This guide to downstems will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to make the most of your waterpipe, whether you're just starting or a seasoned smoker wishing to upgrade your setup.

What is a downstem?

A downstem or waterpipe stem is a long glass tube that runs from the waterpipe's joint into the water chamber. It facilitates the movement of smoke from the dry herb bowl to the water below. Downstems usually have slits at the bottom that help percolate and spread the smoke into smaller particles rendering the hit less harsh when it enters your lungs.

What are downstems for?

The downstem is responsible for drawing smoke through the water. There are waterpipes types where the downstems are permanently attached to the body and cannot be removed. The downstem directs smoke from the lit dry herb into the water chamber as the user inhales through the mouthpiece. The water removes some of the tar and toxins in the smoke as it travels through it. As a result, waterpipe smoking gives cleaner and more refined hits.

Fixed downstems

Some waterpipes come with the downstem already fixed in. No assembly or preparation is needed; fill your herb and go. This means that if your downstem breaks, you will probably have to buy a new waterpipe altogether. 

Removable downstems

The downstem of a water pipe is removal so that it may be easily cleaned and replaced. Removable downstems are popular because they can be taken out for cleaning and replaced with relative ease and low cost should they break. When a downstem begins to exhibit symptoms of wear and tear, such as becoming clogged with resin and other particulates, it should be replaced.

What are downstems made of?

Waterpipe downstems are made from any form of glass, but borosilicate is the industry standard. Borosilicate glass is excellent for manufacturing pipes in another piece; it's the most intricate, heat-resistant glass. When compared to other glasses, borosilicate is the purest since it contains no toxic ingredients and can withstand high temperatures, making it ideal for smoking. The glass is also relatively simple to clean when compared to others.

Silicone is a relatively recent option for downstems. White Rhino has introduced newly indestructible, bending, brightly colored silicone downstems in response to the frequency with which we fracture and drop them. Another benefit to the White Rhino Silicone downstem is that it can be adjusted from 1" up to 8" if needed.

What are the different sizes of downstems?

You must consider both the waterpipe's overall size and the joint specific measurements when measuring a suitable downstem. The most common diameters for waterpipe bowls are 10 mm, 14 mm, and 19 mm. These numbers represent the joint size of your waterpipe. Take a ruler and measure how many millimeters in width this item is.

You'll need to know that your downstem has joint components that fit into the top end. The downstem length is the next parameter to be determined. How deep in the water do you need the downstem to go? Insert a pen or pencil and push it down until the point is submerged in the water or until it is about half an inch from the bottom of the waterpipe. Mark it where the pencil leaves the bong, and then measure the distance from the mark to the tip. This is a general idea about downstem sizes. Your search for the ideal downstem can start once you have determined the joint size of your bong and the desired length of the downstem.

Different styles of downstems

Here comes the exciting part: downstems may be a lot of fun to shop for, even though a big part of them is just making sure you have the proper size and are particularly careful when handling them because tiny delicate shards of glass do like to break. Downstems can feature different type of percolator.

  • Tree perc downstem: Named for the "many tree branches" that seem to sprout from its tip, a tree perc downstem provides the same diffusion level but at many different points. A tree perc downstem is an excellent option for smoother, more flavorful smoke.
  • Fire cut downstem: When it comes to something as specific as a downstem, the devil is in the details, so get at it with a fire cutter. At first glance, this fire-cut downstem might look like any other, but a closer investigation will show a succession of holes rather than slits. Better diffusion is achieved with these small holes rather than conventional slitted downstems.
  • Adjustable Silicone downstem: If you've got a few waterpipes lying around, you know the pain of trying to get the correct downstem for each one. An adjustable silicone downstem can streamline your life with cutting-edge conveniences if you're serious about making the leap. This downstem can be used with 14mm and 19mm joints, as you can adjust it to the appropriate length. This silicone downstem has excellent diffusion and beats out any glass downstem in terms of ease of cleaning and durability.