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What Is a Bowl, And How Do You Use One?

smoking weed using wood pipe

A bowl is the part of a pipe or bong used to hold cannabis flower. It is an essential part of any smoking apparatus and can be made from several materials, such as ceramic, wood, plastic, or glass. Bowls hold the flower in place while you light your cannabis and inhale the resulting smoke through your pipe or bong.

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What Is a Bowl?

A bowl is the part of a cannabis pipe or bong used to hold the flower. A “bowl” is also a slang reference to consuming a small amount of cannabis — usually, what fits in a bowl.

When part of a pipe, a bowl usually features a carved-out space for cannabis flower and a small hole on the side of it called the carb. The carb hole allows the user to control airflow when smoking and keeps the smoke inside the pipe chamber when covered. Upon release, the airflow sends the cannabis smoke through the mouthpiece and into the mouth and lungs.

On a bong, bowls can usually be removed from the device to control airflow and allow easier cleaning.

Types of Bowls

Bowls come in every shape and size imaginable, crafted from different materials such as ceramic, wood, bamboo, or glass, and decorated with carvings or other artistic touches. The most common types of bowls include:

  • Hand pipes: Also called “spoon pipes,” hand pipes are one of the most common bowl types for smoking marijuana. They are, fittingly, palm-sized and feature a bowl to pack flower, a stem, and a mouthpiece from which to inhale. The carb sits at the bottom of the bowl to regulate airflow.
  • One-hitters: Also called “chillums,” one-hitters are small pipes anywhere from 2-4 inches in length and shaped like cylindrical tubes. The mouthpiece lies on one end, and the other is for stuffing a small amount of ground cannabis. These bowls are called one-hitters because they usually only allow for one or two hits, so if you’re looking for a quick smoking experience, one-hitters may be your best option.
  • Steamrollers: Steamroller bowls borrow specific characteristics from both chillums and spoons. Cylindrical in shape, they also feature the bowl and carb of a hand pipe. The most noticeable difference between other types of bowls is the space below the bowl at the bottom of the cylinder, which allows more air to flow through.

Other notable types of smoking pipes are inspired by pop culture, such as Sherlock Holmes’ corncob tobacco pipe or Gandalf’s long, thin pipe popularized in Lord of the Rings.

There’s an additional characteristic to consider when it comes to bowls of weed for bongs: sizing. There are three standard sizes when it comes to bowls:

  • 10 millimeters: sometimes called mini or nano joints
  • 14 millimeters: typical for a traditional water pipe
  • 18 millimeters: usually for oversized bong bowl pieces or multiple smokers

You’ll want to acquire a bowl that fits in your bong and is the opposite gender (male or female), so it can comfortably slide in. For example, if you have a male bong joint, you’ll want to purchase a female bowl.

How to Choose Which Is Best for You

The best bowl depends entirely on personal preference. Most devices accomplish the same basic thing — smoking cannabis— and the different sizes and shapes allow consumers to customize for improved flavor (glass), portability (chillum), aesthetic style, and more.

Also, it’s a good idea to consider how much cannabis you plan to smoke and whether you’ll share the bowl with other users. A small bowl would be perfect for solo use, whereas a larger one may be more appropriate for those needing higher doses of cannabis flower.

How to Pack a Bowl

Once you’ve acquired the best bowl for your needs, it’s time to pack it with flower. To start, break apart your buds with your fingers into small pieces. You can also use an herb grinder to create a loose grind, but don’t break them down too small. Load the flower into your bowl and gently pack it in, but not so tightly as to stop airflow, or you won’t be able to inhale the smoke.

As an optional step, you can also place a small metal screen under the flower before you pack your bowl to avoid inhaling plant matter. Screens also make cleaning a bowl easier, preventing hash from clogging the rest of your piece.

How to Smoke a Bowl

After packing your bowl, it’s time to light it. Most people use a BIC or Zippo lighter to do the job, and others opt for hemp wick because butane can affect the smoke. If you use hemp wick, light the end of the string and use the embering tip to light the bowl.

Hold your bowl in your non-dominant hand and place your thumb over the carb. Light the flower, and inhale, bringing the smoke into the chamber. This may create a “cherry” ember and stay lit, allowing another hit to be drawn without relighting the flower.

Release your thumb from the carb and inhale the smoke into your mouth. After inhaling, remove your mouth from the pipe and exhale. Exhaling while your mouth is still on the pipe will cause the plant material to blow everywhere.

How to Clean a Bowl

Bowls are relatively straightforward to clean, especially compared to more complicated smoking devices on the cannabis market.

Before cleaning your bowl, assemble the following materials:

  • A Ziploc bag
  • 99% isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol
  • Table salt
  • A paper clip
  • Dish soap

First, place the pipe in the plastic bag with enough rubbing alcohol to submerge the device. Add a teaspoon of salt and let the pipe soak for about 30 minutes. Shake the bag, remove the pipe from it, and rinse. Allow the bowl to dry completely before using it again.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between a blunt and a bowl?

A bowl is part of a pipe or bong device used to smoke pre-ground cannabis flower. Conversely, a blunt is a cannabis cigar, usually wrapped in hemp or tobacco leaves and containing larger amounts of flower per product.

How much weed fits in the average bowl?

While the amount of weed in the average bowl depends entirely on the device's size, most bowls fit 1-4 grams of flower. You want to avoid overpacking your bowl, halting airflow through your piece. You can always add more marijuana to your bowl later if you need to consume more.