By Amanda Cubine
We’ve come a long way from the days of beer can pipes and apple bongs; and in this new age of unlimited updates to smoking equipment, it becomes increasingly harder to keep up with (and understand) all of the improvements. The key to finding your perfect bong is knowing exactly what functions you need from it. However, bong percolators come in an ever-growing variety of shapes and sizes. So, which one is for you? Let’s start off with the basics: Getting to know the function of a perc.
WHAT IS A BONG PERCOLATOR (PERC)?
The first step in finding your perfect piece or understanding your current glass is knowing how everything works. Percolators provide interior filtration, cooling and moisturization to improve the quality of your hits. The general idea is that water passes through the small spaces or holes in the perc, creating bubbles. These bubbles work to cool and clean out impurities in your smoke, while also adding moisture, resulting in smoother hits. Percs with more openings to force the water through will have a stronger effect on the smoke quality, creating a more refreshing result. Basically, the more percolation you have, the higher quality smoke you get. The trade-off is; the more thorough the perc, the harder it is to clean. If you’re a regular smoker and you want a solid piece for everyday use, you might want to stick to simpler percs that won’t dilute your smoke or get quickly clogged up. If you’re looking for the ultimate smooth-smoking experience, then take all the percolation you can get!
Another thing to take into account is the amount of drag (how hard you have to pull on the bong to get a rip) and thoroughness of diffusion. The more thorough a perc is, the more resistance you can expect when taking a drag. However, if you’re looking into single-chamber pieces, this really isn’t anything to worry about. Now that you have a general sense of what a perc is, let’s get a closer look at the different kinds, and how they work.
If you’ve ever used a beaker bong, you’re probably familiar with this one. Diffused downstems are a classic form of filtration most commonly used in beaker or straight-tube bongs. They are usually removable, making them easy and convenient to clean. If you’re looking for a simple, daily-use kind of piece, this type of filtration will do the trick. The slits on the base of the downstem force the water through, creating bubbling in the chamber. While it’s not the most thorough perc, it will provide you with a pleasant layer of protection between yourself and the hot smoking in the bowl. Add to that how easy this perc is to clean, and it tops the charts for casual use.
Another common perc style, tree percs are a more precise, albeit potentially problematic mode of filtration. Tree percs consist of a central tube connecting the arms (usually between 4 and 12 arms) with horizontal slits on the base of each. As you drag on your bong, air is forced up through the center tube and back down through the slits in each arm, sending a frenzy of bubbles all around the chamber. The downsides - cleaning and fragility. As is the way of glass, the small arms are more prone to breakage than many other percs. The arms can be tough to clean well, but a nice long soak in cleaning solution should suffice if your piece is cleaned regularly. All in all, this type of perc is great if you’re looking for visual appeal and a nicely filtered hit, and can keep it well maintained.
SHOWERHEAD PERC (UFO)
If you want the functionality of a tree perc without the fragility, showerhead percs, also known as UFO percs, are a good place to start. There are 2 main types of showerhead percs. The simplified, more common showerhead consists of a round slitted disc connected to the joint of the bong. This gives you 360 bubbling but doesn’t usually cover a great amount of surface area in the chamber. If you want a smoother hit than that, the upgraded version of the showerhead perc (more often called a UFO perc) works similar to a tree perc, with a central tube forcing air up the inside of the perc and shooting it back down through the slits in the surrounding outer tire. This gives you added sturdiness while producing similarly smooth smoke to a tree perc.
This is a more simple style of perc, but still efficient. This perc draws air from the connection to the joint, and shoots it out each of the hoses to create all-around filtration. The effectiveness of this perc depends on the number of hoses around the perimeter, and it can come in a wide variety of styles. Sprinkler percs are more effective when the hoses are all on the same level than when some are higher than others. This gives a more evenly distributed diffusion. With the lack of smaller exits for the air on this perc, it isn’t a super thorough mode of filtration and cooling, but it can provide nice quality hits while being easier than other percs to keep clean.
Putting an interesting spin on the diffused downstem, an inline is a horizontal diffused percolator. With slits across the base, this style can be more effective than a traditional downstem thanks to the slits all being level and covering more surface area in the chamber. Often, bongs with this type of perc will have a protruding chamber to allow more room for better diffusion. These are often found in multi-chamber bongs designed to churn out super smooth hits. On its own it’s not the most effective style of filtration, but it will still cool your smoke and put a solid barrier or protection between the bowl piece and you.
Here’s where the percolation gets real good. A Honeycomb perc is a flat disc stretching across a chamber of a bong. The disc is covered in small holes all across the surface. This creates evenly distributed bubbling with a multitude of small bubbles, giving you an expertly filtered hit. With other percs, such as tree percs, you get an uneven distribution of use, as the water will naturally filter more through the higher slits. Honeycombs eliminate this inequality completely. Although this type of perc needs to be cleaned regularly in order to function perfectly, it is an extremely popular filtration style due to it’s almost unbeatable effectiveness.
MATRIX PERC (STEREO)
Now venturing into some lesser-known territory: Matrix percs are widely appreciated for their aesthetically pleasing look, and put on an eye-catching show when put to use. If visually appealing drags are important to you, you can’t do much better than a matrix perc. In function, they are quite similar to a showerhead perc, with a tube coming up through the center and forcing the air back down to the vertical slits around the perimeter. The difference here is that the slits are both horizontal and vertical, giving you an absolute all-around flurry of gorgeous bubbling. Even when not in use, this perc is a simply gorgeous style.
aka disc or tornado perc This percolator style puts on just about the coolest show of filtering you can hope for from a bong. This disc-style perc covers the chamber, and has diagonal slits around the perimeter. The angle of the slits causes a whirlpool-effect on the water when you take a drag, pulling it up in a liquid tornado shape. Although they aren’t as thorough as a honeycomb or tree perc, this style works great with concentrates, as it won’t overly-diffuse your hits. You can count on a turbine perc to be the ultimate showstopper in terms of aesthetics!
The swiss perc is what you would call a natural perc: While it doesn’t filter water through any slits or holes, it creates a smoother hit by letting the water do the work. The ‘holes’ in the glass don’t actually open up the chamber to the elements. Rather, they create an internal obstacle course for the water in your bong to travel through. When you take a drag, the water and smoke are pulled over and around the holes, creating more bubbles and area space which in turn make your smoke into an even smoother hit. This type of perc is usually coupled with another perc below, and provides both functionality and a visually intriguing sight.
FRITTED DISC PERC
You thought a honeycomb was a good perc? Well, that’s definitely true, but fritted disc percs take it to another level. This perc works very similarly to a honeycomb: The difference is in the amount of diffusion. With a flat tangle of glass and innumerable holes, the bubbling created by this perc is nothing short of astounding. Each of the small holes pulls the water and smoke through creating a mass of bubbling and cooling like no other. This is pretty much as smooth as it gets. If you have sensitive lungs or just enjoy a super-smooth hit, this is the perc for you. Side note: Stay on top of cleaning with this one!
These are just a few of the countless styles of percolators you can find on the market. The world of bongs is rapidly expanding, and percs can be made into pretty much any shape imaginable. If the perc you’re looking for didn’t make it onto the list, fear not. This guide is here to give you a basic understanding of how all styles of perc work. As long as you take into account the size of the perc and amount of holes or slits, you can get a good idea of what quality diffusion you’re going to get. If you still have questions about how your bong perc works, shoot us an email anytime and we will be happy to help you gain a better understanding of your piece!
Which style percolator is your favorite, and why? Let us know in the comments!