What Coals are Used in Hookah Lounges?
Hookah charcoal is an essential piece of the shisha smoking process, and one that can greatly affect the quality of your smoke sessions. Coals are the fuel for your hookah and are what actually provide the heat in a hookah session that allow those billowy clouds of smoke to be produced from your flavored tobacco. They can come in all different shapes and sizes, and it feels like every year there's a variety of new charcoal brands to explore.
The amount of charcoal options on the market might be overwhelming for some, and many people choose to use the coals that their local hookah lounge use due to a sense of familiarity. But which coals are actually used in hookah lounges? Come join us while we explore this very broad, but important topic!
Hookah Lounge Charcoal
When speaking about which charcoals are used in a lounge setting, it can get extremely tricky due to the immense selection of brands, styles, and types of coals that are available in the hookah market. In our experience, every lounge tends to use different brands and styles of coal that can largely depend on what is available from their supplier.
Because of the vast variety of charcoal used in lounges across the world, we’re not going to dig too deep into the specific brands themselves. Instead, we’ll touch on the main “types” of hookah coals that you may be familiar with from your local lounge, as well as some brand recommendations that would fit into each category.
Quick Light Hookah Coals
The first type of charcoal we’ll cover are “quick light” or “instant light” coals. Often referred to simply as "quick lights", these coals are most commonly characterized by their “disc” or circular shape and are an extremely convenient coal option.
These charcoals earned their name by being coated in a chemical accelerant that allows them to be lit using a normal flame lighter (think a BIC or candle lighter) and fully light within 2-3 minutes.
These are extremely popular in lounge settings due to their ease of preparation and fast lighting times, and are also extremely convenient when using your hookah on the road or out in nature, however one of the main critiques of them is that the accelerant coating can sometimes interfere with the actual flavor of the shisha itself.
Common quick light charcoal brands include Coco Nara quick light coals, Ignite coals, Three Kings coals, Crown coals, and Starbuzz Instant Light coals. They will also come in two different sizes: most commonly a 33mm option and a 40mm option, however the exact sizes offered may vary slightly depending on which brand you're looking at.
How To Light Quick Light Hookah Coals
Starting quick light coals is simple, fast, and doesn't require a whole lot of extra "equipment" per se. To get started, all you'll need is the charcoal itself (of course), a pair of metal hookah tongs to hold the charcoal, and a flame lighter such as a BIC lighter, candle lighter, or torch.
Note: We highly recommend lighting hookah charcoal outside or in a well ventilated area, as the lighting process tends to emit strong, irritating fumes.
First, take an unlit piece of your chosen quick light charcoal and hold it securely with your metal hookah tongs.
Next, using your flame lighter, hold the flame directly to the piece of unlit charcoal for several seconds, after which the piece of coal will begin to emit sparks. This is just the self lighting chemical accelerant fully igniting. Once the sparking has begun, you do not need to hold the flame to the coal any longer.
As your coal emits sparks, you will notice the color start to change from solid black to grey (or sometimes red-orange). At this stage, all you'll need to do is wait approximately 2-3 minutes while the self lighting agent does the work and finishes lighting the coal.
Once the coal piece has changed from solid black to completely grey/red-orange, that is when you know your charcoal is fully lit and ready to be put on your bowl!
Natural Coconut Hookah Coals
The other type of charcoal used in lounges and hookah bars are “natural coconut coals.” These are made from compressed coconut husks (don’t worry, they don’t taste like coconut) and are most commonly characterized by their “flat” or “cube” shape, however they are also available in a variety of other shapes.
Unlike the “quick light” coals we touched on previously, natural coconut coals do not contain any sort of chemical accelerant or coating on them. This means that they cannot be lit using a normal flame lighter, and instead have to be lit using an electric coil stove (not gas or a flat top) or charcoal burner. Depending on the power output of the stove or burner being used, these coals can take around 7-10 minutes to fully light.
Despite their increased lighting time, natural coconut coals are widely considered to be higher quality, better burning charcoal. Due to the lack of a chemical accelerant, they will not interfere with the flavor of the shisha, providing a much cleaner tasting smoke session that, in a hookah bar, will typically translate to a more satisfying customer experience.
Common natural coconut charcoal brands include CocoBrico coals, Titanium coals, CocoUrth coals, and Coco Nara natural coals, with each brand offering its own variety of shapes such as flats, cubes, "Lotus Cut" coals, and even some hexagon (hex) shaped finger coals!
How To Light Natural Coconut Hookah Coals
To light natural coals, you will need two main pieces of equipment: a pair of hookah tongs (to handle hot charcoal) and an electric coil stove or dedicated charcoal heater. We highly recommend lighting hookah charcoal outside or in a well ventilated area, as the lighting process tends to emit strong, irritating fumes.
First, place your desired amount of charcoal on to your chosen coal burner. Next, simply turn the dial on your burner to the highest setting to initiate the lighting process. As your burner begins to fully heat up, you will notice that the previously all black pieces of charcoal will begin to slowly turn a red/orange color from the bottom up.
Once the bottom half of your coals have turned that red/orange color, it's time to flip them! Take a pair of metal hookah tongs and flip the charcoal to the other unlit side. This will allow the remaining half of the coal pieces to fully light. It should take approximately 7-10 minutes for natural coals to finish lighting, depending on the heat output of your chosen burner.
Once the coals have become completely red/orange and do not contain any black unlit portions, they are ready to be used. Using your tongs or a charcoal carrier, carefully remove them from the coal heater, transfer them to your hookah bowl, and get to smoking!
Convenience vs. Performance
As you can see, there are clear benefits to each type of hookah charcoal on the market, and this definitely contributes to the type of coals that are used in hookah lounges across the world. And which type your local lounge uses may not be so "cut and dry".
Some hookah bars exclusively use the more convenient quick lighting coal options in order to decrease customer wait times. Some prioritize performance and customer experience by using the natural coconut coals despite their increased lighting times. And some lounges offer a mixture of both, allowing the customer to choose!
We hope to have supplied you with the knowledge needed to identify the type of coals your hookah local lounge is serving you, but if you’re unsure what type is being used or just want to know the specific brand they're using, we definitely recommend asking one of the lounge employees as they should be able to give you specifics!
And as always, if there is anything in this blog that you have additional questions about or would just like more information about, please reach out to our friendly customer service team and we'll be happy to assist!