For as long as I have been smoking hookah, I have heard people tell me that putting milk in hookah base will help to make your smoke thicker, richer and more smooth creating a more pleasant hookah experience. This idea is definitely easier said than done.
There are a slew of issues that arise when trying to perfect this method. If there is too much milk it will naturally bubble up into the chamber and the hose in a fashion identical to the way that you used to blow bubbles in your chocolate milk. Your mom surely would not approve.
If you choose to ignore this and continue, business as usual, you will end up with milk embedded in your hose. Milk embedded in your hose heated by fresh shisha smoke will turn to cheese. As good as cheese is, hookah hose cheese is AWFUL. Not only that but if you forget to clean your base after use, you will have an equally nasty surprise when you go to clean for your next use.
I experimented with this issue to try and find just how to get the desired result:
We filled our hookah 1/4 of the way full with whole milk and the rest with water to make sure to dilute the mixture fully. Little did I know that dilution is a relative term. Instead of lighting up and commencing sesh, we first tried pulling a few times to see how the water/milk mixture reacted. As expected the milk bubbled immediately into the chamber and up into our hose.
We then tried diluting it even further with maybe 1/8 milk and the rest water. Still. Same result.
This is where I made a mistake in preperation for this article. Instead of starting fresh on the last trial I poured out about half the mixture and then filled the rest with water. So If my math is correct that would ideally be 1/16 milk… We had finally gotten to a point where the bubbles were tame and wouldn’t rise up and into the hose. Don’t get me wrong it was still very bubbly but it was diluted enough that they wouldn’t rise if you didn’t pull too hard.
So now we have our semi-bubbly-murky-milky-water-mixture and some mint flavored shisha. There was a slight difference in the way that the hookah pulled. It wasn’t “WOW what a smoke” but it did cause a bit of the harshness of the smoke to dissipate. It felt a little cooler which I believe was probably an false perception to the smoke being a little less harsh.
We smoked for about an hour and felt satisfied with our findings. It was a lot of work trying to find just the right combination and I think it’s something that still needs to be perfected. It seems to me like it’s a little more of a psychological thing than anything else but to add a few tablespoons of milk and experiment wont hurt the experience by any means.
So What did We Learn?
Through talking to my worldly hookah pro, we’ll call her “peenk,” we came up with a few things that are important to consider about the whole hookah milk debate. I hope you’ll use these when making your own decisions because I know I haven’t really come to a firm one on my own.
- The ration of water to milk was so ridiculous in our trials and in other trials I have read about that I doubt the milk is having the optimal effect on the smoke that it could be. I am not saying that it has no effect but it is not having the effect it potentially could be. If you could find a way to fill your glass with milk entirely without having it bubble up I imagine this would be a very different experience.
- Milk has much more to it than water. Milk is made up of water, fats, sugars and inorganic salts. Milk has a much higer absorbative quality than water does and when mixed with other substances, including smoke, will absorb the odors and qualities of those substances. This would lead me to believe that in fact that hookah smoke would end up thinner after passing through milk.
- Cow milk and goats milk are entirely different things. While Peenk was in Armenia she had an incredible experience with a milk hookah that was made from goats milk, which is much more prevalent in the middle east. It makes me wonder if this is where the whole debate arose from given that hookah originated from that part of the world. It wouldnt surprise me if centuries have gone by and Americans just screwed up the recipe because of our own assumptions.
I am interested to hear if anyone else has tried it with goats milk. I’ve also heard promising things about coconut milk. Please, enlighten us.