Downstems are those long, tubular pieces that you see going from the bowl of your bong, bubbler, or rig into the water to diffuse the smoke into the water. Basically, they just carry the smoke from your bong bowl over into the water chamber and act as a transitory piece. Your downstem can affect the level of diffusion as well as how quickly the hit is cooled. There are many different options available to choose from to create a unique experience.
All downstems are going to serve the same purpose overall – they make sure your hit is cooled and smoothed out in the water. However, there are all different types of downstems that go up and above their call to duty. Some have additional percolators or slits to diffuse better. Some are made of different materials. We parcel out some of the specifics below.
Because of the nature of a downstem, you are going to need one that fits perfectly. This must be stressed again: finding the wrong size downstem will result in improper diffusion or simply not work at all. You want something that will both fit into the opening in your bong as well as have the proper length to make it into the water. Often, the downstem should reach the opposite side of the bottom of the bong. Look up the dimensions before clicking ‘buy’.
There are two main materials you are going to need to decide between for your downstem – glass and silicone. Glass is almost always the most popular choice in any category of smoking material. It is clean, easy to see, and doesn’t affect flavor at all. However, it is liable to break without proper care and attention. Silicone, on the other hand, is easy to clean, cheap, and unbreakable. Some will say silicone can affect the flavor of your smoke, however here it makes litte difference if any. Whichever you choose, you will need to weigh for yourself what is more important to you.
Diffuser airflow holes are not going to be the most critical factor concerning your downstem but you shouldn’t ignore them. For one, they are going to determine how fast or slow the smoke will travel into the water and then into the chamber for your enjoyment. By having more airflow hole, more smoke will diffuse into the water at once. Less, and you will need to pull more to diffuse more smoke. Again, this is not the most important factor but don’t ignore the airflow holes.
This is mostly a comparison of price and specialization. If you go with standard glass, there is nothing wrong with this choice. It will still provide a smooth, flavorful hit and be easy to clean. However, Heady glass is going to be a little pricier and of a higher quality. The term Heady glass is used to specifically denote a measure of quality and common examples are the high-end pieces created by various glass artists. So if you want the highest quality materials made from glass, consider Heady glass. Just make sure you are ready for the higher price points.
The downstem is the long bong accessory that connects your bowl piece and the main chamber where the water is located. Downstems came about in order to ensure that the smoke you were pulling in from the bowl piece would actually percolate and diffuse into the water for a smoother hit. Imagine if that long tube of glass was not connected from the bottom of your bowl to the water and instead the smoke just entered the chamber. You would have almost no smoke, if any, enter the water and actually diffuse the heat and harshness. Essentially, without a downstem you really don’t have a bong.
Picking the best downstem is going to rely heavily on what your preferences and needs are. There is no reason you can’t have an amazing downstem that costs next to nothing as long as it delivers what you need or are looking for. This standard is going to be personal and require thought and research. Below we explore some different considerations and factors that should guide your decision.
It is a requirement that a bong have a downstem in order for it to work properly, but it doesn’t need to be fancy. The only reason you will not need to purchase a downstem for your bong is if the downstem is built into the bong itself. In other words, if you are using a bong without a downstem you are simply not using it properly and to the best of the bongs abilities. A downstem will do the basic task of filtering smoke through water.
Glass downstems, like most glass smoking products and accessories, are the most popular. There is a functional, aesthetic, and cost-effective quality to glass that just cannot be beaten. Whether you prefer easy to clean, flavor, cost, or the sheer artistic beauty of glass pieces, these are likely the right choice for you. However, don’t be afraid to explore other materials that might exhibit other favorable attributes.
Diffused downstems essentially add additional diffusing power to your normal, everyday downstem. For example, there are going to be slotted holes in the side to help move the smoke to the sides as well as down into your bongs water chamber. This means more diffusion, faster resulting in larger, easier hits without as much ‘drag’. Essentially, you’re going to get a bigger, smoother hit with less work on your part.
Downstems that contain percolators are not going to be your everyday downstem. But, that doesn’t mean they cannot be for you. Essentially, these downstems add percolation to their normal diffusive properties to add additional layers of smoothness and power. With more percolation, you get a smoother hit. With smoother hits, you can amp up the power of the hits you’re taking. If this is important to you, you should highly consider a downstem with a percolator.
Ashcatchers provide more filtration for your smoking experience and they most importantly catch the ashes so they don’t fall into the bong water. This means that there is another layer the smoke is filtered through before entering the main portion of your bong or pipe to be consumed by you. Ashcatchers are going to be more costly than a simple downstem, but if you feel like you’re not getting a smooth enough hit or need more filtration than consider purchasing one.
Dab rigs, too, can utilize the power and beauty of downstems. This is because some dab rigs do not have built-in filtration and diffusion and, sometimes, these downstems can be interchangeable between a bong and a dab rig. If you have a dab rig that could use a downstem, make sure that you are paying attention to the size and dimensions to make sure there is a snug fit. Anything less and you are wasting your money and time.