There are three phases of setting up a hookah. The first phase is the physical setup of the entire apparatus. The second phase is preparing the shisha. The third phase is lighting up and making adjustments, if necessary, for an amazing session.
Physical setup a Hookah
You are perhaps familiar with the different components of a hookah. There is the base, which some people refer to as vase. This is the water container, and also the foundation for the hookah. There is a stem that is mounted on the base. This stem may have one or two shafts depending on the model or design you own. There is a hose, with the mouthpiece at one end, and an adapter that goes into the stem. The stem has a purge valve that you do not have to worry about if this is your first time setting up a brand new hookah. Close to the top of the stem, at around the neck, should be the tray, also referred to as ashtray. Atop the stem goes the bowl.
New hookahs don’t have to be cleaned. Used hookahs must be thoroughly cleaned. The purge valve must be used to cleanse the hookah of any residual vapor or smoke. The base, bowl and tray should be washed. If all components are clean, fill up the base or vase with cold water. Some people also use ice. Don’t use very chilled water if you are using a menthol flavored shisha. The base or vase should be half filled. The water level, with or without ice, should not exceed the halfway mark of the base. This is by volume or space inside the base, not as per its height.
Place the water filled base on the floor, table or steady platform. Insert the stem, place the tray and fit it at the neck. Connect the hose and you can take a puff or two to check if air is passing through rather conveniently. Do not fit in the bowl just yet. You need to prepare the shisha, which is the second phase of setting up a hookah.
Preparing the Shisha
Unpack the shisha flavors you want to smoke. Take as much as you want, limited by the size of the bowl, depending on how much you wish to smoke and how many people you have with you. Before you place the shisha in the bowl, put it on a plate or on your palm and break the material. This is similar to how land is aerated before seeds are sowed in farming.
You need the shisha, small bits and pieces of it, to be exposed to air. The shisha you place inside the bowl should have pockets of air so the flavor can conveniently enrich the smoke generated that shall go down the stem, into the base and through the hose to the mouthpiece for your puff.
Once you have the shisha prepared, place it inside the bowl and cover it with an aluminum foil. Use a thin needle to pierce the foil. Make tiny holes. You need several tiny holes and not a few large ones. The entire shisha paste inside the bowl should be adequately aerated. Only then you would manage to extract all the flavor of the shisha. Finally, fit the bowl atop the stem.
Lighting up your Hookah
Get two to three pieces of charcoal. You may use natural charcoal. Light them up and place them atop the foil on the bowl. Let the charcoal pieces be well lit, so they can generate enough heat inside the bowl. Give it a minute or two, depending on how much charcoal you are using and the quantity of the shisha inside the bowl. Take a small puff and see if you get any smoke. Enough smoke should be generated within two minutes of you lighting the hookah. You should get voluminous and flavor rich smoke in the third minute.
It is possible for a hookah to get choked. Reduce the number of charcoal pieces. If you do not get enough smoke, then you have perhaps filled up too much shisha in the bowl. If very little smoke is accumulating inside the base or vase, then you need to reduce the quantity of water. These are adjustments you have to make if you have not perfected the proportions.
If your hookah is well lit and you are getting adequate smoke, rich in flavor and aroma, then continue enjoying your session, till the charcoals last. Generally, people need another set of charcoals to complete one session, wherein the bowl has been filled adequately with the chosen shisha.