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Typical beginner's mistakes

As with any new hobby, smoking a hookah is where as a beginner you can make some mistakes. Of course, that's not so bad, but it's better to know how to avoid them right at the beginning.

Below is a list of the top eight most common beginner mistakes and how they can be bypassed for optimal smokers' enjoyment:

  • Smoking with coal sieve
  • The supercool hookah from the oriental greengrocery
  • Using unmoistured tobacco
  • Washing the hose
  • Not letting the coals glow through
  • Too high water-level
  • Tobacco stuffed too tightly
  • Cleaning with hot water


Smoking with coal sieve

The typical hookah from the supermarket has usually a so-called coal sieve, which you supposedly can put over the tobacco bowl instead of aluminium foil and which represents the installation face of the coal in that way.

These coal sieves can be quite useful for unusual setups, though, but normally you would never use them on their own. In many cases, the coal sieves do not quite fit because not all heads have the same top diameter. As a result, the support surface can be both too large and wobbly, or too small. Furthermore, the heat that reaches the tobacco due to the direct contact of the coal with the sieve can hardly be controlled. The outcome of this is that the shisha tastes charred and the good taste cannot occur.

Our recommendation: Change directly to aluminum foil! If a larger shisha bowl is used, the foil can also be used in multiple layers, so that the film does not sag through the overlying coal. Alufoil slows down the combustion process. This is particularly advantageous when smoking with more coal, because it prevents the resulting smoke from becoming scratchy. If you want to completely do without aluminum foil, you can also create a setup using a chimney bowl.



If you use quick lighting coals for smoking with aluminum foil, these can be placed in the center of the tobacco bowl without hesitation. Natural charcoal, however, should first be placed on the edge of the foil. Occasionally change the resting spot from outside to inside to let the coal pieces burn evenly.


The supercool hookah fom the oriental greengrocery

This mistake is made as good as any hookah smoker in the beginning: He is impressed by the elaborately decorated, large, "noble" waterpipes from the supermarket next door and finally buys them overpriced.

However, most of these hookahs are no-name products, produced from cheap metal sheets, that get rusty only after a few weeks.

Our recommendation: pay attention to the quality of the hookah, not the look!
Always inspect the materials used and inspect the workmanship. What you should pay attention to in particular, you can read in our advice for hookah purchases.


Unangefeuchteten Tabak verwenden

Hookah tobacco needs to have high humidity! For beginners who did not know before: until 20.05. 2016 in Germany, tobacco was only allowed to contain 5% basic moisture and was thus unusable for hookah lovers. Therefore, tobacco always had to be moistened with additional molasses or with glycerine so that the smoke production and taste would increase. Although this rule has been changed under TPD2 regulations, so that the bulk of hookah tobacco now meets the needs of most smokers, there are still products from some manufacturers that do not fully meet the needs of their customers.

Our recommendation: If the tobacco does not appear moist enough, or the smoke production is too low, try moistening the tobacco with glycerine! It is tasteless, meaning it does not leave an aftertaste to your tobacco. Just do not use it in abundantly or it may weaken the tobacco´s own taste.



If you want to completely abstain from tobacco, you can also smoke using Shiazo stones. These can be purchased already moistened, but also bought in a dry state so you can soak them within molasses with your favorite taste, depending on your preference.


Washing the hose

For many hookahs, a synthetic leather hose is included with the purchase, which is usually advertised with the property "washable". In 99% of the cases this declaration is wrong.

The delivered hoses have a thin plastic foil inside, which is unable to hold back the water when you're washing them. It will not keep the water out properly, eventually leading to the hose to mold. In addition, they are often equipped with a metal helix that starts rusting as soon as it gets into contact with water.

You can only designate hoses as washable if they are completely made of plastic inside. However, these are mostly hoses in higher price ranges starting from 15 €.

Our recommendation: Never wash out the standard hose!
This can otherwise lead to mold and rust. Even with real leather hoses, the material can quickly be damaged by direct contact with water. Instead, hang up the hose vertically after smoking so that it can dry properly. In order to reduce dirt build-up in the hose, which may endanger not only the taste but ultimately your health, let the hose reasonably dry out before the next session and thoroughly blow it out e.g. with an air compressor.



If you want to be on the safe side, in terms of longevity and hygiene, change to a silicone hose. It can be washed out with hot water at any time, be cleaned with soapy water and reused over a long period. If you find a normal silicone hose to be too unadorned, look for hoses with matching sleeves, which look good in combination with classic pipe models.


Not letting the coals glow through

Another mistake that is often made by starters is that quick lighting coal is only briefly ignited and immediately placed on the tobacco bowl.

This doesn't only taste horrible, but is also very unhealthy, because the coal is burning black powder or other accelerants constantly while igniting. The smoker then inhales these substances. As a negative side effect, it lasts very long, until the hookah coal burns through.

Our recommendation: Let the coal burn through completely! Use a coal dish in which you let the pieces of coal burn through and turn them over with a coal tongs so that they burn evenly. If necessary, help with a fan or by gently blowing on it. But beware! Pay attention to flying ash and embers!


Too high water-level

Will the smoke be better cooled when filling more water into the hookah? Does the shisha stay clean longer and everything is tutti ...?
No - this assumption is incorrect. If the water level in the hookah is too high, this can lead to various problems:

1. Impeded drag - Increased water levels mean that a higher drag is created because you need to inhale the smoke through a wider layer of water. So if you do not want to pull on your hookah like an ox all the time, just to get a non-satisfying smoke production, you should think about the height of the water level.
2. Less smoke - The best thing of a hookah is that the soaked smoke can be concentrated and you are able to enjoy a whopping amount of it. If the water level in the pipe is too high, the accumulation of smoke is reduced and the result is far less satisfactory.
3. Soaked tobacco - If the tobacco has become too hot and the smoke tastes charred or stale, simply blow into the hose so that the brckish smoke can escape through the valves. If the water level in the water glass is too high, water will be pulled up the smoke column right into the tobacco head when the air is being pumped out of the bowl. The tobacco begins to swim in the brackish water and thus loses heat and taste. In this case it is often necessary to prepare a new setup.

Our recommendation: As a rule of thumb, pour enough water into the hookah glass until the downstem resp. its diffuser at the end is about one inch (1 inch = 2.54 cm) under water. This amount of water is always sufficient, so that the hookah can be smoked well.



Would you like to achieve a higher drag? Then fill in some water. If necessary, inhale once or twice from your hookah for test purposes to check, if the drag is sufficient for you. Are you worried that the smoke would not be cooled enough with the small amount of water? Then add a few ice cubes to the water or use a shisha with a cooling insert (e.g. a smoke column with cooling liquid or a mouthpiece with integrated cooling battery).  


Tobacco stuffed too tightly

Yes, it's true - some setups require you to stuff hookah tobacco a little harder. But you can overdo it: If the tobacco bowl is stuffed right up to the top (because you think more tobacco means a better taste) and everything covered with foil, the awakening comes as soon as the hot coal is put on the foil - the smoke tastes charred.

If the tobacco is stuffed too tightly and comes into full contact with the foil, the top layer begins to burn quickly while the bottom layer does not gain enough heat to reasonably initiate smoke production. At the same time, the tobacco starts to float quickly on the bottom of the tobacco bowl in the tobacco's own molasses. With multi-hole bowls, this can pass through the bowl itself down the smoke column into the water bowl and unnecessarily smutch everything.
But even if smoke should arise, this may not be enjoyable for you. If the tobacco is stuffed too hard, the holes that form the flue to the smoke column, clog faster, so that even strong pulling leads to nothing.

Our recommendation: The tobacco must be able to breathe! Depending on the size of the used bowl, between 8 and 15 grams of hookah tobacco are usually enough to build a good set-up. Use a toothpick, a fork or the tip of your coal tongs to spread the tobacco evenly in the tobacco bowl. You will definitely notice an improvement! If you have planned a longer smoking session, you can simply prepare a second bowl and swap it if necessary.



Is there still too much excess molasses despite the loose distribution of the tobacco? With the use of a molasses catcher, the hookah remains spared from unwanted sticking. If you prefer a single-hole bowl when smoking, use a MOD made of stainless steel to prevent clogging of the flue by tobacco residue, or use a 4tex tobacco bowl with a raised chimney fin the first place.  


Cleaning with hot water

The smoking session is over and you want to get your hookah clean again. You are boiling some water to clean the bowl and pour it in. Quickly you get the shock of your life, as soon as you start cleaning the hookah - and that with a bang!

The water glass of a hookah, even when it is made of thick glass, is the most sensitive part of the hookah. The glass can crack quickly or even burst if cleaning is not done properly. In particular, the threaded part is sensitive, since the metal of the thread expands under heat differently than the glass of the bowl. Therefore, cleaning waterpipes with the use of boiling hot water or the use of a dishwasher should be avoided, because here too, the applied cleaning temperature is usually set too high. In particular, effect glasses such as bowls of the Cracked series can quickly break. Coated bowls of the Neon series, on the other hand, run the risk of their coating being rejected by harsh detergents and excessively high temperatures.

Our recommendation: Clean your hookah by hand. It may take a few minutes, but it will give the best and safest results. Wash the bowl with lukewarm water and if necessary use a round brush and a little soapy water - or better - a suitable detergent for hookahs such as Tiptop or Schmand Weg.



Are the stains in the smoke column or downstem really persistent? Use some toothpaste and a suitable cleaning brush to remove encrustations. The consistency of the paste dissolves deposits, eliminates bacteria and is non-toxic. 


This text contains free translated extracts of the book "Die Wasserpfeife - Tradition und Jugendkultur" ("The Waterpipe - Tradition and Youth Culture") by Felix B.


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