You cannot pack every type of hookah bowl in the same way. Standard, vortex, and phunnel bowls warrant different approaches due to the distinct alignment of the holes. Likewise, you cannot pack all kinds of shisha tobacco in an identical manner. Many flavors fare better when you pack lightly, but a few require a slightly generous stuffing for sufficient smoke and texture.
With the caveats out of the way, let us now talk about the 5 quintessential factors that affect the smoke volume and flavor quality of shisha tobaccos. You may want to customize some of the following tips based on your hookah size, bowl type, and selected shisha tobacco flavor.
1. Prepare the Shisha Tobacco Before Loading
Always prepare the shisha tobacco before you load any on the bowl. If you are unsure about the quantity, you can take out some shisha tobacco from the pack and put it directly into the hookah bowl, assess how much you need, and then get it on a tray for sorting and mixing.
Get rid of any debris in your shisha tobacco. Remove the stems and other pieces that will impair your smoke quality and flavor. Also, you must mix the shisha tobacco to ensure the juices are thoroughly or evenly spread out. You don’t want one portion being excessively juicy or moist and another section unpleasantly dry. Besides, mixing is necessary when using two or more flavors.
Many hookah enthusiasts opt for layering when mixing two or more shisha flavors. You can go with layering, a pie, or mix the multiple shisha tobacco flavors thoroughly. All the approaches work well, and you can choose one over the others based on your preference and experience.
Load the shisha tobacco only after you have sorted and mixed it well. Try not to use your fingers while handling any shisha tobacco as you may absorb the moisture. A fork works best. Also, do not dry shisha tobacco on a paper towel. Allow the tobacco to retain the molasses and glycerin.
2. Don’t Pack the Hookah Bowl Too Tightly
All hookah bowls need sufficient space inside after you load them to generate voluminous smoke. Packing a hookah bowl too tightly will not produce a lot of smoke, and you may also get an unusually strong flavor. A very mild shisha tobacco flavor needs generous packing, but even then you should avoid overstuffing the hookah bowl. Leave some space around the bowl’s rim.
Aluminum foils should be flat atop your hookah bowl. The foils should not sag or be unable to hold the weight of charcoal. Otherwise, the foil will touch the shisha flavor inside and you may have burnt tobacco. If you are using a heat management device, check if its base will take a bit of space inside the hookah bowl. Ensure the device has no direct contact with the tobacco.
3. Aerate the Shisha Tobacco in the Bowl
Use the fork to sprinkle the sorted and mixed shisha tobacco into the hookah bowl. Poke the stuffed tobacco with the fork to create air pockets. You may want to create some space at the center if you are using a standard hookah bowl. Vortex or phunnel bowls don’t need this space.
The extent of aeration depends on the hookah bowl size and how you pack the shisha tobacco. If you are using too little tobacco for a short session, you don’t need many air pockets as the bowl already has sufficient space. A generously packed hookah bowl needs several air pockets throughout the stuffing so that the heat can pass through and produce voluminous smoke.
4. Let the Hookah Bowl Heat Up Before Smoking
You may use aluminum foils or a heat management device. Regardless, you should allow a hookah bowl to warm up before you start smoking. You can draw a puff or two to draw hot air through the hookah bowl, down the stem, and onto the base. However, do not begin smoking until the entire hookah bowl is hot and the shisha tobacco inside imparts flavor to the smoke.
You should start with two to three charcoal pieces for a small to medium sized hookah. Large hookahs, such as those taller than forty inches or so, need more than three standard pieces of charcoal. Some people start with two charcoal pieces, and then add the third one. Choose an approach depending on the hookah size and how much shisha tobacco you have in the bowl.
5. Move and Manage the Charcoal Pieces
Finally, you must move and manage the charcoal pieces. Do not keep a piece at one place for too long, as it will burn the tobacco directly underneath it. Remove the third charcoal piece when the hookah bowl is hot and you have large clouds of flavorful smoke. Longer sessions may need a fourth or fifth charcoal piece. Manage the heat as per the session duration and hookah size.