How to Use a Hookah: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Use a Hookah: A Comprehensive Guide

Considering trying a more traditional method of tobacco consumption? Without question, a hookah is a popular choice. This impressively built water pipe has been around for centuries and is still popular in different countries around the planet. Today, hookah use is quite a popular endeavor, and a lot of people prefer to set up and use their own at home.

Getting started with smoking a hookah is not as difficult as it seems. Most people are fine with a little basic instruction and familiarity with how to use a hookah. Below is a comprehensive guide on how to use hookah, so you feel more comfortable as a first-timer.

First, Get to Know the Anatomy of a Hookah

Getting to know the different parts of the hookah and the basic functions of those parts is always a good place to start. If you've never used a hookah, the many parts can look pretty intimidating, but a little basic understanding can go a long way. Any basic hookah usually offers a pipe, a body, a hose and mouthpiece, and a body.

How to use a Hookah - Hookah Parts

However, the modern hookah is often built to be as efficient and enjoyable to use as possible. From the base to the top, here's a look at the general parts of a modern hookah:

  • Base - The base simply holds the water in the hookah
  • Downstem - This is the section of the hookah stem that reaches into the water
  • Diffuser - Keeps bubbles in the water broken up for quieter use
  • Stem heart - Connects to the hookah's base and houses the release valve and hose port
  • Purge valve - Allows for smoke to be purged from the base if you blow through the hose
  • Hose handle - The long, thin mouthpiece of the hookah
  • Hose - The hose that leads from the mouthpiece to the stem heart
  • Stem - The point that connects the hose, base, and bowl
  • Bowl stem - Attached to the bowl to hold the coal tray
  • Coal tray - A tray that holds hot coals and collects ash
  • Bowl - Where the tobacco is placed on the hookah

Hookah with vs Without Coals

Most hookahs are designed to be used with small bits of charcoal that sit in the bowl. You basically light the coals, they produce heat, and the tobacco burns. However, some hookahs don't actually require coal. For example, an e-hookah is a modern twist on the smoking device that uses electricity to generate heat for tobacco ignition.

How to Use a Hookah with Charcoal

With charcoal or coals, you only need to ignite the charcoal and allow it to burn. But first, it is preferable to wrap the bowl in a piece of aluminum foil perforated with holes. The charcoal itself rests on the foil instead of directly on the bowl. Be sure to invest in a pair of metal tongs; these allow you to move the coals around as needed to keep the burn consistent and the heat in the right spot.

How to Use Hookah with Coals

How the Hookah Works

In spite of all the parts and pieces, hookahs work in a pretty straightforward way:

  1. You inhale through the mouthpiece
  2. The air suction through the coals draws heat into the tobacco
  3. The heated tobacco produces smoke
  4. The created smoke slips through the downstem and into the water
  5. Water cools the smoke and it fills the base
  6. The cooled smoke travels through the hose and out to the mouthpiece for inhaling

Setting Up the Hookah for Use

To get your hookah set up, there are a few basic steps for getting ready.

  • Fill the base - Disconnect the stem from the base and fill the base with water. The general rule is to make sure the bottom of the downstem is submerged in the water about an inch deep.
  • Fill the bowl - Add tobacco to your bowl. The pack should be relatively light but slightly packed just the same. Make sure the tobacco is packed down by a few millimeters around the rim.
  • Wrap the bowl - Add foil over the top of the bowl and use a pen or perforator to make a bunch of small holes in the foil. Then, place the bowl back on the stem.
  • Check connections - Make sure everything is connected firmly: the hose, the stem, and the bowl. You want everything to be airtight so all airflow goes where it should.
  • Add hot coals - Heat the charcoal pieces to red-hot, and then use metal tongs to position the coals (3 to 4 usually works) on the bowl. Try to keep the coals evenly spaced as this ensures an even, consistent burn.

How to Use a Hookah Step by Step

All setup and ready? Time to start your smoking session!

  1. Pick up the mouthpiece and take a slow, light draw
  2. As the smoke filters into your mouth, inhale slowly
  3. Note the flavor of the smoke as it moves across your tongue
  4. Exhale the smoke
  5. Take a short break between puffs
  6. Continue to smoke, adding new coals as needed

How to Setup and Use a Hookah

Keep in mind, as you smoke, the coals will start to burn hotter, which means you will get more smoke with each puff and the smoke will be more potent and flavorful. As the coals start to burn through and cool off, you will get less smoke. Therefore, if you are doing an extended smoking session with friends, you may have to add more tobacco or coal from time to time.

Important Tips to Remember for the Best Hookah Experience

Pick High-Quality Shisha (Flavored Tobacco)

Essentially, shisha is flavored tobacco used in a hookah. The tobacco can be mingled with other ingredients for added flavor, including things like molasses or fruit. The shisha you pick for use during a hookah session means everything to the outcome of the experience. You'll find a lot of amazing options to choose from, such as mint and cola, apple, or even chocolate and coconut. Regardless of the flavor you prefer, always shop for top-quality tobacco, and don't be afraid to try new flavors to diversify the smoking experience. Also, if you prefer to avoid tobacco, you'll find alternatives to use in a hookah, such as herbal blends.

Avoid Smoking if Your Stomach Is Empty

Traditionally, smoking hookah was done during gatherings that usually involved food, snacks, or appetizers. Even though you may not be interested in the traditional norms of using a hookah, making sure you have something in your stomach is important nonetheless. If it is your first time using a hookah, the potent tobacco and flavors can make you feel just a bit nauseous or lightheaded, especially if you haven't eaten. So, take a note from tradition and have a snack or meal before your smoking session.

Take Notes from a Pro If Needed

If you're still feeling a little unsure about setting up a hookah or how to use a hookah, it doesn't hurt to get some insight from the pros. If there's a hookah lounge nearby, stop in for a visit and take notes when an employee packs the bowl. There are also a lot of great tutorials on YouTube from seasoned hookah users that can give you a ton of good insight.

Take Your Time

Hookah smoking is all about relaxing and taking it easy. For many years, hookah use has been sort of a social gathering thing. Several people would get together, enjoy a smoking session, and spend time conversing, maybe eating dinner, and possibly even enjoying the telltale mellow tobacco buzz. With all this in mind, hookah is best enjoyed at a slower pace. Sit back and unwind, taking a puff or two here and there, and take time to enjoy the flavor of the tobacco, as well as the experience.

Cleaning Up a Hookah After Use

Keeping your hookah good and clean is important, but not all parts of the hookah are designed to be washable. The main thing to keep clean is the bowl or heads, your base, and your mouthpieces.

How to Clean Hookah After Use

Simply remove the foil from the bowl, make sure all coals are extinguished and dispose of them properly. Clean up the tobacco remaining in the bowl and wash it well with soap and water. If your hose is designed to be washable, rinse it with warm soap and water and hang it up to air dry. The mouthpiece should be thoroughly cleaned after each use as well.

Need supplies for your hookah? Be sure to take a look at the collection at Hookah Vault to get everything you need.

Find Premium Hookah Products at Hookah Vault

Now that you know how to use a hookah, you’re probably wondering where you can find the perfect hookah for yourself. Well, you’ve come to the right place. At Hookah Vault, we offer a wide selection of premium hookah products, including hookahs, bowls, coals, bases, accessories, shisha, and more!


Thank you for joining us today! We hope that you enjoyed this article and it helped to show you how to properly setup a hookah. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop us a message in the comments and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!



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