Bong enthusiasts have long known that the best water pipes are glass percolators. They work without a filter and use gravity to push your smoking mixture down into a bowl, which is drawn through by air bubbles trapped in the liquid. But what makes them so great?
If you’ve ever smoked marijuana or any other sort of tobacco product — even if you’re just curious about its effects — then chances are pretty good that you know all about bongs. These funnels, with their attached bowls or tubes shaped like flowers, are used for drawing smoke up from the ground (or sometimes out of an airplane) toward the user’s mouth.
But there’s another type of pipe that may be less familiar but has been gaining popularity among recreational smokers and those who want to take their smoking seriously. It’s called a glass percolator water pipe. And while many people recognize that they work similarly to a bong, others aren’t aware of how much more efficient they can get than a standard water pipe.
Water pipes come in two basic shapes: one works by heating the water until vapor pressure pushes hot gas up through small holes in a tube, and the other uses a perforated disc placed on top of a larger chamber filled with cold water. Both types allow users to inhale the vaporized smoke, but the way they do this is very different.
In this article, we’ll learn what exactly a glass percolator water pipe does differently, how it achieves the same effect as a regular water pipe, and why it might be preferable over traditional models. Afterward, we’ll examine some of the benefits and drawbacks of using such a device.
What Is Glass Percolator Smoking
Many people who enjoy smoking weed prefer to use a percolator style of water pipe because they don’t require any special tools or accessories beyond a lighter. There are also few restrictions on the amount of material that can be burned since no filtration mechanism is present. This means that someone can go full-on stoner without worrying about being arrested.
Because percolation occurs only within the liquid itself, the temperature of the resulting vapor doesn’t depend upon the ambient environment. As a result, the smoke produced by a percolator isn’t going to taste bitter or burnt.
And unlike a typical bong, percolating smoke goes straight down the length of the pipe rather than upward. Users typically hold the bottom of the device between their lips, allowing the smoke to pass directly into their mouths. Some enthusiasts say that this method allows the lungs to absorb more cannabinoids and flavoring elements than when the smoke first hits a person’s pharynx.
However, not everyone wants to deal with the hassle of cleaning their face afterward. So, percolator manufacturers have started producing devices that include filters, which help make the process easier.
One popular model of this kind comes from the company Gravybone, which now makes a line of three percolator water pipes. The original version looks almost identical to a standard water pipe, except that it includes a narrow plastic screen that covers the opening of the stem. When the user exhales, the expelled breath passes through the screen, helping keep the mouth clean after each drag.
GravityPerks is another manufacturer of these kinds of products. Its newest model offers a double set of screens, which helps cut back on wasted space. Many people find that the combination of these features makes the whole experience seem smoother than plain old glass percs.
How Does Gravity Work In A Glass Water Pipe?
When a smoker takes a hit from a standard water pipe, they often get a lot of residues left in ash and bits of dried stems. Although this is usually brushed off quickly, some prefer to leave it there. Others choose to scrape it off onto a piece of paper towel. However, neither of these methods removes anything but the smallest particles.
However, with a glass percolator water pipe, the vapor from the bowl will carry most of the loose debris. Since the water level remains unchanged throughout the process, nothing is lost to the sides of the bowl.
This is especially helpful during the early stages of smoking when the individual is still experimenting with various strains. With a standard water pipe, the user must manually change the height of the water tank before switching to a new strain. But thanks to gravity, a percolator water pipe gives the smoker more flexibility.
Also, because the percolating smoke travels downward instead of upwards, there’s a greater likelihood that it’ll stay around for longer. This means a seasoned smoker won’t need to wait several minutes after lighting up to draw fresh smoke. Instead, they can pick up right where they left off.
Another advantage of the downward path is that the smoke will travel farther inside the body than it would otherwise. This could mean more THC is absorbed by the bloodstream, although some experts doubt this happens regularly.
The Benefits of Using Air Bubbles To Draw Smoke Down The Bowl
While a glass percolator water pipe provides several advantages over conventional designs, it doesn’t necessarily offer better overall performance. That’s mainly due to the presence of air bubbles.
Air bubbles can cause problems with both percolation and bongs alike.
One issue is that air bubbles can prevent the passage of smoke from the source (the joint, etc.) to the end of the pipe, leading to incomplete inhalation.
On a bong, air bubbles can interfere with the smoothness of the draw, particularly when trying to achieve the perfect “hit” of concentric rings. For these reasons, experienced smokers often favor glass percs with bubble guards built into the tops of the stems. Such devices reduce the risk of clogging and maximize airflow.
An additional benefit of air bubbles is that they generate tiny currents of air that act as little fans pushing the smoke downstream. While this may sound like something that should enhance the effectiveness of a percolator water pipe, some researchers claim that the presence of these currents can also increase the rate at which tar and carcinogens reach the lungs.
Smokers who experiment with multiple strains may notice that the smoke produced by a percolator water pipe tastes slightly cleaner than when they inhale smoke from a traditional water pipe.
This is probably because the percolating smoke doesn’t burn as readily. Also, because less plant matter is exposed to oxygen, the chemicals responsible for the smell and flavor of marijuana shouldn’t break down as rapidly.
Some argue that the lack of filtering mechanisms may pose health risks, but the American Cancer Society disagrees. According to the organization, the danger from water pipes lies in how they heat the water, not in the water itself [Source: ACS].
Smoking From Your Glass Percolator Water Pipe
As we discussed, when a smoker holds a percolator water pipe between their lips, the smoke enters the body near the throat. Because of this proximity, it can affect the mind and emotions more strongly than it would with a traditional water pipe.
People who prefer this approach to smoking say they feel high quicker and more intensely than when they inhale smoke from a standard pipe. This is partly because a percolator water pipe creates more intense sensations in the head and chest.
Experimenters may also want to use different percolator water pipes, including ones that feature side chambers to hold extra material. For example, adding a dabber, a short rod with a hole at the tip, can create a thicker cloud of smoke. An alternative design is to add a large balloon to the mix, which can produce a thick haze similar to that seen when smoking hash oil.
Once the smoker becomes accustomed to the sensations created by percolator smoking, they may want to move on to more serious forms of the practice. This involves setting aside the percolator water pipe and buying a specialized rig for parking.
There are many options here, from simple tabletop rigs to elaborate systems that fit under kitchen cabinets. These machines generally consist of a base unit with a water reservoir and a pump system that draws the water up from below and forces it through a series of pipes leading to a percolator.
Many people opt to buy prebuilt units that already have water reservoirs and pumps installed. Some companies specialize in selling kits that include everything needed to build a home-based percolator rig.
My Favorite Percolator Glass Bongs
Pure Glass Percolator Bong – 1-Tree Beaker – Frosted Purple
This frosted purple 1-Tree Beaker Bong by Pure Glass Bongs features one 6-arm Tree Percolator (made with clear glass) underneath ice notches. The bowl is colored to match and complement the purple theme of the bong.
Pure Glass Bongs are magnificent examples of the expert craft of making excellent percolator bongs, often shied away from by other glass manufacturers due to the intricacy of the work involved and the perceived fragility of the finished product.
Black Leaf Percolator Bong – Tribal Dome
Using 5mm thick glass, this Black Leaf Glass Straight Bong features a tribal-colored dome percolator to smooth out that hit and look rather good while it does it.
It has an 18.8 joint, ice notches, and comes equipped with a diffuser downtube. The glass features raised swirls near the mouthpiece.