Vape cartridges are portable, discreet, and super convenient. That’s why they’ve become such an increasingly popular way to consume THC.
Easy to use and easy to hide, vape cartridges are great for a lot of different reasons. However, choosing from the wide variety of carts out there can be tricky: each type of vape cartridge has different characteristics and levels of quality.
Depending on their starting material, different types of cartridges produce variable effects and experiences for consumers. Use this guide to learn all about vape cartridges and why it’s important to consider quality and ask questions.
How They Work
Rig and nail no more: vape cartridges are pre-made glass tubes filled with cannabis oil (also known as concentrate).
This extract contains much higher levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) than dried and ground bud. Users will likely need to consume less to achieve the same high as smoking flower.
Essentially, vape cartridges work when paired with a battery that heats up an atomizer. The heating element, sourced from a battery, raises the temperature of the concentrate.
This heating process is typically instantaneous in many vape pen models: consumers must then simply inhale vapor through the cart’s attached mouthpiece.
510 thread solventless live rosin cartridge
To break it down, there are essentially three types of cartridges on the market: 510 thread, device-specific cartridges, and disposable vape pens.
The most common type is the 510 thread. This type is named for the 510mm thread that connects the bottom of the cartridge to a battery. Because it’s the most common type, most generic vape pens are equipped with the 510 thread cartridge.
Vape cartridges can also be device specific. This type of cartridge is exactly what it sounds like: they’re manufactured to work with one specific device (think Juul Pod versus NJOY in the nicotine world). These cartridges, such as PAX Pods or Dart Pods, can be purchased only at licensed locations.
Lastly, disposable vape pens are single-use and easy to use. These devices are the epitome of convenience: they include the cannabis concentrate, battery, and mouthpiece in one device.
This type of vape allows users to enjoy it without already owning a battery or additional pieces: the hardest part is opening the package.
Not only are vape cartridges portable and simple for consumers to use, they’re versatile enough to fit conveniently into each consumer’s lifestyle, whether that’s using a disposable pen or pairing a device with a replaceable pod.
However, no matter the type of cartridge, the quality of a vape cartridge depends largely on its starting material.
Consider the Quality: Solventless vs Solvent-Based
In almost every scenario, vape cartridge quality depends largely on the starting material that was used in extracting the cannabis oil/concentrate. Essentially, this starting material falls into one of two categories: solventless and solvent-based.
Solventless vape cartridges are just what they sound like: the concentrate in these cartridges is extracted without solvents. Vape cartridges that are solventless are typically filled with high-quality hash rosin.
In general, rosin is a concentrate made by applying heat and pressure to cannabis flower, dry sift, or ice water hash.
When talking about solventless vape cartridge making specifically, it is crucial to use a high-quality rosin that is made from ice water hash.
Flower or dry sift rosin often doesn’t provide adequate viscosity for vaping and won’t provide a premium flavor experience.
Solventless live rosin vape cartridge made by Collin Palmer (Instagram: @vessellifescience)
This type of cartridge consistently provides the highest quality, hands down, and this level of quality has a lot to do with the method used to extract the rosin oil.
The process begins by taking fresh frozen cannabis and agitating it with ice and water to remove the trichome heads from the plant material. Those trichome heads are then filtered through mesh, collected, and freeze dried, then heat and pressure are applied to obtain rosin.
With this method, no chemicals or solvents are used in extraction. Following that same trend, no thinners or additives are used in cartridge-making. Instead, natural terpenes act as the thinner when the process is completed properly.
These cartridges use full spectrum, unaltered cannabinoids. Essentially, full spectrum means that the concentrate contains all compounds naturally occurring in the cannabis plant.
Every terpene, essential oil, and cannabinoid found in the plant work together to maximize effects. Therefore, solventless vape cartridges made from live rosin generally have the most full-bodied effects for consumers.
Not to mention, the natural extraction process used in making this type of cartridge produces the best, most well-rounded flavors. Undoubtedly, rosin/solventless vape cartridges are the most high-quality carts on the market.
However, if a solventless option just simply isn’t in the cards, solvent-based vape cartridges are available as well. This type of cartridge is made from a variety of starting materials, each of which range in quality.
The best, most high-quality option among solvent-based carts utilizes live resin as the vapable oil. Similar to live rosin, live resin also uses “live” fresh frozen cannabis.
However, the fresh frozen used for live resin can be mid-quality flower whereas fresh frozen for live rosin requires higher quality starting material. This is because remediation can be done with solvent-based processing but not with solventless.
Live resin cartridges generally retain most of the terpenes and oils found in the cannabis plant because “live” fresh frozen material is being extracted from. Live resin is typically a full spectrum product in the true sense of the term, it’s distillate and CO2 that may not be.
Vape carts made using CO2 and BHO extraction are not always the highest of quality. Keep in mind that live resin is made via the BHO process though, so BHO extraction does not always mean low-quality.
Though these methods are similar enough to be placed in the same category, they do differ slightly. BHO, or Butane Hash Oil, is made by using butane, a light hydrocarbon solvent, to strip away resin from cannabis plants.
Similarly, CO2 extraction is done with a high-pressure form of carbon dioxide as the solvent. Unlike the solventless full spectrum method, CO2/BHO extractions typically use decarbed trim, which causes the plant to lose some of its natural terpenes, oils, and cannabinoids.
Lastly, distillate vape cartridges are made from low quality trim, making it the lowest quality cart on the market. Oftentimes, distillate oil alone is not viscous enough to vaporize, meaning that additives or thinning agents are needed to produce the cartridge.
Though this starting material produces the lowest quality concentrate, that means it’s the cheapest option, and can be used in a pinch as an affordable option.
Picking the most high quality vape cartridge can be a challenge. Knowing the differences between the types of cartridges on the market is a great place to start though.
If quality, cleanliness, and flavor are important to you, opt for a solventless cartridge. While they often come at a higher price point, they offer users a clean and flavorful experience, all in a small and convenient device.