Are you new to the wonderful world of hookah? Are you interested in learning how to pack a hookah bowl? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We are here at Icon Hookah to teach you an easy, fool-proof way to properly prepare your very first bowl. You might be wondering what a pack is. A “pack” is the word used to describe putting the hookah tobacco inside of the bowl that you intend to smoke.
There are many different packing methods along with numerous tobacco brands, but today we will focus on a simple way that can be applied to multiple brands and types of hookah bowls. The tobacco we are using to pack our bowl is by the brand Zomo.
Zomo Tobacco originated in Brazil and quickly spread to the United States and Europe. It’s a great shisha brand for novices and experts alike because it tends to be easy to prepare, manage, and smoke due to its lower nicotine content and glycerin level. The tobacco is a perfect balance between wet and dry, and it can be packed in many different ways to ensure a solid hookah session.
First, let’s go over all of the items you’ll need to prepare your first bowl:
- Bowl (preferably Turkish-style)
- Zomo Tobacco (or another starter brand like Al Fakher)
- Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil (or a heat management device like the Kaloud Lotus)
- Toothpick (or a Hole Poker)
- Cube Coconut Charcoal
- 1000W+ Heating Plate (you can purchase one from your local Walgreens/CVS)
If you’re missing any items, we carry most of these on our website!
Note: From here on out, we will be referring to a heat management device as a HMD.
Remove the tobacco from the packaging. A standard 50 gram package is going to be clumped up when you take it out. Grab a small dish and mix the tobacco with a fork until it is nice and fluffy. Doing this also spreads the juices of the shisha and helps ensure even heat distribution when you go to smoke. You should do this every time you pack a new bowl, not only the first time you open it.
Grab your bowl. In this demonstration, we’re going to be using the Kolos Mita, a Russian-made Turkish hookah bowl. There are many great bowls on the market, be sure to experiment down the line. Each bowl smokes differently, and it boils down to personal preference on how you like to smoke. If you are looking to pack a hookah bowl for thick smoke and great flavor, classic Turkish bowls are a solid option.
Gently grab around 15-20 grams of the tobacco and place it in the bowl in a mountain formation.
Take your toothpick and lightly press down the tobacco so that it ends two millimeters below the rim of the bowl if you’re using foil and 1mm if you’re using a HMD.
You want to make sure that it’s all evenly leveled.
Now use your toothpick and poke down directly in the center so that it goes through the center hole. Make a light swirling motion that creates a direct hole in the center of the tobacco all the way through to the bottom. This is to help with the airflow. Unlike phunnel bowls, which are completely open down the stem of the bowl. Turkish bowls only utilize the five holes that go through the bowl for airflow.
Another thing to pay attention to is the density of your tobacco. If it is too dense, you’ll get poor airflow, and your tobacco won’t cook evenly. Ideally, your hookah tobacco will have an even density throughout the bowl.
Before moving to the next step, I will discuss the differences between using foil or a HMD.
Foil is the most common method across the globe when it comes to heating your bowl. Foil is cheap, easy to find, and safe to use. The cost of foil makes it very efficient if you’re not willing or ready to shell out the money for a HMD. Your bowl will start faster because there is far less material to get through to heat the tobacco when compared to a HMD. Cleaning up is also easier because you can throw away the foil when you’re done.
Heat Management Device
A HMD is a piece of metal that can be seen as a foil replacement. Instead of foiling your bowl and poking holes, you will put this device directly on top of the tobacco. You put your hookah coals inside of the device, and you’ll be able to adjust your heat with a rotating cap that opens and closes the vents. It makes for an incredibly easy way to manage your heat. Another benefit of a HMD is that your bowls will last a bit longer as the heat manager stays hot longer than the coals and extends your session. In the next section, we will dive a bit into heat management. There are several good HMD options, but for this demonstration, we will be using the Kaloud Lotus. The Kaloud Lotus is considered the original HMD. There are many bad fakes out there, so be sure to buy authentic!
Take your pick of foil or a HMD for this next step and follow the appropriate instructions.
For foil: Take your heavy duty foil and pull it out about four to five inches, then rip it off, keeping the whole sheet intact. Keep the foil as clean and wrinkle-free as possible. Next, fold that piece in half. This is known as double layer foil. You’re going to take that foil and put it over your bowl as tightly as possible without tearing any part of the foil. You want it to be drum tight. If the foil has any bends or rips, it will create restriction on your bowl when you go to take a pull. From here, we will poke holes with the toothpick we used earlier. You can poke holes 2-3mm apart in a circular pattern all the way around until you reach the center.
For HMDs: It’s very simple! All you have to do is carefully place the device on top of the bowl in the center of the tobacco, and you’re good to go.
Tip: When filling up your base with water, make sure it is roughly 1 inch above the downstream.
There are two types of hookah charcoal, quicklights, and coconut coals. Please stick to natural coconut hookah coals. They are far superior. Natural hookah coals add no taste and last longer while quicklights burn out quickly and add a funky flavor to your bowl. The only benefit of quicklight coals can be found in the name, they light quickly.
The only way to light coconut coals is with a hot plate or a single coil burner stove as well. Do NOT use a flat top stove as it will leave burn marks.
For foil, use three cube charcoal (we recommend the brand Cocodalya), and for a HMD, use two cube charcoal. You can get away with using less charcoal when using a HMD because of its ability to hold the heat better.
To light hookah coals, place them on your hot plate, then turn the heat on to the highest setting.
Once you see that the charcoal is halfway lit (it will be orange), use your tongs and flip them over.
When you see that they are fully lit, you can turn the burner off to avoid overcooking the coals, which reduces their lifespan.
For foil: Place the charcoal in 3 different corners to start. Do not put them directly in the center or too close to each other as you can create a hotspot and burn your bowl quickly. Ideally, put your coals ever so slightly hanging off the edge of the bowl. Give the bowl 20 to 30 seconds to heat up before you begin to pull on your hose. After one to two minutes, you should expect thick clouds and great flavor.
You’re going to want to adjust your coals every 10 to 15 minutes or every time the cloud output begins to die down. This is because the part of the charcoal touching the foil will blackout, which reduces the amount of heat provided to the bowl. Adjust your coals by taking one off the bowl, tapping it on the tray of your hookah, and blowing on it to remove any excess ash left behind. Then flip the coal to a different side and place it down on a different corner of the bowl. Repeat this with the other two charcoal. You should rotate all of the coals to a fresher spot every time you adjust them. This will ensure that your bowl is being cooked evenly. With Zomo tobacco in a Turkish hookah bowl, foil, and three natural coal cubes, you can expect roughly one hour of rich flavor and great cloud output.
For HMDs: Center the Kaloud Lotus on your bowl, place both coal cubes inside, put the cap on, and you’re good to go! A HMD makes the process much simpler and requires little to no management besides adjusting how hot you’d like your bowl with the rotating cap. When the vents are closed, the temperature will be the hottest, and with the vents open, the bowl will be at a lower temperature. You can always take the cap off if you find that the bowl is too hot with the vents open. With Zomo shisha in a classic bowl, a HMD, and two coals, you can expect about one and a half hours of great flavor and thick clouds.
Congrats! You loaded and smoked your very first hookah bowl. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this tutorial and learning some bowl-packing fundamentals!
Alex Leguizamon (thelonesloth)