Although here in Europe the use of water pipes is not as widespread as in the United States, there are a growing number of smokers who prefer to consume their weed or concentrates through what is commonly called a bong. It can be easy for newcomers to the world of water pipes to become dazzled and confused by the vocabulary and terms used to describe water pipe accessories and their characteristics.
In this article we present a comprehensive guide to help beginners understand all about bongs and bubblers, their principal features and also the main accessories available to add to your water pipe.
Bubblers, rigs, bongs… these are just some terms used for the different water pipes available for the consumption of cannabis, whether in the form of flowers or as concentrates. Let’s take a look at some fundamental points to consider when buying a water pipe or accessories for a bubbler.
Connections, male or female?
Most glass pipes have at least one joint or connection to fit a bowl or the nail into.
These joints come in different diameters but generally they will be either 14mm or 18mm connections (although increasingly 10mm joints are used for dab rigs/oil bubblers). These connections are available in two different styles, either male or female, and it’s not possible to connect two elements of the same type, so if the pipe has a male joint, we’ll need a bowl or nail with a female join to fit it.
More commonly we’ll see male joints used on small bubblers, used for the vaporising BHO or Rosin in the form of a dab. More conventional water pipes or bongs will have a female connection. Always remember to check the style and size of the joint when buying new accessories for our pipes.
Adapters & Reducers
To be enable us to connect new accessories, we sometimes need to use additional adapters, connectors or reducers, offering the possibility of transforming a male joint into a female and vice versa, but also allowing us to alter the joint size according to our needs. Thanks to these adapters, a 14mm accessory can, for example, be fitted to an 18mm joint.
Some users also use adapters to protect the frosted joints, as the ground glass can get oily very quickly, and it can indeed be difficult to restore this slightly sandy texture found on the joints.
Diver / Downstem
This is the tube into which the bowl or nail is fitted and which carries the smoke or vapour below the surface of the water inside the pipe. On large-sized water pipes, they are usually on the lower part of the pipe, just above the water level, while for some bubblers they are on the top of the pipe. Depending on the bong, the downstem can be fixed or removable.
A diffuser is a downstem with several small holes on the submerged part, designed further diffuse the smoke, create more bubbles and thus offer a smoother toke. The smoke is dispersed in a multitude of small bubbles, to be re-concentrated in the suction tube of the water pipe.
Percolation is the moment when smoke enters the water of the pipe. Some glass pipes include a complex circuit or a series of tubes for diffusing the smoke inside the bong. The percolation will therefore soften the smoke by filtering and cooling it more.
There are many different styles and designs of percolator, each with its own particular flow, bubble size and drag, or resistance when inhaling. For smoking flowers the best thing is a bigger pipe with a more percolation. On the contrary, for dabbing oil in the form of dab, we will choose a smaller bubbler with less percolation.
Ashcatcher or precooler
This is an additional accessory for bongs. It contains a little water and often holds a percolator.
The Ashcatcher works to further cool the smoke created by the combustion of flowers, but it mainly serves to hold back any ash that makes it through the bowl and stops it from reaching the water in the main body of the bong. This will keep the bong water clean for longer, making for for less frequent cleaning and maintenance of the pipe.
Recycler Bubblers are glass pipes with an extra chamber for water. They cool the smoke or vapour in much the same way as an Ashcatcher, except that they are usually built into the pipe between the main body and the mouthpiece and cool the smoke as it leaves the pipe rather than as it enters.
A great feature for smoking in the heat of summer, to be found on some bongs and glass pipes. Located at the top of the main tube of the bong, nearest to the mouthpiece, the Ice Catcher is generally made up of 2 or 3 pinches or protrusions inside the tube, upon which we can rest a few ice cubes.
The ice cubes do an excellent job cooling the smoke as it passes over them, resulting in a much smoother smoke. Once we’ve tried it for the first time, we won’t want to smoke without it!
Beaker or Straight
Beaker in this case refers to laboratory equipment, used in pharmacy, chemistry … The word originates from the German word Becher meaning goblet. Beaker-style bongs have a wide, round base, allowing us to add a greater volume of water for more efficient filtration.
Because they can fit more water than straight tube bongs, beaker bongs will therefore provide a smoother smoke than with a straight water pipe.
Slide or Carb
In general, water pipes have a small hole on the back of the pipe known as a carb (short for carburetor) which we keep closed with our thumb while inhaling, then lift our thumb to open it and clear smoke from the bong. If our bong is not fitted with a carb, then all we need to do is to lift the bowl (or the slide, as our US friends call it) out of the joint for a moment at the end of inhalation to allow air in and clear the smoke from the pipe.
These are the main accessories available for water pipes, but here are a number of things that we haven’t talked about on here, such as drop-downs, bong clips, etc. Nevertheless we hope that this article will be useful as a gentle introduction to the vocabulary used in the world of water pipes and bongs, so you can find the right accessories to suit your needs.