Hookah Mythbuster - Does a tall hookah really smoke better than a small hookah?

One of the most common prejudices against small hookahs, 'that they smoke worse than tall hookahs' may be simply a myth based on our perception of the hookah's appearance.   Let's take a closer look at some of the claims made about the differences:

Myth #1: Tall hookahs cool the smoke more than small hookahs

Once the smoke leaves the bowl and enters the shaft, it will be quite warm (as anyone who has touched a bowl mid-smoke is aware). The smoke travels in 3 stages: through the shaft, through the water, and through the hose. While the temperature of the shaft (cooled by the ambient air around the shaft) will cool the smoke somewhat, the temperature of the water will be the determining factor of the smoke.

Essentially, the temperature of the smoke in the shaft becomes irrelevant when the smoke passes through the water,  for the water will always adjust the smoke's temperature to its own temperature.   Once the smoke leaves the water, it will have adjusted to the water's temperature before entering the hose. Because of the non-conductive materials used in hoses (typically pleather and types of rubbers or plastics), their temperature will have little impact on the smoke passing through them.

As, on closer examination, the water becomes the most critical governor of temperature, we can rule out the length of shaft as having a major impact on the smoke's temperature - thus a short hookah and a tall hookah with water of similar temperatures in the base will deliver smoke of the same temperature, and we may consider this myth busted.

Myth #2: Tall hookahs "hit harder", or deliver easier draws, than small hookahs

While the length of contained passage for air flow will impact the draw when the air is traveling moderate distances (such as several meters), the difference of dozens of inches in the air's path will have little impact. Far more important than the length of the air's pathway is the width, or 'openness' of the air's path. The width of the air's path through the hookah is determined by the diameter of the shaft, downstem, hose connector, and hose.

If all of these openings are large, air can pass through them without resistance, and the draw on the hookah is easy. If these holes are small, there will be constriction in the air pressure as you're trying to move air through the hookah, creating a "tight" or "hard" draw. Therefore, as long as the openings of the shaft, downstem, hose connector, and hose are similar between a tall and a short hookah, they will smoke the same.

This is best evidenced in the Mya line, as Mya produces all its parts (for tall, medium, or small hookahs) to the exact same sizes. Because of this, the 12 inch Mya QT Hookah will smoke exactly like the 33 inch Mya Paragon Hookah, and we may safely consider this myth busted.

Hookah Downstem Comparison

Myth #3: Tall hookahs yield more smoke than small hookahs

As covered in our previous blog posts covering bowl loading and heat maintenance, the responsibility for smoke production rests primarily on the bowl setup, quality of the tobacco, type of coal, and the interaction of all these elements. As the hookah itself only transports and filters the smoke, we can conclude that the height of the hookah is unimportant to the production of smoke, and consider this myth busted.

After closely analyzing all the arguments posed that tall hookahs deliver a superior smoke or experience than a short hookah, we can officially declare that "Tall hookahs smoke better/cooler/easier than small hookahs" is a myth...busted!

Comments (26) -

  • Wow, very nice article.  My thought after reading it is, what reasons are there to buy a larger hookah then?  In addition to what you said in your article, they are harder to clean because they are larger (harder to clean every part), they are larger so there is more of a chance for a bad seal to arise somewhere, and they are expensive.  The positive of larger hookahs is probably the fact that they could be more ornate, but then again, I've seen a lot of large ones that aren't that pretty minus the crystal myas.  I suppose that is really what it comes down to though.  People are probably overcompensating a bit.  =D
  • It's true! I own three Mya's myself, and I've got to admit, even though my Paragon seems to smoke the best, it doesn't by much. My Mya Chic is right there with it delivering out the same punches that the towering Paragon does. With the right tools, you can make any hookah a superior smoking machine. My friends can attest that before I got my Paragon, my Chic was out smoking even the tallest of tall hookahs. I mean, I love my Paragon, but let's face it, it's just that much easier to break when it's so tall! haha! My motto has always been; Size does matter, but taller does not equal better!
  • wouldnt the smokes travel to the water cool it slightly thus altering how quickly the water heats from the smoke? if its cooler when it hits the water it wont heat it as quickly......
  • I'm a hookah connoisseur, and these are my hookah discoveries.

    1) Tall hookahs are more stable than small hookahs. (Better for parties because less chance of a drunk knocking them over)

    2) Small hookahs hit TASTIER.  I can't seem to figure out why or how, but this has been my experience.  Crappy (and cheap) laylina tobacco can be smoked through a small hookah and taste delicious; whereas a larger hookah will not pull as much flavor, causing the tobacco to taste dryer and less flavorful.

    3) My "S" stemmed hookah pulls easier than any of my other hookahs.  I believe this has something to do with the velocity and turbulence of the bending channel of smoke through the stem smashing into the water harder than that of a straight stem.

    I have already busted the 3 posted myths, but if hookah-shisha would like to test my 3, I would greatly appreciate it Smile

  • On the first point you are right on. But I will say with larger hookas there is more water in the base. Becaus of this it is not affected as much by the temp of the smoke so that you can use the water longer and the smoke stays cooler
  • Ah, I see this and all I can remember are my college years. I care to disagree, but you won't notice it unless you have a certain smoking style. People who just pick up a hose, ram it in their mouth and draw furiously will notice a difference in the volume of the stem. The reason for this is because it buffers the smoke. The volume of the stem holds smoke which has been pulled out of the shisha but has not yet entered the water. If you draw slowly, the temp of the coal is kept down and the water has more time to operate on a smaller volume of smoke. If you pull more quickly, you give the water less time to operate on the smoke while also getting the coal hotter. However, here you won't notice the heat until you exhaust the volume of smoke in the stem, which has had much more time to cool.

    So, it's all about style.
  • In regard to Myth #2, does the Hepa filter than make it harder to draw?
  • A "Hookah connoissuer?" haha... how do I become one of those? Are there certifications for such a title?
    (Being a "wine connoissuer" myself, taken the Wine and Spirit Education Trust certification and the International Sommelier Guild certification I was just wondering if the criteria was as vigorous Smile
  • I've had a couple years hookah experience, and feel like I have some discoveries about smoke temperature that may shed some light on at least the first myth.  

    I disagree with the overall statement that small hookahs cool smoke as well as tall hookahs. While height may not matter, depth of water does.  Tall hookahs generally have larger bases for stability and therefore smoke passing through has more time spent in the water and is cooled more. Josh is totally right about smoking slower keeps the smoke cooler. Whether this is because the smoke stays in the stem, or in the base with the cold water, or just because the coal is burnt slower, I'm not sure.

    In response to Goebel, the Hepa filter makes it slightly harder to draw smoke, but if nothing more, this helps you smoke slower and I believe that it does directly affect the smoke temperature and quality.
  • Speaking of larger bases, this directly affects your smoking experience when you add hoses to your hookah. A Chich, for example, will not allow enough smoke in the vase to service three hoses, while a taller hookah, with a bigger vase, will be able to have enough water to properly filter the smoke and have enough air capacity to provide smoke for three, or whatever...
    However, I find that smoking becomes severly ineffective with more than two hoses, so I never smoke with more than two hoses in my paragon.
  • Well, the bigger the gauge, the easier the flow. Smaller hookahs tend to be of a smaller gauge than taller ones, however there are exceptions.
  • Ovi
    One point worth making in regards to Myth #1 is that despite the air going through a tall hookah is not being cooled more in comparison to a smaller one, the larger base that is generally correlated to the taller hookah holds more water, which generally takes longer to warm up, thus keeping the smoke temperature down for longer. Similarly, it has a greater capacity for ice, for example, keeping you smoke dense and cool for much, much longer than a .5L base.
  • To those of you suggesting that larger hookahs have a larger base and a greater volume of water.

    The amount of water does not matter unless you are having an extremely long hookah session. You should be putting ice water in your base already. Assuming that, your water temperature will not rise until the ice has completely melted. In my mya qt and all my other hookahs, it takes an hour and a half for the ice to completely melt. Additionally you should replace your water and ice after each bowl. This will help you achieve best results, after all, that's what this article is all about.
  • Bob
    I have a tall (34 inch) hookah, and I like it because it just looks ridiculous on the table. We took all the ornamentation off, so it's a bowl on top of a really long pipe. It's just plain fun. Isn't that the point?
  • The article talks about the "openness" and well... sit a MYA stem next to a Khalil Mammoon stem and those small machine made Myas get blown away.
  • Guys just like bragging how big there hookah is Smile
  • The only reason for purchasing a hookah, aside from the show-off factor, is the fact that a larger hookah may hold more smoke than its' smaller brethren, depending on how it's built of course. That can be a good or bad thing, as some people will use tongs to remove the bowl and clear their hookah before hitting again. If you don't do that, then there's not much of a point, as "clearing" your hookah will pull more smoke in, wasting tobacco that begins to lose its' flavor when it lingers in the chamber.

    Larger hookahs are also more difficult to break, contrary to popular belief. A larger hookah is easier to pass without dropping as there is more to grip, and instinct dictates you be more careful with it. Smaller hookahs are passed more quickly and carelessly.
  • Really great post. I am really glad to read this entry. Thanks for sharing us useful posts.
  • According to myth numero uno the water is the only thing that affects the temp. of the smoke. Yet most stems are made of some type of steel or metal and when the hookah is functioning the tip of the stem is in the water. If you put a piece of metal in a bowl of ice water the metal will also get cold. So if a stem is also cold chances are the stem alone will affect the temp. of the smoke along with the ice water in the base. Stems are longer in larger hookahs when compared to small hookahs. So I'm willing to bet that there is a temp. difference in a small hookah when compared to a larger one and as we all know the colder the smoke the thicker. Note- The size of a mans hookah is simply as personification of his penis
  • Actually I disagree about the length of the hookah not mattering. It actually does to an extent. Well it comes second. First thing that matters in getting alot of smoke, is the flavor you use, the coals, the type of bowl, the quality of the foil and the number of holes you poke. I bought my hookah from a town  in Cairo and it smoked incredible for 2 years straight. Actually, me and my friends are yet to find a hookah anywhere that got more smoke than that hookah. It had to do with the hookah & the way I packed it, so everything does matter. Now I have a bigger one that I got in the U.S. and I hate it. I have found that the best size is between 27" - 31" ... it is just optimal for everything (flavor, easy to pull, holds a lot of smoke is vase).
  • I would think that it greatly depends on how deep the stem dips down into the water. if a stem only goes an inch under water then the smoke travels a very short distance back up to the chamber, on the other hand if you have a rather large vase matched with a long down stem then the smoke would spend more time under the water thus cooling it more. just a thought that popped into my head.
  • a longer stem does not equal better. you want the smoke to be in the water JUST long enough to cool the smoke and filter out poisons. any additional time just wastes flavor and will alter the smoke's consistancy

    the advantage of the large hookah is more room for smoke in the vase and more water volume wich takes longer to heat
  • I have never had any problems with my teeny pumpkin hookah and the smoke is just as good and thick as it is in my azizi. I prefer my azizi because it is a lot more stable and it looks a lot nicer, but i love my little pumpkin as well.
  • Gentlemen, we all know that bigger is better.
  • I find this article to be useful but misleading.

    Myths are based on what you'd think would happen.  They are not busted by the application of yet more thinking about what should happen, but by actual measurement.  Without measurements, you've provided a reason to expect a certain outcome, but you haven't actually shown that your reasoning is correct.

    How about some measurements?
  • I'm not sure on this, small hookahs like a mya taste better when it comes to mint and fumari lemon mint, but my Starbuzz tastes better with anything else