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How To Load A Hookah Bowl - Beginners Guide

How To Load A Hookah Bowl - Beginners Guide

By clay / February 28, 2019


How To Load A Hookah Bowl - Beginners Guide


Here at Hookah Company we have loaded quite a few bowls of shisha tobacco in our time, and we would like to share some of our secrets to packing a perfect hookah bowl with you.

There is no single aspect of setting up a hookah pipe that will guarantee a perfect smoke.  All aspects must be attended with care in order to ensure that your hookah smokes as well as possible.  With that being said, I find that the most common mistake that new smokers make is packing a bowl incorrectly.  First let's start with the bowl.  A few exceptions aside, there are essentially three types of hookah bowls - the Vortex Hookah Bowl, the Phunnel Hookah Bowl, and the traditional Egyptian Hookah Bowl.  

The most common type of bowl is the Egyptian hookah bowl.  These can be easily recognized because the holes will be on the bottom of the bowl, and the shisha is placed directly above these holes.  A Vortex bowl features a center spire with holes around the top of the spire, and a Funnel bowl features a center spire with a single large hole at the top of the spire.

The process of loading a hookah bowl is very similar regardless of the type of bowl you are using.  It may vary slightly if you are loading a Shika Hookah bowl versus a Mya Hookah bowl, for example, and can also vary by the type of tobacco being used as well - but otherwise the process remains largely the same. 

After selecting your bowl, you will want to focus on your shisha tobacco.  Shisha comes tightly packed in it's own juices to ensure longevity and to keep the hookah tobacco moist and mixing up your shisha to circulate those flavoring juices throughout the tobacco before smoking can greatly improve the session. Using either your hands or a Shisha Fork stir and mix your shisha tobacco to make sure that the flavoring juices are able to evenly soak all of the tobacco leaves which will make sure you're getting both great flavor and great clouds. 

Next, let's make sure the shisha tobacco is finely chopped enough to allow heat to evenly pass through the bowl.  I suggest getting a paper plate for this.  Grab a pinch of shisha between your fingers and gently break the shisha up over the plate, or sprinkle some of the shisha on to your plate and use a kitchen knife to chop the tobacco.  You want to focus on breaking up any large clumps in to smaller, more manageable pieces and if you see any large stems you can remove them and set aside.  Once you have enough shisha broken up (usually between 10-20 grams depending on the size of your bowl) we can start to load the bowl.


The key things to think about while loading your bowl of hookah tobacco are airflow and the amount of space between your hookah foil, metal bowl screen, or heat management device and the top of the shisha.  Without proper airflow, the heat from your coals will not efficiently mix with the shisha tobacco and you will get thin, whispy smoke.  

Begin by gently placing or sprinkling your broken up shisha into the hookah bowl.  Do not pack the shisha down tightly as you want there to be space for air to flow in from the top of your bowl, down through the shisha tobacco, and then down in to your hookah.  Sprinkle enough shisha to fill the bowl to near the top rim of your bowl. Once you have the bowl filled, take a damp papertowel and very gently press down any bits of shisha which may be poking up over the rim of the bowl.  The end goal is to make sure that the top of your shisha does not touch the bottom of your foil, so you should have about 1/8 of an inch of space between the top of the shisha and the rim of the bowl.  This will allow for airflow under the coals and will allow you to cook the shisha properly as opposed to actually burning the tobacco.


The final step to loading a perfect hookah bowl is the Hookah Foil, or bowl screen which will sit on top of the bowl and support the hookah coals. If you are using a bowl screen, simply place the screen over the bowl, bend down the tabs to secure, and you are all set.  With hookah foil (which I would recommend using) there are just a few more steps involved but it is still very simple and usually results in a better experience than using a metal screen.

First, grab a sheet of foil and place it over your loaded bowl of shisha tobacco.  Make sure the foil is centered and carefully wrap the foil around the top of the bowl as if you are tightly covering a dish of leftovers with aluminum foil.  The key is to make sure that the foil is taught on top of the bowl (like the head of a drum) which will ensure that your coals remain suspended above the shisha.  If the foil is not on tight enough the weight of the coals will make the foil sag and your coals will essentially be sitting right on top of your shisha. Use one hand to firmly hold the foil in place on one side of the bowl while using your other hand to gently pull down on the foil on the other side of the bowl and then rotate the bowl and repeat the process until the foil is pulled down tightly across the entire circumference of the bowl. Now that your foil is secure across the rim of the bowl use your hands to firmly squeeze the excess foil to the sides of your bowl ensuring that the foil will stay in place during your session. 


Once the foil is tight on top of the hookah bowl you will want to poke lots of tiny holes in the foil in order to allow for sufficient transfer of heat from the hookah coals to the shisha tobacco.  If the holes are too big, ash from the coals will mix with the shisha, which you don't want.  If there are not enough holes, your bowl will not smoke well.  I recommend using a sewing needle, thumbtack, paper clip, or Hookah Foil Poker to poke the holes. 

Typically I start at the outside edge of the bowl and poke holes around the bowl in concentric rings in towards the center of the bowl. With a Vortex bowl you want the holes to stop at the center spire and with an Egyptian or Phunnel hookah bowl the holes can go over the middle of the bowl, though some people do prefer to not punch holes over the center of the bowl with Phunnels.  

That's it!  You have successfully loaded a perfect hookah bowl of shisha tobacco.  Place the bowl on top of your bowl stem, add some Hookah Coals that are glowing red hot on top of the foil and get to smoking!

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