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Hookah Parts 101: How to Setup a Hookah

Hookah Parts 101: How to Setup a Hookah

By Amir / April 29, 2024

A Hookah Guide for Beginners

Whether you are completely new to hookah or having trouble setting up your latest hookah purchase, we at SouthSmoke are here to help with the latest hookah parts guide. Even enthusiasts that are troubleshooting a hookah issue need a refresher every now and then so don’t feel like hookah beginner guides are just for newbs. When you know what each hookah accessory does and how every hookah part works together, you create an understanding of the entire concept which leads to better smoking sessions in the future. Sit back, buckle in and read on to enjoy the largest clouds and boldest hookah shisha flavor from your hookah.

Essential Hookah Parts – What Do You Need to Smoke Hookah?

Everything you need to get started with your new hookah. A great way to double check that all essential parts were included with your pipe and that you ordered the hookah accessories needed to set up a hookah session from! For more in depth insights on what accessories, flavored tobacco and hookah charcoals you have to choose from, read our “What Do You Need to Smoke Hookah?” blog here. Let’s get into the essential hookah parts and what they do.

Hookah Stem

The whole kit and caboodle. Without a hookah stem, there is no hookah. Stems can be made from many different materials but are usually stainless steel to avoid corrosion and flavor ghosting. An important piece used to deliver smoke created by baking shisha from your hookah bowl down to the water in the hookah vase. Once smoke is filtered by the water, it rises back into another hole in the hookah stem that connects to a hose port and your hookah hose. The stem usually comes with an attached hookah hose port and pressure release valve.

Hookah Vase/Base

What could be mistaken as a glass flower vase, is the base for your hookah pipe. Usually glass or acrylic, the hookah vase connects to the bottom of the hookah stem and holds water for filtering and cooling hookah smoke before you inhale it through the hose.

Hookah Bowl

Shisha has to sit somewhere and that somewhere, is the hookah bowl. Bowls come in many different shapes, sizes, and materials but all are meant to do one thing, hold the flavored tobacco and allow it to bake so you can inhale the vapors. The usually clay hookah bowl goes on top of the stem with the shisha inside and foil with hot coals on top.

Hookah Hose

A hookah hose can really change the way a hookah looks and smokes. Meant to be used to inhale filtered smoke from the hookah vase to the hookah smoker’s lips, hoses come in many styles, colors, and materials. Choose between traditional leather, modern silicone, and more. The hose inserts into the hose port of the hookah stem with the use of a rubber grommet.

Rubber Grommets

Rubber grommets are used to connect each hookah part with an airtight seal. An essential hookah accessory for big hookah clouds and flavorful shisha. Grommets are needed to attach the bowl, hose, and vase to the hookah stem. Each has a different fitment and uses a very different grommet. Check out our selection of hookah grommets at SouthSmoke and contact us if you have questions on fitment.

Ash Tray

A convenient place to lay your hookah tongs or rest hot charcoals when you aren’t using them. First designed to hold excess ash from burnt charcoal, the hookah tray sits on the hookah stem just under the hookah bowl. Usually resting on a ledge built into the stem.

Pressure Release Valve

As part of the hookah stem, the pressure release valve includes a small metal or plastic ball bearing that plugs an airway when the smoker is inhaling and allows air to pass when the hose is blown into. Meant to allow the hookah smoker to release harsh smoke from the hookah base to make room for fresh shisha vapor.

Shisha Tobacco

Obviously, shisha is a must. The flavor and smoke all comes from this simple mixture of tobacco, glycerin, honey, and flavoring additives. As the tobacco and glycerin bake, they produce smoke or vapor that travels through the hookah. Available in strong, dark leaf tobacco, lighter blonde tobacco, herbal, non-tobacco shisha among others.

Hookah Charcoal

Charcoal for hookah is used to heat and bake hookah shisha. This vaporizes the glycerin and creates the smoke and flavor. Options of natural coconut or wood-based charcoal as well as convenient quick light coals. After fully lighting hookah charcoal, place it on top of a foiled hookah bowl to start smoking!

Hookah Foil

Aluminum foil is used to cover the hookah bowl to separate charcoal and hookah shisha so the tobacco does not burn. Hookah foil allows heat to distribute across the top of the bowl to bake shisha evenly. You may also use a metal charcoal screen in place of hookah foil.

How to Set Up a Hookah

Step 1: Assemble the Stem, Pressure Release Valve, Vase & Hose – Test Airflow

Start each hookah session with an airflow test to confirm that your shisha pipe is in working order. Assemble the stem with included pressure release valve making sure the ball bearing is inside and moving freely. Connect the stem to the vase using a vase grommet and then attach the hookah hose with the needed grommet as well. Make sure each hookah part is secure. While covering the top of the hookah stem with your hand, inhale from the hose. You should get very little to no air meaning you have an air-tight hookah. If you are getting air, check grommets for a secure fit.

Step 2: Fill Hookah Vase with Water

Once airflow is confirmed, detach the vase and fill with water so that when reconnected the water covers one (1) inch of the inserted down stem. Securely reconnect the hookah base with a rubber grommet. Now is a good time to set the ashtray on the hookah stem as well.

Step 3: How to Pack a Shisha Bowl

Shisha can be packed in a hookah bowl with many different techniques that can be affected by the type of tobacco and style of bowl. We will use a normal packing method that works for most shisha tobacco brands and bowls. Stir your shisha inside of the bag or tin to mix in glycerin and flavors before breaking it up and sprinkling into the hookah bowl. Fill the bowl to the rim and gently pat down the tobacco until it is slightly below the rim. Cover the bowl tightly with hookah foil. Drum tight and secure the edges down around the bowl. Use a toothpick or foil poker to poke holes evenly around the foil to create airflow. Lastly, place the filled hookah bowl on top of the stem using the needed rubber bowl grommet.

Step 4: How to Light Hookah Charcoal

Depending on the style of hookah charcoal you have, lighting coals can be very different. Non-quick lighting, natural charcoal needs to be heated on a stove. Usually an electric coil charcoal burner. Set 2-3 coals on the burner until one side is glowing red and then flip until the other side matches. Once the whole charcoal is lit, place on top of you hookah foil, evenly around the outside of the hookah bowl. Quick light charcoal takes much less time and can be lit using an open flame such as a lighter or match. Simply hold the charcoal with hookah tongs in the open flame, rotating until fully lit. Place on top of your hookah foil.

Step 5: Happy Smoking!

Once everything is set up, give it a minute to heat. If you start taking puffs right away, it won’t be enjoyable. Wait 4-5 minutes for the shisha tobacco to bake and start producing smoke and then enjoy the bold shisha flavors! If coals start to ash or blackout, or clouds and flavor dissipate, simply move and rotate the charcoals to a new spot on the bowl. Happy smoking! Be sure to stop into for all of your hookah, shisha and hookah accessory needs!

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