Lay out all the hookah parts on a table. Prepare a checklist and inspect the glass base or vase, stem or pipe, hose & mouthpiece, clay bowl, three grommets or rubber seals, tray, tong, charcoal, and aluminum foil. Also, you need access to water, a gas stove or burner, and lighter.
Step 1 - Clean the Hookah Parts
Verify if all the hookah parts are in perfect condition and impeccably clean. Replace damaged components and clean all the parts if they are dirty. You can use regular detergent and warm water to clean the glass vase, stem, and clay bowl. Use a soft-bristled brush to scrub.
Do not wash a hose unless it is washable. Ensure all the parts are spotlessly clean. Otherwise, you won’t get the true flavors from your selected shisha. You must repeat this cleaning ritual after or at the beginning of a hookah session for satisfying experiences every time.
Step 2 - Set Up the Vase & Stem
Fill up a clean glass vase with water up to the midway mark. The bottom end of the stem has to be around an inch submerged into water, not much more. Do not overfill the vase. If the hookah base has a long neck, fill it up just before the tapering of the glass. Do not fill up the neck.
Take the stem, fit the largest rubber seal at its bottom end, and insert it into the glass vase. Ensure a snug fit so that the base and the stem are reliably steady. Remove excess water if you notice any significant rise in its level inside the glass vase after setting up the stem.
Step 3 - Connect the Hose & Tray
Take the hose, fix the rubber seal at its bottom end, and insert it into the connector on the stem. Most hookahs have only one hose port, so spotting this hole or protruding connector should not be a problem. Ensure a snug fit so that the hose doesn’t come apart and the seal is airtight.
After connecting the hose, place your hand on top of the stem to block its bore, take the hose, and try to inhale. You won’t feel any air flowing through the system. If you do draw air while inhaling, there is a leak somewhere, which is usually in the stem grommet or hose seal.
Once you know there is no air leakage, take the charcoal tray, slide it onto the stem from the top, and fix it. Some hookah models may need you to slightly twist the tray. This tray is where you can place hot charcoal, ash them, and also hold any debris or other unwanted materials.
Step 4 - Prepare & Set Up the Bowl
Some users may set up the bowl straight away after fixing the tray. Most veterans like to pack their bowl with shisha before setting it up atop the stem. The latter is more convenient. Take your favorite shisha flavor and sprinkle the tobacco into the bowl. Don’t overpack the bowl.
Avoid filling the bowl with tobacco up to its rim. Ensure the tobacco stuffing is aerated. Poke some holes into the stuffing so hot air can pass through and extract all the delightful flavors. Once the bowl is ready, wrap it with at least two pieces of aluminum foil. Use heavy-duty ones.
Check if the aluminum foil is wrapped immaculately. It should not come off nor sag when you place the charcoal on top. Poke holes in a spiral pattern. You may opt for concentric circles. These holes should be tiny, more like pores on the foil. Large holes will burn the shisha tobacco.
Step 5 - Light the Charcoal and Smoke
Take at least two pieces of charcoal at the start. Light the pieces using a burner or gas stove. Exercise caution to avoid inadvertent mistakes. Get the pair of tongs, wait for the charcoal pieces to start burning thoroughly, and pick one up at a time after it is bright red or orange.
Place the two charcoal pieces atop the foil. Both can be equidistant but centered on the foil. You need more heat to flow through the holes around the center. Ensure the foil doesn’t sag after placing the charcoal to avert directly heating the shisha tobacco inside the bowl.
Wait for a few moments for the charcoal pieces to transfer enough hot air through the holes in the foil. Take the hose and draw a puff or two to test the vapor quality. Add a third charcoal piece if you think the bowl or the quantity of shisha tobacco needs more heat. Your hookah is set up.