Bongs, we all know and love them, right? But why have they become a fan-favorite among both novice and seasoned smokers alike? What is it about these glass pipes that makes them work so well?
If you too have ever wondered why smoking from a bong makes your hits so smooth and cool, the answer is, wait for it (drum roll)….SCIENCE.
Every time you take a hit, science is doing its thing and working its magic to make your experience one that you will keep coming back for time and time again.
So if you want to know exactly how bongs work, scientifically, then read on for everything you need to know. And don’t worry if you didn’t pay attention in science class, we’ll do our best to keep the info easy to follow. Promise.
First up, What Is a Bong?
A bong is one of the more popular ways of consuming cannabis, especially the dried flower variety. It can also be used for consuming other herbal products. A bong is essentially a filtration device, similar to a hookah. It is a single piece construct, consisting of a watertight bowl-stem a water container and a ‘draw tube’ or pipe.
The cannabis is placed at the top of the stem and the user puts their mouth over the pipe to inhale the smoke which is drawn through the water. Bongs come in a range of different shapes, colors, sizes and materials including bamboo, wood and plastic.
The most widely-used bongs are made from hand-blown glass, with the manufacturers focusing on the design as much as the function. There are even accounts of bongs being made or pure gold and encrusted with diamonds. At the other end of that spectrum, a bong can be fashioned from everyday items such as a bottle.
The word ‘bong; comes from the Thai wordbong orbaung, which refers to a cylindrical wooden tube, or pipe cut from bamboo. It also refers to the bong which is used for smoking. A bong is also known as a water pipe. Other slang names for a bong that you might recognize are bing, binger, pipe or hookah.
The bong is very much a part of cannabis culture, and some people will even go so far as to give their bong a name. Funky right? Regardless, the bong is a personal expression of the user and can be customized and outfitted to match their unique tastes and vibe.
A Brief History of the Bong
Although the use of the bong is most widely associated with the hippy era of the 1960s, it is actually thought that the use of a ‘water pipe’ for filtering and cooling smoke began around 2400 years ago. The earliest water pipe discovered is thought to have been used by tribes who lived in and around what is now known as Russia. The bong came through Persia to China along the famous Silk Road and quite soon became the most popular way for Chinese royalty to smoke tobacco, preferring it to snuff bottles or other intake methods.
During the 1960s and 1970s, American glassblower Bob Snodgrass became widely associated with the creation of the modern-day bong or water pipe, inventing the technique that gives the pipes their different colors and giving the bong a wider appeal.
The Anatomy of a Bong
The bong has five basic components:
The bowl is the bulbous part of the bong, it is where the dried herb is inserted and combusted. The bowl is often removable which allows it to function as a pull or slide carburetor.
The carb, which is short for ‘carburetor’ is a hole by which the user can clear smoke from the bong chamber when you toke on it.
The downstem is a small tube through which the smoke travels from the bowl to the base, before it percolates through the water.
The tube is the chamber that fills with the smoke once it has filtered through the water.
The base is (unsurprisingly) the bottom of the bong and can come in a few different styles. Usually, a bubble or beaker shape is used to create the water chamber. The smoke cools in the water chamber as it passes through the water.
These parts can all come in a variety of shapes and designs.
How Do Bongs Work Scientifically?
When you light the dry herb, it catches fire or combusts. The heat breaks down the chemical bonds of the herb and changes the particles into a gas, which takes the form of smoke. The purpose of the bong is to filter out the undesirable particles that are carried in this smoke, so you’re just breathing in the good stuff. This is where the water comes in.
When the smoke passes through the water, much of the ash and tar is filtered out as it binds to the water molecules. Water is a bit like a net - it traps the ash and tar but it isn’t fine enough to catch the neutral compounds you want to smoke. Of course, a small amount of this is left in the water but this is usually insignificant.
Another benefit of the water is that it also cools the smoke before it reaches your mouth and lungs. It is important not to cool the smoke too much though. The active ingredients you really want will vaporize between 125 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so you want to keep them in the vapor stream. To do this, make sure you only use enough water to cover the downstem.
You’ll also want to keep your water clean to improve the quality of your smoking experience. Any chemicals in the water will affect the taste of your hit and some chemicals - such as chlorine - can be dangerous if inhaled. This is why you should always keep your bong clean before each use.
Light up and Enjoy!
So there you have it; the science which explains why your bong hits are smoother and cooler than smoking a dry pipe. From our pipe to yours, enjoy responsibly!