There are two ways to mount charcoal on your hookah, aluminum foil or heat management device. Most beginners start with foil. However, a regular hookah user is more likely to use a heat management device. So, what should your choice be, heat management device or foil?
Heat Management Device vs. Foil - Ease of Use
Let’s begin our comparison with the ease of use. A heat management device takes less time to set up than one or two pieces of foil. You don’t have to wrap a foil or make the holes. Instead, ignite the charcoal pieces, put them in the heat management device atop the hookah bowl.
It is worth a mention here that both approaches require burning hot charcoal, not partly lit or ignited. Thus, a heat management device outscores foil in the context of preparation and ease of use as you start a hookah session.
Heat Management Device vs. Foil - Effects
Aluminum foil, especially the heavy-duty variants made for shisha charcoal, works really well if you know how to wrap correctly and make appropriate holes. Beginners may struggle to make the tiny concentric holes. A heat management device does not pose any such challenges.
All you have to do is place the hot charcoal inside the heat management device and set it up on the bowl. The device has vents and other features to transfer the heat to the shisha tobacco in the bowl. Also, the enclosed device ensures little to no loss of heat during the entire session.
The most noteworthy difference is the heating effect of foil and heat management devices. A foil will always lose heat because nothing encloses the charcoal. You may use makeshift walls using additional foil. However, you will still have some heat loss due to the ambient temperature.
Also, a heat management device enables you to regulate the heat much more effectively. You may close one vent, open another, and manage each such feature depending on your real-time heating needs. Hence, a heat management device outscores aluminum foil in this context, too.
Heat Management Device vs. Foil - Charcoal Management
Charcoal management is a convenient exercise with heavy-duty aluminum foil. You can take the pair of tongs, pick up a charcoal or two, place them somewhere else on the foil, and put them on the hookah tray if there is too much heat inside the bowl. This process is not so straightforward with a heat management device due to the enclosure. First, you need to remove the lid.
Also, changing the placement of each piece of charcoal on a foil is easy. The process may not be as simple inside a heat management device. Some devices have sufficient space for you to use the tongs. However, smaller devices may not facilitate changing the positions of big pieces of charcoal. Also, charcoal management may be tricky if the device has too many pieces inside.
Still, foil does not outscore a heat management device in this regard because you can regulate the latter’s vents to enhance or reduce the heat transfer to the shisha tobacco in the bowl. Thus, it is not necessary to change the positions of the charcoal pieces or take one off the device.
Furthermore, a charcoal piece may last longer in a device than on foil as it is not subject to the ambient breeze or airflow and heat loss. In effect, you will need fewer charcoal pieces, which can save you some money. You may save a lot if you use natural charcoal.
Heat Management Device vs. Foil - Cost
Aluminum foil is cheap. Even the heavy-duty foil you may get for your hookah will not cost a tenth of the price of a heat management device. A premium-quality heat management device may cost around a hundred bucks. A pack of foil costing a few bucks will last fifty sessions or more. However, heat management devices are a one time investment, not a recurring cost.
Therefore, you have to assess the cost difference based on how often you use a hookah. A heat management device will last years unless you misplace or damage it. Frequent users can avoid the recurring cost of foil with one upfront investment into a durable heat management device.
Heat Management Device vs. Foil - Maintenance
Maintenance is the only issue where foil clearly outscores heat management devices. You can use one or two pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil and dispose of them after your session. A heat management device warrants a cleaning and maintenance routine. You don’t need to clean these devices after every session, but it is better to do so sooner than later.
Cleaning a heat management device is not challenging but you must wait till it is cool. However, the initial cost and the need to clean the device may not be suitable for every hookah user, especially beginners that are unsure about how often they will smoke a shisha.