Making the perfect hookah requires practice. Even experienced users need some trial and error when they try a new hookah or a different shisha tobacco flavor to figure out the ideal quantity to pack in the bowl, the optimum number of charcoal pieces, and a few other essential factors.
I presume you are familiar with the basics of setting up a hookah since you are trying to improve the experience, irrespective of how anyone may define perfection. That said, here are 8 criteria you should remember to make the perfect hookah.
1. Clean All the Hookah Components
Always use a clean hookah. Regardless of how great you are at everything else, a dirty hookah will never deliver the best experience. While an unclean hookah is unhygienic, there are several other adverse effects on the smoking experience, including the flavor and texture of the clouds.
For instance, any residual buildup of shisha tobacco, juices, or resins in a hookah will influence and alter the flavor of another blend. Stains and gunk inside the stem and other parts, such as the hose, can trap heat. These heat pockets may lead to inconsistent clouds and hits.
2. Ensure the Hookah Set Is Airtight
Every port of a hookah set should have an airtight seal. Check the grommets for the following components to ensure they fit snugly:
The only inlet for air should be the bowl with a perforated foil or a heat management device. The sole outlet should be the hose through its tip when you draw a puff. Most hookahs have a purge valve that should only let air flow out when you blow through the hose, not otherwise.
You should check this purge valve, too, so that there is no air seeping in or out through it. Purge valves may get stuck in an open position, in which case they may facilitate air circulation when it is not intended. Any unusual airflow will adversely affect your hookah session.
3. Don’t Overfill or Underfill the Base
You need sufficient water in the glass base of a hookah for the tip of the pipe or down stem to be adequately submerged. The thumb rule is about half an inch up to an inch for small to large hookahs, respectively. If your down stem has a diffuser, it should be under water in the base.
Don’t overfill the base with water because the smoke will be extensively cooled and filtered, and that’s not necessary. Likewise, underfilling will not have the same cooling and filtering effect as you may want for the perfect hookah.
4. Pack the Bowl Evenly and Lightly
Never overpack a bowl with any shisha tobacco flavor. Bolder flavors require a light pack, which should be even and aerated inside the bowl. Milder flavors also need air pockets, but you might have a slightly denser pack. However, don’t fill or jampack any hookah bowl up to its rim.
Also, don’t press any shisha tobacco into the bowl to either compress the pack or to load more of the stuff. You need tiny air pockets for air and heat to circulate evenly throughout the bowl to extract the flavors from the loaded shisha tobacco.
5. Make Tiny Holes in Hookah Foils
Make the tiniest holes possible in your hookah foil. Don’t use ordinary foil. Get hookah foil, and use two pieces if you have an inexpensive one that is too thin. You may get a heat management device, but it isn’t necessary to make the perfect hookah.
While the holes should be tiny, they should be ample in number to cover the entire surface area of the foil, which mirrors the underlying face of the bowl. One safe approach is to make holes in a concentric pattern, starting with the edge of the bowl or foil. That way, you will have a method.
Fewer holes than necessary won’t deliver the kind of smoke density, flavor, and volume you may want. Excessively large or too many holes will scorch shisha tobacco, so your hookah session is likely to be far from perfect.
6. Use Burning Hot Charcoal Pieces
Always ensure you have burning hot hookah charcoal pieces before you place them atop the foil or in a heat management device. Partially lit charcoal won’t heat shisha tobacco properly. Your hookah will take a long time to produce enough smoke, and such charcoal pieces may also black out.
7. Manage Heat During the Session
Start with at least 2 pieces of burning hot charcoal pieces for small to medium hookahs. If you have a heat management device, you may want to use 3 initially, and then take the third one off when you have sufficient smoke. You must add and remove charcoal as and when required.
8. Purge and Smoke As Necessary
Any hookah setup may have stale air inside. Also, hookahs can overheat or go a bit cold, there may be some excess smoke inside the pipe or stem and the base, and you can get one or few choking hits. In all such circumstances, purge the hookah and draw your puffs as necessary.