Why is the smoke harsh? Why does the shisha taste burnt?
If you're trying to enjoy a hookah session but the flavor taste burnt, don't panic because we might be able to help you. Here's 5 quick tips to fix your harsh hookah session.
1. Too much heat
The most likely reason for the burnt taste is that you have too much heat on your hookah bowl. Remove some charcoal and give it a minute to cool down. If it's been more than 30-40 mins of harsh smoke before you try to make this change and it still taste burnt, that might mean you burnt the tobacco and will have to re-pack a new bowl.
A typical hookah session will require 3-4 pieces of natural hookah charcoal and 1-2 pieces of quick light charcoal. You don't have to use all of them at the same time but it's normal to start off with more and remove a piece as your session rolls to create the experience you desire.
2. Charcoal Position
When you're using foil as barrier between the bowl and hookah tobacco, it's always recommended that you initially place your charcoal pieces on the outer edge of the bowl. Depending on how much heat you want in the session will determine how close you move the charcoal pieces towards the middle. If you're starting the session off with the charcoal pieces directly in the center, there is a good chance your bowl will heat up to fast and cause burnt taste.
3. Foil Hole Placement
The holes that you make in your hookah foil not only help airflow pass through your bowl but they also allow heat to escape. If you don't have enough holes in your foil there's a good chance your smoke will be hot enough to tickle your throat and lower the chance of creating thunderous clouds.
Using a foil poker or toothpick make sure that you have evenly placed holes across the entire top of your hookah foil. In some cases with phunnel style bowl like the Rook and Gambit, we won't punch holes above the center spire but it all depends on your taste preference.
4. Too Much Shisha
Cramming more shisha tobacco into your bowl will not result in bigger clouds or more flavor, it does the complete opposite and won't taste great. You can add more for a slightly stronger flavor but you shouldn't apply a heavy amounts of pressure to fill the bowl because air needs to pass in between the tobacco in order to smoke properly. When the heated air can't make it's way through the tobacco, it will char the area where it's stuck and result in a burnt/char taste.
There are several shisha tobacco brands to choose from that all have unique ways of preparation but a good rule of thumb for your initial session with any bowl is a simple sprinkle fill. Grab small pinches of shisha tobacco and break them up over your bowl and let them fall inside to fill up to the inner rim and apply foil or your HMD.
Tangiers tobacco is one of the only brands that requires a real dense pressure to create an ideal session, but you'll get the balance of too much and not enough with trials.
5. Water Level Too Low
The water level in your hookah base is extremely important because it affects your flavor and the restriction within your session. The ideal water line should be 1-2" above the bottom line of your hookah stem. When there is not enough water in the base your smoke does not cool off properly and it results in a very harsh inhale. If you place too much water in the base it will cause your inhale to become very restricted.