Australian Vaporizers Ratings Guide
Purchasing a vaporizer can be a daunting task, especially for customers who have never bought one and don’t know what to expect. The difference between a high-quality vaporizer and a bad model can be like night and day, and many of our customers who aren’t familiar with vaporizers feel overwhelmed when they see all of the choices available. Some customers spend hours reading reviews to help with the decision, but these reviews are often misleading when they are written by consumers with limited experience, or worse, vendors who get paid to write positive reviews.
There is no scientific method available to rate vaporizers across all characteristics, and all units have their pros and cons. However, in an effort to make choosing the right vaporizer easier, we rated all of our models based on the criteria we believe are most important.
Keep in mind that, although some models stand out from the pack, no one vaporizer is perfect for every customer. The best vaporizer for you depends heavily on personal preferences, where you plan to use it, how often you will use it and what you expect to accomplish. Our ratings represent opinions we formed based on many years of experience using virtually every model of vaporizer on the market, and they are simply an aid to help you make an informed decision. Because opinions may differ, we recommend doing your own research as well.
Here at Australian Vaporizers, we are vapour enthusiasts who love what we do. We believe in the products we sell, and we often spend hours at the office having heated debates about which vaporizer is the best choice in various situations. At the end of the day, we just want you to feel confident that you have purchased the right vaporizer for you. Our business depends on word of mouth, so we want you to find a vaporizer that you will be proud to show off to your friends. When you are satisfied, our business grows, so we will do everything we can to ensure that you are satisfied.
Our Vapour Quality Scale
Less than 50% – The vapour produced will be thin and of low quality. For the user, the vapour will feel no thicker than air, and the effects of the herbs inhaled will be mild at best. Seasoned daily smokers will most likely be disappointed with the vapour produced by these models. Unless portability and/or discretion are extremely important to you, you should probably opt for a vaporizer with a better vapour quality.
50% – 69% – At Australian Vaporizers, we consider this “entry level” vapour thickness. You won’t get huge clouds, but you can expect decent results. The results of these units are usually satisfying for customers who only use their vaporizers every now and then. However, it will take a higher number of draws and a much longer time to get the same effect you could achieve quickly with a more powerful unit. If you are a heavy user, you may find the quality of the vapour to be too low, and the experience will be dull.
70% – 89% – At this rating, you can expect the unit to produce nice, thick clouds of high quality vapour. These units are ideal for customers who plan to use their vaporizers on a regular basis. With a unit rated above 70% for vapour thickness, you won’t need as many draws to get a powerful effect from your herbs.
90% + These units are perfect for users looking for the monster hits and the most comfortable vapour possible. With a rating above 90%, you can expect exceptional vapour quality and big tasty clouds. Some of the units that fall into this category can produce vapour with more than five times the thickness as the clouds produced by lower-end units. Vaporizers with a 90%+ rating also provide incredible flavour, unreal heat retention and consistent hits every time you use the unit. If you are a true herbal connoisseur with a serious love of vaping, nothing else will compare once you try one of these units.
What Makes a Good Vaporizer?
Vapour thickness, or density, is the ratio of vapour to air. Please note that, as vapour is quite transparent, it is often visible only in certain lighting conditions. In the right lighting, plant matter vapour behaves similarly to a very light smoke or mist. Visually, it can be compared to seeing your breath on a cool night, with the vapour you exhale dissipating much faster than smoke would. All vapour will be visible if the light is good enough, but if you aren’t exhaling into direct lighting, you may not see it. Thus, when you see someone on YouTube exhaling huge clouds of vapour into low light, you know they are getting a thick vapour. This phenomenon can be seen in the video linked below.
Most people judge the quality of a vaporizer based on the thickness of the vapour it produces, so this is always the most important thing to consider when choosing a vaporizer. When a vaporizer produces vapour with low thickness, it will feel like you are just inhaling air with a bit of flavour, which is unsatisfying to most users. Furthermore, thicker vapour is stronger than thin vapour, so low vapour thickness is likely to weaken the effects of your herbs.
In most cases, a vaporizer that produces thin vapour simply won’t satisfy you, especially if you are a heavy user. The majority of herbal connoisseurs recommend thick vapours. After you have experienced the thick clouds from a high-end vaporizer, you will probably never go back to a lower-quality model.
Since we don’t have a scientific way to measure vapour thicknesses, the scale we used is based on our opinions. Keep in mind that other factors not related to the vaporizer can also influence the thickness, such as the type of herb you use, its moisture content, how finely ground it is and the amount you vaporize. When developing our rating system, we tried to keep all of these factors as controlled and constant as possible.
Why do some vaporizers produce thicker vapour than others?1. Temperature Accuracy
Vapour thickness is closely related to temperature accuracy. In fact, the temperature accuracy of your vaporizer is even more important than the quality of the material. Higher temperatures drive off the vapour more quickly (think of boiling water), and fluctuating temperatures can’t produce consistent hits.
A good vaporizer will have a high quality heating element that prevents temperature fluctuations and delivers good back-to-back hits. The vaporizer should maintain a temperature just above the vaporization point to produce the optimal level of flavour and efficiency, and to minimize the production of harmful substances.2. Temperature Settings
Most vaporizers have several temperature settings to let you enjoy your vapour at the temperature you prefer. The recommended temperature setting for vaporizing is between 190 – 235°C.
Lower Temperature = More Flavour = Smoother Vapour
The lower the temperature, the more flavour your vapour will have and the smoother it will be. As you continue to vaporize at a lower temperature, the vapour will also begin to fade out slowly. At this point, you can increase the temperature to extract more vapour. Keep in mind that lower temperatures lead to a lower percentage of extracted oils, so it’s important to find a balance that’s right for you.
Higher-end vaporizers are better at extraction even at lower temperatures because they are able to retain heat while agitating and focusing the outcoming blast of hot air. For example, units like the Volcano feature large aluminum heating blocks, which provide enough thermal mass to prevent the temperature from fluctuating. Other premium vaporizers, such as the Cloud, use a controlled-loop temperature algorithm for the heater, which maintains a steady temperature regardless of draw strength.
Higher Temperature = More Extraction of Oils
When you increase the temperature on your vaporizer, the vapour produced will be thicker and stronger. Most experts recommend going no higher than 235 degrees Celsius — a temperature at which you will already have extracted up to 85% of the essential oils from your botanicals.
Portable vaporizers don’t perform as well in this area because of their size. Lower-end portable units simply don’t have the power to reach high enough temperatures, so their extraction is often very poor. Higher-end portable vapes like the Arizer Solo II are better, but they still aren’t as effective at extraction as a quality desktop unit. However, because portable vapes are small and compact, they are usually purchased for reasons other than their extraction abilities.
Herb Chamber Size and Design
Vapour thickness can also be influenced by the size and design of the herb chamber. Chambers with small, constricted openings produce a more concentrated vapour. This is why certain vaporizers can give a thicker hit at the same temperature. For example, on the Extreme Q, the elbow pack technique is popular among users since it produces thicker vapour than normal loading into the Cyclone Bowl.
The surface area of your herbs in the chamber also comes into play. As you increase the surface area of the exposed material, the material heats faster and vaporizes more effectively. This means that large, shallow herb chambers like the Volcano, Plenty, and even the PAX, yield good results as they allow as much herb as possible to come into direct contact with heat.
Please note that we strongly recommend against cramming the chamber with your blend. Doing so will reduce the efficiency of your vaporizer, as air won’t be able to effectively move through the herb. As a result, your herbs won’t vaporize evenly. Fill your chamber loosely by adding small pinches of herb and avoid packing it down.
Tip: Dryer herb = thicker vapour.
One of the first things people notice when they start vaporizing is how good your herbs can taste! Because vaporizing doesn’t burn your herbs to ash, you can actually enjoy all of the flavours in your blend.
It may take a little while to get used to a vaporizer, but once you’ve been vaporizing a while without smoking, you will become accustomed to the good taste of your herbs. If you try smoking again, you may notice how bad it tastes, even though you probably never paid attention to it before.
A number of variables can affect the taste of your vapour, and some vaporizers are able to preserve more of a plant’s flavours than others can. Since the freshness of the herbs used can have a big impact on the taste, we have tried to keep this variable as constant as possible when comparing vaporizers.
Why do some vaporizers produce better tasting vapour than others?
If taste is a primary concern for you, a vaporizer with an adjustable temperature is the way to go. Taste can be optimised with the right temperature setting. If your vaporizer is too hot, the vapour will taste like burnt popcorn. If the temperature is too low, the vapour won’t taste like much of anything.
Basically, lower temperatures produce better tasting but less potent vapour. Higher temperatures produce little flavour, or even a slightly burnt flavour, but are better at extracting oils for potent hits. The recommended range for vaporizing sits between 190-235°C. Those wanting the best flavour from their herb can experiment with temperatures at the lower end of this spectrum before bumping it up for more potent hits.
2. Vapour/Air path
Flavour is also affected by the path along which air and vapour must flow. The more inert the materials used in the vapour path, the cleaner and purer the flavour will be.
If you’re looking for the purest, most unaltered taste possible, your best bet is to inhale herbs from glass, which is the most inert material. Any vaporizer expert will tell you that glass provides the finest vapour taste around. When a vaporizer uses glass heating chambers and glass air paths, you can be sure that no outside flavours will affect your vapour.
It’s a bit like when you order your favourite beer at an establishment and they serve it in a plastic cup. It just isn’t the same. Beer tastes like cat’s urine when it is drunk out of plastic. That same beer would have tasted better in a beer glass. This phenomenon centres on the aroma of the vessel and its effects on the senses. Most glass does not have a fragrance, aroma or odour, so the taste of the beer is pure.
The same goes for vaporizers. A vape with lots of plastic, rubber or metal can change the flavour of your herbs, and not for the better. The vapour exits through plastic, not stainless steel, adding an unpleasant taste to the experience. You can taste this yourself by drawing through a mouthpiece alone, provided that it is clean so there’s no resin taste. Butane vaporizers also tend to have worse flavour than other models.
So yeah, the materials used in the vapour path might mess with your herb’s flavour, but we’ll still take it any day over combustion.
3. Length of Vapour Path and Herb Chamber Design
Units with smaller, more uneven herb chambers require constant stirring of the herbs to deliver even vaporization. If the herbs aren’t vaporized evenly, certain parts will become toasty over time, which affects the flavour for the rest of your session.
A very short vapour path can also affect the flavour, as the vapour will be given little time to cool down. Since the vapour will come out hotter than it should, it may be a little harsh on the throat. Bag vaporizers excel in this area, as the vapour has plenty of time to cool after it enters the bag, delivering a smooth, comfortable and non-irritating vapour to the user.
4. Cleanliness of Vaporizer
Some vaporizers can be taken apart completely, allowing you clean the resin from every nook and cranny. Other models are more restrictive, which makes some of the parts nearly impossible to clean.
Just like a freshly cleaned smoking utensil will taste better than an old dirty one, a clean vaporizer produces a better-tasting vapour than a vaporizer with parts covered in residue. Since flavour is such an important aspect of vaporizing, it pays to invest in a unit that allows easy cleaning.
Ease of Use
Certain vaporizer models are easier to use than others, which makes the whole experience more enjoyable. Our ease of use ratings take the following characteristics into account:
1. Amount of user skill required
How easy will it be for a beginner to get good results? Does it function as it should every single time it’s used? Do you get consistent results every single time?
One of the biggest players here is the type of temperature control on the vaporizer. Models that rely on user draw speed for temperature control, as many portables do, come with a learning curve. With these vapes, it can take quite a bit of practise to get satisfactory results. After you become a master, you will be raving to your mates about how good your vaporizer is, but they won’t be able to get the same results. You’ll sit there cringing as you watch them do it all wrong, and they will tell you that vaporizing sucks and you should just smoke instead.
However, not every unit requires the user to have high levels of skill and experience for good results. Higher-end units have digital temperature controls, so much less user effort is required to maintain temperature. Bag vaporizers are virtually fail safe. All you do is set the temperature, wait for it to heat up and then allow the air pump or fan to control the speed for you. With this set-up, anyone can get perfect results on the first try.
2. Set-up Time
If you plan to put your vaporizer away after every use, it is worth taking set-up time into consideration when choosing a unit. However, if your living situation allows you to leave the unit sitting out, this probably isn’t as much of an issue for you. Some vaporizers are quick and easy to set up and load with herbs, while others have multiple parts that must be assembled before you can get started.
Is it easy to hold and draw from? Is it of noticeably higher quality than most others? Did the manufacturer pay fine attention to detail? How easy is it to access and fill the herbal chamber?
A vaporizer with a good design is one that is easy to use and maintain. The unit is also well though-out and has a solid build quality. For example, some units tend to get very hot after awhile, which makes them uncomfortable to hold. Other units require you to push batteries together during use, which can become annoying during a session. Still other vaporizers have small, fiddly screens that are difficult to replace. Ideally, you should choose a unit that doesn’t have these design problems.
Over time, all vapes get dirty: herbal particles and residue build up in the vapour path, and screens get clogged by resin. This stops air from flowing effectively, which prevents your vaporizer from operating properly until you clean it out. Most vaporizers also need parts replaced periodically. Common replacement parts include mesh filter screens, whip tubing, balloon bags and batteries.
Keeping your vaporizer clean and replacing worn parts is important if you want the unit to continue to operate at peak performance. Regular cleaning and maintenance also helps you to avoid lots of common functional issues. While some vaporizers require hardly any cleaning and maintenance, other units need to be brushed out after every use to keep them functioning well. Our maintenance ratings consider the amount of time it takes to clean the vape, as well as the cost of maintaining it.
Why does maintenance matter?
Dirty vaporizer components can ruin the flavour of your vapour. Resin is sticky, and it can also give your vaporizer’s parts a dirty appearance. After awhile, the joints can become coated with sticky resin, which causes the unit to smell and feel sticky to the touch. Glass-on-glass connections become stuck to one another, and they can be difficult to break apart. For this reason, regular cleaning is essential to maintain your vaporizer’s operational effectiveness.
Unfortunately, cleaning may not be a straightforward process with some units. Multifunction vaporizers tend to have more parts, which means they have more components that need cleaning and replacing. Our cleanliness comparisons considered the following questions:
- How clean does the unit stay after repeated use?
- Does it get dirty or build up residue quickly?
- How visible is the build-up?
- How often does the unit need to be cleaned?
- Is cleaning a reasonable process, or is it hard to do?
Please read our vaporizer maintenance guide for some tips and tricks on how to easily clean the most dirty parts of your vape. Following our simple maintenance and cleaning guidelines will help keep your vaporizer in excellent shape, and you can expect to get years of good use out of it.
TIP: Use Isopropyl Alcohol to Clean Resin
Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol cleans resin very well, dissolving many of the chemicals that can build up inside your vaporizer. You can clean your unit with alcohol by soaking parts in alcohol (only safe for glass and stainless steel), or by using a pipe cleaner, brush or cotton swab dipped in alcohol.
TIP: Clean and Change Screens Regularly
Sticky buds will cause more resin build-up and clog screens faster. A dirty screen can affect the taste of your vapour, make your vaporizer smell, and even create unnecessary draw resistance. Cleaning the screen with a small brush after each use helps it last longer and keeps the vapour path clear of debris. If your screen is very badly clogged, you can clean it with Isopropyl alcohol or by using a lighter to burn off resin and herb particles.
To ensure that your vaporizer is functioning at optimal levels, you must perform some maintenance from time to time. Most vaporizers need parts replaced at some point. The most common parts you will need to replace are mesh filter screens, whip tubing, balloon bags and batteries.
When rating vaporizers based on required maintenance, some questions we asked ourselves were:
- Does it have parts that may need to be replaced in the future?
- How often will it need new parts or accessories?
- How much will it cost to properly maintain?
- How much effort is required?
- Are any of the parts fragile?
Premium models often feature higher-quality parts, which means that they last longer and need less frequent replacing. Even though these units cost more initially, lower maintenance costs saves you money down the road. Likewise, higher-end units that include glass parts can be problematic when it comes to maintenance, since you or one of your friends may drop and break an important glass component.
If you’re the type of person who enjoys your herbs on the go, then a portable vaporizer is probably your best bet.
How big is the vape? Can you easily put it in your pocket and take it out with you?
Portability is a measure of a couple things: how convenient the unit is to carry (in terms of size and weight) and how long it lasts before you need to recharge it. Keep in mind that smaller units are easier to carry, but they usually have lower battery life.
So let’s talk about convenience first. The smallest and lightest units around are pen-style vaporizers. However, the problem with most pen-style units is that they vaporize only concentrates. Don’t be fooled by pens that claim to vaporize dry botanicals – these are just repurposed e-cigarettes and do not vaporize, but rather burn your botanicals. Secondly, let’s talk about battery life. The unit that can last the longest on a full charge is the Arizer Solo. However, the Solo is a tad heavier and bulkier than other portable units, and it has breakable glass parts.
So which units have the best ratings in both of these categories? Well, units that don’t run on batteries have an advantage here. These vapes either work with lighters or run on butane. The Vapman, for example, uses a lighter, which means you never have to worry about how long your unit will last when you’re out and about. Butane units like the WISPR and Iolite are also quite convenient. As long as you have a can of butane handy, you can vape away.
The size and design of a unit affects the level of discreetness. Really tiny units like the Magic Flight Launch Box, G Pen or Pinnacle are small enough to be discreet when you’re using them. However, well-designed portables are usually small enough to fit in a pocket comfortably. For example, the Da Vinci and Iolite are discreet because they resemble electronic devices. Pen style vaporizers are also a discreet choice since they resemble pens.
Bear in mind that, when you purchase a smaller vape, you will most often be sacrificing vapour quality and battery life for portability. Vapour quality is always the most important thing you should consider in a vaporizer. However, because portable vapes are so small, there’s not always room to focus on vapour quality and all the other categories users may find important.