What Makes A Good Water Pipe?
Cloud 9 Gang!
Have you ever pulled up to your local smoke shop to buy a new piece and realized you don't really know what you're looking for?
Well, look no further, Cloud 9 has got you covered!
As smoking is becoming more and more mainstream, so has the use of this classic smoking apparatus. The Water Pipe has been a fan favorite since your father and hippy uncle were toking Mexican Brick and wearing bellbottoms, but a lot has changed since then and you’re probably wondering: “Outside of the traditional, straight tube water pipe, what qualities comprise a good quality water pipe?”
We’ve narrowed down the most important factors in the article below to help you decide what makes the best water pipe for you.
- Wear-Resistance & Material Quality: Depending on your needs based on your situation, the water pipe you need can be different than the one your homie needs. Water pipes can vary in material from thick, high-quality glass to ceramic, acrylic, and silicone. Each material has it’s pros and cons, which we will delve into below.
- Maintenance & Cleaning: Some water pipes are easier to clean than others, something you should definitely consider when buying new piece. We’ll jump into some pro-tips as well as our favorite cleaning devices below.
- Filtration: This is arguably the most important factor because the number of times the smoke is filtered is dictated by how many percolators and diffusers a piece has, as well as the placement of the downstem. This insures that the purest smoke available reaches your lungs, saving you from the tar and carcinogens present in the smoke.
- Dry herb or Concentrate: If we put attachments to the side, often times a pipes use and function can be determined by the size, shape, and ergonomic presence of the piece itself. Larger water pipes usually pair with dry herb (bigger chamber=more smoke), while smaller water pipes are better used for concentrates (smaller chamber=less smoke).
Water Pipe Durability & Material Quality
Glass: Long-toted as the best material to craft a water pipe from, depending on your sesh this is most likely what you’re looking for. Cannabis enthusiasts love using glass because it’s odor neutral, antibacterial (take that COVID), durable, and dependable. The most durable of these are those made from thick, boroscilate glass. Glass water pipes also provide the highest quality taste when compared to its differently-built contemporaries. As well, most glass water pipes feature perks like percolators, diffusers, and other filtration methods that purify the smoke for smoother rips, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, that topic is covered in our next section.
-Highest quality taste
-Filtrations features like percolators
-Usually the most expensive
-durable, but still breakable
Silicone: These rubbery water pipes are unique in their own rite because they’re the only pieces that allow for total flexibility, near invincible travel, and even taste comparable to glass, according to some cannabis aficionados. Even though these are made from a rubber-like material, they’re still safe to use near a flame, as they’re constructed from the same food grade material as cooking supplies.
-Perfect Travel Companion
-Easy to clean (Throw that bad boy in the dishwasher)
-Smell (this water pipe can stink if not properly cleaned)
-Rarely comes with features
Acrylic: Or otherwise known as plexiglass is often a cheaper alternative to glass water pipes. As with silicone, these pieces are normally great for travel because they’re more durable and a bit cheaper. Negatively, the plastic can be effected by the heat from the bowl and pollute that wonderful ganja smoke with harmful carcinogens if the acrylic present isn’t crafted from high-quality plastics. As well, these water pipes have the worst taste because of their porous nature.
-Tons of shapes and colorways to choose from
-Bad taste when compared to other pipes
Low quality acrylic may contain harmful substances
Ceramic: This material often combines the pros and cons of glass and acrylic pieces. The selling point of ceramic water pipes is often that of style or the “collector’s” nature of their designs. They function like a glass water pipe insofar as providing smooth, flavor neutral tokes, but fail to provide the same durability. Most of the time these pieces are better off left on a shelf than put to use.
-Good, pure flavor
-Great stealth pieces
-Clunky, hard to travel
-Usually less functional pipes than glass offers
Water Pipe Maintenance & Upkeep
This can make or break a water pipe purchase for many reasons. Have you ever tried to clean a water pipe only to find that those honeycomb and shower-head percolators you thought were badass are now just a pain in the ass? We sure have and that’s why knowing your needs is so important.
Otherwise, silicone water pipes can be cleaned in the dishwasher, just make sure to use a natural cleaner or your bud’s gonna taste like soap! Ceramic and acrylic pieces must be assessed on a case by case basis, as ceramic is incredibly breakable and may not be worth washing if it will break and acrylic is usually made from multiple materials.
New to pipe cleaning? Check out our blog post with cleaning tips proven to work!
How does water pipe filtration work?
When you light the greenery in your bowl, you pull the smoke down through (hopefully) clean water. The smoke then accumulates and circulates through the piece, becoming little hazey bubbles that burst and flow into your lungs from the downstem once the chamber is cleared. This is where the cooling effect happens: since the surface area of the smoke increases it chills quickly, making it much more appealing to the sensitive lung tissue in your chest.
Some water pipes even feature ice catchers. Adding ice cubes to an ice catch allows the smoke to pass through a chamber lined with ice, in turn cooling the ice even MORE. If you use a water pipe with a higher number of percolators, you'll get even better smoke cooling and filtration, especially with more heady pieces that feature multiple percolators and diffusers, though you may find upkeep a bit more challenging.
Another amazing feature that percolators and water pipes offer is protection from the dreaded “Scooby-Snack”, which is a phrase most cannabis users evoke with a grimace. Though these terms might be goofy, nobody likes the taste of charred ash in their mouth. Butane, as well as carcinogens, are also filtered out during this process. Have you ever noticed how dirty that water gets? Dayummmmm! That’s all of the toxins and tar that could be lining your lungs. Ash catchers add another layer of filtration intros process and are often utilized to combat this issue.
Water pipe percolators
The goal of smoking a water pipe is to make the smoking process feel much smoother. In contrast, the goal of dabbing is to isolate and enjoy flavor. A percolator aims to further that goal by cooling down the smoke, and providing premium filtration. There are several different types of percolators, and each has a slightly different effect, though the goal of further cooling and filtering the smoke remains the same.
While the smoke will lose some of the effect going through two or more chambers of water, the intake will be far easier. This will enable most people to ingest more smoke than they normally would. Almost every stoner is willing to accept this trade-off, especially in the long-run.
Dry Herb Or Concentrate?
As we previously mentioned, when you’re smoking dry herb, the goal is to filter the smoke as thoroughly as possible to deliver the smoothest hit, while enjoying concentrates is to isolate the wax and taste the fullness of its flavor. These distinctions are important when you’e choosing the best water pipe.
Consider: Am I taking milky hits of that sweet sweet herb? Or am I ripping the crumble until my eyes water? Only you can decide.
As you may or may not know, all water pipes including dab rigs feature male and female joints that, just as they say, function together as long as there’s and opposing mate. Water pipes will have a bowl piece that goes into the joint so you can smoke dry herb using a traditional light instead of a loud industrial torch. However, in order to vaporize concentrated oils or waxes, you need to connect a dab nail to the joint on your water pipe. You will heat the dab nail with a dab torch and toss, place, or dab your concentrates until they’re vaporized. Attaching a bowl piece to a water pipe converts it to a bong and adding a dab nail to a water pipe transforms your herb smoker to an oil burner or a dab rig.
If you’re unfamiliar with the dabbing process, check out our blog posting that explains all of the beautiful intricacies that the world of dabbing concentrates offers.
Size also plays a role here, as I previously mentioned, because dry herb requires a larger chamber for more smoke, while concentrates prefer a smaller chamber because less substance is being turned into smoke. A larger piece may not be as effective with concentrate and a smaller piece may not pull enough smoke from the dry herb into the chamber so make sure to consider this among the other glass features before choosing your own.