Bongs are one of the most popular and reliable forms of smoking that exist. They have been in existence for thousands of years (there is evidence of bongs in ancient Africa and parts of Asia), and they remain a favorite today because they offer a fun way to smoke and because of the water filtration principles that define bongs. Many people even go so far as to name their favorite bongs.
But among bong aficionados, there is a great debate that rages. This debate centers around the differences between beaker bongs and straight tube bongs. This rivalry is the Coke versus Pepsi of the headshop world. And we are here to try to set the record straight. The reality is that while there are differences between these two types of bongs (and advantages unique to each), they are both great. Both are examples of what is referred to as 'scientific glass' as both tend to be made of high-quality clear borosilicate glass (which accepts heat better than standard glass).
In this article, we will explore the definitions and qualities of each type of bong. If we don't settle the debate at least we'll hope to arm you with more information to help with a purchasing decision. The truth is you cannot go wrong with either a beaker bong or a straight tube bong, so long as you purchase it from a trustworthy online headshop that sells quality products.
Beaker bongs are either cone-shaped or bubble shaped. The base of a beaker bong looks like a beaker you might have used in your high school chemistry class, and this is where the name is derived from. The bottom of a beaker bong is much wider than the stem, which gives the piece a low center of gravity. As a result, beaker bongs are very stable and hard to knock over. This means fewer bong spills and less breakage. Some also suggest that beaker bongs are bit easier to clean than straight tube bongs.
In terms of functionality, beaker bongs offer an increased volume of smoke. Because the chamber area is bigger more smoke can gather before the bong is cleared, which can provide for very large hits. This is great for seasoned smokers but may not appeal to beginners. Beaker bongs also allow for smooth hits. Because the surface area of the water chamber is larger in a beaker bong as compared to tube bong the bubbles produced during inhalation are also larger. This creates more filtration, resulting in a smoother hit. In addition, beaker bongs tend to produce less splash back than straight tube bongs (due to the shape of where the chamber meets the tube and the fact that the water is lower down in the bong, further from the mouthpiece).
In terms of aesthetics, there are many styles of beaker bongs and many different sizes. Some have a classic beaker bottom shape that has a scientific look. Others have more of a round base, which may not appeal to purists. As compared to straight tubes, there are more style varieties available for beaker bongs.
Straight Tube Bongs
Straight tube bongs are the most classic bong style. As the name implies, they are made up of a straight tube of glass that is attached to a glass base (typically at least three inches in diameter). Some suggest that straight tube bongs have been in existence for centuries, pointing to the fact that the word bong is possibly derived from the word "baung," which refers to a straight cylindrical tube made from bamboo. Whatever the case, straight tube bongs are what most people think of when asking to picture what a bong looks like.
One of the biggest advantages of a straight tube bong is its simplicity and efficiency. A smoker does not have to inhale with much effort to fill the chamber of a straight tube bong (as compared to a beaker bong, where the smoker has to move the smoke through bends in the glass, which cause more drag). And because the chamber is both narrow and uniform in shape, the hit tends to be more controlled than the huge chug you get from a beaker bong.
A beaker bong hit may be more filtered but a straight tube bong hit is more controlled (and thus smoother and easier to clear). While beaker bongs produce bigger bubbles, straight tube bongs produce more bubbles because of the way that the water sits high in the chamber and tube. As a result, straight tubes produce a discernible 'purring' sound that smokers love.
Straight tube bongs often have an ice pinch and additional percolators, adding to both the cooling effect and the ability to have additional filtration. Many beaker bongs have these features as well, but straight tube bongs sometimes have more percolators because there is more room in the neck of the pipe. One potential disadvantage of straight tube bongs is that they are less bottom heavy and thus more prone to being tipped over.
Finally, there are some who suggest the overall quality of a straight tube bong is better than that found in a beaker bong. This argument rests on the notion that to create a beaker bong the glass blower has to work the base to achieve the flared shape of the base and this can result in a lack of uniformity in terms of glass thickness. It is easier to ensure uniform thickness in a straight tube bong because the original tube is not worked as much. While this concern is valid it is not one that impacts beaker bongs made by quality brands.
The Final Word
The truth of the matter is that beaker bongs and straight tube bongs are both great bong styles. There are differences between the two, as we have hopefully illustrated above. But neither is universally better. Instead, it really comes down to your preferences, your needs and what it is you seek out of a bong or water pipe. Broadly speaking, a straight tube bong is better for a beginner while a beaker bong is better for those who are prone to knocking things over (or have friends who often drop things). At the end of the day, you just need to weigh the pros and cons of each before you buy.
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