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How to smoke a tobacco pipe, Part 5: Filtered Vs Unfiltered Pipes

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There is plenty of advice on how to smoke a tobacco pipe, especially on the subject of filtered versus unfiltered pipes. These are our thoughts, we’d love to read yours in the comments below.

In the United States most tobacco pipe smokers prefer unfiltered pipes, but in many European countries only filtered pipes are available. So what gives? Is one better than the other? Well, it depends on who you ask.

A few common questions:

Do filters effect tobacco taste?

It depends. Some tobaccos, with more nuanced flavors could be slightly diminished. However, since we haven’t seen any double blind studies done on filtered versus unfiltered tobacco tastes, we think it’s more likely a psychological reason why some people believe the taste is diminished while others do not.

We think the taste difference is just like the taste difference between a great bottle of wine and an exceptional one, if you’re a true aficionado you might be able to distinguish the difference, but most of us lay people won’t know the difference if we’re not told there is one. In taste that is, you will find a difference in other areas.

How do filtered pipes effect the experience?

Different filters aid a smoker in slightly different ways, but all are designed to make the smoke less harsh, diminishing the risk of tongue bite. Particularly to a new smoker, this can be an easy way to make the smoking experience easier and more enjoyable.

Different types of tobacco pipe filters

FIltered vs unfiltered pipe

There are three primary types of pipe filters--absorption, pass through and condensers. Tobacco pipe companies generally use one type of filter system throughout their lines or choose not to use them at all.

  • Absorption Filters - Savinelli pipes are the primary pipes using the most famous kind of absorption filter--balsa wood filters. These filters changed the pipe smoking experience for many Europeans. The balsa wood cools the smoke significantly and absorbs moisture, reducing tongue bite and gurgle. In addition, many smokers find that Balsa Filters cause the smoker to draw harder on the pipe, reducing ‘hot’ smoker’s tendency to smoke too fast.
  • Pass-through Filters - Dr. Grabow and Vauen are just a few of the notable pipe lines that use pass-through style filters. Dr. Grabow, popular American-made tobacco pipes, use paper filters. While the German-made Vauen pipes use a 9 mm charcoal filter. Pass-through filters are primarily used to reduce the amount of nicotine in the tobacco and are the most likely culprit        when smokers complain of reduced flavor from a filter. The vast majority of German pipe smokers use this type of    filter, but they are not popular in The United States.
  • Condensers - Technically not a filter at all, condensers fit into the tenon and are designed to disrupt airflow. We’re not big fans of this system and don’t currently carry any pipes that use it.

Convertible tobacco pipes

Most of the filter pipes today are made to be convertible. For instance, Savenilli filter pipes all come with a converter so the smoker can choose which way to enjoy his bowl of tobacco.

We recommend that new smokers try both filtered and unfiltered pipes to see which fit them best. You may find, like many of our customers, that you enjoy both, depending on the pipe or tobacco.

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