For many stoners, the Volcano vaporizer was the first time hearing of, seeing, and trying the concept of dry herb vaporizers (or any vaporizer, for that matter).
This author still fondly remembers his first time trying the Volcano on a rainy fall day in a coffeeshop somewhere in Amsterdam in the mid-2000s. At the time, the Volcano was still relatively new and its price seemed absolutely ridiculous when you could just as well roll a joint or pack a bowl.
Filling a plastic balloon with invisible vapor and inhaling almost tasteless puffs of nothing definitely felt gimmicky back then, but the clean and powerful high made it clear why the Volcano was quickly gaining popularity.
Fast forward 15 years to 2020 and while countless other vaporizers, both desktop and portable, have since hit the market, the Volcano by German manufacturer Storz & Bickel still has an iron grip on its title as the best desktop vaporizer on the market.
After releasing the original Volcano vaporizer, Storz & Bickel hasn’t exactly been idle. Since then, the company has dropped two portable vaporizers, the Mighty and the Crafty, both of which have become renowned as some of the best, if not the best portable vaporizers available.
In addition, Storz & Bickel released an upgraded version of the Volcano Classic, the Volcano Digit, which has since been replaced by the Volcano Hybrid, and for the original Volcano’s 20th anniversary, we have been blessed with a 24-carat gold-plated version of the iconic Classic.
Then there’s also the Plenty, which looks like Storz & Bickel’s engineers got stuck at Home Depot (or whatever the German version of that is) and had to make a vaporizer out of a nailgun and some pipe cleaner. But don’t let the strange looks fool you — the Plenty rips like a beast and hits like a truck.
If you’ve never tried any of the Volcanos or their cousins, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Let’s shed some light on the vaporizer legend that is the Volcano Classic.
The Volcano Classic — a vaporizer icon
Markus Storz, the first half of what would later become Storz & Bickel, released the original Volcano, now known as the Volcano Classic, in 2000. In its early days, the company mainly targeted the medical community and focused on producing a vaporizer that could create a cleaner and safer vapor than the few existing vaporizers. The Volcano’s detachable balloon, a world’s first for desktop vaporizers, separated the vaporization and inhalation processes. This made the vapor much cooler than inhaling it directly from the machine and let medical staff prepare measured inhalation doses for patients. On top of that, the balloon has practically no draw resistance, which made it perfect for patients with lung issues.
Those same benefits also quickly made the Volcano popular among vape enthusiasts, looking for a better and cleaner vaping experience. Keep in mind that many of the other vaporizers on the market in the early 2000s were manual vaporizers you had to heat with a flame and definitely made getting high feel and look like you’re smoking crack.
How does the Volcano vaporizer work?
The Volcano Classic is as simple as it is genius. A powerful convection heating system heats the air that is pulled into the machine and a built-in fan blows it over the herb in the herb chamber. The Classic is a 100% convection vaporizer and this process produces some of the cleanest and purest vapor with absolutely no combustion. According to Storz & Bickel, 95% of the Volcano’s output consists of the compounds found in your dry herb, oil, or wax (we’re guessing the other 5% is air).
How do I use the Volcano Classic?
Using the Volcano Classic (and all other Volcano iterations that come after it) couldn’t be more straightforward. You turn on the machine with the red ‘HEAT’ button, choose your temperature with the manual dial, and wait until the yellow control lamp turns off, indicating that you’re ready for lift-off.
Getting the Volcano to operating temperature takes a good three minutes, so turn it on before you get your hit ready. Sitting in front of anything for three minutes when you just want to get high will feel like an eternity, and this way you’ll have something to do while you wait. Take off the herb chamber and fill it with fluffy, ground herb. If you’re packing a smaller bowl and your herb doesn’t cover the entire surface of the chamber, place the liquid pad (that steel wool disc) inside the chamber before closing it. Otherwise, the hot air will flow around instead of through your herb and that’s not going to get anyone high.
Attach a balloon with the Easy Valve and start the air pump with the green ‘AIR’ button. Make sure to turn off the pump before the balloon is completely full because while they’re pretty sturdy, they can definitely rip. Detach the balloon from the herb chamber, insert the mouthpiece into the Easy Valve, and you’re good to go.
The only discernible downside of the Volcano Classic is probably its temperature dial. Instead of degree values, you only get numbers from 1-9 and have to figure out via trial and error what setting will give you the right temperature (or check the manual every time). The Volcano Classic has a temperature range of 130°C to 230°C (166°F – 446°F) and is split up as follows:
- Dial 1: 130°C (266°F)
- Dial 2: 142°C (288°F)
- Dial 3: 154°C (309°F)
- Dial 4: 166°C (331°F)
- Dial 5: 178°C (352°F)
- Dial 6: 190°C (374°F)
- Dial 7: 202°C (396°F)
- Dial 8: 214°C (417°F)
- Dial 9: 226°C (439°F)
Most people will appreciate a temperature between settings 5-9 and we recommend trying it out to find your favorite. Different cannabinoids and terpenes have different boiling points and you’ll have to play around with several temperatures and strains to find what’s right for you.
How is the Volcano Classic’s build quality?
After all these years, the Volcano Classic is still one of the most dependable and easy-to-use vaporizers on the market and its simple design makes it extremely durable. You can find plenty of people that are still using their original Volcano Classic that they bought 10 or more years ago and are getting the same vaping experience as on day one.
Since the Classic needs a few minutes to get up to operating temperature, some people just leave their Volcano running 24/7. Does that sound crazy? Maybe, but at the very least it’s testament to this machine’s quality.
How is the Volcano Classic’s vapor quality?
Vapor quality is what catapulted the Volcano to the top of the vaporizer game 20 years ago, and that sentiment holds true until today. While it’s arguably not the best vaporizer anymore, it’s definitely still in the top 3.
As mentioned earlier, the Volcano Classic is a pure convection vaporizer and produces superb pure vapor. The simple fact that the Classic is still used in a medical setting today should tell you all you need to know about its purity.
But purity is not all when it comes to vapor. What about thick clouds? Turn the dial all the way up to 9, and you’ll be rewarded with thick, white clouds of vapor filling your balloon. With many vaporizers, temperatures above 430°F (221°C) produce slightly scratchier vapor that gets pretty close to feeling like something is getting burned. The Classic’s convection heating and extra cooling through the balloon make even hits at the highest temperature buttery smooth. Thanks to the balloon, you can store vapor for up to 8 hours if you accidentally made too much.
Let’s not beat around the bush: the Volcano Classic is not cheap. Unless you can find a special sale, the Classic will set you back around $479. That may sound like a lot, but when you consider what you get in return, it’s well worth the money. The Volcano Classic has been an industry stable for almost 20 years now and for good reason. Despite not having changed its design since 1999, the Volcano is still a consistent benchmark of quality for the vaporizer world.
So, what do you get for your money?
When you buy your Volcano Classic, you get everything you’ll need for the foreseeable future. Inside the (very neatly packed) box are the Volcano Classic itself and a host of parts and accessories:
- 4 pcs. EASY VALVE Balloon with Mouthpiece
- 1 pc. EASY VALVE Balloon with Adapter
- 1 pc. Filling Chamber
- 3 pcs. Filling Chamber Clip
- 1 pc. Cap Ring
- 1 pc. Normal Screen Set (approx. Ø 30 mm)
- 1 pc. Drip Pad (approx. Ø 28 x 4 mm)
- 1 pc. Air Filter Set
- 1 pc. Herb Mill (approx. Ø 59 mm)
- 1 pc. Cleaning Brush
- 1 pc. Instructions for Use
Replacement balloons, mouthpieces, adapters, and pretty much all other parts and accessories can be purchased directly from Storz & Bickel or any of the many retailers.
Beware of fakes
They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” and the Volcano Classic can feel plenty flattered. Over the years, countless (convincing) fakes have popped up on sites like eBay, AliExpress, Wish, and others. The packing and even the device itself look (almost) identical to the real ones and unless you have a real one to compare you probably won’t notice the difference.
The Volcano Classic is a premium product and comes with a certain price. If you see it being offered anywhere for a price that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it looks the same, why shouldn’t you buy it? Apart from the build quality being far below that of the original, fakes put out much worse vapor and have actually been the cause of electrical fires. If you’re willing to invest in a Volcano Classic, make sure to stay safe and get the real deal.