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Water & Fire: An Introduction to Bubblers

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Ah, the bubbler. Perhaps the most regal of all the glassware available to the modern smoker.

Bubblers are a refined and elegant tool, and unlike a bland cigarette, they add a whimsical and fun element to any smoke session. Maybe you've never smoked before or maybe you’ve smoked out of every kind of piece imaginable. Either way, a bubbler is an invaluable piece of equipment to have on hand. The ease of use makes bubblers perfect for either personal or social group smokes. The bubbler combines the mobility of a pipe with the herbal enhancing powers of water. 

Bubblers have a stem and double layered bowl.
The bottom bowl holds water
The top bowl holds your herb.
When a flame is placed to the contents of the bowl and the user inhales, the smoke runs through the water and forms a thick vaporous cloud. This provides a cleaner and fuller hit, period. (shown: Hoss Standing Bubbler.)

You may be thinking that a bubbler sounds similar to a water pipe. Well, you are right. The difference though is that with a water pipe, you remove the bowl and stem to inhale smoke. A bubbler uses a carb for this purpose, meaning that there are no extra pieces to lose. Water pipes are also usually much larger than bubblers, and thus much harder to carry with you. 

Why smoke with water?

You may be wondering how water affects the smoking process. First and foremost, the hits you get from a water pipe are much smoother and tastier than any hit that you’ll get from a dry rig or a rolled one-hitter. The water enhances the flavor of the herb while reducing the bitter taste of burning plant material. Water also reduces the number of carcinogens and toxins that you inhale when smoking.

As the smoke passes through the water, it is cooled, giving you a mellower hit. The water also cleans the smoke. Many of the contents of smoke are water soluble. This means that when they pass through the water, they dissolve and are removed from the smoke. The particles that are removed by the water are mostly lung damaging toxins. 

Using Your Bubbler

Any new piece of glass should be cleaned before its first use. Make sure to clean your bubbler inside and out with hot water and dry it properly. Before loading your herb into the bubbler, fill the bottom section of the bowl with water. Depending on the style of bubbler you are using, you will add water either through the top of the bowl, through the carb, or through the mouthpiece. After filling the bowl, inhale through the mouthpiece to make sure that you have the correct amount of water. If the bubbler has too much water you will inhale it when you smoke. If there is not enough water, the smoke will not be able to pass through the water, and you lose out on the benefits the bubbler provides. 

You can use either warm or cold water. Warm water will make the hit feel lighter in your lungs but may cause irritation. Cold water will feel refreshing but may cause your chest to ache if you inhale too strongly.

After the water has been added to the lower section of the bowl, pack your herb of choice into the top layer of the bowl. Make sure to dry the top bowl if it got wet while you were adding water. Pack the ground herb loose enough to allow air flow, but tight enough to keep from falling out of the bowl. 

On the side of the bowl, there will be a tiny hole. This is the carb. Place a finger over the hole and apply a flame to the herb. Begin to suck in, but do not inhale. Suck on the pipe like you would a straw. Smoke should be traveling through the water and the water should be making a bubbling sound. Once enough smoke has built up, remove the flame from the herb and remove your finger from the carb. At this point, you should inhale the smoke deeply into your lungs. Let it sit for a moment and then exhale. Congratulations, you have just taken a hit from a bubbler. 

Once you have finished smoking from your bubbler, you should always clean it and replace the water before the next use. Rinse the entire piece out with warm water and dry everything off. If the bubbler goes uncleaned for too long, it will begin to clog with ash and the smoke will begin to taste nasty. It is also a good idea to pick up some pipe cleaners to scrub the nooks and crannies of the bubbler.

Types of Bubblers

Bubblers come in several shapes and sizes. Some pieces are easy to transport around, and some are so big that you would never take them off of your coffee table. They can be made of glass or plastic and can come with a variety of attachments and enhancements including percolators, custom down stems, and coiled returns. Bubblers can also be mounted with glass nails and domes for use with concentrates. (shown: Sidecar Bubbler.)  

There are several styles of bubblers. Some bubblers, often referred to as “Sherlock” bubblers stand up straight and have a mouth piece that extends upwards. Other bubblers, have a straight vertical stem that attaches to the side of the bowl. These are known as hammer bubblers. Many bubblers are so oddly shaped or contain so many enhancements that they defy categorization. 


People like bubblers because they provide a cleaner and smoother hit, that is still as potent as any other hit. By filtering and cooling the smoke through water, bubblers extract toxins. Additional features like percolators can provide an even more enjoyable smoke.

Perhaps leave a comment in Reply below, and tell us what you think. We truly want to know. ~ Kim 

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