What Is A Percolator Bong & Are They Worth It?
That shelf of glass contraptions behind the smoke shop counter looks like something from a mad scientist's laboratory.
There are beakers and bubblers, hookahs and hammers, pipes and percolators. Sometimes it's hard to understand just what everything is and how it all works.
Thankfully, most glass smoking pieces are self-explanatory. After all, there's not that much to a one-hitter or a hand pipe. The one that stumps a lot of folks, though, is the percolator bong.
Sure, a perc might look like a regular water pipe at first glance. However, upon closer inspection, it's evident that there are some extra bits and pieces inside.
So, what is a percolator bong exactly, and how do you use the thing?
What is a Percolator Bong?
Percolator bongs are an advanced type of water pipe. They get their name from the addition of diffusers designed to filter and cool the smoke.
These diffusers, known as percolators (or percs for short), force the smoke into many tiny bubbles, resulting in a smoother smoking experience.
Available in a wide variety of designs incorporating different diffusion methods, all percolators serve to improve water filtration of the smoke, resulting in a cooler, more enjoyable session.
There’s definitely some science behind that process.
How Does a Percolator Work?
All water pipe designs function in a similar manner. Smoke is forced through liquid when the user inhales, creating bubbles inside the water chamber.
These bubbles maximize the surface area of the smoke, cooling it and filtering it along the way.
Percolator bongs take this science further by introducing various diffusion and aeration methods to create more bubbles.
More bubbles mean more surface area for the smoke. And more surface area results in improved filtration and smoother bong hits.
Types of Percolator Bongs
Percolator bongs are available in a variety of styles and sizes. Some are crafted with simple, single diffusers, while others feature multiple, more complex percs.
And some designs are actually works of art that sell for hundreds of dollars.
Disregarding those museum pieces, though, let's look at some of the other more common types of perc bongs.
A matrix percolator, also known as a stereo perc, is a round piece of glass with rows of small holes in a grid pattern around its circumference.
Upon inhalation, the smoke is forced through these slits, creating 360 degrees of bubbles in the water chamber.
Matrix percs are sometimes stacked on top of one another to create more bubbles for a smoother smoking experience.
An inline percolator bong features a horizontal glass tube, usually near the bottom of the water chamber, fitted with a series of holes along its length.
As with other percolator bongs, smoke is forced through these slits, creating many tiny bubbles. Inline diffusers are often combined with other perc types, such as tree or showerhead percolators.
As the name suggests, tree percolators feature glass rods (limbs) originating from a central tube (trunk).
Smoke travels through the trunk and down through the limbs.
Small slits near the bottom of these glass rods generate a large number of bubbles as the smoke is forced through the water chamber.
Increasing the number of limbs in a tree percolator design maximizes this diffusion.
Showerhead percs are relatively basic designs. They feature a vertical tube with a flared section at the bottom resembling a bathroom shower.
A series of slits placed around the circumference of the "showerhead" force the smoke or vapor into bubbles when the user inhales.
Showerhead percolators are frequently found in combination with other types of diffusers.
As its name implies, this style of percolator looks like a honeycomb. The honeycomb perc is a flat glass disk containing numerous small holes.
When the user inhales, these holes create a flurry of tiny bubbles that maximize the surface area of the smoke or vapor.
Honeycomb discs are frequently stacked one above another for increased cooling and filtration.
A downstem is a glass piece connecting a bong's bowl to its water chamber.
Regarding percolator bongs, some types feature diffused downstems containing added holes or slits near the bottom of the tube.
Again, the bubbles created by these tiny holes help to filter and cool the smoke as it enters the water chamber.
Fritted Disc Perc
Fritted discs are made from crushed glass, formed into porous filters that force smoke into millions of tiny bubbles.
As with other percolator bongs, this process maximizes the surface area of the smoke or vapor, filtering and cooling it as it passes through the water.
Multiple fritted discs can be stacked for increased diffusion.
Percolator Bong vs Regular Bong
Consider how a typical bong works. Smoking material is placed in a bowl attached to a tube connecting the bowl to an enclosed water chamber.
When the user inhales through the mouthpiece, smoke from the lit material is forced down the line and into the water chamber, where it forms bubbles.
As they pass through the water, the surface area of those bubbles allows for cooling and filtering of the smoke.
In the classic, regular style bong, the single hole at the bottom of the downstem only generates a few relatively large bubbles with minimal surface area.
On the other hand, a percolator bong delivers many more small bubbles with a significantly greater surface area than those created by regular water pipes.
As we’ve seen, more bubbles mean more surface area for the smoke to filter and cool. And who doesn’t appreciate a smoother bong hit?
Pros and Cons of Percolator Bongs
- Compared to other pipes without diffusion methods, percolator bongs deliver a cooler, cleaner, and smoother smoking experience.
- Studies have shown that perc bongs help filter and trap heavy particles that might be hazardous to the lungs.
- Some users suggest a more potent smoking experience with percolators due to the ability to take bigger, more frequent hits.
- The intricate components inside perc bongs can make them harder to clean than more basic glass pieces.
- Because of their complex design, percolator bongs aren’t typically as portable as other glass smoking devices.
- Percolators create resistance. Some folks may have difficulty inhaling through these devices, especially percs with multiple diffusers.
What is the purpose of percolators in a bong?
Percolators are typically small glass features inside the water chamber of a bong that diffuse smoke or vapor into tiny bubbles when the user inhales.
Those bubbles create more surface area for the smoke to be cooled and filtered as it passes through the water. More bubbles usually result in smoother hits.
Are bong percolators hard to clean?
The short answer is, “yes.”
Holes and slits in the various perc types will eventually become clogged with resin. You’ll know this is happening because it will become increasingly challenging to draw a hit through the resistance.
As with most other glass pieces, frequent cleaning with a mixture of isopropyl alcohol and table salt is a must.
Are percolator bongs worth it?
While percolator bongs may be among the more expensive glass pieces in an online smoke shop, it’s hard to put a price on a cooler, cleaner, and healthier smoking experience.
And some folks find perc bongs so efficient that they’re actually spending less on product. What’s not to like about that?