Is That A Gurgle I Hear?

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By Bob Tate


Most of us pipers have heard it before, gurgling sounds from your pipe while smoking. In my experiences, pipes will gurgle for a few different of reasons.

Some of the reasons are:
•Smoking too fast
•The tobacco is too moist
•The pipe hasn’t been fully broken in
•Condensation has built up when the pipe has gone out and allowed to sit and cool
•Bad pipe construction
•Sometimes a pipe will gurgle for no reason at all

In this article, I will break down some of the reasons and explain each one a little bit.

Smoking Too Fast
This is a bad thing. The only reason listed that you need to be careful of is, smoking too fast. Gurgling won’t damage your pipe, but smoking too fast will. Smoking a pipe too fast will cause your pipe to burn hot and it will become sour and require a deep cleaning. Smoking too fast can also cause a burnout; this is the worst type of pipe damage. It is where you actually burn a hole in the bowl of your pipe. If the gurgle is being caused from smoking too fast, SLOW DOWN your smoking pace. A good rule of thumb on how hot your bowl should be is to hold it against your cheek. If you can not hold it there for longer than 5 seconds, slow down!

The Tobacco Is Too Moist
This one is pretty self explanatory. If the tobacco is too moist it can cause your pipe to gurgle because of the excess moisture building up in the heel. This seems to happen with a lot of aromatics. If the tobacco is too moist, just let it dry out a bit before smoking. Some aromatics will not dry out though and they will still sometimes cause a gurgle.

The Pipe Hasn’t Been Fully Broken In
Gurgling will sometimes happen with an un-smoked briarpipe. I assume that the reason this happens is because there is no cake built up yet. Cake is an important thing in a briar pipe. You need it to protect the bowl and absorb small amounts of moisture. I prefer to use a tobacco that has dried out a bit when breaking in a pipe. But don’t use tobacco that is too dry because really dry tobacco will burn a little hotter because it is burning at a faster rate due to being too dry. Too much heat is a major enemy when breaking in a pipe.

Condensation Has Built Up When the Pipe Has Gone Out and Allowed To Cool
This happens often when DGT’ing. DGT means Delayed Gratification Technique. It is when you smoke a part of a bowl and purposely let the rest go out and finish smoking it at a later time. Some smokers believe that it helps the taste of the tobacco. Sometimes you have no choice, like if you get interrupted and have to sit the pipe down to go do something. If you put your pipe down before you are finished smoking, sticking a pipe cleaner down the stem into the pipe will absorb the moisture build up from condensation. Remove the cleaner when you are ready to resume smoking. If you forget to do that, just run a pipe cleaner down the pipe before you resume smoking to absorb the moisture.

Bad Pipe Construction
Bad pipe construction will sometimes cause a pipe to gurgle. I have noticed that with cheaper machine made bent pipes, that there is a divot (I call it a well) in the heel of the bowl. It is where the draft hole does not go to the bottom of the bowl (heel). The draft hole is higher than the bottom of the bowl and it allows moisture to build up in the well. It will also cause quite a bit of dottle because the draft hole hits ash before being able to finish the tobacco at the bottom of the bowl. I use a specific packing technique to help out with pipes that have this problem. Also a draft hole that is drilled too narrow can create condensation that causes a gurgling pipe. You can see an image of what I call a well at the end of this article, Pipes: They’re Not Just for the Wealthy.

Sometimes a Pipe Will Gurgle For No Reason At All
Sometimes a pipe will just gurgle without any reason. I don’t know why it happens, it just does. I have smoked bowls of dried tobacco before in a fully broken in pipe and they have gurgled and I don’t know why they have done it. I was not smoking too fast, pipe construction seemed good, and I did not let the pipe go out and cool down. So sometime it will just happen.

Like I said earlier, gurgling will not damage a pipe; you will just have to use more pipe cleaners while you are smoking to absorb the excess moisture. It is a little bit of a pain in the rear, but don’t sweat it. Just make sure it is not because you’re smoking too fast and hot. Enjoy the bowl you are smoking and if it starts gurgling, just stick a pipe cleaner in it to absorb the moisture and keep puffing!


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