In Amsterdam at the Cannabis Cup in 1999, I encountered an American named Eagle Bill Amato. His booth had the biggest crowd around it, and a long line of people queuing up for a hit off his primitive “vaporizer,” the first vaporizer anyone recalled seeing, a massive glass contraption several feet tall that included a bowl he’d stuff full of weed and then heat the weed using a heat gun.
“Look: no fire. No smoke! No lung cancer. No emphysema,” Eagle Bill intoned. “Just clean, sweet vapor.”
After inhaling the Eagle’s vapor, people staggered around in a daze. Some exited the Cannabis Cup venue by mistake, later to stumble back to us with no coherent memory of the past hours.
We all agreed that the Eagle Bill vaporizer high was more fun than what you get smoking joints and bowls of weed.
A couple of years later, I saw another huge crowd gathered around a booth at the Cannabis Cup and figured it was Eagle Bill again.
But when I got near the front of the queue, no Eagle Bill. The people staffing the booth were handing out large, inflated plastic bags filled with vapor!
I snagged one. It had a check valve on the smallest end, so vapor couldn’t escape unless I sucked on it. I did. I got blasted.
The high was more stimulating and less sledgehammer than a combustion high, and my throat and lungs breathed a sigh of relief.
The buzz of the Cannabis Cup was how the bag’s vapor erupted in your head. One Cup judge said, “This contraption will make joints obsolete.”
That was the fortuitous debut of a new company and a new medical cannabis device—the Volcano, made by a German company that today is called Storz & Bickel.
The company started in 1996 as a home-based engineering project conducted by Markus Storz, a graphic designer who had seen a photograph of Eagle Bill and his prototype vaporizer and wanted to make a much smaller vaporizer.
Living up to the legendary reputation of German engineering, Storz did all the research, design, and patent-registration for the first generation of Volcano vaporizers, which debuted in 2000.
Cannabis consumers loved not having to inhale smoke or share a joint, and pretty soon were holding Volcano parties where inflated bags full of cannabinoids and terpenoids were handed out like drinks handed from a bartender.
By 2002, Storz realized he needed help keeping up with relentlessly increasing product demand. Jürgen Bickel came on board as business partner, and S & B was born.
The two men figured that since California legalized medical cannabis in 1996, America was a prime market for a safe cannabis inhalation device, so they set up an affiliate in Oakland, California in 2005.
Very soon, their vaporizer came to the attention of San Francisco-based cannabis research physician Dr. Donald Abrams, M.D., who conducted a clinical study of the Volcano.
The study tested 18 inpatients to measure the comparative health and cannabinoid delivery effects of cannabis vaporization using the Volcano, versus combustion.
Delivery of cannabinoids was as robust if not more efficient with the Volcano, but delivery of poisons such as carbon monoxide was eliminated.
The researchers concluded that vaporization of cannabis with the Volcano is medically safe and effective, much more desirable than inhaling smoke from combusted cannabis.
This study, and the considerable influence Dr. Abrams had in the medical marijuana community, popularized the Volcano quickly. Pretty soon Storz & Bickel had revolutionized the cannabis vaporizer industry on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Volcano vaporizer itself, which over the years has taken on a techno polished metallic look, became a machine icon, showing up in movies, songs, and music videos as well as North American cannabis events.
The pair continued to push new product innovations. In 2007, they released a digitally-controlled Volcano. For people who wanted to vape a lot of dry herb in a hurry, they released the “Plenty” in 2008. This model uses radiant heat and convection to heat a large amount of cannabis quickly.
Storz & Bickel went on to create precision medical vaporizers that led to official German certification as a medical device manufacturer in 2009.
Indeed, Storz & Bickel is the only vaporizer manufacturer whose manufacturing protocols and devices have satisfied the rigorous European Union (EU) governmental requirements for medical devices.
A company spokesperson told us the creation of certified medical-grade vaporizers was a major reason the German government decided to allow Germans to use whole-flower cannabis, because vaporizers liberate marijuana users from the unavoidable harms of combusting.
In 2010, under the brand name Vapormed, Storz & Bickel released the world’s first ever medical herbal vaporizer, the Volcano Medic, which is sold in Europe, Canada, Israel and other countries.
Always astute about the vaporizer marketplace, Storz & Bickel heard the many complaints about other brands’ portable vaporizers. One reason I’ve been so motivated to test the latest Storz & Bickel portable is I’ve tested the portables from other manufacturers and they all suck for one reason or another.
The problems we’ve all experienced with brands like Davinci, Atmos, Arizer, Pax and others include off-gassing of toxic poisons, defective battery charging and too-short battery life, chambers that don’t hold enough cannabis, inaccurate temperature controls, confusing manuals, software glitches, charging port failures, units too hot to handle, and pathetic customer service.
When Storz & Bickel released their Crafty and Mighty handheld vaporizer models, it was obvious they’d recognized the defects of other brands, and had worked hard to avoid them.
They recently created an updated Mighty, the Mighty+, which I’ve been testing. And here’s the takeaway: the Mighty+ is by far the best portable vaporizer in this universe.
The Mighty + is larger than most portables, but fits comfortably in my hand. From a distance, it looks like an expensive phone or palm computer, so you can hit the vape while pretending you’re on a phone.
The unit cleverly tells you via vibration when it’s on, when it’s about to shut off, when it’s reached target temperature.
It comes with a USB-C to USB-A cable for charging. It takes about an hour to charge an empty battery. The fully-charged battery gives me more vape sessions than any other portable ever has, including the original Mighty. I’ve gotten as much as 50 minutes of continuous use from one charge.
If you deplete the battery before you finish vaping, plug the unit in and use while charging, which is impossible with most vaporizers. You can get an accessory charger for much faster charging.
As you’d expect from a premium vaporizer, Mighty+ has precision temperature control that stops just short of combustion temperatures. It also has “super-booster” settings for extra heat fast.
The chamber isn’t as big as I prefer, because I’m the kind of person who likes to vape a gram or more of flower at a time. I estimate that the Mighty+ chamber can hold slightly less than half a gram of bud.
But because the Mighty+ has been so well engineered, it gives me as many draws, and as much vapor, as I get from my desktop vaporizer that holds a gram or more. The S & B Plenty has a bigger chamber, in case chamber size is your primary concern.
Mighty+ is easy to load, use, and clean—the entire top of the unit is removable. There’s no way debris can penetrate into the unit from the ceramic heating chamber, and the rotatable “straw” inhaling tool you hit from and the top cooling unit make for substantial, dense clouds of cooled vapor.
The construction and “feel” of this device prove it’s built to last and work perfectly. It’s solid, ergonomic, made of industrial-grade materials.
Unlike other portables that require apps or a rocket scientist to figure out instructions and settings, the Mighty+ is easy to use, and its multi-language instruction manual is simple, comprehensible, and useful.
“Minor” features, such as that you can turn the unit on and off without having to wait for the automatic-off to do it for you, show S & B listened to complaints about portable marijuana vaporizers, and eliminated them when they designed the Mighty+.
Of course, the real test of any vaporizer is how well it delivers cannabinoids and terpenoids. If you’ve tested dozens of desktop and portable vapes like I have, you’ve probably been puzzled about the differences in tastes, high, vapor temperature, vapor density, and extraction ratios between different vapes.
The scientists at Storz & Bickel researched this issue and discovered that the type of heat and the way heat is delivered has big impact on vapor cannabinoid, terpenoid and moisture content.
The physical design of the heating chamber and vapor pathway also have significant impact. Unlike most portables that are very hard to draw from due to lack of airflow engineering, S & B figured out how to create upward air movement that drives heat through the bud and vapor out the straw.
Based on their proprietary research, S & B carefully crafted the balance of convection and conduction heating in the Mighty+, which takes barely a minute to get to full temperature and deliver vapor, even with moist buds.
The company’s researchers tested various configurations for the heating chamber and vapor pathway, measuring how various designs affected delivery of cannabinoids and terpenoids. The design they chose delivers a maximal amount of medical and psychoactive compounds.
The Mighty+ delivers fast extraction, cooled vapor, intense terpene taste, and fire highs. You get better vapor, more vapor, using less bud—faster.
When I study the vaped bud, I see it has in no way been combusted, but all the resin glands have been vaporized.
With other vaporizers, if I step away from the vape for a while and come back to it, even if it is still on and the temperature is steady, it takes several inhalations to get vapor. Not so with the Mighty+, which somehow keeps the vapor ready whether you’re frequently inhaling from it or not.
Another thing I love about the Mighty+ is it can convert wet bud into vapor very quickly. More and more I’m taking a “vaporized live resin” approach by vaping mature bud I just harvested, before I even dry or cure it.
In my desktop vaporizer it takes five or more minutes at 500°F before I get anything other than water vapor from an undried bud. But with the Mighty+, I get potent vapor after about two minutes, and at a much lower temperature.
The Mighty+ is likely the most expensive portable vaporizer, so you might wonder if it’s worth the price. Its flawless performance, safety features, and reliability are superior to other brand’s vaporizers that cost nearly as much.
Storz & Bickel engaged legendary German engineering principles before creating this unit.
They confronted workmanship and function problems common to portable dry herb vaporizers and crafted the most efficient, elegant solutions.
So unlike this other expensive portable I own that requires me to load a narrow tube with crushed and ground herb—a tube that is almost impossible to unload and clean—I don’t have to grind my herb or put it into a container before I load it into the Mighty + heating chamber.
Just so you know, grinding herb is bad for your high and your buds. You don’t want to smash and crush resin glands before vaping them. The Mighty+ works fine when I put in wet or dry buds and dry buds. Be kind to your resin glands, don’t crush them, vape them whole in the Mighty+.
Be aware that if you vape wet buds, you might get volatile waxes and oils that coat the vape mouthpiece, and your lips!
It’s obvious that competing vaporizer companies started out with the main goal of making a lot of money fast building vaporizers in China.
Their products were designed by amateurs and built far away, with little attention to quality control.
In contrast, Storz & Bickel has a purpose-built factory in Germany, more than a hundred loyal, well-trained employees, and an innovative, meticulous approach to vaporizer design.
The Mighty+ is the most ergonomic portable I’ve ever used. Its case is shaped to fit perfectly in your hand and to be easy to grip, turn on and off, set and read temperatures. How easy?
I’ve done full sessions with the Mighty+ while bicycling, boxing, washing the car, mowing the lawn, playing keyboards, giving massage, riding a skateboard, trimming plants and buds, hanging upside down on an inversion table, jogging, washing dishes, talking on the phone.
People who have the original Mighty (without the +) tell me their units have seen daily use for as long as seven years with no malfunctions.
Many of them are upgrading to the Mighty+, and they advised potential purchasers to contact S & B first to ask about authorized retailers, warranties, and which accessories to buy (there are a lot of accessories for the Mighty+).
The Mighty+ comes with a two-year warranty you can extend one more year by registering the product.
Of course, no device is absolutely perfect. My suggested improvements for the Mighty+ are:
- Make it so it stands up by itself.
- Include all necessary accessories, including wall outlet charger and full array of cleaning tools, screens and other gear, in a kit, for the same price you currently pay just to get the vaporizer with very few accessories. The Mighty+ is currently the most expensive portable vaporizer, and for that price, they ought to include more accessories, especially a wall outlet charger.
- Lower price of accessories and replacement parts.
- Provide more detailed tech specs and product manuals, including comprehensive YouTube videos showing Mighty+ features, functions and usage/cleaning demonstrations.
- Reduce battery charging time and increase battery charge longevity.
None of these suggested improvements are deal breakers. They’re minor problems that pale in light of the superiority of the Mighty+.
With every other portable I’ve tested, including vapes that cost nearly as much as the Mighty+, there was at least one if not more major problems I just could not tolerate, and I stopped using them.
The Mighty+ is a welcome relief. I used to rely too much on my desktop vaporizer, but now I have a portable better than my desktop!
Please remember these three important facts about using cannabis buds. The first is that combustion poisons you and pollutes your high.
The second is that most vaporizer brands suck and are a waste of money.
The third is that investing in the Mighty+ provides you the safest, cleanest high without the harmful, frustrating technical and design stupidities built into other portable vaporizer brands.
To use an obvious analogy, Storz & Bickel are the BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche of the vaporizer world…and all the other companies are Kia or Yugo.
The simple fact is if you’ve been combusting marijuana, or using marijuana in a different brand of vaporizer, the Mighty+ will strengthen your healthy relationship to marijuana and make you happy because finally someone made a beautiful, elegant, user-friendly cannabis vaporizer.
I’m sure that Eagle Bill, who passed away in 2005, is praying that someone brings him a Mighty+ in heaven!