What is a Bong Percolator and How Does it Work?

When choosing to upgrade from a dry pipe or rolling to water filtration, you’re likely to hear the word ‘percolator.’ The word percolate comes from a Latin verb meaning, “to put through a sieve” and that’s exactly what a percolator does inside your bong. While not a necessary feature for any setup, bong percolators (commonly referred to as ‘percs’) are made to diffuse smoke as it travels through your piece. This cools your smoke before it reaches your lungs and makes for a smoother, cleaner hit to enjoy.

How Does it Work?

To put it simply, a percolator is a filter inside your bong made to make bubbles. That’s right; it’s all about making bubbles! 

Diffusing your smoke creates bubbles which give your smoke more surface area to come into contact with the water in your piece. This cools the smoke down and makes it smoother, leading to less coughing and more enjoying your herb. 

Do I Need a Percolator?

Using a perc bong won’t make you any more or less high, it’s simply meant to make the experience better. While bong percs cool your smoke down, the more percs you have the more drag is added to your pull. This means the bong can become harder to clear. We recommend using a bong with as much filtration and as little drag as you possibly can so that you can clear it in one go - but it’s not the end of the world if you can’t. We just don’t suggest leaving the smoke or it becomes very stale for the next person who hits it.

Diffused DownstemNot all bongs have percs, and you don’t need one, but they can make a noticeable difference. If you don’t have a perc, but don’t have the money to buy a whole new bong, try a diffused downstem. Instead of having a natural perc (usually meaning just one hole), you can get a downstem with two or three slits in it to help break your smoke up more. If you have an ice catcher, the two in combination can really enhance your toke!


There are several styles of percolator available and each has the goal of creating the most bubbles with the least amount of drag. Here we’ll break down some of the common styles you’ll see online and in your local head shop.

Tree Perc

    Tree percTree percs are said to be one of the first percs invented and they get their name from their hanging arms that look like branches. The ends of the branches have precision made slits in them to help break the smoke out as it flows out. Since the slits are stacked vertically, sometimes the lower slits don’t pull any smoke through, but they’re still fun to watch. Just be careful as slight bumps and drops are known for breaking tree percs.

    Showerhead Perc

      Showerhead PercProbably one of the most popular percs, showerhead percs go by many names, UFO, Tire, etc., but all are referring to these disk shaped devices. A tube comes up through the center before pushing your smoke out through the holes that surround the edge. Some showerhead percs may have as few as four slits, while others may have as many as 50. Since these slits are positioned horizontally, the water flow is more evenly distributed.

      Inline Perc

        Inline PercInline percs lay horizontally in your piece and work in lieu of a downstem. You’ll most often see these percs stacked with others above it. Sometimes inline percs will be small and fit inside the tube, while others choose to widen the tube to make room for a large inline perc.

        Honeycomb Perc

          honeycomb percThis hexagonal perc gets its name from, you guessed it, honeycomb. These percs sit in the tube of your piece so the smoke is forced up and through all the precision slit holes. These types of percs don’t add much drag to your piece and due to their size are often times stacked for maximum filtration.

          Matrix Perc

            Matrix PercMatrix percs sit in the center of your piece and operate like a stacked showerhead, bursting smoke from the laser cuts outward and up. Often called the birdcage, these percs are beautiful to look at, but are susceptible of the same issue other vertical percs have - the top row doesn’t pull much smoke through.

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