There are many different schools of thought on how exactly one should smoke a Hookah, Shisha or Narghile, many of them are correct all at the same time. Here are some steps for properly setting up a hookah to receive the most pleasurable smoking experience. Try experimenting with your own process, not all hookahs are exactly the same, with varying sizes and use of material, so find something that works for you.
Start by putting water in the vase filling it 1-2 inches above the tip of the tube that goes down into the vase. You can put ice in the vase if you want, this will make the smoke cooler and thicker.
When packing the bowl, pack it semi-loose, don’t over pack, it’s best to keep it to a smaller amount, but don’t under-pack as the heat from the coal will quickly char a shallow layer of shisha tobacco rather than slowly cooking it.
Put foil over the top of the bowl, shiny side down. Some people like to use two layers of foil. Experiment and see what works best for you. Keep the foil tight as wrinkles somewhat distort the heat distribution. Poke about 15-20 holes with a toothpick (or anything with the same diameter or smaller).
Blow through the hose to clean out any dust or particles that may have settled, don’t wash the hose unless you know that it is washable.
Light the coal, depending on the type of coal being used, you may want more than one. Quick-light coals should be lit when needed, whereas natural wood coals need time to heat and should be lit 5 minutes or so prior to their being needed. A word of warning here, be sure to use coals that are specifically made for hookah smoking and not barbequing. Don’t use the coals until they are whilte/gray on all sides or they may produce a chemical taste.
Place the coals on top of the foil and take a few draws to get it going. The pull should easy and not require much suction. Move the coal as necessary to avoid burning or charring either the shisha or the foil.
See our Hookah Setup page for a complete diagram and instructions on assembling your hookah.
Hookah Smoking Tips
Hookah smoke should be thick and white, such smoke indicates you have prepped and are smoking the Hookah correctly.
If the smoke ever becomes harsh, you may have too much coal. Check the foil for signs of burning and make sure you’ve packed the bowl with the proper density of shisha.
A well packed bowl with good shisha can last you a good 45 minutes, perhaps 30 minutes with some friends. The coals might last from 20 minutes up to an hour depending on type and brand.
Try different flavours and brands of shisha tobacco, some give you a much more pleasant and thick smoke than others.
Try different brands of shisha tobacco to find the one that you like best at a reasonable price, but don’t be afraid to buy more expensive brands of the tobacco, particularly for special occasions.
Feel free to mix different flavors together, mixing and matching flavors is one of the great joys of hookah smoking. A few suggestions we can offer you would be cinnamon-apple, apple-sevens spice, apple-mango, banana-mango-pineapple, and lemon-mint.
To help in providing an even burn and avoid foil burn, try breaking the coal up into smaller pieces, place them on the outer edges and rotate them around the bowl while moving them steadily inwards. It can be a little tricky to break the coal up evenly but is definitely worth the time and effort.
To clean your hookah, run warm water thru the stem, then run a cleaning brush thru several times and rinse again.. As for the vase, soaking it with warm water for a bit, as well as a very thorough rinsing afterwards is your best bet. Clean your hookah about every 8 to 10 uses.
For any of you who want to elevate your hookah experience, here’s a tip: try using a piece of fruit for a bowl (such as an apple, orange, pineapple, coconut or small melon). It definitely boosts the flavour and, surprisingly enough, the session tends to last longer than it would with a traditional clay bowl. Here’s a step by step guide:
find a circular fruit such as an apple, mango, orange or whatever you can get your hands on.
Cut the top of the fruit off and leave about 3/4 of the fruit.
Dig into the fruit with a spoon till about 1/4 of the fruit is left intact. (leaving the sides thicker would be ideal for better taste and a better burn).
Use either a corkscrew or any sharp and thin object to force a hole in the bottom.
Now, within the core of the fruit, poke many holes through the hole in the bottom to make the smoke holes. the more you make, the easier it’ll be to suck in later on.
Stick the fruit on the stem, pack the fruit with shisha tobacco, and cover with foil.
For a different smoking experience, try using a glass bowl and screen. Using a glass screen between the tobacco and the coals eliminates the need for tinfoil, making things slightly simpler.
try using thick foil, it distributes heat better, and you get less foil burn.
Try a phunel bowl or Vortex bowl which has a “moat” around it for packing shisha. with this type of bowl you’ll want to overpack it with shisha, poke extra holes in the foil, and you’ll use more coals than you usually would.
the first upgrade on any hookah is a large diameter hose, they have a better “drawl”.
Try different coals. Natural coals like Coconara, Exotica, or natural lemon wood take longer to light and require a gas or electric stove but tend to be less harsh, and last longer than quick light coal.
Numerous studies have shown that extended use of hookah over many sessions can be as detrimental to a person’s health as smoking cigarettes.
Although a 45 minute hookah session is roughly equivalent to 2.5 cigarettes in terms of tar and nicotine, the point here is that a hookah lasts 45 minutes, whereas a cigarette usually doesn’t last for more than 5; you do the math.
Do not use b.b.q. coals as they produce an excess amount of carbon monoxide which may cause headaches and can (unlikely though it may be) result in death. Use commercial hookah coals, either quick light or natural, for smoking a pleasant hookah.
Always use the tongs that come with most Hookahs to light or move your coals, don’t use kitchen tongs which may have been coated in a polymer to provide a non-stick coating for food prep and easy cleaning.
Do not breathe in during the burning of the chemicals in quick-lighting coals. The chemicals contain various carcinogens and other unhealthy substances.
Some flavours of shisha tobacco(like cappuccino) might be of such strong flavour that the taste might stay behind in your hookah even after cleaning.
Talk to the salesperson or someone you know who has experience and similarities in tastes about a certain brand or flavour.
If possible, buy a small 50g pack to see if you like it.
Shisha tobacco flavour may be completely dominated by other aspects of the shisha (such as the rosewater, true of many low-key flavours). With such shisha tobacco flavours, what you’re left with is a soapy tasting smoke in your lungs and mouth.
Watch excessive inhaling as a beginner, as you will easily become light headed from the smoke and/or start coughing up.
Although it is not as addictive, one head of hookah is as strong in tobacco as 2.5 cigarettes. Smoke with care.