How To Smoke Hookah: Beginners Guide on Hookah
Hookah can be intimidating for newcomers to the hobby, more intimidating than it needs to be.
Many new hookah smokers worry about doing the wrong thing and ultimately embarrassing themselves or accidentally making a scene. But the truth is, there is nothing embarrassing about needing a little help at the start.
Everyone has to start at the beginning, and experienced smokers all remember their first times. All you have to do is trust and give it a try, and you can be smoking like a pro in no time.
That being said, it does help to have a bit of a guide to help you the first few times so that you know what you’re doing just a little better, and what you can expect from your first few times smoking.
Here is MOB Hookah’s newcomers’ guide to smoking hookah — we’ll have you smoking like an expert before you know it.
Choosing Your Hookah Flavor
The first thing you need to do to smoke hookah is to choose the flavor of shisha you would like to smoke.
Shisha is the name of the tobacco that is smoked through a hookah. Shisha is made of chopped tobacco leaf, molasses or honey, glycerine, and flavorings like fruit juices and syrups.
Shisha can only be smoked through a hookah, and shisha comes in hundreds of different flavors, which can lead to a stressful choice for newcomers. But don’t worry, it’s not as stressful as you think!
The good news is that experienced and inexperienced hookah smokers alike have a wide array of tastes and preferred flavors. There are no flavors you can choose that will reveal you as a newbie, and no flavors to choose that will make it clear you are experienced.
For starters, try and keep things simple — this will help you determine what flavors you like and which you don’t. Then, as you develop an understanding of what you like, you can start mixing flavors to create the ultimate combination for you.
There are even ways you can add flavor to your shisha, but that’s a topic for another post… this post to be exact.
Setting Up Your Hookah
If you are smoking for the first time in a hookah lounge, then you can rest assured that they will set your hookah up for you pretty darn well and you won’t have much adjusting to do.
If you are smoking at home, however, you are going to have some setup work to ensure that your hookah will smoke nice and smooth.
First, you are going to need to put water in your hookah base. You should use ice-cold water, as cold as you can get, and you will also want to use filtered water if you can.
Fill the vase so that the downstem, the piece of the stem that enters the vase, is about half an inch to one inch submerged in the water. This will give the best draw and coolest smoke possible.
You should then reconnect your hookah so it is secure, and use your grommets to get air-tight seals. Connect your hose to the hookah and you should be ready to go.
Packing Your Bowl
The next thing you need to do is pack your shisha bowl.
Take your shisha and stir it around using a shisha fork or any other utensil you have laying around to get it mixed and well-flavored.
Then, put some shisha on a plate, and make sure that you break it up into small pieces, instead of leaving large clumps stuck together.
Sprinkle the shisha gently into the bowl until there is about an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch of the lip of the bowl left.
Tightly wrap your bowl in tin foil — it should be taut to prevent the foil from sagging and letting the coals touch your shisha.
Poke a few dozen holes in the foil with a toothpick or pin, being sure to avoid poking holes in the center if you are using a phunnel or vortex bowl.
Now your bowl is ready.
Heating Your Coals
The final step before you are ready to actually smoke is to get your coals hot and ready.
There are two types of hookah coals that you might be using, quick-light coals or natural coals.
Quick-light coals are made typically with dried coconut husks, and are then coated in a chemical accelerant which makes them easier to light. This also makes them burn hotter, for a shorter period of time, and they give off a somewhat chemical taste to your smoke, but they can be lit with a simple match or lighter.
Natural coals are also made of coconut husks (typically), but do not have an accelerant. This means that you need to light natural coals with a coal lighter, gas stove, or hot plate (with a lot of tending and patience), and let them heat for a good few minutes until they are ready.
You will know that your coals are ready for smoking when they are grey all around, whether you are using quick-light coals or natural.
Smoking From Your Hookah
Now, you are finally ready to draw your first cloud of hookah smoke.
All you need to do is place your coals on top of your foil, grab your hose, and breathe in through your hose.
For the first few tries, you may not get much or any smoke — the shisha is still “cooking” and getting ready. After a while, you will see the vase fill with smoke, which is your queue for a nice deep pull.
Simply breathe in on the hose, hold it in your lungs, and breathe out. That is all you have to do. We recommend that you take small puffs at first since you can easily take in too much smoke and end up coughing, which can ultimately ruin your smoking experience.
You also don’t want to pull too hard — you’ll find the right “pressure” as you smoke more. You may see others pulling deep to get thick smoke to do tricks, but put that in your back pocket and focus on just enjoying the tobacco and the experience your first few times around.
Final Hookah Smoking Tips
We want to end our article with a few expert smoking tips that can help you look like an expert by your first smoking session.
- Make sure to eat before you smoke hookah. Smoking on an empty stomach can upset your stomach and lead to some unsavory side effects. Just have something in your stomach before you smoke — you mainly want to make sure you’re not hungry.
- You should only rotate your coals when you notice the smoke in your hookah turning harsh, or developing a burnt flavor. Turning your coals too much will make you look like a newbie just trying to do something to look cool.
- And finally, don't stress about asking for help. The hookah community is a caring, and helpful group of people who want to help you enjoy the experience. Nobody is going to be rude to you for needing a little advice. If they are, you shouldn’t smoke with them anyway. Sorry, not sorry.
Beginners Hookah Guide: The Takeaways
Your first time smoking hookah can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be, just relax and have fun.
Choose a shisha flavor that excites you and sounds good. Don’t overcomplicate your decision or mix too many flavors together.
Use ice-cold water in your base and cover the downstem at least half an inch and no more than one inch in water.
Pack your shisha bowl loosely, and pack the tin foil on top tightly.
Heat your coals properly and wait until they are all the way heated and grey before placing them on your foil.
Inhale smaller puffs to start until you get the hang of it, this will help you avoid coughing.
And finally, take a deep breath and relax. Hookah is supposed to be a fun and relaxing hobby, so don’t stress, and have fun.
We here at MOB Hookah are all about helping you experience hookah to the maximum.
Check back here for more hookah equipment, shisha, and accessories, and for the best advice about hookah you can find in our MOB Hookah Blog.
How to Assemble a Hookah - Beginner Hookah Guides (2/2) | Hookah.org
How Much Water in the Hookah Base? | Hookah.org