Dry Herb vaporizers and Wax Pens.
Herb or Concentrate
The most obvious difference is, of course, the matter being added to the vaporizer.
The type of substance consumed in a dry herb vaporizer is cannabis bud or other herbs such as rosemary, chamomile and valerian root. A wax vaporizer uses concentrations extracted from the cannabis bud.
The method in which the matter is contained within the vaporizer differs also. Where wax pans use a liquid cartridge to contain the concentrate, a dry herb vaporizer stores the matter in a ceramic bowl.
Some vaporizers are optimised to be used for both dry herb and wax but it has to be said, those that are designed for one purpose are usually far superior and efficient.
Coils or Herb Chambers
The method used to heat the two vaporizers is entirely different. The wax pen utilises a coil to heat the concentrate, whereas the dry herb vaporizers contain an isolated heating chamber.
The coils within the dab pen tend to burn out. Sometimes this happens after only a short time, particularly if the vaporizer is not used properly. Otherwise, gradual build up of oil residue will eventually necessitate replacement of the coil. As residue build up occurs, the taste and smell from the vaporizer will alter for the worse.
With regards to dry herb vaporizers, the finely ground flower sits in the heating chamber. The vaporization process will leave little residue behind. If it is emptied of the AVB and brushed off after each use, then there will be no issue with the lifespan of the chamber. It will continue to last as long as the vape does.
Although both kinds of devices, use battery energy to power them the size of the battery will be considerably different.
The majority of dry herb vaporizer require far more mAh than a wax pen. To give you a comparison, The Mighty Dry Herb Vaporizer comes with a 5800mAh battery, while the Hashmate battery is just 650mAh.
The larger battery obviously allows for longer vaporizing sessions and sustaining high temperatures for longer. The extra energy is also required for the more sophisticated features of a weed vaporizer, such as cooling systems, LED displays, haptic feedback and pure convection heating.
The very essence of a vape pen is to keep it pocket-sized and light-weight, therefore the addition of a larger battery just is not practical. Moreover, users require shorter session times with dabs as the potency is so much greater and so the smaller battery suffices.
Loading the Chamber
When it comes to loading the chamber of a wax pen or a dry herb vaporizer the only real practical difference is the potential mess!
Filling a small cartridge with a sticky, oily substance can be a bit of a nightmare if the user is not careful and precise. The introduction of a dab tool helps considerably. This allows the user more precision, while eliminating waste.
Packing dry herb into the vaporizer’s chamber is more straightforward. As long as the user is not trying to over-pack there should be minimal spillage. The circumference of the heating chamber is normally ample enough to direct the herb in accurately. Top tips would be to grind finely and use a funnel to minimise waste and mess. The one thing with dry herb is to ensure you pack your vaporizer away from the outside elements and definitely do not sneeze midway through!
Wax concentrates require higher temperatures to cook at. A typical weed vaporizer can be used at temperatures as low as 40-60ºC and can reach as high as 230ºC. This is necessary due to the different reasons people vaporize herbs and the various components they are looking to extract. Many people using a dry herb vaporizer will begin their session vaping at low temperatures and work their way up.
A wax pen requires anywhere from 230ºC – 360ºC to cook properly, dependant on the exact type of wax being vaporized. Many dab pens still come optimised with one temperature pre-stored and this has been accepted. However, many manufacturers are now following the lead of weed vaporizers, which more often than not have precise temperature control features. This allows the user true customizability, something than many dabbers would prefer.
Maintaining the Vaporizer
As mentioned previously, the oily substance used in a wax pen will require the user to maintain it regularly. Build up of waxy residue in the chamber can be scraped away, helping to preserve its life. Once in a state of complete disrepair the cartridge can be replaced.
There is less you can do about the spent concentrate left on the coil however. Dabbers will not be able to avoid having to replace these parts, it is just something that goes with the territory. When you consider the temperatures the wax is heated at, it is hardly surprising that it takes it toll on the vaporizer.
A dry herb vaporizer, on the other hand, is far easier to clean. There may be slightly trickier to reach places that will require small tools to remove foreign objects but, on the whole, a soak in warm water or a good clean with isopropyl alcohol will suffice. Most weed vaporizers are straightforward to take apart and put back together so, removing parts for cleaning should not be an issue.