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How to Smoke a Hookah - Hookah Charcoal and Heat Management

How to Smoke a Hookah - Hookah Charcoal and Heat Management

By clay / March 7, 2008

This blog was updated on 1/23/2019

Our mad scientists here at are always testing out various hookah setups and accessories in search of the best hookah smoking methods and troubleshooting tips to smoke a perfect bowl of shisha, and as such we would like to take a minute to share some of those tips with you!

Today's blog focuses on heat management. The top of the hookah can be one of the most overlooked parts when smoking a hookah, especially for those that are new to hookah, but it can also be one of the most influential parts of the hookah smoking experience. For those of you that don't know, a hookah is heated by hookah charcoal. Some hookah charcoals are easier to light and arrange than others, but they all serve one common purpose: to heat a hookah bowl. Heat management and maintaining the heat transfer is the key to gaining the perfect hookah smoke.

Types Of Hookah Charcoal

The type of charcoal you use can greatly impact your ability to properly manage the heat of your hookah bowl and thus can affect your overall hookah experience. Generally speaking, there are two types of hookah charcoal available (Quick Lighting Charcoal or Natural Hookah Charcoal) and there will be some pros and cons to each of them. 

Quick Lighting Coals

Quick lighting charcoals will have a chemical accelerant coating on them which allows the coals to be easily lit using a standard cigarette lighter, and these types of coal are a particularly great option for new hookah smokers as they are easy to use and require very little management throughout the smoking session. Quick lighting coals are also a great option in situations where you may not have access to the type of charcoal heater required to heat natural coals. However, because of their accelerant coating, they will also have a stronger odor and taste to them than natural coals, and they will also burn hotter and quicker than natural coals.

Natural Coals

Natural hookah charcoals will typically be made using compressed coconut husks, though there are also several great options for wood-based natural coals such as Lemonwood Hookah Coals as well. These coals will not have an accelerant coating on them so you will need to use a Natural Charcoal Heater to light the coals, and they will take a few more minutes to heat than quick lighting coals, but once they are fully lit they will burn longer and with a more even heat than quick lighting coals and will not have the same odor or taste that quick lighting coals can have as well. 


Foil vs. Heat Management Devices

Traditionally hookah bowls were smoked by loading shisha tobacco into the bowl, covering the bowl with aluminum foil, poking airflow holes into the foil, and then setting your lit charcoals on the foil. Within the last few years, however, there have been a multitude of modernized hookah components hitting the market (e.g. washable silicone hoses), and heat management devices that replace foil have been some of the most popular accessories within the hookah community. Traditional foil setups are still extremely popular and will allow you to customize the amount of airflow going down into your bowl (depending on how you punch your holes in the foil) as well as allow easy access to your charcoal if you need to flip or rotate the coals during the session. Heat management devices will save you money over time as you will no longer need to keep purchasing foil for your bowl. They also have the added benefit of allowing you to control how much heat is being contained and focused down on your tobacco to better manage the temperature of the bowl. 


If you are using a heat management device such as a Kaloud Lotus 2 or an Apple on Top Provost, then natural coals will give you the best sessions. If you are unfamiliar with heat management devices, check out our in-depth review blog: Introducing The Kaloud Lotus 2.

There really is no right or wrong answer when it comes to foil vs. heat management devices so try a few sessions with each and see which method works best for you. 


If you've got your hookah set up and ready to go but don't seem to be getting a full smoke then you may want to check and make sure that there are no air leaks in the hookah as well. Double-check the grommet connections between where the bowl sits on to the top of the stem, the connection where the base connects to the bottom of the stem, and then also where your hose connects to the hose adapter on the side of the stem, and also check the purge valve on your hookah to make sure that you have a ball bearing sealing that opening as well.

When you smoke a hookah it should always be totally sealed to ensure that the top of your hookah bowl is the only entrance for air when you inhale on the hose. This will ensure that when you inhale on your hose you are pulling enough air into the hookah to stoke your coals and provide enough heat down into the bowl to really get those clouds rolling. 

Hopefully, this blog will help you find the sweet spot with your own hookah coal heat management to get the perfect session, but if you are still having trouble getting your hookah to smoke properly please feel free to contact the hookah experts on our Customer Service team with any questions that you have. 

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