Feb 8, 2009

Guide to Shisha aka Hookahhhhh

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Having researched the history and culture surrounding the pipe I've set out to create a guide help those who wish to know more about the wonders of shisha smoking. Being a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking due to most Shisha molasses having little or 0% tar I have successfully converted many friends to try the social phenomenon of shisha. The unprocessed used tobacco is washed several times to remove the bitter taste and tar to make smoking more pleasant and remove all the harshness you get with cigarettes. Herbal and fruit molasses are available which are none tobacco based. After trying the shisha pipe some of my friends have described it as "more like dessert than smoking" "fruity steam which tastes like candyfloss".

Preparing your pipe

Its best to clean your pipe straight after using it, that way the smoke-steam in the metal part of the pipe doesn't have time to dry which makes it easier to clean. Plus the last thing you want to be doing when your looking forward to a smoke with your friends is having to clean your pipe. A dry pipe and hose gives a better smoke. Make sure your pipe is clean or you'll start to get a horrible taste with each smoking session. Use soft brushes to clean the pipe and base bottle.

Fill the glass base so approximately 1 inch of the metal tube is submerged below the water line. The area left above this is where the smoke will mix with air and cool further. Too much water makes it hard to suck the smoke through and leaves little space left for the smoke to mix with air resulting in much stronger smoke. Attach the pipe onto the bottle as above. The metal pipe is not to be confused with the hose, see image above.

To enhance the flavour of the smoke, try mixing cola, lemon juice, orange juice when using the same flavoured tobacco., or some other flavours into the water in your glass base.

Preparing the molasses

Often the juice in the tobacco based molasses can sink to the bottom, give it a good mix before you take any out to put in the clay bowl. That way your not using dry tobacco from the top of the pack. When you open a large pack of tobacco we recommend putting it in an air tight container to prevent it drying out, the tub will also make it easier when you mix it.

If you're new to using a hookah shisha pipe try a small amount of tobacco first to practice getting it right. Place the tobacco into the clay bowl. We recommend about 8-10g of tobacco per smoke if you have a large pipe. Break up the tobacco rather than putting it in and covering the holes in the clay bowl fully.

For beginners we recommend trying tobacco free molasses until your familiar with setting up. Its easy to burn the molasses, whilst a good smoke is heavenly burning the molasses will make you cough like you would with cigarettes. The two most popular tobacco free molasses on the market today are SOEX and High Life Herbal. Ensure the tobacco is not compacted or the air will not pass through and will make the smoke strong and give a burnt flavour to your smoke. Place the charcoal tray on the pipe, the grommet in clay bowl then the clay bowl onto the pipe.

Take a small piece of aluminium foil, big enough to cover the openening of the bowl. Wrap the foil over the top so that the surface is tight. Use a toothpick to punch 5-6 holes in the foil. You may want to suck on the mouth piece to see if enough air flows through the pipe. If its an effort to draw air you may want to make some more hole or ensure the tobacco is not too tightly packed. Try to make one of the holes go right through into one of the the holes in the bowl.

Note by Francis Trussart(Thread starter) : Personally, but maybe that I'm wrong!: I would suggest you to NOT making holes superficy bigger than the superficy of the charcoal itself! I suggest this because if you want then, you can force ALL of the flowing air to touch the charcoal, then becomming the hotest it can be! Just a smart thought I believe! ;-)

Lighting the charcoal

Quick Light - Light the charcoal and wait about 1 minute after it has stopped sparkling before placing it on the foil if you are using self igniting charcoal on the foil. If you place the charcoal on too early you’ll be smoking the charcoal fumes before you get any flavour, wait until it has stopped sparkling or smoking.

Natural Charcoal - Natural charcoal is preferred by experienced shisha smokers as it contains no chemicals which may taint the flavour of the smoke. Natural charcoal takes longer to light but its worth the wait. You can light it on your cooker or using a torch lighter. Wait until it is glowing before placing it on the charcoal.

When you first start smoking your hookah, try placing the charcoal on the outside of the bowl and working it around the edges of the bowl. The centre of the bowl should be the last place your charcoal is placed.

Use a large wind cover to prevent the charcoal falling off in case someone knocks your pipe. A wind cover also preserves charcoal by keeping the heat from escaping.

Final Preparation

Place the hose grommet in the hole then attach the hose to the pipe. The hookah is now ready to smoke - we advise sucking gently to start with so the tobacco or molasses heats gently, sucking too hard will result in the top molasses burning which will taint the rest of if with a charred taste. Long gentle draws will help the heat pass through the tobacco.

Don’t forget to take in some normal air every now and then to make smoking enjoyable, too much of anything can be sickly. For best effect we recommend smoking with friends, after all the best ingredient to any gathering is good friends.

Maintaining A Good Smoke

Heating the Molasses

Its easy to burn the tobacco, even a tiny piece of burnt tobacco at the top will ruin the smoke and it taints the rest with a charred taste. Different brands require different things doing to get the best out of them.

None Tobacco Molasses - Try SOEX first as its easier to get a good smoke from. Its also a good appetiser before you move onto the tobacco based molasses. SOEX burns out quicker as its drier so use less charcoal to start with. Mixing 10g tobacco molasses with a 50g pack of soex gives a great smoke and helps prevent it burning. None tobacco brands : Soex and High Life herbal

Leafy Tobacco Based Molasses - Looks like shredded tobacco. Use a medium sized piece of charcoal with thick foil or 2 thin sheets of foil. Leafy tobacco brands : Nakhla

Gungy Tobacco Bases Molasses - This looks like mushy thick gunge. It takes longer to get going but often gives a much better smoke. You may need to use a big piece of charcoal or 2 pieces to get it going, once its going you can take 1 piece off once its smoking ok. Gungy tobacco brands : Afzal Brand

If the tobacco seems like its getting too hot and is about to start burning, blow into the pipe which sends air up the pipe to cool the smoke, also taking a break will give the tobacco time to cool

Foil and Air Holes

Every 10-15 minutes use the toothpick to poke the holes again, these will become blocked when the molasses starts to cook, blocked holes will give you a horrible burnt tastes and make you choke. This is probably the most common reason a smoking session starts to go wrong.

Solid Brass or Heavy Metal Hookahs

If your hookah is made of solid rather than cast metal it will keep hold heat passed from the charcoal and in tern heat the smoke passing through it. If you find your smoke is no longer cool and even getting warm try the following. After a couple of long smokes (1 1/2 hours), you can run the whole metal part of the pipe under a cold shower or tap to make it cold. A really cold pipe makes for a very good cool smoke, a warm pipe will produce warm smoke which isn’t anywhere near as nice. Most standard pipes tend not to heat up like this only solid brass pipes tend to keep the heat. Ice or ice water in the base makes for a very cool smoke.


Drink plenty of water when your smoking as the smoke will make your mouth dry because your breathing out more than normal. Mild tea made with fresh mint leaves is a favourite in the Arab world. Smoking continuously usually results in you not being able to taste the flavour after a few minutes. Drinking mild tea, coffee or water with a smoke means after each mouth of drink the flavour of the smoke is again back. If your finding yourself feeling tired the following day it will most certainly be down to not drinking enough during a smoking gathering.

Safety Tips

Make sure the charcoal your using is not crumbly before lighting it or you'll have trouble transferring it from the charcoal pan to the pipe.

Light the charcoal outside or in the kitchen. This will prevent your living room from filling up with unwanted charcoal smoke if your using quick light charcoal. This will also protect your carpet in the unlikely event some sparks fall onto the carpet.

Ensure the shisha pipe is stable before placing the charcoal. It’s a good idea to place the pipe on a hard flat surface such as a large tile available from any DIY store. If you have expensive carpets you may want to place a thick cotton sheet around the smoking area in case you knock the pipe over.

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