Let’s begin with the checklist of essentials you need to smoke hookah:
- A full hookah kit or all parts assembled.
- Shisha tobacco (a flavor you choose).
- Charcoal (any type you may have).
- Foils or a heat management device.
- A regular lighter or charcoal burner.
- Water, fork, and a steady table or surface.
You need all these essentials to smoke hookah. So, if you don’t have a full hookah kit, you must have all the separate parts compatible with one another for the complete assembly. Likewise, you may choose aluminum foils or a heat management device. The approaches vary, of course.
Also, you may choose instant or quick-light charcoal that is easier to ignite. Alternatively, you may get natural charcoal that does not contain a chemical accelerant. If you purchase natural charcoal, you may need a special lighter or burner. A cigarette lighter will be inconvenient.
Now that you have all the essentials, let’s talk about the steps to smoke hookah for the first time.
Step One - Assemble the Hookah
Ensure all the hookah parts are clean. If unsure, wash the washable parts and allow them to air dry. Spread all the parts on a flat and steady table. Make sure you have the grommets ready to assemble the parts. Also, keep some paper towels handy for inadvertent spills and ash.
Follow these steps to assemble your hookah:
- Fill the base with water and check how much of the down stem is submerged inside it.
- Aim for around half an inch of the down stem to be under water, neither more nor less.
- Adjust the water in the base until you have the desired level before any other steps.
- Place the base with water on the table. You may add some ice if you want cool smoke.
- Take the hookah stem and use the large grommet to fix it snugly into the glass base.
- Slide the hookah tray down the stem from the top. The tray should stop at a ledge.
- Pick up the hose and use the small grommet to gently insert it into the hookah’s port.
- Place your hand atop the stem, thus blocking it, and blow air through the hose.
- This process is called purging and it will remove all stale air from inside the setup.
- Also, you will get to know if there are any leaks in the assembled hookah.
Step Two - Prepare the Bowl
Select your favorite shisha tobacco flavor. You can use the hookah charcoal tray to keep the tobacco you take out of the container. Do not use a paper towel to keep shisha tobacco as you pack your bowl because the material will turn dry. Also, use a fork to pack the bowl, not fingers.
Follow these steps to pack, wrap, and prepare a hookah bowl:
- Hold the hookah bowl firmly with one hand and pack it with bits of tobacco at a time.
- Take some tobacco on the fork and spread it around inside the bowl. Don’t press it.
- Pack as much shisha tobacco as you want without overstuffing the bowl.
- Keep tiny air pockets inside the shisha tobacco as you pack the hookah bowl to the rim.
- Leave some space at the bowl’s rim level so that hot air can evenly heat the tobacco.
- Get two pieces of aluminum foil and wrap them around the hookah bowl.
- Or, place the heat management device atop the bowl as required based on its design.
- If you use foil, make sure the wrapping is tight and flat. The foil should not sag.
- Poke tiny holes on the heavy-duty aluminum foil in concentric patterns.
- Do not make large holes. Avoid too many holes at any part of the foil atop the bowl.
Step Three - Light the Charcoal
You can use a standard lighter to ignite instant charcoal. Natural charcoal needs a special burner. Wait till every charcoal piece is burning hot before you place it on the aluminum foil or inside the heat management device. Partially lit charcoal will not heat the shisha tobacco well.
Every charcoal piece should be fully lit, thoroughly burning, and glowing red when you place it on the hookah. In most cases, two to three pieces of charcoal should suffice for a session of around half an hour or so. You can always get additional charcoal for longer sessions.
Step Four - Start Smoking and Manage the Heat
Place the burning hot charcoal on the foil or in the heat management device. Wait for a few minutes for the heat to extract the flavors from the shisha tobacco. Also, you need sufficient smoke to accumulate inside the glass base of your hookah before you can smoke.
You will have to take a few short puffs to draw in some hot air through the entire apparatus. But these puffs are not your actual smoking session. In a few minutes, your hookah will have a lot of flavorful smoke in the base, filtered and cooled by the water. Start smoking.
Manage the heat as required. Move the hookah charcoal around atop the bowl to ensure even distribution of heat inside. Also, use the hookah tongs to ash the charcoal pieces as and when necessary. Replace burnt out charcoal with new ones for longer sessions.