Hookah Coals: Which Coals Are the Best To Use For Your Hookah?
When trying to dial in your hookah setup, you have a lot of components you can adjust to get your smoking session just right.
If you are getting harsh-tasting smoke from your hookah, you may think you need to clean it, or maybe you have packed your hookah too tight — or, it could be any number of other factors that can impact the smoothness of your smoke.
But what most novice smokers don’t realize is that the type of coals you are using for your hookah plays a large role in the quality of the smoking experience that you are likely to get from your hookah.
Here is our guide on which hookah coals are the best to use in your hookah for a pleasurable and smooth hookah experience.
How Do Coals Impact My Hookah Experience?
The coals are the heat source that ultimately produces smoke when you toke on your hookah. Unlike lighting a cigarette or cigar, you must constantly reheat the bowl of shisha on your hookah to keep smoking.
Rather than lighting the bowl and smoking straight from the body like you would if you smoked out of a bong, hookah utilizes hot coals resting on top of the bowl to provide constant heat to your shisha that allows for an even burn and a long-lasting smoking session.
Your coals have a lot of impact on the quality, length, and enjoyment you can get out of your smoking session. Proper heat management of your coals is essential to a slow-burning, smooth-tasting, even-burning of the shisha.
Think about your heat management like this. Imagine you are lighting a cigarette. You go to light your cigarette, but rather than lighting it from the end, you hold the flame right up to the center of the cigarette. You will get some burn at first, but your cigarette will quickly canoe, and you will lose the end of your cigarette with unburnt tobacco, while unevenly burning the tobacco that stays with the half of the cigarette with you.
When you burn your hookah coals incorrectly, you are kind of doing this to your shisha, lighting it inconsistently and creating a massive uneven burn that will not only cut your session short and waste tobacco, but result in a nasty-tasting pull.
What Are My Options for Hookah Coals?
While coals are a major aspect of the smoking experience for hookah smokers, there are only two totally distinct options for hookah coals. There are natural hookah coals, and there are quick-lighting hookah coals.
Understanding Quick-Light Hookah Coals
Quick-light hookah coals are a great option if you are new to hookah or are trying to get a hookah session on the go or while traveling. They are easy to use and don't require much attention once they are lit to keep them burning properly.
Quick-light hookah coals are coals that have a chemical coating that makes them catch light easily and burn pretty evenly. Once they are lit and placed on your hookah, you don’t have to do much with them, as you might with natural coals (more on that later).
The drawbacks of quick-light coals, however, have to do with that chemical coating. Because of the chemical coating, these coals have a somewhat chemical-y aroma to them, and you are probably going to taste that in your hookah smoke. This flavor is typically not overwhelming, but will be an aspect of your session, and many frequent hookah smokers are turned off by this.
Another drawback to quick-light coals is that they tend to burn hotter than traditional coals, without a way to manage or control this heat, which can decrease the potential maximum length of a smoking session as well as the experience of the tobacco. This can be a major consideration for smokers, as a long session with rich flavor is the ultimate goal for many hookah enthusiasts.
Understanding Natural Hookah Coals
Natural hookah coals are considered the best option for an optimal hookah session. There are a few options for natural coals, but they are not too different from each other, and so are often all lumped together when discussing natural hookah coals.
Natural hookah coals are typically made from dried coconut husks that are compacted, but there are also some natural hookah coals that are made from wood.
Natural hookah coals will not have a chemical coating to help them catch light and stay lit, so you won't be able to get away with lighting your hookah coals with a lighter or match.
Instead, you will have to light your hookahs with a hookah coal lighter, or by heating them up over the open flame (or even on the electric coil) on your stovetop for a few minutes.
Once your natural hookah coals are lit, they will burner longer, slower, and more evenly than your quick-light hookah coals — that is, if you know when and how to rotate and move the coals.
How Does Coal Rotation Work for Hookah?
Natural hookah coals are a great method to choose for a hookah smoking session, if you know how to perform some heat management on your hookah.
For new hookah smokers, this can be an intimidating prospect since managing your own coals may mean a worse smoking experience than desired. But you have to start somewhere, and even experts still make heat management mistakes — there is nothing to be afraid of, we promise.
Basic coal management is actually pretty easy, it just takes some attention to the flavor of the smoke that you are inhaling.
If you notice that your hookah smoke begins to taste harsher or more burnt than it did at the beginning of your session, you know it’s time to rotate your coals.
When you rotate the coals you simply move the coals to a different part of the foil, so that your coals are over a different portion of the shisha bowl that hasn’t burnt as much. When you get this harsh taste, it is because a portion of your shisha is burning too hot.
Once you have moved your coals to a cooler section of shisha, you are burning new tobacco while letting the overheated tobacco cool down a little.
Another tip is try to start your coals towards the outer edges of the bowl, and slowly move them in as you keep rotating. This will help you burn all of your shisha evenly across the entire bowl.
Hookah Coals: The Takeaways
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong decision to make about which kind of hookah coals are right for you — both quick light and natural coals have their advantages and drawbacks.
Quick light coals offer an easy-to-light option for hookah on the go or new smokers who may not have access to the equipment to light their own coals. That being said, the chemical accelerants that make quick light coals easy to light also add a chemical taste to the hookah smoke and their high temp may lower the quality of your smoke.
Natural hookah coals may be harder to light and require more maintenance for proper heat management than quick light coals, but are the top (and often only) choice for expert smokers everywhere.
By knowing when to rotate your coals, you can make natural coals a viable option for you and your friends. Just move the coals anytime the smoke becomes harsh and unpleasant.