The Smoker’s Guide to Water Pipe Percolators

Guide to Water Pipe Percolators
Most smokers have a water pipe in their arsenal, if not a few prized pieces. That perfect bubbling sound as you take a hit is music to your ears, but did you know that the credit for all those beautiful bubbles actually goes to your water pipe’s percolator? While most water pipes are equipped with percolators, not many smokers are aware of the variety of percolators or even what role they play in your favorite pastime.

Water Pipe Percolator FAQ

What is a percolator water pipe?

Percolators are essentially a filtration system that forces the smoke to travel through water before inhalation. The more holes the percolator has, the more your smoke is filtered. This allows the smoke to dissipate more heat than it would through the air, and provides for a cooler hit when it gets to your mouth.

How do I use a water pipe with a percolator?

If you’ve ever smoked out of a water pipe, chances are that you’ve also used a percolator, since the majority of water pipes feature a percolator. Percolators help filter the smoke through water, making the smoke cooler and easier to inhale. The most classic way to use a water pipe that features a percolator is to fill it with water, add ice to the neck (if your piece allows) and get to smoking. If you’re using a water pipe with a percolator for the first time, don’t fret! You don’t have to do anything special to use a percolator, the only difference will be the need to use a glass pipe cleaner that can get into the nooks and crannies of the percolator holes.

How much water should I put in a percolator pipe?

The amount of water that you put in your water pipe is totally up to you, based on your smoking preferences. It’s something that you’ll get the hang of after some trial and error. However, a good rule of thumb is to at least cover the downstem of your pipe with a half-inch of water. Add more water until your heart is content, as long as the water doesn’t touch your lips when you inhale.

What is the best type of water percolator for smoking?

While percolators serve the purpose of filtering and cooling smoke, they are also visually appealing which makes choosing the right one so difficult. Percolators are also a work of art and should reflect the owner’s style. Since there are so many shapes and sizes of percolators, it’s important for the potential owner to make sure that the percolator will do the job correctly, and look good while doing it. There are many types of percolators, but we’ve round up the top ten styles for your enjoyment.

Types of Percolators


Showerhead percolators are a simple design. The smoke travels through a center tube which is covered by a slightly larger tube to direct all that smoke and air into the small percolating disc at the bottom. It then exits through a series of small holes in the disc, creating those trademark bubbles.


Honeycomb percs are easily one of the most popular percolators on the market given their efficiency and compact design. Also known as a “waffle percolator” the honeycomb is a disc-like shape with a grid of holes in which the smoke is dispersed. Unlike other percolators, the honeycomb shape doesn’t get easily bogged down and will continue to work effectively even if the water pipe is tilted on its side. This is a powerful perc and because it’s small, you will typically have this in tandem with either another honeycomb perc or other kind of perc stacked on top.


This heavy duty percolator is one of the most visually appealing type of perc and features a small dome shape and vertical tube percolators. While it’s a larger, more impressive percolator, most of the filtration is going to come from the tiny slit in the vertical tubes. This is another percolator that will often come with some kind of additional disc percolator as it’s not the most efficient in cooling the smoke on its own.


Inline percolators are horizontal tubes with little slits in which the smoke travels and is filtered through. They’re similar to downstems, however, aren’t placed at an angle. This allows all of the slits to filter evenly, as opposed to an angle where there’s uneven dispersion. The larger the water pipe, the more slots there are on the inline, making it a heavier hitter the larger it gets.

Double Chamber

Double chamber percs are another impressive piece as they allow the smoke to get in contact with more of the glass surface. This allows the glass to catch some of the impurities and cools the smoke quickly. This is especially helpful as it rarely gets bogged down and doesn’t slow the speed in which you can take hits.


Very similar in design to the showerhead perc, the matrix is essentially two or more shower percs stacked on top of each other. This setup is meant to force the smoke into many holes, cooling it down quickly and effectively. Matrix percolators don’t provide much more filtration than the standard showerhead but they are very interesting to watch in action.


These are similar to the honeycomb, but with fewer larger holes. While they provide slightly less filtration than the honeycomb, they will create an aesthetically pleasing cyclone effect with the water. This effect also helps by directing the water toward the sides of the glass instead of up through the middle, giving it the added bonus of being a splashguard.


Easily the most impressive percolator out there, the fritted perc is a simple disc percolator with many microscopic holes to provide maximum filtration. There are virtually no percolators that can match the fritted disc’s ability to disperse the smoke thoroughly. These can be a little more difficult to pull a hit as the pores are tiny and it takes more lung power to get the smoke through.

Spiral Coil

Spiral coil percs are one of the more misunderstood percolators, but are actually a fairly simple concept. Similar to a downstem or tube, these percolators have a few slots at the bottom for the smoke to filter through. The biggest difference between a spiral and a downstem or tube is the distance the smoke has to travel. Since the glass spirals, it can compact more distance into the same pipe as opposed to a straight piece, meaning the smoke will be in contact with water for longer. This will help cool the smoke down more than if it were a tube.

Fabergé Egg

Sometimes referred to as a “Swiss Perc”, this is a section of glass with large circular holes throughout it. You will never see this piece by itself as it functions more like a booster for other percolators. For example, you may have a water pipe with a honeycomb percolator and this fabergé egg perc on top. This makes it so the bubbles from the first percolators hit the inside of the glass holes, splitting the bubbles further which filters the smoke more thoroughly.


Most glass water pipes come equipped with some kind of percolator, but it’s important to understand the different types so you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you. Percolators are a helpful tool that every smoker can appreciate. Percs can improve a smoke session immeasurably and can be endlessly entertaining to watch in action.

What is your favorite type of percolator?

Erinn Holman

A millennial writer who's passionate about alternative medicine, the smoking industry, and the Oxford comma.

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