A couple of decades ago, the phrase "weed vape" wasn't a part of the public lexicon. Today, these smoking-alternative devices are available for purchase in just about every smoke shop you might stroll into and are widely available for purchase online. But the shift from stigma to ubiquity might never have happened without the pioneering brand known as Storz & Bickel.
For over twenty years, the brand has been painstakingly designing and manufacturing some of the best high-end vapes on the market — starting with the legendary Volcano and arriving, just a couple of years ago, at the new and improved Mighty+. But the brand is far from finished. Still representing the pinnacle of the cannabis vape industry, Storz & Bickel is going strong, continuing its legacy of top-tier products and technological innovations.
To get an insight as to how far the brand has come and where it's going from here, we sat down with the Storz & Bickel co-founder Jürgen Bickel at this year's Hall of Flowers show in Santa Rosa, California to talk about the cannabis industry, vaporizer technology, the difference between good and bad vapes and even the devices he prefers to use himself.
Storz & Bickel Crafty+ Vaporizer Read More
Storz & Bickel Mighty+ Vaporizer storz & bickel Read More
Storz & Bickel Volcano Hybrid Vaporizer Read More
Why did you start Storz & Bickel? How have your goals changed as cannabis has become increasingly legal?
It started in 1996 when Markus Storz, my partner, saw someone using a heat gun to vaporize cannabis. This was the moment he realized he didn't have to smoke [cannabis] in order to use it, that he could do it differently — that's when things really started. Then, very early on, we spoke with a patient who had multiple sclerosis and was using cannabis as medicine but was unable to smoke it due to their condition. So we knew from the very beginning that we wanted to make a device that was safe for patients' medical use.
Then, from '96 to 2002, [Markus] worked on developing the product, and it took four years until the Volcano was out on the market. And I was actually one of the first clients to buy one — I had quit nicotine smoking at the time. Within a year of that, I met up with Markus and we decided to work together and have been working on developing [our product range] together ever since.
At the beginning, we thought 'Okay, this can be a small business. We can sell devices to a few people,' but since then we've grown into mass production. At the beginning, I recall we had the goal to sell one hundred units a month. One hundred Volcanoes was a big goal at the time, as this was a very small operation with very exotic devices that we only sold for medical usage. But today we're exporting to 100 countries and have more than 250,000 clients per year and, of course, this has come to a dimension that we had not previously thought about.
Now we get a lot of positive feedback — our products cost a little bit more but people are not disappointed, they don't regret it and they don't think [our products] are too expensive. People say they're expensive before they buy it. But once they've bought it, they don't regret it — they say it's a good deal for the money.
What’s the difference between a good vape and a bad one?
It's about the technology — conduction versus convection. We use both. First, we use conduction to preheat the material, then we use convection to circulate the heat. With other vapes, many use only conduction to heat just the surface of the material and can burn it badly, we call it the frying-pan principle.
Then, of course, you have to be very precise with your temperature. On the lower level, if you don't get the temperature high enough it won't vaporize the cannabis. But on the higher level, it gets too harsh and doesn't taste very good because it's too dry. You must have an exact temperature. When you see a device like the Crafty, for instance, you'll have the ambient temperature at around 20 degrees Celcius [68 degrees Fahrenheit] and you want to heat your cannabis to exactly 180 degrees Celsius [356 degrees Fahrenheit] and you want to do this in a very consistent way — this is the art of [a good vape].
Storz & Bickel vapes are pretty pricey. What makes them worth the investment?
At first, any vape can get it done. But of course, some maybe can only get it done once but cannot really replicate it consistently and they're difficult to clean. Like Pax, for example — it's a nice device and it works but, if you use it every day you have to clean it every day and there's a lot of maintenance which, for a regular user, might not be very good.
Many of our clients use their devices several times over the course of a day and we'll see devices that come in for maintenance with very intensive use. But because our devices are well thought-through and have excellent functionality and consistency, they're also very easy to clean. And all the parts are medical-grade. The Mighty+ and the Mighty Medic, for example, are the same device but one is branded for medical use — they're really the same device, just one is certified. That means the Mighty itself is up to the high standards of medical devices.
We also develop all of our devices with a quality management system. This means everything we do, every decision we make in the development process is documented and we know exactly why we have selected one material over another one and what the reasoning was. That way, we can go back [in our documentation] to find out what we were thinking, what the cause was and we can use that in the future. You're not just paying for the device, you're also buying the processes and technologies behind it.
Any potential product releases you can share with us?
I cannot share any specific details, but we are working on a new device. But that's all I can share.
What’s your favorite Storz & Bickel vape?
Personally, I mostly use the Crafty+ because it's the smallest one. It has a bit of a disadvantage — the battery life is limited, as there's only one battery — but for myself and my use case — I don't use so much in a day — the Crafty is enough. Of course, if it isn't enough for you, the Mighty+ with its USB-C recharging is our top-seller and the one that people use and like the most. Folks really love it.