How to Set Up a Hookah Bowl for a Smoother Smoke

hookah shish bowl with coalLike any beer or wine, hookah smoking has a certain scientific art form of preperation associated with it in order to create a premium smoking experience.  With wines it’s all about the right type of glass to allow or constrict oxygen aeration, the aroma of the wine, pairing with proper foods and the time of day to drink it.  Hookah has many factors that affect how well its smokes which are all affected by how you assemble construct your “sesh.”  Specifically, how you set up your bowl has the greatest impact on how enjoyable your smoke will ultimately be.

I don’t spend a whole lot of time doing research on this topic because I am much more effective when I experiment on my own to find the answer.  So here are my top tips for creating a premium smoking experience by altering how you set up your bowl.

Cut your foil some slack.  It’s all too easy to take the foil and pull it tightly over the bowl to make a flat surface for your coal to rest on.  I recommend placing the foil on top of the bowl and then pushing the sides down around the bowl lightly.  Then shift the foil up a quarter of an inch or so and then tighten the excess foil around the base of the bowl.  This allows for there to be a little air chamber in between your coal and the shisha.  This allows the tobacco to burn more slowly and smoothly but be careful because too much of a chamber will make the smoke too light for most seasoned hookah smokers.  Adjust to fit your needs.

Additionally I find it nice to try and make the surface of the foil very “rocky” in that the coal can sit up on the peaks of the foil.  This makes the coal burn evenly by allowing airflow around it, it also helps to keep your shisha from burning, and the ash lands in the “valleys” allowing for the coal to continue burning strong until it goes out.

Holes: size does matter. If you use foil for covering the bowl and providing a platform for your coal you may or may not know just how much the size of those hole really matter to the quality of the burn.  I learned very quickly that as little as 4-5 big holes can take a perfectly good bowl and turn it into a harsh smoky exhaust.  Especially if you use round quick-light coals which have a little bit of a residual lighter fluid taste this can really have a negative impact for you and your guests, especially if it’s their first time smoking.  The best method I have found is to take a push pin and push it in just enough so that it punctures the foil.   I cant stress this enough, make the holes as small as you possibly can and make many of them as opposed to a few large holes.  I have found this is the most influential factor in creating a smoother more enjoyable smoke flavor and texture without sacrificing thickness.

Mix it up a bit. After you have covered your bowl and poked a ton of tiny little holes in your foil, the last thing to do before “lock and load” is to place the bottom of the bowl up to your mouth and blow a short burst of air through it.  This loosens up the shisha that you may have already packed too tightly.  And if you followed step one now you have an extra little chamber for your shisha to pile lightly on top of itself.  This makes for a very easy flow of air through the hookah and a more even burn.  Make sure that you do this over a sink or outside because sometimes you’ll get shisha juice all over the place if your holes are too big or your shisha is very wet.

These tactics work especially well if you have a small bowl for your hookah.  Larger bowls have less trouble with creating an even burn if packed correctly.  Do you have more tips?  I’d love to hear them in the comment for this article.

4 thoughts on “How to Set Up a Hookah Bowl for a Smoother Smoke

  1. Hello, I wanted to tell you I enjoyed your articles about Hookah. I found them in a failed search for a hookah magazine, i found one called the Blue Elephant but couldn’t find where to subscribe. Anyway, back to the point. I’m going to pick up some coconut milk today to gander that thought.

    A thought about the push pin. I was often busy being the bartender so i would instruct others how to prepare a bowl to smoke. Too many times the beginner “bowl packer” would push the pin too deep causing too big of holes. That was after the had a hard time finding thumb tack or push pin. So in a desperate attempt to smoke some hookah we found that the twist tie off of a bread bag comes in really handy if you take the end between your teeth and bite the plastic coating off. Problem solved, the holes couldn’t get any bigger or smaller. a Perfect small hole.

    thanks for it all. take care


  2. I stumbled on your website because of the Hookah Hose Cheese article, which I found both informative and funny. Being a seasoned hookah smoker, and truly dedicated to a solid smoke experience, I appreciate hookah tips that make sense. Yours do. In this article particularly, I found fresh tips, like loosening the tinfoil (I already use really small holes). I am constantly playing around for a better smoke. I want to ask you, did you find a quick light coal that doesn’t smell terrible and affect the tobacco? I need to find the right brand!

  3. Just like theiser I’m constantly trying to figure out ways to create the ultimate smoking experience, my goal is thick, smooth, flavourful smoke. I’ve already managed to get the first two conditions right, but still, the flavour in my sessions is not strong at all, yet I’ll tell you how I managed to get a much much much smoother smoke:
    First, I have only tried this with a vortex bowl, but it’s a very useful tip anyway, I found this little trick called “spacing method” when packing a vortex bowl, it consists of leaving an empty space, an air gap, between the centre piece of the bowl and the surrounding tobacco, not allowing the tobacco to touch or sit directly next to the holes of the bowl, I don’t know how it works but it does make a HUGE difference, I get big big clouds and they feel like I’m inhaling regular clean air.
    I hope this is useful to somebody

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