Glass Percolation 101

24th Apr 2019

Glass Percolation 101

If you've been smoking a while yourself, or been around people who smoke, then you've likely heard the term “percolator” or “perc” before. Even if you are a veteran in the smoke industry with a lifetime of experience, the term “percolator” might still be shrouded in mystery. However, percolators are critical to the smokers' culture as an added standard within the industry. In this article, we'll discuss what a percolator is, its purpose and function, and the various types you'll find in water pipes. We'll also touch on the health benefits of having a percolator instead of a piece without one.

What is a Percolator?

For some who are not familiar with water pipes, the prospect of smoking out of one may be slightly intimidating. The cultural stigma around them causes them to appear more potent than other smoking instruments, and in many ways they are.

The purpose of smoking out of a borosilicate glass water pipe, versus the standard pipe, is to make the smoking process easier and smoother for the individual, as a standard pipe provides a very direct, harsh inhale, and usually results in coughing on the exhale. A percolator furthers that goal by adding an additional means of smoke diffusion, which not only further helps to cool the smoke, but filters out carcinogens in the process, giving the individual cleaner, smoother inhales with less coughing. There are many different types of percolators, and each one has a different effect.

How does it work?

Using a borosilicate piece with a percolator means that the smoke will enter multiple levels of diffusion before entering the lungs. Before the inhale, the smoke will first go through the piece's downstem, which contains either slits or holes, and is then broken up into smaller sections as it enters the chamber filled with water. These smaller sections break apart the carcinogens in the smoke, trapping them into the water as the smoke then enters the secondary chamber within the glass piece. Depending on the type of percolator, the smoke is then further broken up into smaller sections, which aid in further cooling the smoke and remove even more carcinogens prior to entering the lungs. In instances where the piece is stemless, the smoke gets diffused directly through the percolator and water chamber similtaneously. In either instance of percolation, this kind of diffusion allows the individual to get a deeper inhale than they normally would with a standard pipe with less couging on the exhale. The smoke will lose its harsh effect going through two chambers of diffusion, and the intake will be far easier. For most, this trade-off of a smaller, dry inhale for a larger, smoother inhale is well worth the cost.

Types of Percolators

All percolators provide an additional layer of filtration for the smoke, making for much more enjoyable and smoother smoke experiences for the individual. However, different percolators accomplish this type of smoke diffusion differently. Each type of percolator also contributes its own unique aesthetic touch to each glass water pipe, and some even come in color! These are the 10 most common styles of percolators.

          1. Honeycomb Percolators

The shape of honeycomb percolators gives them the functionality they need to filter smoke with an efficiency higher than other percolators. The round discs contain a large number of small holes, which break apart smoke particles and provide a level of diffusion much higher than a percolator with less surface area. This means a smoother, cooler inhale for the individual, with even less carcinogens.


          2. Tree Percolators

Tree percolators are fairly simple. Within the tube of the water pipe, there is a chamber containing a collection of rods that resemble tree limbs. With a few slits up the bottom of each “limb”, there will be plenty of diffusion to break apart smoke particles and promote a smooth inhale. While many tree percolators are easily broken, borosilicate glass tree percolators are much more durable. At The Herbal Place, all our tree percolators are fixed percolators, which means they're even less likely to break during normal use.


          3. Inline Percolators

Inline percolators are simple horizontal or vertical tubes with several slits in them. The more slits there are in an inline percolator, the more diffusion takes place within the piece. These types of percolators are usually paired with another percolator within the water pipe.

          4. Showerhead Percolators

Benefits of having a showerhead percolator is that the smoke gets pulled through the chamber multiple times. Showerhead percolators use a tube that connects to the main shamber to bring smoke back through a larger tube, which then directs the smoke down and into another percolator with varying quantities of slits. The more slits there are in the percolator, the greater the diffusion, and the smoother the inhale. Many pieces that include a showerhead percolator often have more than one to aid in diffusion.


          5. Matrix Percolators

Matrix percolators might have the most varied array of designs as a percolator, and are located in the center of the tube, with plenty of space around them for optimal aesthetics. Combining the style of disc percs with the slashes and holes of barrel percs, matrix percolators are cylindrical. The number, location, size and direction of holes within the chamber can vary. Because the top holes do not have much resistance, the lower holes bring less smoke in. A matrix percolator operates much in the same way that a showerhead percolator does in that smoke gets pulled into the chamber multiple times through a tube that connects to the main chamber.


          6. Vortex Percolators

Vortex percolators excel in function while also delivering a unique aesthetic to the piece. The shape of the percolator causes water to travel up the sides of the water pipe, which provides effective filtration and carcinogen removal in addition to incredible visuals.


          7. Chandelier Percolators

The most powerful of all percolators, chandelier (also called pineapple) percolators take diffusion to the next level. Their design is similar to the honeycomb percolator, yet much more intense. With a ball shape that is covered in holes, they will fill your piece with bubbles, breaking up the smoke into smaller clusters, which allows for intense filtration and smoke diffusion. This type of percolator is the ultimate go-to percolator for the individual looking for the biggest, cleanest and smoothest inhale possible with the least coughing in the water pipe world. Unfortunately, with this type of percolator, cleaning isn't as easy as it is with other percolator types.


          8. Barrel Percolators    

Connected directly to the direct inject downstem, a barrel percolator can be positioned upright or sideways within a water pipe. With more slits than most percolators, the cylindrical percolator and its gridded slots allow for increased diffusion. The additional bubbles that are produced as a result of those holes are what make this percolator ideal for those looking for a thorough filter in an all-in-one piece.

          9. Fab Egg Percolators

While a fab egg percolator will not efficiently filter smoke independently, it will work well when paired with another percolator. When paired with another percolator, smoke will filter and spread out, creating more surface area diffusion and carcinogen filtration. Additionally, the fab egg percolator brings a very appealing aesthetic to the piece.


          10. Downstems

Downstems are the most basic of percolators, in both appearance and function. A downstem is a simple tube that holds your slide and sits in the main water chamber, usually with either slits or holes in the bottom, that allows air to enter the chamber and improves airflow.

Downstems are a common feature for water pipes. They can be easily removed and cleaned, and they can be replaced by different downstems when needed or desired. They come in both 14mm and 18.8mm sizing, depending on the piece.

Health Benefits

No matter if you’re a new or experienced smoker, almost everybody has coughed after taking an inhale and knows how painful it is. The dreaded cough usually happens because you have filled your lungs to capacity and it needs to release all that smoke and pressure by coughing it out, especially if you a take huge inhales. A majority of the time the reason for that burning and tingly sensation you feel in the back of your throat before coughing is due to how the smoke traveled. When smoking traditionally, it isn't as common, but when smoking out of a basic glass rig or dry pipe, the smoke goes directly from chamber to your lungs, making it almost impossible not to cough. A percolator can help lesson, and even avoid, that painful cough and remove carcinogens at the same time.

Percolators provide a smoother, better smoking experience by cooling down the smoke before it is inhales. The bubbles from the heated water inside percolators work to refine the smoke since the smoke is filtered through those bubbles. This makes the practice of smoking from water pipes healthier as it removes toxins.

While using a vaporizer is still arguably the healthiest option for smoking, making sure that you use clean water in a clean glass piece is also a very good way to reduce impurities and toxins. Smoking through a water filtration system also adds a third benefit, moisture. By forcing the smoke through water, some of the then heated water is transformed into vapor. This adds moisture to the smoke before it hits the throat and lungs, making it a purer more comfortable inhale than other traditional methods.

Nicotine is not removed during the filtration process, and further filtration is difficult to achieve without the aid of percolators. In order to achieve great water filtration, the surface area of the smoke must be less than or equal to the surface area of the bubbles that form in the water. Because smoke is many times greater in surface area, this high percentage of filtration is very difficult to reach without the aid of a percolator.

Regardless of the percolator style that you prefer, a water pipe with a percolator will improve your smoking experience and your health. There's no substitute for the feeling that a smooth, cleaner inhale gives you.