Once you have hookah set up and packed the bowl properly with your favorite shisha tobacco, the most important factor that will influence your smoking experience is heat management. How you use and manage the hookah charcoals will affect every aspect of your session, from the volume of the smoke to the flavor and texture. Here is a comprehensive heat management guide to use and manage hookah charcoals.
The Type of Charcoal
There are two types of charcoal used by most hookah enthusiasts. These are quick lighting and natural variants. A quick lighting charcoal is coated with a chemical, which serves as the accelerant. Natural charcoals do not have such a coating and is devoid of chemicals. While quick lighting variants may contain sawdust and other materials, natural charcoals for hookah are mostly made from coconut husks.
Quick lighting charcoals are easy to light. You can get a normal lighter, one that people use to light cigarettes, and the chemical coated charcoal will get ignited in a few moments. This convenience and swiftness come at a cost. The chemical accelerant has an odor and a texture. Thus, you will experience this odor in the room and the texture will influence the quality of the smoke from your shisha tobacco.
Natural charcoals are hard to light. You will need a burner. A typical lighter will not be sufficient. This inconvenience comes with a benefit. Natural charcoals do not have any unpleasant odor or texture. There will be no influence in the quality, texture, or flavor of the smoke. Natural charcoals tend to last longer. They are also healthier as a user is exposed to reduced chemical emissions.
Heat Management Basics
You may choose to use an aluminum foil atop the bowl for your hookah session. You may use a heat management device. The latter empowers you to move the charcoals around quite conveniently, you can regulate the vents to control airflow, and there are other features depending on the model or style of heat management device you have. Using a foil is effective too. You must follow the best practices.
The first rule of how to use and manage hookah charcoals is to put them on only after they are properly lit. Quick lighting charcoals should turn a little grey due to ash buildup on the surface. Do not put them on a foil or in a heat management device until the charcoals are fully lit and there is the ashy or greyish appearance all around. Natural charcoals should also be placed only after they are completely lit.
The second rule is to evenly space the charcoals atop the foil or in the heat management device. Two or more charcoals should not touch one another. The heat needs to be distributed evenly inside the bowl. Else, you will burn portions of the shisha tobacco inside the bowl, and the flavor will be choky.
The third rule is to move and rotate the charcoals. Get rid of excess ash as you move the charcoals. In case of a foil, you must move the charcoals so the entire surface and all the poked holes get equal exposure to the heat source. A heat management device will have its own mechanism.
The fourth rule is to reduce the number of charcoals if the smoke is unpleasantly hot. If there is very little smoke, then you should add a charcoal. Replace blacked out charcoals with fresh ones, but the latter should be well lit before being placed atop the foil or inside the heat management device.
The fifth rule is to regulate the airflow so the heat generated by the charcoals is directed towards the bowl. This is easily accomplished with a heat management device. Opening and closing the vents on the sides and top of the device will regulate the airflow. In case of a foil, an additional sheet can be used to form a wall around the bowl, so the charcoals are not subjected to direct airflow.
Expert Advice about Heat Management
Heat management or using the charcoals is not an exercise in isolation. The entire hookah setup or the apparatus plays a role in the quality of smoke generated. If there are any leaks in the setup, then you will not have desirably voluminous and flavorful smoke. This is irrespective of how well you manage the heat, how perfectly the bowl is packed, and what flavor you use. You will also have a problem if there is any blockage inside the stem, base, hose, or any of the connector ports in your hookah.