Smoking a bong is a bit more complicated than smoking a bowl or smoking a joint. A bong is a specialty piece of equipment built for the cannabis aficionado. Bongs significantly change the smoking experience in a way that, for many people, is for the better, and the addition of water plays a significant role in that change.
But how much water do you need, and why do you need the water in the first place? Your approach might change a little with each type of bong.
What does water do in a bong?
When you smoke a joint or a bowl, you’re inhaling the smoke as soon as it’s been heated up. This means the hit is hot, and the feel of that hit is a lot harsher. The water in a bong cools your hit. The nice refreshing blast of water and addition of humidity makes a bong hit a lot smoother, allowing you to take bigger rips without feeling it harshly in the back of your throat or in your chest.
Bongs are the perfect tool for people who tend to choke on joints or bowls. The cooling effect, coupled with the fact that the water in the bong filters the smoke just a tiny bit, makes the smoking experience more pleasant for people.
The different kinds of bongs
There is no “official bong.” Instead, there are dozens of kinds of bong designs that each work in different ways. You can make a bong at home out of things you have lying around, or you can choose an expertly designed bong that was created to provide you with the optimal smoking experience.
Straight bongs are designed to be simple and durable. They’re a tube that goes straight up and down, making them the same shape from top to bottom. There aren’t many complicated features incorporated into a straight bong. They’re basic smoking pieces that are easy to use.
Beaker bongs are shaped like a beaker. The big, wide base makes them stable when they’re sitting on a table. This stability allows for longer tubes that offer bigger hits. These are a step up from straight bongs and are better for seasoned cannabis users that are looking for larger rips.
Percolator bongs are among the most complicated types of bongs. They’re usually beaker-shaped, and they have special mechanisms inside. The mechanism, called a percolator, enhances the effects a bong was designed to provide.
The percolators further filter and cool the smoke. The end result is the smoothest possible hit you’re ever going to get from flower. The smoke feels more like steam from a humidifier. It’s extremely gentle and extremely pleasant. The enhanced filtration and cooling of the smoke may allow you to enjoy the terpenes and flavors of your flower more, as they aren’t disguised by the harshness and the heat.
Multi-chambered bongs are similar to percolator bongs, but they double down on the effect. The smoke filters itself through every chamber of the bong before reaching you, making each hit supremely light and airy. These are among the most expensive bongs, but for people who are serious about cool, smooth hits, it’s worth the price.
A bubbler is a hybrid of a bong and a bowl. It’s tiny, convenient, and highly portable. It can be used dry like a bowl or filled with a little bit of water to give the effects of a basic bong on a much smaller scale. If you’re not too committed to the idea of a bong or only tend to use bongs once in a while, you’ll probably do well with a bubbler. Worst case scenario, you use it as a bowl.
Dab rigs are technically bongs and can be used as bongs. They’re also among the most complicated smoking devices. They’re designed to be used with dabs instead of flower, and optimizing the dabs experience is very different from optimizing the experience of smoking whole cannabis.
Dab rigs can be customized with any number of accessories, including accessories that convert them into normal bongs. If you want a multifunctional glass piece that you can use to smoke anything you buy, customizing your own dab rig is a great idea.
Gravity bongs are something that you make yourself. They use the magic of gravity to concentrate weed smoke and build a huge hit. Gravity bongs are delightfully excessive. They require a lot of weed and a lot of water to work properly. If you’re not down for a very intense high, stick to a more conventional bong.
Filling, using, and cleaning a bong
A bong is a little bit of a process. It’s nowhere as simple as “pack the bowl and smoke it” or, even better, “light the pre-rolled joint.” The smooth, clean smoking experience that a bong provides makes it worth the extra work.
The anatomy of a bong
Most bongs have several basic parts. There’s the mouthpiece, which is at the top of the chamber. The chamber is the tall part of the bong’s body, and the mouthpiece is the opening on top of that. Then you have the bowl, which is where you put the weed, and the downstem, which is the piece that connects the bowl to the water.
Inside, you might have percolators or extra chambers. These things work on their own. There isn’t anything you have to do to activate them.
How much water goes in a bong?
Don’t hold your bong under the tap and fill it until it overflows. You don’t actually need that much water. Look at your downstem. You need enough water to fully submerge the end of the downstem fully. Keep in mind that if you’re going to tilt the bong, the water distribution is going to change. Tilt the bong towards you and see how that affects the water level. You might want to add more to account for the tilt.
Percolators are a little different. The percolator needs to be fully submerged at the bottom in order to work correctly. These bongs require a little more water. Filling them through the mouthpiece and down into the chamber is the most effective way to submerge the percolators.
How to use a bong
Using a bong isn’t too terribly different from using a bowl. It’s just the orientation of the piece that’s different. First things first, fill the bowl with weed. Put your mouth over the mouthpiece. Light the bowl, and start to inhale. When you see the chamber filling up with smoke, slide the downstem out. Clear the chamber by inhaling the smoke.
How to clean a bong
Bongs collect resin very quickly. The best way to clean the resin out of your bong is to remove the bowl. Mix salt with a little bit of rubbing alcohol in a zip-top bag. Put the bowl in the bag, and close the top. Gently massage the bowl with the salt and rubbing alcohol mixture. Alcohol breaks down the resin and the salt helps to buff the residue off the bowl.
Remove the bowl from the bag, rinse it off with warm water, and wipe it down with a dry paper towel to remove any remnants.
The chamber of the bong can be cleaned by pouring out the dirty water and filling the bong with the same salt and alcohol mixture. You can use a soft, flexible brush to scrub the mixture around the inside to remove resin from the walls. Then, dump it again and flush it with clean water. Place it upside down on a paper towel to drip dry.
What about adding ice to a bong?
Adding ice to your bong isn’t necessary, but it’s something that people like to do. Ice is obviously colder than room temperature water, leading to an even smoother, crisper hit. Ice is 32 degrees Fahrenheit and will remain close to that temperature as it melts.
If you want to use ice, put a few ice cubes in first. Ice cubes will occupy a lot of space. Use the water to fill the space that isn’t occupied by ice cubes up to the right level for your downstem.
Every bong is a little bit different. After you’ve used your bong for a little while, you’ll intuitively know how much water you need to put in for the smoothest hits. As far as ice goes, to each their own. If you prefer a frosty hit, go ahead and drop some crushed ice or ice cubes into your bong.
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