We can discuss volume, airflow, and flame-angle, but at the end of the day, there are two right ways to prepare a bowl. Throughout this article, we'll talk about these two methods and provide benefits and disadvantages to both. But first, what happens when a bowl's packed incorrectly?
Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of casually tossing an entire nug into a bowl and trying to light it up. It doesn't tend to go well. Even if seemingly packed correctly, the experience is something akin to smoking a rock covered in moss. The outside – while green and vibrant – is burned away to expose a useless core. Let's not forget to mention the butane flavor from the flames cresting around the sides of the nug; that's gross. Using hemp wick helps avoid the unwelcomed BIC flavor, as well as reducing the lungs' intake of butane.
Hand-packing is the oldest method, involving breaking up some bud with two fingers against the palm (or preferably on a clean surface), and was the standard practice before grinders. The argument to hand packing is the bud breaks up enough to neatly pack into a bowl while preventing the compromise of the nug's potency. A grinder is not exactly a gentle tool – that's why they have kief screens, so it can reclaim all those trichomes being knocked off in the grinding process. Breaking nugs up by hand in as few motions as possible preserves all those trichomes in order taste and feel the full power of the flowers.
While hand packing is a useful technique, using a grinder provides other benefits. When grinding flowers, the surface area increases, meaning more of that flower can fit into a bowl or a vape chamber. Having maximum surface area is the key to getting a big hit because the heat source can come into contact with as much of the bud as possible. That's why it's wise to use a grinder when loading bowls for a vaporizer or to share hits in a larger pipe. The finer grind, the lighter the bowl pack. Pushing down too much on finely ground weed will lead to a clogged bowl that may need to be dumped out and reloaded.
Packing takes practice, manual dexterity – and some may say it's for purists –but the quality of flavor is supreme. Once breaking the bud up by hand, it's time to do the packing. Throw one of the more significant bits in the bottom to act as a screen, layer the rest on top, and then gently push down on the entire bowl. Using a light touch is critical to success when packing a bowl like this.
So when it's time to sit down with a fat nug, find your favorite pipe and try each method out to notice the differences. When loading a bowl, remember: either break it up by hand and pack it tight or grind it fine and press lightly. With this little bit of advice, never risk wasting a bowl again.