Hookah charcoal is the heat source for your hookah. If you do not have well-lit charcoal, then your hookah experience will be far short of satisfying. It takes a while to hone your skills at lighting hookah charcoal. Furthermore, you will need a few smoking sessions to understand the tactful interventions necessary for efficient heat management, which is essentially rotating, removing and replacing burnt charcoal.
Common Methods of Lighting Hookah Charcoal
There are two types of hookah charcoal available today. The lighting methods vary for both. Quick-light charcoal, also known as instant-light or just instant charcoal, can be ignited with an ordinary lighter. Every type of quick-light charcoal has a chemical accelerant to speed up the process. Hence, you can hold a piece of quick-light charcoal over the flame of a basic cigarette lighter and get started in a minute. You may need two minutes at the most if the charcoal piece is large.
The other and better kind of hookah charcoal is the natural option. Organic or natural hookah charcoal is made from coconut shells. Ground up coconut shells are used to form various shapes and there is no chemical accelerant. Quick-light charcoal is mostly made from sawdust and other such materials. Coconut charcoal is harder to light, as it takes longer and demands more heat. A simple cigarette lighter would not suffice. Thus, let’s get to the simplest stepwise guide to light hookah charcoal.
Step 1: Choose your Burner/Lighter
Since an ordinary lighter cannot properly ignite a piece of coconut charcoal, you will need a burner and there are a few to choose from. You can buy a hookah burner. This is usually an electric burner or lighter with a coil. A premium quality hookah burner is ideal. If you don’t wish to spend money on a hookah burner, you may use a gas stove in your home, an outdoor grill, a campfire, or some other appliance that has a coil and fire to light the coconut charcoal.
Do not use electric ovens or flat top stoves. Do not use induction cooktops or any such appliance. Coconut charcoal needs a free flowing heat source so the entire surface area of the material can get sufficient oxygen to burn. If you put the piece on a flat surface or cooktop, then the bottom will not get ignited properly. The charcoal will also leave behind unpleasant marks on your appliance.
You may consider using a blowtorch and other mobile heat sources, but none of these will be desirably effective. The best option is to buy a hookah burner. It is simple, efficient and effective, durable, and you may use it for purposes other than lighting hookah charcoal.
Step 2: Light the Hookah Charcoal
You may light one or more pieces of hookah charcoal depending on the size of the coil in your burner. Standard burners can light multiple pieces of coconut charcoal simultaneously. You do not need several rounds for several pieces. Start your electric hookah burner, place the required number of coconut charcoal pieces on the coil, and wait. Five minutes are sufficient for most sizes of coconut charcoal.
Flip the pieces using a sturdy and reliable pair of hookah tongs. Wait for another three to five minutes. The coconut charcoal pieces must be lit thoroughly for an optimum smoking session. The total process of lighting coconut charcoal using a burner should take eight to ten minutes. If you are using very large pieces of charcoal, then you will need twelve minutes.
Step 3: Set up the Hookah Charcoal
Take the well-lit pieces of hookah charcoal and place them on the bowl, atop the foil or inside the heat management device. You must carefully handle the pieces with your hookah tongs. Don’t drop the burning charcoal anywhere. Later, rotate the charcoal pieces, move them to the tray to get rid of excess ash, replace them if needed, and light a few more for subsequent sessions.
Take the hookah charcoal off the burner only when the pieces are orange or red hot. There should be a very thin layer of gray ash, not a lot. If any part of the surface area of the hookah charcoal continues to be black, or as it was when out of the pack, then the pieces are not well-lit. Using half-lit hookah charcoal will fail to produce sufficient smoke and flavor from the shisha tobacco. Also, avoid over-burning the hookah charcoal. The pieces will shrink, leading to a much shorter session.