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How to use a hookah pipe – Part 1

December 22, 2018

Smoking shisha tobacco from a hookah pipe is easy when everything is set up for you, which is generally the case the first few times you smoke shisha with friends or family. The hookah is fully assembled and filled with the right amount of water; the bowl is packed to the correct level; the foil is in place with holes expertly punched; and the coals are glowing a nice shade of orange – all you have to do is put the hose tip to your mouth and draw. Simple huh! But then you get hooked on shisha and start looking to buy your own hookah pipe so that you can enjoy smoking in the comfort of your own home, and madly rush off and buy the first hookah you come across (these hookahs are a pretty good choice). That’s all fine until you get home, open the box and wonder how you’re going to set up the hookah pipe? Let Shisha Works help you with that!

Part 1: How to setup a hookah pipe

1. Check you have all the hookah parts

Depending on the design of your hookah pipe, you should have the following (from bottom to top):

  • Hookah vase (the large glass base of the hookah – a bit like a flower vase)
  • Downstem (shorter, larger diameter metal tube with a defuser at one end, internal thread at the other end)
  • Stem chamber (hollow metal bulb with an internal thread on the top, two or more fittings with external threads either side, and an external thread on the inside)
  • Detachable breather (little metal cap with internal thread at one end)
  • Female hose connector (little metal tube with internal thread at one end, female socket at the other end)
  • Male hose connector (little metal tube with hose barb at one end, male plug at the other end)
  • Anti-kink spring
  • Silicone hose
  • Mouth piece (long skinny metal tube with hose barb at one end, tip at the other end)
  • Stem (larger diameter metal tube with external threads at both ends)
  • Metal ashtray & retaining nut
  • Rubber bowl grommet
  • Bowl
  • Screen

2. Clean the hookah pipe

Before the first use, wash all the hookah parts with warm (not hot) water, dishwashing detergent and a soft brush (bottle brushes are great for getting into tight spaces). If your hookah came with an unglazed clay bowl, do not use detergent as it could get absorbed into the clay and ruin the taste when smoking. Rinse all parts thoroughly and wipe dry with a cloth or absorbent paper towel (unglazed clay bowls will take a while to dry, so maybe grab a hairdryer with a “cool” setting and speed things up – you don’t want to risk the bowl cracking from absorbed water heating up and expanding during smoking).

3. Mark the correct water height

This is an important step that a lot of people forget until later. If you want an enjoyable shisha session, it’s critical to use the correct amount of water. Too much water and it’ll be hard to draw air through the shisha. Too little water and the tobacco smoke will be hot and harsh.

First, grab your stem chamber, stem and downstem and screw together. Your hookah may have a one-piece stem (with the stem chamber built into the stem), so disregard any steps that aren’t relevant. If you bought a hookah pipe with a click-lock system, happy days! Just turn the stem chamber, stem and downstem (let’s call it a stem assembly) into the hookah vase until it locks into place (and is perfectly airtight). If you purchased a traditional hookah with a rubber base grommet, push the stem assembly down into the vase until it is tight enough that it won’t easily come out (and is hopefully airtight).

A good starting point for the water height is 25 mm (1”) above the bottom of the downstem (you can always experiment with more or less water after you’ve had a few sessions to figure out your preferred draw). Finally, grab some shisha coal which should be close by (or a bit of sticky tape / masking tape) and mark on the side of the vase the correct water height.

4. Fill the hookah vase with cold water

Remove the stem assembly from the hookah vase. Before you go and tip water in the vase, you might want to put some ice in first. The ice will cool down the shisha smoke and make it even smoother, plus pouring the water in second makes it easier to fill to the correct height. You don’t have to put much ice in – no more than half way up to your fill line because you don’t want it so cold that you can’t tell if you’re burning your bowl or not. Then, pour in cold water (tap water is fine, as long as it’s safe for drinking) until it’s level with your fill line.

5. Finish assembling the stem assembly

If your hookah pipe has a detachable breather/purge valve, grab your ball bearing (glass is better than metal FYI) and place it inside the breather and screw onto one of the fittings on the stem chamber. Screw the female hose connector on the other fitting, or if your hookah came with rubber hose grommets push one of those on the fitting.

6. Assemble and connect hose assembly

Slide the anti-kink spring over one end of the silicone hose so that there’s about 25 mm (1”) overhang of hose. Then, push the barb end of the male hose connector into the same end of the hose. If it’s not too tight, try to slide the spring back so that it’s almost flush with the hose connector. Next, push the barb end of the mouth piece into the other end of the hose. Finally, connect the male hose connector into the female hose connector. Things are starting to take shape!

7. Check that hookah pipe set up in airtight

Now is a good time to make sure your hookah setup is airtight. Put your thumb over the top of the stem to block off the hole. Place the tip of the mouth piece into your mouth and try to draw in air as you normally would when smoking shisha. If you can continuously draw in even the slightest bit of air, go back over all the connections and make sure there are no obvious leakages. Once fully airtight, move on to the next step.

8. Install metal ashtray

Place the ashtray over the top of the stem, and use the retaining nut to lock the ashtray in place. The ashtray is important, as it will catch any burning coals that fall off during your smoking session. Then, take the rubber bowl grommet and push it over the top of the retaining nut. This is the one spot on a hookah where rubber grommets are superior, because they allow you to easily switch between different types of bowls. At this point you could continue to fit the bowl and screen, but you’re better off packing your bowl first.

Well, that completes part 1 of our 2-part series on how to set up shisha. Next month we will be publishing part 2, so until then – happy shisha!

Want to know the right way to set up a shisha pipe? Follow our easy steps in part 1 of our 2-part series on how to use a hookah pipe.