The art of preparing and smoking hookah isn’t difficult to master. However, you will need some practice, which inevitably involves a bit of trial and error. You may err at times, but it’s alright as long as you improve along the way. That said, you may need a few tips to get started.
Here are the most important tips and techniques you should know to hone and master the art of preparing and smoking hookah:
1. Clean Every Hookah Component
Always use a clean hookah set every time you start a session. You can continue using the same parts for several rounds as long as you change the water periodically. Even if your hookah parts are new, you must clean each of them to remove any debris and other types of residual traces.
You can’t wash a hose that has a metal coil inside, so use compressed air to blow out anything that may be stuck inside. A silicone hose is washable. Glass bases and glazed clay bowls are washable, and so is the internal bore of the pipe or stem. You may wash the grommets, too.
If you have cleaned your hookah after the last session, you don’t need to wash the parts again. Many users clean their hookah bowls and washable hoses when they switch from one distinct flavor to another. Bear this in mind as you advance to more flavors and mix two or more.
2. Fill the Base With Enough Water
Fill the base with water up to the level where the bottom tip of the pipe or downstem is around half an inch submerged. If you have a hookah stem with a diffuser, this component should be in the water completely, which is also usually less than an inch at the lower tip of the pipe.
Don’t overfill the base because excess water will adversely affect your hookah session. You will need stronger puffs to draw enough smoke. The flavors of shisha tobacco may get diluted and a bit excessively cooled. Optimum water is what you need.
3. Set Up the Hookah to be Airtight
You are probably familiar with assembling all the essential components of a hookah set. Use the grommets to snugly fit the different parts so that the hookah is impeccably airtight. If air leaks in or out when you smoke, you will have a diluted flavor and smoking will be somewhat tedious.
You can check if your hookah is airtight after assembling the set. Place a finger or hand atop the bowl to cover its hole or holes, subject to its type. Draw air through the hose mouthpiece. If you can’t inhale any air after an initial gush that’s already in the hookah setup, your assembly is truly airtight. If you can inhale a bit, and it continues, air is leaking in through a gap or hole.
Also, you may blow air into the hose to check if the only opening is the purge valve. Keep your finger or hand on the bowl of an assembled hookah, exhale through the mouthpiece of the hose, and watch as the purge valve extends to let air out through the hole in the connector.
4. Sort the Chosen Shisha Tobacco
You may not need to sort premium shisha tobacco, such as Amy Deluxe. However, you can sort a little to ensure you get sufficient bits and chunks to load the bowl. Don’t use fingers, tissues, or paper towels to sort. Get a fork. Or use a poker tool that you will use to make the holes in foils.
Fingers, tissues, and paper towels absorb the juices from shisha tobacco. You need the juices to enrich your shisha tobacco flavor. This is also why you should load shisha tobacco directly from the can or pack to the hookah bowl. Don’t use an intermediate container or vessel.
5. Pack the Hookah Bowl Properly
Pack a hookah bowl lightly if you smoke alone. Around half of a standard bowl should suffice for one user. Go for more shisha tobacco in the bowl if you have a friend. A dense pack isn’t ideal in any situation, even if you have a group of friends to share a session.
Shisha tobacco inside a hookah bowl must always have tiny air pockets. The pack shouldn’t be compressed or pressed down to load more. A lack of adequate aeration will prevent sufficient air from flowing into and through the bowl to the pipe. You won’t have enough smoke.
6. Perforate Foils and Wrap Them
Make tiny holes if you don’t have hookah foils that are already perforated. Use two heavy-duty aluminum foils to prevent any sagging. You can make the holes in a concentric pattern. Every hole should be equidistant from the ones around it. Avoid poking directly above the holes of the hookah bowl. You don’t want hot air flowing straight through the foil and the bowl into the pipe.
7. Ignite Natural Hookah Charcoal
Use natural hookah charcoal as it doesn’t contain chemical accelerants that are found in every instant or quick light variety. You can use a hookah charcoal burner or a gas stove to ignite two or three natural crushed coconut shell pieces.
Wait until the charcoal pieces are burning evenly before you place them atop the foil or in a heat management device. Natural hookah charcoal takes several minutes to start burning thoroughly. If you take the pieces off the burner too soon, the limited ignition will not be hot enough. Also, a piece or all of them may black out in a while. You will have to restart the whole process again.
8. Start Smoking and Manage Heat
Let the bright and burning charcoal pieces heat the shisha tobacco inside the hookah bowl for a minute or two. A large bowl and hookah demand longer. Take a puff or two to test the smoke out of the hookah. If you have pleasant smoke that is flavorful and voluminous, you are on the right track. Else, wait for a while, adjust the heat, and review the packing and water level.
You will have to move and rotate the charcoal pieces throughout a session. You can’t have the pieces sit in the same place on the foil. Plus, you must remove a piece and keep it on the tray of your hookah if the smoke gets too hot. Add a charcoal piece if you don’t have a lot of clouds.