Of all the vapes we at Vaporizer Kingdom have tested, the Volcano had the biggest reputation to live up to – mainly because it is so often dubbed “the Rolls Royce of vapes”. So naturally, we were curious…
That classic car comparison of course alludes to the Volcano’s build-quality, design, performance and reputation – but another similarity to a Rolls is that it does not come at all cheap. In fact it is one of the most – if not the most – expensive vapes on the market. So the most obvious question is: is it worth it? Volcano Vaporizer UK supplies are shipped from USA and we stock the whole range.
First things first. The Volcano is a forced-air vape (sometimes called a balloon vape), a somewhat more sophisticated design than most of the other models we’ve reviewed on www.vaporizerkingdom.co.uk. These forced-air vapes are considered by many – although not all – to give perhaps the finest vaping experience, and we’ll come on to this later. It is of a very solid build quality, designed for static rather than portable use, and has a thermostat with variable temperature control.
There are two models, the Classic and the Digit. While essentially very similar in appearance, operation and performance, they differ in terms of temperature control/display. The Classic has a dial on the front to set the temperature, while the Digit, as the name suggests, has a digital display. It allows for slightly finer temperature control, although there isn’t a huge amount in it. We’ll look at these in more detail later.
Looks-wise, we at www.vaporizerkingdom.co.uk think the Volcano rocks. No discreet hand-held this, the base unit sits sturdily on a table top, a gleaming, brushed chrome pyramid with a stylishly retro look about it – like something out of a funky 70s cocktail bar. It’s also fairly minimalist: a black cowl at the base, the chrome pyramid of the body, a temperature dial (with the Classic) or LED readout (with the Digit), two buttons and an indicator light on the foot – and that’s pretty much it, externally.
We think it looks cool enough to adorn any house party, which is kind of handy because balloon vapes in general, and the Volcano in particular, while of course fine for personal use, are very well suited to gatherings. This is not just because of how it operates – although passing a balloon round a party can have an enjoyably sociable feel – but also because because it is so solid and durable. No fiddly parts to break, and the squat pyramid design makes it all but impossible to knock over. In kitchen terms, it’s catering quality.
While the internal design is rather clever, the user interface is actually pleasantly simple. So let’s look at how you actually use it, then later we’ll peek under the hood.
When first activate the heater (the red switch on the left), the central indicator light comes on. This means that the internal heating element is starting to climb to the temperature you’ve pre-selected, either via the temperature regulator dial (Classic) or digital display and plus/minus buttons (Digit).
We found it usually takes two or three minutes to reach optimal vaping temperature, although it can take up to around five, depending on your starting (ambient) temperature, and what temperature you’re aiming for. If the Volcano has a drawback, this would be it: it’s not instant. There are some vapes you just switch on and go; this one takes a couple of minutes. However, once heated at the start of the session, it efficiently maintains itself very close to your preferred temperature for the duration – you don’t have to adjust it again.
Once it hits the correct temparature, the central light goes out. It will continue to come on and off as the thermostat kicks in throughout your session. Unlike some vapes, which can fluctuate around quite a bit during operation, the Volcano seems excellent at staying right where you want it, heat-wise.
The herb chamber sits atop the unit, with a deflated valve balloon clipped into it. When the light goes out and the element is the correct temperature, you can – when you’re ready – hit the air pump button, which is the green one on the right. This will start the fan, pushing air across the heating element, through the herbs and into the balloon.
Watching the bag fill is kind of fun, as unlike with many traditional vapes, the Volcano produces thick clouds of visible vapour. This isn’t just more aesthetic, but by looking at the colour and density of the vapour clouds, you can tweak the taste, strength and smoothness of the hit.
Note that we said above that you can hit the air pump button “when you’re ready”. That’s because although the element is hot, the filling chamber is not actually near it, so the herb mix can sit there, nice and cool, for as long as you wish until you activate the fan. This compares favourably with some other vape systems where once it’s hot, you need to vape the whole batch or it slowly dries up and vapes away into the atmosphere. This minimises wastage and aids in a chilled, relaxed vape session.
Once you’ve pressed that green air pump button, you’ll hear the fan start up and the balloon will begin inflating. We found it takes around 30 seconds to fill. Keep an eye on it as you do this, and stop pumping air when it’s full – or indeed at any point before then. It’s not necessary to completely fill it – indeed, the manufacturer points out that it need not even be half full. Volcano Vaporizer UK market customers report that this is correct and no filling the balloon is just as effective.
The reason for this is that while the balloon may be carried around, passed about or whatever, the vaped herbs will not stay as vapour indefinitely. After around 10 minutes it starts to condense on the side of the balloon – so only fill the bag with as much as you intend to use in that time.
How much does a bag hold? We found we got up to half a dozen nice, long draws from a full bag. And it’s clean, potent and smooth if you get that fine, white cloud density we’ll go on to discuss below. Which means that those four to six draws will go a long way – take it easy and enjoy.
The balloons are self-sealing. Once one is filled to your desired level, you can unclip it and there’s no need to be pinching the top with your fingers or anything like that. It’s a completely sealed ‘bag of clouds’, and you can carry it around, take it to your favourite armchair – whatever you like. Once you’re ready, you bring the mouthpiece to your lips, where as you insert it you press gently on the valve, opening the aperture. As soon as you take it away from your mouth the valve shuts again automatically, so you can take your time, pass it to a friend or put it down by your chair for a few minutes. There’s no wastage.
As the herb mix is heated by gentle air flow rather than direct contact with the hot element, the same herb batch may be vaped several times, to extract all usable essence. This makes it remarkably efficient.
To do this, you vape what you have in the chamber, then you can remove it, grind it up a little once again (to increase the available surface area) and then repeat. It can help to tweak the temperature up slightly with each re-vape. But be careful with this – if it gets too hot, the taste becomes less pleasant (kind of bitter).
The trick is to vape it at the lowest temperature that produces a fine, white cloud of dense vapour, then you can knock it up a notch if you vape it again. That way you’ll easily extract all usable essence from your mix before it becomes too hot.
Vapour density is the key. Too light and you won’t quite get the hit you’re looking for. Too thick and dark, and it can taste too strong and be a little irritating on the throat. The great thing is though, with a balloon vape you don’t have to guess at the density – you can see it as its produced. You’ll soon know what kind of fine, white clouds you’re looking for and which feel most comfortable to inhale (there are also several handy clips posted on YouTube if you need any tips).
There are several ways to adjust the density. The coarseness of the grind is one – the finer the grind the denser the denser the vapour. Raising/lowering the temperature slightly will also increase/decrease the density, as to a degree will how much you pack in the chamber. And of course the quality/dryness of the herb mix will vary between batches and sessions, and you can adjust for this. Once you’ve got the hang of all this, which really doesn’t take long at all, you’ll do it without even thinking about it.
As for how many times you can vape the same mix, that’s easy – and once again comes down to the transparent brilliance of the balloon system. As long as it’s producing visible vapour, it’s still good to go. Once it stops producing visible vapour, even at high temperature, then you know you’ve exhausted your herbs. It really is an incredibly simple and efficient system.
This is one of the many excellent aspects of the Volcano – particularly with the Easy Valve option, although both are fine. Compared to most other vapes we’ve ever tried, cleaning and maintenance on the Volcano is exceptionally light work. Most vapes get occasional vapour residue in the pipes, gauze needs changing, valves can gum up… if you’ve vaped much, you’ll know the kind of thing. It’s certainly not a huge deal, but it does require the odd bit of attention every so often.
With the Easy Valve delivery system option with the Volcano, because the balloon together with the mouthpiece are discarded and replaced with fresh new ones every few months, you don’t much need to worry about it. It’s not completely work-free, in that you’d be advised to brush out the herb chamber at the end of each session, as you would with any other vape, but apart from that we’ve found using it a largely carefree experience.
The Solid Valve delivery system option requires marginally more maintenance – although still far less than some other vapes out there. Basically, when you replace a bag – once a month is typical – you’ll need to give the mouthpiece and the balloon clip a bit of a wipe. The whole process takes about five minutes. And every few weeks, the heating chamber and stem could do with a quick clean, again just a few minutes’ work.
And as mentioned near the start of the review, the build quality of the Volcano is very strong, so the inevitable odd bump and knock of daily use is not an issue. We know of Volcano users who’ve been using their vape daily for five or more years without a single fault or issue. Of course, given the very high price of the Volcano, you’d certainly hope it was built to last – but it’s good to know that user experience does seem to bear this out.
As with so many things, you get what you pay for. Please don’t misunderstand – there are of course many excellent vapes out there costing far, far less than the Volcano. The earlier comparison with Rolls Royce was actually quite apt – it’s a luxury item. By no means necessary to get you from A to B.
However, if you do have that kind of money to spend, the Volcano is a beautiful bit of kit. Cleverly, stylishly and thoughtfully designed in every aspect, a complete pleasure to use and built to last – the Volcano may well be our favourite ever vape.
Volcanos (all models)
- Superb engineering
- Very solid and durable design
- Looks very cool (we think!)
- User friendly
- Efficient [link to Efficiency bullets]
- Minimal herb wastage
- Minimal vapour leakage
- Self-sealing balloons, inhale in one go or spread it out
- Flexible [link to Flexibility bullets]
- Visibly adjustable vapour density
- Easily controllable temperature
- Balloons are self-contained, may be carried around room, passed to friends etc
- Possibly the easiest vape to clean and maintain
- Consistent, reliable performance and usage
- Takes several minutes to reach vaping temperature at start of each session
- Lighter vape density not to all palates
- Balloons look cool and fun – or indiscreet and cumbersome, depending on taste
- One of the priciest vapes on the market
- Even though the element is hot, herbs only heat up when fan is on – no wastage
- All vapour goes directly into balloon – no leakage into room
- Balloons are self-sealing, with push-valve when inhaling – no vapour seepage
- Vaped herbs can be reground and vaped several times, until all essence extracted
- Temperature can be tweaked upward on re-vapes, for optimum extraction
- You can adjust vapour density according to different herbs and personal taste
- As the vapour is visible in the balloon, density is easy to gauge before you inhale
- Balloons may be fully or partially filled depending on requirements
- In the case of Solid Valve, you can trim balloon size to suit
- Balloons need not be inhaled immediately, as self-sealing
- Filled balloons are portable – no need to hunch over vape all session
Forced-air or ‘balloon’ vapes
How Balloon Vapes Work
Most conventional vape designs are ‘direct draw’. That is, the herb mix or essence sits on or close to a heating element, and air is sucked directly from it via a pipe or tube. While many direct-draw vapes are excellent, there are pros and cons.
One minor drawback is that you – self-evidently – need to be right next to the vape in order to draw the vapour in. This means that if people are sharing, the vape itself must be passed around (with hand-helds), or else (with table-top vapes) it remains stationary and users huddle around it, passing a tube round the table. Of course, this is not necessarily a problem and many vape-users may even enjoy this aspect – but it is worth noting.
Obviously, passing a vape around is not problem if it is a hand-held portable, of which there are countless superb models available. But then this can lead to another potential drawback, which is that (with some models, not all) your mouth is in close proximity to the heating element, meaning the vapour can still be rather hot when it hits your throat. This can particularly be the case if (for instance) you draw too sharply, so direct-draw vape-users usually need to adapt their breathing technique, taking long, slow inhalations. Again, not necessarily a problem for many people – but again, worth noting.
Forced-air vapes get around both of these issues by introducing a lightweight, detachable balloon into the design. The rate of vaping is controlled not by your lungs but by an electric fan, which pushes the heated vapour into the balloon. Volcano Vaporizer UK users have told us that they find teh balloon method more relaxing, but it does take a bit of getting used to.
Once filled, the balloon can be separated from the device. You can walk around with it, pass it to friends, save it for a few minutes until required, and so on. The vapour inside will no longer be hot, so many people find it a smoother hit.
Another upside of this is that as the vape itself no longer has to be lightweight enough to be held and passed around, it can be as complex in design and engineering as it needs to be, without giving too much thought to portability. Of course the flipside of this is that balloon vapes tend to be relatively unwieldy if you do want to pass them around for some reason.
This is not to say that everybody prefers forced-air vapes (although many here at Vaporizer Kingdom are big fans). Some people enjoy the denser, throatier vapour that tends to come from direct draw vapes, and find the bagged stuff a bit too “airy”. And of course, a balloon vape machine is hardly much use if you’re off hiking in the woods! There are some brilliant hand-held models for that.
Pretty much all vapes, of all designs, are vastly more pleasant and efficient methods of herb inhalation than smoking, of that we can all agree – beyond that, it’s a matter of personal preference and circumstances.
- Detachable balloons obviate need to be holding/sitting next to the vape
- Good for large indoor gatherings
- Vapour is cool once in balloon, some find taste smoother
- Herbs kept away from heating element – more control
- As vape need not be portable, larger, more sophisticated designs are possible
- Not portable – not much good for hiking trips or festivals
- Can be considerably more expensive
- Often much larger
- Filled balloons are large and indiscreet
- Some prefer the more concentrated taste of direct-draw vapes
Solid Valve or Easy Valve?
As mentioned earlier, the Volcano is available with two different delivery systems – Solid Valve or Easy Valve. So which should you go for?
The first thing to note is that whichever system you choose, there is no difference whatsoever in how the Volcano operates, and very little if any difference in the actual vaping experience. It’s essentially just about how you want to spread your costs, and about whether you want a little extra flexibility.
With the Solid Valve system, you keep the same valve and mouthpiece permanently and just change the balloons every so often. This makes it incredibly economical. The balloons come on a roll and work out at just pennies. What’s more, you don’t even need to use official Volcano balloons. If you find you run out one night, the manufacturer actually advises that if you wish to you may use food-safe oven bags – which are available from any supermarket or cornershop. Which could come in handy in a pinch.
This means that with the Solid Valve system, you aren’t strictly speaking tied into spending more on the product ever again, and that if your last bag burst and you found yourself without internet access (or more seriously if the company went bust, years down the road), you’d still be able to vape.
Another minor benefit is that, as you assemble the balloons yourself, you can tailor them to your preferred length – for example small sizes for personal use, giant ones for parties. However, while this is a bit of fun, we found that the standard size bags are very well suited for most purposes anyway, so this aspect probably isn’t a deal-breaker.
The downside is that there is a little bit more effort involved in maintenance (although still not much effort). You’ll find yourself changing the bag every few weeks, which takes a few minutes. And when you do this, there are three separate components – the herb filling chamber, the mouthpiece and the balloon. This is as compared to two with the Easy Valve system, due to the fact that the balloon and mouthpiece are integrated in that set-up. So it’s fractionally more fiddly, although by “fiddly” we merely mean it’ll take you a couple of minutes to get the hang of it.
As the name suggests, this system requires even less effort. The balloon, valve and mouthpiece are all integrated and disposable, so rather than having to mess around changing the bags, you just chuck the whole lot away and replace it every so often. How often? The manufacturer tries to encourage you to do it every few weeks, for probably obvious reasons. However all Volcano users we at www.vaporizerkingdom.co.uk have spoken to agree that with daily use, once every three or four months is fine.
A corollary benefit of this is that the mouthpiece and valve, which need an occasional quick clean with the Solid Valve, need no work at all here as when you change the balloon they are automatically replaced.
The downside is that is less economical in the long run. The starter kit comes with five balloon/mouthpiece combos – which should last you in excess of a year – and then you’ll be replacing them every three or four months for life. So a bit of a long-term financial commitment.
So which do we advise? Both are fine, and both have plus/minus points, but if pushed we’d go for the Easy Valve every time. Why complicate things?
If you’re the sort of person who can afford a Volcano in the first place, you probably aren’t going balk at another thirty or so quid a year. And given that the Easy Valve requires virtually no maintenance or fiddling about, we think the fact that it limits you to one size of balloon and ties you into the manufacturer forever is, while mildly inconvenient, probably a worthwhile trade-off.
But really, both systems are very good, and whichever one you opt for, the vape itself is identical – and it’s a joy. So don’t lose too much sleep over this one.
- Balloon replaced every month or so
- Balloon/mouthpiece combo assembled by vape user (easy)
- Mouthpiece and valve reused each time
- Very ecomomical
- Balloons come on a roll and can be cut to preferred length
- Can use other materials for balloons – food-safe oven bags, for instance
- Few minutes of cleaning and maintenance required each month
- No long-term tie in to the manufacturer
- Balloon, valve and mouthpiece all integrated
- Entire balloon unit disposed of every three months or so
- No effort required to assemble balloon unit
- Minimal cleaning and maintenance
- Requires regular supply of replacement balloon/mouthpiece units
- Comes with five (over a year’s worth, we estimate) at purchase
- Less economical – bags cost XXXX per year
- Tied into manufacturer for life of product
Classic or Digit?
As with the Solid Valve/Easy Valve discussion, the important thing to note here is that it doesn’t matter all that much which one you go for – the vape is identical in all the important areas.
The difference here is simply in how you set your desired temperature, how that temperature is displayed, and how much it fluctuates.
With the Classic, there is a dial on the front of the unit, numbered one through nine. These numbers correspond with temperatures as indicated in the user guide. You turn it to the required number, turn the heating element on (as described above) and the heater indicator light comes on.
When the element reaches the required heat, the light and the heater both go off, and then the machine regulates itself, with the inbuilt thermostat, to stay around this temperature indefinitely.
With the Digit, there are two figures on the LED display. One is the temperature you set, using the two buttons marked plus and minus. The second is the actual temperature, measured to the nearest degree Centigrade. This enables a more accurate reading, and finer adjustment, than the Classic.
However, does such an accurate temperature reading materially improve the performance or pleasure in using the product? We haven’t found it to do so. After all, one of the great things about the Volcano is that you can judge by eye the quality and density of the vapour cloud as it inflates the bag. We’re not sure a digital readout particularly adds anything.
Also, we’ve found that once you find your optimum setting on the Classic (or advice is to start at around six and see how it goes), then as long as your herbs and the grind remain similar, you won’t really ever have to touch the dial again – apart from tweaking it slightly upward for re-vapes, as described above.
There are reports that the thermostat response is better. That is, there is less fluctuation from the optimal figure. This is probably true – it makes sense that the digital thermostat should be able to keep a tighter watch on things and respond quicker to fluctuations. And this may be important to some – certainly if you’re vaping particularly temperature-sensitive herbs.
However once again, we’ve found that for normal day-to-day use, the Classic gives consistently excellent results, so as with the Easy Valve delivery system, we say – why complicate it?
There may be some who prefer the aesthetic of the Digit of course, and that’s fine. But it costs some 20% more and we can’t tell much difference in terms of actual vaping, so as with selecting the valve delivery system, we advise to go for the simpler of the two.
It’s worth noting that each model, the Classic and the Digit, fits with both delivery systems. This means there are four possible combinations – that is, you can have the Classic with either Easy or Solid Valve, or the the Digit with the same two options.
You’ll see from our detailed reviews above that we slightly prefer the Easy Valve to the Solid Valve, and the Classic model to the Digit. So of the four possible combos, we’d logically go for the Classic model, with the Easy Valve.
However, as we’ve stressed above, the differences are minimal and mostly just a matter of taste. Whichever of the four combinations you go for, the Volcano is the same in all the important areas – that is to say, it is one of the most pleasant, most user-friendly and lowest maintenance vapes we’ve ever tried.