Tonight we tackle the topic of taste – that subjective focus of endless debates. Which vapes taste best? What makes one vape taste better or worse than another? What are our favorite taste-hound machines? And while we’re at it, what is taste? How do we quantify and talk about taste in a way that we can all understand?
Taste is Subjective – Especially with Weed Vapes
The reason this is such a hot topic of debate is that it’s entirely subjective. What tastes good to you might taste bad to me. It’s that whole “human element” thing. That being said, there are some things that apply universally to vapes that affect the taste, such as what materials are used, regardless of whether or not you like the taste of chocolate. There are also some techniques and settings you can use to maximize your vape’s terpene taste. But first, how can we describe the taste in a meaningful way?
How can we talk about taste?
When it comes to dry herb vaporizers, I like to talk about vapor quality in terms of three things – temperature, comfort, and taste. We tend to lump all those together and call it taste or vapor quality. But when we break them down like this, we can actually assess more of what the vape is doing.
Temperature is easy – is it hot or cold? If the vapor is too hot, it will come off painful and burn, and we tend to say the vapor is harsh or tastes bad. Your vaporizer should attempt to cool the vapor somewhere between the oven and your lips. If the temperature is too cold, though, the vapor can be uncomfortable, too.
Comfort can get confusing. Basically, does the vapor feel comfy or harsh? One theory that makes sense to me is that cooler vapor condenses into bigger droplets of vapor. The bigger the droplets, the more you feel them hit the back of your throat, and the harsher you interpret it. I have only experienced this as uncomfortable with a Vapor Tamer, which comes out of the freezer to make the vapor downright cold. But vapor that’s too hot can come off harsh, too. Vaping through hot water can unintuitively be soothing. Give it a try!
Finally, there’s the actual taste. Fruity, minty, earthy, etc. This is the truly subjective part of vapor quality, and the one that’s always up for debate. When a vape nails the temperature and comfort, it’ll taste better by default. But what about a vape affects taste?
What makes a vape taste good?
Cheap, poorly engineered vapes can mess with taste in a number of ways, but we’re going to assume you’re looking at healthy, safe options. The best materials for taste, that are generally accepted as safe to use in the vape market, are glass, ceramic, stainless steel. Every other material can either impart some taste, or has a level of stigma around it. (This is open for debate, of course. I consider titanium inert, but Troy can taste when it’s present. Know thyself!) That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used, but rather that you should do some research and make sure you are comfortable with the materials.
Aluminum is a fantastic material for this purpose due to its inert and thermal properties, but comes into question for some people. Teflon is another material that can do wonders for flavor, if the right grade is used in the right places. Wood has interesting thermal properties, but usually imparts some kind of earthy flavor, depending on the species of wood. High temperature plastics are used in a lot of mouthpieces and usually don’t impart any flavors or smells, but I find they can mute the terpy flavors.
How can I make my vape taste better?
Regardless of what vape you have, or what materials it uses, there are some things you can do to magnify your vape’s taste potential. First, turn down the temperature! Terpenes, the molecules that you can taste, boil off and get destroyed first when it comes to cannabis, so the lower we go, the longer they will last.
See if your vape would benefit from extra cooling. If you find your vapor hot or harsh, running it through a bong or water pipe can work wonders. And you’ll cough less the next day, as well. If water is out of the question, try to lengthen or bend the vapor path. The longer it is, the more the vapor can cool, and you’ll be surprised how much just one bend in the glass or whip can cool it down.
This should go without saying, but buy high quality cannabis! Your vape can only reveal what’s already there, not make it taste better. Finally, try vaping with whole nuggets. All those terps normally left behind in the grinder will still be in your bud, and the taste is phenomenal. I think it’s more poptent, too.
Conduction vs Convection vs Hybrid: Which Vapes Taste Best?
While most people say that convection vapes taste better than conduction vapes, it’s not universal, and needs further explanation. All vapes start off with tasty hits that give way to a spent, burnt popcorn taste, but conduction vapes make the turn sooner, earning a reputation for wasting taste. But the first few sips off a conduction vape are amazing, and anyone can enjoy them, since the hits are easy.
Convection vapes only cook the herbs while you hit them, so they preserve flavor longer. But you have to take a longer hit to get vapor, so not everyone can partake. (Most can, but if lung strength is an issue, a conduction vape is a safe bet.) Convection vapes also benefit from a stir, either occasionally or after each hit, that can also stretch taste and make each hit better. I like to use a convection vape that I can easily stir after every hit (Herborizer), so I maximize the flavor on each one.
Hybrids are in the middle somewhere, and they can differ wildly depending on how much conduction they use. The first hits off a hybrid vape can ring with crazy flavor, and they gently slope off from there. They still cook between hits like a conduction vape, but at a much lower temperature that preserves taste better than pure conduction.
Our favorite vapes for taste
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. What are our favorite vapes for taste? The obvious choices are anything convection with lots of glass. My all-time fave is the Herborizer (surprise!). The VripTech Heat Wand and VapeXHale Evo are legendary for taste with all-glass air paths. The Vapolution just might be the king, with an all-glass stem that vapes only whole nuggets. The MiniVap and E-Nano are strong taste candidates, as well.
For hard-hitting, tasty portable dry herb vaporizers, look for something like the Firefly 2+, P80, TinyMight, (and soon the Bowle) etc. They’re all on-demand convection portables that use good materials.
Arizer portables are some of my favorite glass portables and offer a wonderful true-to-terpene flavor profile. Plus they’re ridiculously easy to maintain.
The Mighty and Crafty+ have plastic vapor paths, but the vapor taste rings true. Two of the most memorable, best tasting portable hits I’ve ever had came from the Ghost MV1 and the DaVinci Ascent. Credit convection for the Ghost, and an all-glass environment for the Ascent.
Hard-Hitting Tasty Vapes
Now we’re talking big desktops! There are plenty of options and configurations to get what you want, but my favorite so far was el nino with four Flowerpots set to very low temperatures. That was over a gram of heavy hitting terp madness that sent plenty of us into the anxiety zone! But, in general, look for something with a big bowl, pure materials, and good temperature control. The VripTech Heat Wand is another candidate here, with a monster bowl that can overwhelm me at times. Give your vape and herbs a good heat soak if you’re trying to milk them at lower temperatures.
Vaping vs Smoking: Difference in taste
That’s right, we’re gonna smoke, too! Ever wonder what your smoker friends are talking about when they describe smoke as tasty? Same here! At the end of the day, it comes down to what you are used to, and vaporists will probably always taste smoke as just smoke. Meanwhile, vapor releases all the smells, for tastier and stronger effects.