There are tons of different brands, shapes, and styles of hookah charcoals available on the market these days and with so many options it can be a little overwhelming trying to decide on which one might work best for you.
Today we're going to go over some basic hookah charcoal knowledge that is useful for all hookah smokers and take a look at the most common types of hookah charcoals.
What Is Hookah Charcoal Used For?
The basic function of hookah charcoal is to be the heat source that will cook your shisha tobacco to produce smoke. Once your charcoals are lit they are placed on top of the foil on your hookah bowl or in your heat management device and the heat they produce will cook the shisha tobacco and produce those sweet sweet clouds.
Types Of Hookah Charcoal
There are several different types of charcoal available and each style has its own pros and cons, so let's take a look at each type of charcoal and what they bring to your session.
Quick Lighting Charcoals - Quick lighting charcoals are what most hookah smokers start off using and these charcoals will look like small black discs or hockey pucks. As their name implies, this style of coal will be the quickest lighting charcoals available due to being coated in a chemical accelerant which allows them to be lit with a regular cigarette lighter.
However, this also means that these coals will burn very hot and very fast when compared to other types of charcoal and they will also have a stronger odor and taste to them that experienced hookah smokers will tell you can interfere with the shisha tobacco flavor.
When lighting them you will notice the coals begin to spark and the color of the coal will slowly change from black to orange / red as the charcoal heats up and then eventually to grey / white when they are full lit. Make sure to wait until the coal has turned grey / white before adding these to your hookah bowl!
Silver Hookah Charcoals - A sub-category of quick lighting charcoals, Silver style coals are somewhat of a hybrid between quick light and natural style coals. These coals will generally have a square tab shaped appearance and are coated in a silver colored film which functions as the chemical accelerant to allow them to be lit with a regular cigarette lighter.
Due to these coals being in a middle ground between quick lighting and natural style coals they will produce a medium heat level and fans of these coals say that they have a much lower odor and taste to them when compared to standard quick light coals.
When lighting these coals they won't produce the same sparking affect as standard quick light coals, but the silver coating on them will begin to shrivel up and burn off as the charcoal heats up. Make sure to wait for all of the silver coating to burn off before adding these to your hookah bowl!
Natural Coconut Hookah Charcoals - Natural coconut charcoals are made from compressed coconut husks and come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but in general the most common styles will be either "flat" or "cube" shaped won't have any sort of chemical accelerant coating, so they will take a little bit longer to heat than quick light or silver flint style coals, but once they are heated they will burn longer than quick lighting style coals and will have minimal odor or taste impact on your smoking session as well.
Due to natural coals not having a chemical accelerant you will not be able to heat them with a cigarette lighter, so you will need to use a single coil heater to heat them properly. When lighting these coals you will generally want to put them on your charcoal heater on the "High" setting for about 5 minutes and then use your tongs to flip the coals over and let them heat for another 3 - 4 minutes.
As the coals heat you will see them start to turn a red / orange color at first and once they are fully lit they will have a grey / white ash color.
Make sure to wait until the coals turn grey / white before adding them to your hookah bowl!
Natural Wood Hookah Charcoals - Another variation of natural charcoals, wood charcoals are typically made from lemon wood, orange wood, or bamboo and are most commonly available in "finger" style pieces, though some brands do offer larger raw chunk style coals.
Similar to their coconut based counter parts, natural wood coals will not have any chemical accelerants on them meaning that you will need to heat them with a single coil heater and will burn longer and cleaner than quick light style coals while having a minimal impact on the flavor of your shisha tobacco.
When lighting these coals you will generally want to put them on your charcoal heater on the "High" setting for about 5 minutes and then use your tongs to flip the coals over and let them heat for another 3 - 4 minutes.
As the coals heat you will see them start to turn a red / orange color at first and once they are fully lit they will have a grey / white ash color. Make sure to wait until the coals turn grey / white before adding them to your hookah bowl!
How Many Charcoals Should I Use?
One of the most common questions in regards to hookah charcoals is how many should be used in a smoking session. This can vary a bit depending on the type of charcoal, shisha tobacco, and bowl being used as well as personal preferences on how hot you like to cook your tobacco, so finding the perfect charcoal set up for you may take a little bit of trial and error, but here are a few good tips to keep in mind.
- When using quick lighting style charcoals most people use between 1 - 2 coals at a time. This type of charcoal can be broken in to halves before lighting them allowing you to have a bit more control over how much heat you are putting on your tobacco and making it easier to rotate these coals around your bowl with your tongs during your hookah session.
- When using natural style charcoals most people use between 3 - 4 coals at a time. With very small hookah bowls you can use between 2 - 3 coals, but with larger hookah bowls or when using very wet or juicy shisha tobaccos you will need a bit more heat to properly cook the tobacco, so 3 - 4 natural coals tends to be the perfect amount of heat in most cases.
Can You Reuse Hookah Coals?
While we may not get this question quite as often these days there was a time when this hookah "trick" was, unfortunately, gaining popularity. The short answer here is yes, if you soak your lit charcoal in water to completely extinguish it and then allow that charcoal to completely dry out then technically you can reignite it and use it again.
That being said, it's a bad idea and a dis-service to any self respecting hookah smoker to reuse charcoals.
Save yourself the time and disappointment and always use fresh coals for each hookah session!
Hopefully we covered all of your burning hookah charcoal questions here, but if we missed anything or if there is any other hookah topic you'd like to see us cover drop a comment down below!