How Much Water To Put in a Hookah Base
Hookah has been smoked for years, and is one of the most popular waterpipe smoking methods out there.
Water pipes like hookahs are so named because they filter their smoke through, you guessed it, water. In a hookah, this happens in the base or vase of the hookah, where a portion of the stem, called the down stem, sits in a pool of water.
But it’s not as simple as just putting any amount of water in your hookah and lighting it up. The amount of water in your hookah significantly affects your smoking experience.
It’s not always easy to know how much water to use in your hookah, it is something that many people forget to teach new smokers. If you never learned the proper water level for your hookah, then this is for you.
Here is a quick start guide to let you know how much water to put in your hookah base for the optimal smoking experience.
Why Is There Water in a Hookah in the First Place?
Well, the origin story of the hookah answers some of this question for us. The predominant origin story that we find for the advent of the hookah is in 16th century India, during the reign of the Mughal empire.
The Portuguese at this time were expanding their global trade network and transporting all sorts of goods all over the world. One of these goods was Brazilian tobacco, and there turned out to be quite the market for it in India. Tobacco spread through the port cities, and then through trade to the whole of India.
Eventually, Emperor Ahkbar was given tobacco by one of his ambassadors. The Emperor's chief physician, Abul-Faith Galani, was worried about the health effects of smoking tobacco, and wanted to find a better way for the emperor to enjoy his gift.
His idea was the hookah, a water pipe that would filter the smoke through water before inhalation.
While it turns out that filtering the smoke through water isn’t really an effective way to filter out toxic chemicals or carcinogens, it is a good way to make the smoke less harsh and cool it down, leading to a wonderfully textured and more enjoyable smoke.
Can You Smoke Hookah Without Water?
Short answer, yes… but long answer, why would you?
The whole point of smoking from a hookah is to give yourself a delicious-tasting, smooth, and easy-inhaling smoke that doesn’t burn when you inhale.
If you have ever smoked a cigarette or cigar, then you are probably a bit familiar with the burn that you can get in your throat and lungs from hot smoke.
If you aren’t going to use water in your hookah, you may as well smoke a cigarette or cigar, as your smoking experience will become much closer to those anyway, and setting up a hookah is a pretty long process to not reap the full benefits.
How Much Water Should I Put in My Hookah?
The short answer is, you should cover about one inch of your hookah’s downstem with water.
Depending on your hookah base’s volume and the size of your hookah and downstem, this exact amount will vary.
For particularly short or small hookahs, you can get away with as little as half an inch coverage in water.
Submerging your downstem one inch in the water of the vase or base of your hookah will give you the best possible smoking experience.
What Happens If There Is Not Enough Water?
Since the exact amount of water that is necessary for a quality smoke session is going to change with every hookah you use, you should also understand the signs of having too much and not enough water in your base.
Let’s start with the symptoms of too little water.
If you have too little water in your hookah, you are going to have some of the same sensations that you might get from having no water in your hookah. You might notice that the smoke you are pulling gets harsher and hotter, perhaps even burning your throat.
Your first reaction to this sensation may be that your shisha is burning too hot, or it is time to rotate your coals. But if you find that rotating your coals is not helping to fix the problem, make sure to check the water level in your hookah, and consider adding more water to alleviate the problem.
You may also notice that the draw is more open than usual, meaning that it is easier to draw smoke on the hookah than normal. The water acts as a buffer for the air to travel through and when there is not enough, it can give you a more open draw.
What Happens If There Is Too Much Water?
If there is too much water, then you may notice that the draw on your hookah is much more closed than you are used to. When there is too much water, it can make drawing air into the hookah much harder with more resistance, and lead to difficulty producing smoke.
Another sign that there is too much water in your hookah is if you get water in your hose when you draw on the hookah. There should never be water entering the hose during a smoke session, and if it is happening to you, you need to let some of that water out.
You may also find that water gets into the bowl, which will dampen the shisha and prevent it from smoking. This can stop a good smoke session in its tracks.
So in summary — you should be covering your downstem between half an inch and one inch with water for the best smoke experience.
If there is too little water, your smoke will be harsh and hot, and the draw will be open. If there is too much water, the draw will be tight, and you may get water in your hose or bowl.
Here is one final tip for the water in your hookah from MOB Hookah.
The whole point of having water in your hookah is to cool down the smoke. So, an easy way to increase the cooling properties of the water is to put ice in your base with your water.
Adding ice will give an extra smooth, extra cool sensation to the smoke, which can be very pleasant. Just make sure that adding ice doesn't significantly raise the water level in your vase. Even with ice, you should only have one-half to one inch of the downstem submerged to get a good smoke.
Hookah Water: The Takeaways
The water in your hookah base is the key part of the hookah that makes it a hookah.
The optimal level of water for your hookah is to submerge the downstem one-half to one inch in water.
If there is too much water you will have a tight draw and get water in your hose or hookah bowl.
If there is too little water, you will have a harsh and hot smoke that can put a burning feeling in your throat, and give you a suspiciously open draw.
For an added cooling effect, try using ice water in your hookah to cool the smoke even more before it enters your lungs.
Check out our blog for more hookah advice to get even the most novice smoker pulling smooth smoke.