How to Smoke Hookah? Guide for Beginners

Written by Jacob - Hookah Enthusiast

Last updated May 11, 2023

Are you a hookah beginner hoping to master the art of hookah smoking? If so, one of your first questions could be how to smoke hookah in the first place. Smoking hookah for the first time is an experience most people never forget. The rich aroma, delicious flavors, the cloudy puffs – it’s like diving into a fairytale.

But how do you smoke hookah? If you’ve never tried it, it could be a bit intimidating. But don’t stress. We’re here to support you with all you need to know on how to smoke shisha like a professional.

Introduction of hookah

The water pipe that we call hookah has been around for a long time. In fact, it first originated more than 500 years ago in the western provinces of India, near the border of Pakistan in Rajasthan and Gujarat where it became a unique cultural symbol and a tradition that locals shared.

Back then, the available hookahs were rather basic and primitive, with simple designs and often created using coconut shells as a base. Their main goal was to provide a solution for opium and hashish smoking.

    Old hookah Marroco

    When hookah smoking reached Turkey, it became incredibly popular among high-class people. This ultimately led to the creation of more sophisticated, stylish, and design-focused hookahs.

    Although an ancient practice, hookah smoking is still a very popular and attractive activity today.
    Nowadays, we have so many different options to choose from in terms of design and material used for our hookahs. We can enjoy intricate paintings and mosaics encrusted on the hookah and share the experience with friends in designated hookah bars or shisha lounges.

    But before you get comfortable with hookah smoking, you must go through your first hookah session. Hookah smoking is not a difficult activity, especially if you have all the necessary information. Let’s see what you need to know about how to smoke a hookah.

    How the hookah produces smoke?

    Before you can smoke a hookah like a pro, you need to have a basic understanding of how it works. There are a few pieces that you should be familiar with in order to set up the hookah properly and enjoy a pleasant smoking experience. The first hookah component that you should know about is the bowl. It’s the piece that is positioned at the top of the hookah that stores the shisha or the actual flavored tobacco. In order to smoke the shisha, you need heated coals that will warm it up. A hookah also has a tray laid on the bottom of the bowl where it can successfully trap any falling ash from the coals, preventing a mess.
      Hookah disassembled in parts

      Next, let’s see how the air travels. There is a shaft that helps airflow via the hookah so it can warm up the coals and the shisha. Because of this, the shisha smoke can be sucked back down via the shaft. The hookah base and the shaft are connected via a stem that brings smoke into the chamber of the base or the vase, which is usually made using glass. The vase is filled with water that helps the shisha cool down while smoking. It also plays the role of a filter for the smoke so it’s nice and gentle on your lungs when inhaled.

      Last but not least, there’s the hose protected with a mouthpiece that allows smokers to pull and extract smoke from the hookah.

      I have a detailed article explaining, how exactly does the hookah work, so make sure you check it out.

      How to smoke hookah – the complete guide

      Step 1. Cleaning – Even if you haven’t yet used the hookah, it’s best to clean it before using it. This also applies for every use afterwards. This will help you keep the flavor clean and fresh. Thoroughly clean every component with water and soap. Be careful with the hose as some hoses may be exposed to rust when wet. Rinse carefully after every smoking session and if possible use special hookah cleaning products. Make sure to only clean the glass with cold water to avoid damage.

      Step 2. Prepare the base – Get to know the hookah base and check where the stem’s end is. Remove the shaft and place cold water into the vase. When you reattach the shaft, the stem must be around an inch under the surface of the water. Careful not to pour too much water as it can end up in the hose and damage it.

      Water in hookah base

      Step 3. Add the shisha – Choose a tasty shisha flavor and drop it lightly on the bowl. Make sure not to obstruct the holes and fill it up to about ¾ of the full capacity. Sprinkle gently to create an even layer.

      Hookah shisha tobacco in bowl

      Step 4. Prepare the coals – Add foil over the bowl and poke holes in it. There’s no right or wrong answer as to how many holes you need. You’ll need to experiment to find the best number that will help you stay away from harsh, overheated shisha. Place two hot coals on top of the foil. The number of coils necessary will depend on the size of the bowl. You want to get the right amount of smoke so play around with the coals for a few sessions. 

      Shisha Coal stove and coals burning on top

      Step 5. Warm the bowl – Make sure the bowl and the shaft are connected and position the coals towards the edge of the foil. Draw gently and enjoy the session.

      3 coals on top of the bowl

      How to smoke shisha properly

      Great, you’ve now successfully set up your hookah. But even then, you’re still not ready to smoke like a pro. To be fully aware of how to smoke hookah we need to talk about the actual smoking process. 

        It’s important that you take gentle draws from the hose, especially towards the beginning of the smoking session when the hookah is still warming up. Draw air using even but full breaths and maintain a normal breathing pattern. You may be tempted to do a strong pull but this will cause the shisha to overheat and will likely result in a harsh flavor. It’s best to set aside a minute or two in between inhales to avoid feeling dizzy or sick.

        Girl show how to smoke hookah

        Other useful tips when smoking shisha includes making sure you are hydrated and drink water before the smoking session. You can also drink your favorite tea if you’re not a fan of water. Also, avoid smoking on a hungry stomach and make sure you don’t overdo it. Smoke no more than one bowl per day in your beginner phase. You can gradually increase over time.

        For a pro experience, make sure to move the coals every 15 minutes and remove any vivid ash by gently tapping them with the tongs.

        First-time hookah smokers

        There we have it – an easy to follow guide on how to smoke a hookah. As a hookah beginner, it’s completely natural to feel doubts when it comes to your first smoking session. If possible, share the moment with more experienced friends who can also offer guidance and support. Most importantly, make sure you’ve selected a suitable shisha flavor that is not too harsh and will give you a pleasant experience. Smoke up, we’ll see you in the next article!

          Hookah coal replacement

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