Best type of percolator?  A Guide to Water Pipe Percs

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Best type of percolator? A Guide to Water Pipe Percs

What is the best type of percolator?  The answer is, as my sociology professor loved to say, “It depends.”

End of article.

No but seriously, what makes a perc’ more or less desirable?  To answer that question with the level of nuance it deserves, requires that we start at the beginning.  


What is a Water Pipe Percolator?

Beginning at the logical starting point, the definition of the word percolate is:

“To filter a liquid or gas gradually through a porous surface or substance.”

In the context of a water pipe percolator, it means some sort of glass shape with holes in it that allows smoke to be drawn through a compartment of water by the vacuum created from an inhalation.

That came out a lot wordier than I would have liked.  So here’s the simplified version: It’s the part of the water pipe that creates the bubbles in the water.

Therefore, at a high level, all percolators do the same freakin’ thing.  But, like anything, some varieties do it with more style and effectiveness than others.

What makes a good percolator?

Focusing on functionality, what separates a great perc from an average perc is the number and size of the bubbles, balanced by the additional force required to hit with the water pipe.

More drag is less desirable, because it requires the smoker to inhale harder in order to clear the pipe.

More, smaller bubbles are more desirable, because this maximizes the surface area in contact with the water.  This enhances the filtering effect, cooling and cleaning the smoke for that buttery-smooth rip that makes water pipes legendary.

What are the different types of percolators?

In all reality, there are as many different types of percs as there are numbers of glassblowers.  But, if we lump them into fairly recognizable categories, there are about 10 main kinds:

  1. (Fritted) Disc / Circ / Donut Perc - round, donut-shaped percolator with holes or slits on the bottom or sides
  2. Showerhead / UFO Perc - similar to a disc percolator, but with a center channel to increase surface area
  3. Swiss / Faberge Egg Perc - swiss-cheese looking design that creates cool visual effects
  4. Honeycomb Perc - bubble-maximizing design that looks like the inside of a beehive
  5. Diffused Downstem Perc - a simple tube with slits in the sides
  6. Barrel / Matrix / Pineapple Perc - a multi-layer stacked disc-style that may have straight sides (barrel, matrix) or rounded shape (pineapple)
  7. Tree Perc - multi-armed design similar to curved downstems, resembling a Weeping Willow tree
  8. Inline Perc - straight, horizontal tube design with holes or slits on the underside
  9. Turbine / Propeller / Tornado Perc - horizontal percolator with angled slits or propellers that create a cyclone effect
  10. Spiral / Coil Perc - a twisting design that may or may not incorporate freezable glycerin for maximum cooling effect

Excited to compare the effects of different percolator types?  As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  At the same time, form follows function, so knowing the ins and outs of percolation technologies will let you gauge which water pipe will rip like a chainsaw and which will fizzle like a flat soda.