Top 10 Beginner Hookah Tips
Howdy hookah fans and welcome to another blog from Hookah-Shisha: the world's #1 online hookah shop! If you're just getting started in the hookah world with a pipe of your own, you've made the first step in your journey towards smoke sessions with thick clouds and full, delicious flavor! This is just the beginning though, and over time you'll find ways to tweak and improve your sessions to bring out their full potential.
Many of us here at H-S have smoked hookah for years and have extensive knowledge in our craft gained from time spent working in hookah bars, tobacco stores, and taking regular phone calls from our clientele, however it wasn't always like that!
Just like every other hookah smoker out there, we had to start our shisha smoking journey somewhere, and (speaking from personal experience) we can confidently say that we have gone through a ton of trial and error to get our sessions to a good place.
In an effort to share our decades worth of knowledge with you, we have put our heads together and come up with a list of 10 hookah tips and tricks for beginners (in no particular order) to help make your hookah sessions as satisfying as possible!
1. Use Heavy Duty Foil
Good quality aluminum foil that is fairly thick is one of the most immediate ways you can improve your hookah sessions, especially if you've been using very thin foil! We typically recommend using foil that is marked as "heavy duty" (or "HD") instead of some of the lower quality, thinner foil sheets.
Thin sheets of aluminum foil have a tendency to allow shisha flavors to get burned very easily and a lot quicker, as the physical barrier between your shisha and hookah charcoal can be quite flimsy.
Using a heavy duty option creates a slightly thicker barrier to protect your tobacco, preventing it from burning AS easily, while the thicker metal will also allow for more even heat distribution across your bowl, allowing the tobacco and flavor inside to cook more evenly (and thoroughly) as well.
2. Use Two Layers of Foil
Whether or not you've opted to use a "heavy duty" foil mentioned in the previous tip, we also recommend doubling up on the amount of foil you're using on your hookah bowl!
Using two layers of foil instead of one creates an even better barrier between your shisha and coals, much like how we talked about with H.D. foil, allows for a more even heat distribution that helps prevent your coals from burning your tobacco, and can ultimately result in a better tasting, more satisfying flavor from your shisha.
3. Make Sure Your Foil Is TIGHT
This is the last "foil" related tip for this blog, we promise! No matter what type of foil you're using, or whether or not you're using two layers instead of one, you'll want to make sure that your foil is nice and tight on your hookah bowl.
By "tight" we mean that the flat surface of the foil is taught and the edges are firmly crimped around the edges of your bowl, creating an essentially un-moving foil cover around your bowl.
You want to be sure you avoid your aluminum foil "sagging" down into your bowl, as foil sag can cause a host of issues involving airflow, as well as making it easier for your shisha to become burnt and unpleasant. Ideally, you want a sturdy aluminum foil "shelf" over your tobacco that your coals will rest on while not directly coming in to contact with the shisha itself.
4. Use a Vortex or Phunnel Bowl
One of the simplest ways to elevate your hookah sessions is by upgrading your hookah bowl!
Many of the stock bowls that come included with hookahs are admittedly not optimized for the juicy nature of shisha tobacco, often allowing the flavoring and juices to leak out of your bowl during the session. This can result in shorter length sessions with diminished flavor.
Upgrading your bowl to a simple vortex or phunnel style bowl will help immensely with this drawback of standard bowls! Vortex and phunnel style bowls, such as the V4 Hookah bowl or the Gambit Phunnel Bowl, are designed with a raised "spire" that traps the liquid flavoring and juices from the shisha tobacco inside your bowl rather than allowing it to drip into your base.
Not only does this result in longer lasting, more flavorful smoke, it can also help you achieve thicker clouds!
5. Make the Switch to Natural Coals
If you haven't already, making the switch to natural coconut hookah coals can drastically improve the quality of your smoke sessions!
Many of the more convenient "quick light" coal options are coated in a chemical that allows them to be lit using a standard flame lighter, however this chemical can negatively impact the overall flavor of your shisha tobacco resulting in muted flavor or a poor aftertaste.
Natural coconut hookah coals, made from the husks of coconut shells, are free from these types of chemical ignition agents and therefore will not interfere with the flavor of your tobacco, allowing you to experience the true flavor profile of what's inside your bowl!
Making this change to your hookah charcoal is another easy step in improving and elevating your smoke quality (and taste!), just keep in mind that you'll need an electric coil stove or charcoal heater to light natural coals since they lack those chemical ignition agents.
6. Use Washable Hookah Hoses
Washable hoses first started popping up in the hookah world with the creation of the Nammor hoses in 2010, and since then there has been an explosion of these types of hoses in the market ranging from disposable hoses to high end silicone hookah hoses.
Not ALL hoses are washable however (as some can rust if exposed to water), so picking a hose that is able to be cleaned using water is a very important factor in ensuring a pleasant hookah experience.
As you smoke your hookah, all the smoke and flavor will pass through your hose, and the hose tubing can get stained with residue over time. "Non-washable" hoses do not allow you to rinse out that build up which can cause flavors you've smoked in the past to negatively impact your current session.
Washable hoses, such as the Ripper silicone hose or Al Fakher disposable hose, solve this by allowing you to run hot water (or lemon juice) through the length of the hose and wash out that flavor/residue build up, helping to provide a more accurate, cleaner flavor from your tobacco.
7. Make Sure You Keep It Clean
We CANNOT stress this point enough: clean your hookah! It's seriously one of the most important things you can do throughout your hookah journey to help you (and anyone else) enjoy your smoke sessions. On top of no one (and we mean NO ONE) wanting to smoke out of a dirty hookah, regularly cleaning your setup after every 1-2 sessions helps prevent mold, keeps old, past-smoked flavors from building up, and extends the life of your hookah pipe.
There are a variety of ways to help keep your equipment clean including regular ol' soap and water, lemon juice, or even a hookah cleaning solution, so you definitely have some options. For more information on keeping your shisha setup clean, check out our hookah cleaning and maintenance blog.
8. Test Your Water Level
Both overfilling and underfilling your hookah base with water can derail a hookah session in no time flat, so it's always worth testing your water level BEFORE you start to smoke. After you've filled your base with water, insert your stem into the glass base as designed.
Before putting your bowl on top, take a quick pull from the hookah, either through a connected hose or by pulling directly from the hose port, to feel how air passes through your hookah.
Too difficult to pull air through? You may need to empty the water a bit. The water not bubbling or the draw feels too open? Add some water to your base. Testing this before you start your session prevents you from having to interrupt your session to completely disassemble your hookah (coals and all) in order to add or remove water.
9. Don't Be Afraid to Adjust Your Coals
Despite what some people might say, hookah charcoal and heat management is rarely a "set it and forget it" part of the smoking process and is something that you will need to pay attention to.
As you smoke your bowl, there are a variety of situations that might require you to fiddle with your coals and knowing how to handle these situations as they pop up is part of what makes a great hookah session.
Does your smoke feel harsh or burnt? You may be overloading your bowl with heat, so you may want to remove or rearrange a coal or two. Are you not getting a lot of smoke while the shisha tastes bland? You may need to add a coal or two to help boost your heat levels and unlock those delicious clouds.
Every smoke session is different and being able to rearrange, ash, or adjust your coals as necessary plays a huge role in making (and smoking) an outstanding hookah.
10. Sample Flavors First, Then Buy in Bulk
Time and time again, new hookah smokers jump into picking up shisha flavors without knowing what they taste like, and in some instances without knowing what flavors they themselves like to smoke! This can cause plenty of frustration, especially in the early days of your hookah career, as you might get stuck with tins of flavors that you try once and end up hating.
Luckily, most shisha brands offer a simple solution to this problem: smaller size options! Many brands, such as Al Fakher, Fumari, and Starbuzz to name a few, offer either a 50 gram or 100 gram size of their flavors alongside the larger 250 gram and 1000 gram sizes.
These smaller (and cheaper) size options allow you to try small amounts of shisha flavors without having to commit to a large tin or tub of it. This way, you can figure out which flavor profiles you truly LOVE and start buying them IN BULK (i.e. 250g or 1000g tubs) to save money in the long run!
We hope you have picked up some valuable tips and tricks from this blog, and are well on your way to experiencing smooth, flavorful smoke! If you have any additional questions about anything we've talked about today, or anything hookah related, reach out to our friendly customer service team and we'll be happy to assist!