Often referred to as “The Father of History”, ancient Greek historian Herodotus (484 B.C. – 425 B.C.) wrote of the earliest known use of a dry pipe, when he told of Scythians in the east using them to inhale burning leaves sometime around 500 B.C. Fast forward about 1600-1900 years - and a few thousand miles southwest - and you land in the Southeastern region of Africa somewhere in the range of 1100 A.D – 1400 A.D. It may have taken nearly two millennia, but it was here in what had to be the coolest village in Ethiopia, that the first water pipe is said to have been invented and put to use. Now, six centuries or so later, diffusing your smoke through water before inhaling it is still the optimal way to smoke. Lets just hope you’re not still using a bamboo tube with a bent gourd mouthpiece.
Before we get too far, let me say I am not bashing dry pipes at all! In fact, I use one pretty much daily. For the smoker on the go, or when you just need a quick rip, a dry pipe can be a lifesaver (or a doughnut!), and The Dab Lab always has a killer selection of dry pipes on deck. When given a choice, however, any seasoned vet will tell you that to achieve maximum flavor and effect from your smoke, moving it through a water pipe is essential.
Besides looking cool, that bubbling action that you see happening inside your water pipe when you pull air through it is highly functional. Referred to as diffusion, or percolation, the smoke is pulled from the bowl and into the water and that smoke is temporarily trapped in the bubbles you see. As those bubbles rise to the top of your water pipe, the smoke inside them is cooled, delivering a smooth and flavorful hit each time as those bubbles burst near your awaiting taste buds. There are many different styles of percolators available in water pipes; some producing a froth-like effect of tiny bubbles, others creating a chugging motion leading to larger bubbles.
Smaller bubbles cool down the smoke or vapor more than larger bubbles due to surface area. You may be thinking, “well, bigger bubbles have a bigger surface area, right?” Well, yeah, they do. But you can only fit some many bubbles into a fixed area. You will always be able to fit way more smaller bubbles which will always add up to a larger total surface area than the larger bubbles. When lighting plant matter, you will produce a pretty hot and harsh smoke, so often smaller bubbles with more diffusion is the preferred way to blaze dry herbs.
Of course, many people stand by simpler percs that produce that chug effect and larger bubbles. They’ll tell you that the increased flavor that they feel they get is a fair trade for any added harshness they might encounter. More often than not, this simple diffusion is preferred when vaping oils. The secondary function of the water is to act as a filter for the smoke or vapor before it enters your body. It’s better to have all of that plant matter, resin, and waxes floating inside your water pipe, instead of inside of you.
The African Bong’om tribe has been doing it for hundreds of years, don’t you think it’s time you scooped up a cool new water pipe for yourself? The Dab Lab is always just a click, phone call, or email away if you’d like some expert advice on what type of perc, and what style of diffusion, may work best for you.