What is an Ash Catcher?
Checklist of Things You'll Need:☑︎ Your Choice of Water Pipe
Have you ever seen a water pipe after a month or two of active use? Not only is it an unpleasant sight, but the smell that comes from an uncleaned pipe is enough to grab the attention of anyone who dares walk into the room. When you try to take a hit from a dirty pipe, you may notice heavy drag that makes it difficult to achieve a satisfying hit, and the taste of the smoke is anything but pleasing.
While routine cleaning can prevent these negative smoking experiences, adding an ash catcher to your water pipe allows you to clean one small piece rather than the full unit. There are some other benefits to using an ash catcher with a percolator, so keep reading to learn what this accessory is and how you can use it to improve your smoking experience.
What are ash catchers and How Do You Use One?
Ash catchers come in various designs and sizes, but they typically look like mini water pipes. They have filters that trap much of the ash and debris that would otherwise end up in your pipe's water chamber or stuck to the inside surfaces of your bong. Those that have percolators will pull the smoke through water to cleanse and diffuse the smoke for a smoother hit. Consider this an extra filter that will make the smoke produced by your pipe or bong easier to inhale.
When you use an ash catcher, you can expect to spend less time cleaning the main chambers of your bong or pipe between uses while enjoying cooler, smoother smoke that is less likely to leave you in a coughing fit. Some people use these accessories to make their pipes and bongs more approachable for beginning smokers, but many others consider the addition of an ash catcher an upgrade that even the most experienced herb lovers can appreciate.
While some water pipes may come with ash catchers designed to fit the pipe, most major manufacturers sell ash catchers as accessories for pipes and bongs. You can also buy cheap ash catchers from off brands, with prices going as low as $10 in some headshops. These low-cost accessories are attractive to your budget, but they're often made from low-quality glass and won't come with more advanced features that you'll find on ash catchers from leading brands like Grav Labs.
Your ash catcher will attach to your water pipe underneath the bowl or on the downstem. You want to put a small amount of water in the reservoir, but make sure not to put so much that it splashes into the bowl. When you take a hit, your inhale will do the work of pulling the smoke through the water to filter out ash and debris before it proceeds through the chambers of your pipe or bong. While some low-quality ash catchers can add to the drag and make it harder to get a solid hit, the best models from respectable brands won't noticeably interfere with your hit.
How to Choose an Ash Catcher
If you decide to add an ash catcher to your water pipe, how do you select the best one for your piece? The following steps will help you make that choice so that you don't buy an accessory that doesn't work well with your pipe.
Look at the joints on the ash catcher and your water pipe. You need to make sure that the joints will fit together to create a solid connection. This is easier when you shop through online headshops because they will typically tell you the joint size for each ash catcher. Some online shops will also tell you what size joints each ash catcher will connect to, so you only need to determine the joint size on your bong or pipe to select the perfect ash catcher.
Consider the angle of the joint on each ash catcher. You will have to select between ash catchers that sit at a 45 or 90-degree angle from your water pipe. 45 or 90 degree angle refers to the angle of the stem that comes out of the bong where your bowl goes. The decision is often easy when you look at the design of your pipe and imagine how the ash catcher will fit onto the unit. You want to select the angle that will keep your overall piece comfortable to hold during smoking sessions and stable enough to rest on a table when not in use.
Select a percolator that will add enjoyment to your smoking experience. You can find ash catchers with all types of percolators, including inline, tree, showerhead and honeycomb designs. The style that you select will determine how much diffusion your ash catcher provides, but you may also choose based on the aesthetic style. There are some exciting designs that can give your bong or water pipe a distinctive look.
Consider the weight of the ash catcher. If it's too heavy, it could cause your pipe to tip over or make it uncomfortable to hold during smoking sessions. The lighter the glass and smaller the piece, the less likely it is to cause problems. If you're attaching it to a large bong this will matter less than if you're attaching to a smaller pipe, and a bong or pipe made from strong scientific glass will reduce the risk of it breaking if it does topple over.
Look at the extra features offered on some ash catchers. For instance, some are designed with a kickstand to reduce the risk of your pipe tipping over and breaking. Others may give you a choice of accent colors, allowing you to coordinate the accessory to your pipe or just make it more fun to use. You're more likely to find these options on higher-priced pieces from desirable brands.
Determine your maximum budget. This is listed last because while it is something that you must consider, you don't want to select any pipe accessory based on price alone. If a cheap ash catcher doesn't fit your needs or your pipe, it's worthless to you regardless of how much money you saved. If you want an ash catcher that sells for more than you can afford to pay right now, it's best to watch for sales and save up until you can get the one that you want.
The Ash Catcher Debate
Ash catchers (like the Upline ash catcher picture above) are typically sold as accessories for water pipes and bongs, and that leaves many consumers wondering if they're really worth the added financial investment. Once you buy a quality bong or pipe that delivers rich flavor and smooth hits, you can either purchase an ash catcher from the same manufacturer, find a cheap ash catcher that fits your piece, or enjoy your smoking device as it is without further investment.
If you think of an ash catcher as nothing more than a way to stop ash and other debris from entering the chambers of your bong or pipe, it comes down to whether you prefer to clean the smaller ash catcher or the larger piece after each use. If your main piece isn't difficult to clean and you're accustomed to cleaning it up after every use, you may agree with many others that ash catchers aren't worth the money. If you want to preserve the purity of your piece by stopping that debris from entering the main water chamber, then you may join the many who find ash catchers valuable.
Even with an ash catcher, you expect to clean the chambers of your pipe or bong at least occasionally. You only get clean hits with full flavor from a clean pipe. Using an ash catcher will allow you to go longer periods of time between full-piece cleanings, but you will need to clean the ash catcher more frequently.
Beyond the issue of cleanliness, there are some functional reasons to use an ash catcher. When this accessory is added to any smoking piece, it adds percolation that cools the smoke before it hits your throat. If you're using a more complex water pipe with one or more built-in water chambers or percolators, then adding an ash catcher may make little to no difference in the temperature of your smoke. If you're using a simple straight pipe that tends to deliver intense hits, then you may find that adding an ash catcher smooths it out and makes your smoking experience more enjoyable.
Some users also find that ash catchers add to the draw just enough to change their smoking experience. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your pipe and personal preferences, but a quality ash catcher should never make your piece harder to use. Some users do consider this accessory an upgrade that creates smoother smoke, but others argue that it dilutes the smoke due to excessive filtration.
Regardless of which side you take on this argument, remember that ash catchers are removable accessories. You may want to use one on some pipes while leaving it off others. The only way to know what you like is to give one a try.
You now know what an ash catcher is and know how to choose one that fits your bong or pipe as well as your smoking preferences. If you're in the market for a glass water pipe or bong, you may try to find one that comes with an ash catcher so that you don't have to make two purchases. You may also consider products from leading brands that offer ash catchers designed to coordinate with their pipes. If you already own a pipe or bong, you can still shop for accessories from the same brand.
Either way, you will end up with an optional accessory that could elevate your smoking experience. You may also select one with a strong percolator if you're a beginning smoker. This will help cool and smooth out the smoke so that you're more likely to enjoy your first experiences. If you want to try harder hits with less diffusion, you can always remove the ash catcher later on or invest in a straight pipe without a percolator.
As you determine how much you can afford to spend on an ash catcher, remember that the quality of glass is critical. Purchasing from a well-known brand name is one way to ensure that you receive a quality product that will work efficiently.
Ash Catcher Terminology & Definitions
Ash: The byproduct produced when you burn tobacco or any dry herb. The water in a percolator will collect the ash, creating dirty black water that interferes with smoke quality. This is why an ash catcher is used to keep the water in the pipe or bong as clean as possible.
Percolator: A water chamber that filters and cools smoke before it reaches your mouth. Some water pipes come with built-in percolators, but you can also add them as accessories. When an ash catcher has a built-in perc, it becomes a filtration tool in addition to an easy way to keep your pipe clean.
Filtration: This is the process of breaking up heavy smoke so that it's easier to inhale. This is one benefit of using an ash catcher with a percolator, but you will also find that some water pipes are designed for superior filtration while others allow for harder hits.
Joint: This is the small connector that allows you to attach accessories to your smoking piece. A male joint has an extension that you can insert into a piece with a female joint. When purchasing an ash catcher, it's important to find one with the opposite joint type than your pipe or bong so that they can fit together. Some ash catchers now come with male and female connectors for maximum functionality.
Pre-Cooler: This is a term used to describe any water pipe accessory that cools the smoke before it hits your throat. Many people use "pre-cooler" and "ash catcher" interchangeably because an ash catcher does pull the smoke through water and that does have a cooling effect. The difference is that someone buying a pre-cooler may not intend it to keep their pipe clean and someone buying an ash catcher may not think of it as a way to cool the smoke.