Whether you’re looking for a simple piece of glass or something straight out of a chemistry lab, finding the perfect bong can be tricky with so many options available. And if you’ve ripped a few bongs in your life, you’ve probably heard of a percolator bong, or “perc,” before, though their purpose may still be a mystery.
Percolators are a type of glass bong, sometimes called “water pipe,” that diffuse cannabis smoke and make it easier to inhale. Percolator bongs are a longtime staple in weed culture.
Do percolators actually make any difference in your smoking experience, or are they just fancy additions that function just as well as plain glass bongs? You’re in luck, because these are exactly the kind of questions we’ll be answering in Weedmaps’ guide to percolator bongs.
What is a percolator bong?
While percolators can look complicated, they actually make your bong easier to hit. Located either in the tube of the bong or the base, a perc is basically a small glass contraption which water passes through to create a filter.
When you inhale from a percolator bong, the smoke is diffused into tons of bubbles which make that classic bong rip sound. These bubbles increase the surface area over which smoke travels within the piece, giving it time to cool down and filter out impurities. This process produces a smoother hit, which means less coughing and more bong rips.
If you’re new to bong life, or you usually find them to be too harsh on your throat, you may want to include a perc on your list of must-haves when shopping for a bong. Plus, adding a percolator bong to your repertoire of smoking accessories can be highly cost effective.
Bongs are great for getting you maximally stoned with a small amount of weed, and adding a perc to the mix allows you to ingest more smoke at a time, thus getting you higher than usual.
What are the different types of percolators?
Perc bongs come in all shapes and sizes, but there are a few standard ones you’ll find in most smoke shops. Some bongs may have multiple percs that work together to provide an enhanced smoking experience. You can also find detached ash catchers that feature various percs so you can upgrade a bong you already own.
Tree percolators are probably the easiest to recognize, made up of multiple rods connected at the top which resemble tree limbs. Air comes up from a central tube and down through the rods which are slitted at the bottom, diffusing bubbles into the bong.
With more rods on your perc, you’ll experience maximum filtration, though a tree percolator can be a bit delicate compared to other types. It’s important to always shop from retailers who provide thick borosilicate glass bongs that won’t break easily.
An inline percolator is simply a horizontal tube with several slits in them. As you probably guessed by now, more slits equals more percolation within your bong. These percs are typically located in the base of the bong and complement other types of percs, such as a showerhead.
Shaped like a showerhead, these bad boys are a popular choice among percolator lovers. Slits or holes are placed at the bottom of a vertical tube that flares out, pulling smoke into a separate diffusion chamber above the water in the base. Usually a showerhead perc will be located in the neck of the bong, especially in beaker-shaped pieces.
If you want to spice up your favorite bong, a diffused downstem might be the answer. Rather than a straight glass downstem, a diffused downstem has several slits at the bottom that improve air flow into the base of your piece. Be sure to purchase the correct size downstem for your specific bong.
Honeycomb percolators are arguably among the most sought after percs — and for good reason. These percs feature flat discs, usually more than one, studded with a bunch of tiny holes (hence the name). They’re typically found in straight tube bongs stacked directly above one another to create additional chambers for the smoke to pass through.
Even more powerful than the honeycomb, fritted disc percs are made up of coarse glass particles bonded together to create what seems like a million itty-bitty holes — those with trypophobia beware. They can be formed into a disc or ball shape, among others. These percs are best for the adventurous smoker who seeks the perfect bong rip, even if that means constant cleaning.
Commonly paired with a honeycomb due to it’s disc shape, turbine percs are slabs of glass that feature slits around the edges. When you inhale, it creates a visually appealing whirlpool as water and bubbles are pulled through it. Basically, these percs diffuse your hit and also look super dope.
How to keep your bong clean
Percs can definitely improve the quality of your bong rips, but they can also make your piece more difficult to clean. Resin will gunk up the nooks and crannies of the percs over time, rendering them useless. Luckily, you can avoid this problem altogether by cleaning your bong regularly with a mixture of salt and rubbing alcohol or a glass cleaning solution.
A bong with one or more percs will likely require more frequent cleaning than a piece with no percs, but super smooth bong rips are worth a little extra time spent cleaning.
Is there anything else I should know?
This is by no means an exhaustive list of every variant of percolator out there. It never hurts to ask your local smoke shop cashier how a perc works, or if you’re shopping online, to do some research before hitting “pay now.”
Shopping for glass is a personal experience, so be sure to consider your lifestyle when choosing. Maybe you want a purely functional piece that is easy to clean, or perhaps you want a cool scientific piece with three percs for monstrous hits. Either way, the perfect bong for you is out there — you just need to find it.
Featured image by In Green/Shutterstock