How Does A Hookah Work? [Easy Explanation]

Do you wonder how a hookah works when you see someone puffing smoke out of it?

If yes, then you are about to find the answer right here, right now!

In today’s post, we will discuss how a hookah works in one of the easiest ways.

So, without any more talk, let’s get started!

What Is Hookah?

Hookah is a water pipe tool used to smoke flavored tobacco, also known as shisha.

However, historically hookah originated from the Indian subcontinent around the 16th century.

Since then, hookah has evolved beautifully and got multiple looks over time.

But hookah has a head, body, and hose, which remained the same throughout time as they are the central functioning part of a hookah.

The tobacco or shisha is packed in a bowl (another typical hookah component) and is covered with aluminum foil.

The foil is then poked, and heated charcoal is placed over it. And when air is drawn through the hookah hose, smoke is created due to airflow.

Water is the filter that we use in the hookah base to filter the hot hookah tobacco smoke.

However, we will further explain the different components of a hookah and how they work together to produce smoke.

What Are Different Hookah Components?

In short, hookah can be divided into three parts:

  • Hookah head
  • Hookah body
  • Hookah base

However, it’s a general overview of the whole hookah equipment, though many more components exist in a hookah, as described below.

Hookah Head

The head part of a hookah consists of a valve that regulates how much air is pulled through it.

Also, the head part of a hookah consists bowl, coal tray, bowl stem, and connecting stem, which connects the hookah body further.

Hookah Body

The hookah body is the center part of it.

Apart from the connecting stem coming from the hookah head, this part of the hookah consists of the following:

  • Stem heart
  • Hose connector
  • Release purge/valve
  • The main stem, and
  • Hose

The stem heart is the bulky section of the stem that connects it to the base and includes the hose port and release valve.

The hose connector is the part of the hookah which connects the hose to the hose port.

It also provides an airtight connection to improve the smoking experience.

The main stem is the longest part of the hookah, which goes down into the base.

It may also contain a diffuser that breaks the bubbles for quieter smoking sessions.

The hose is the last part of the hookah, which connects the mouthpiece and is where the smoker draws the smoke out of the hookah.

Hookah Base

The Hookah base is the bottom part which is wider and made in such a shape to be stabilized on a flat surface.

Usually, a hookah base shape will resemble a conical flask shape.

The hookah base contains water which holds the main stem connected to the diffuser.

This water works as the filter for the smoke to cool it down before it goes into the mouth of the smoker.

It is why smokers pour cold or room-temperature water with ice for a better smoking experience.

All Parts Of The Hookah And Its Function Explained!

As of now, you are aware of the general overview of hookah equipment.

However, it is time to dive slightly more and learn about each of the components and their functionality as an individual part of a hookah.

Hookah Head

Hookah Bowl

It is the top of the hookah, and this component holds the tobacco/shisha.

Bowl Stem

A bowl stem is the part of the stem that attaches to the hookah bowl.

Coal Tray

The coal tray works as the resting place for the lit coals and also catches the fallen ash from it.

The coal tray and hookah bowl are attached with a rubber grommet to hold tight and not fall during the smoking session.


It is the central component that connects the bowl from the top to the base at the bottom and the hose for the mouthpiece together in one place.

Hookah Body

Stem Heart

The Stem heart is the center component, is slightly thick and bulky, and consists of multiple ports, such as a hose port and a release valve.

Hose Port

It is the port that connects the hose pipe, and the hose port is also termed the hose adaptor.

Release/Purge Valve

As the name suggests, the release or purge valve releases the smoke from the base when the smoker blows into the hose.

Ball Bearing

The main functionality of the ball bearing is to block air from being drawn through the valve while inhaling.


The stem is the component put into the water in the hookah base.


Diffuser connects to the stem; its primary function is to produce bubbles for quieter smoking sessions.

Hose Connector

The part of the hose attaches to the hose port.


The hose or hookah pipe is the long flexible part of the hookah which connects to the mouthpiece.

It is the component to inhale the produced smoke in a hookah.

Hose Handle

It is the mouthpiece of the hose.

Hookah Base


The hookah base is the bottom-most part that holds water.

How Does A Hookah Work?

Until here, you already know about the different components of a hookah and their functionality; therefore, it is time to know how hookah as a complete tool works.

Let’s begin:

Setting Up Hookah

Before the smoking session from a hookah, you must prepare your hookah.

Therefore, you need to set up your hookah before having your first smoke session. By setting up here, we mean:

  • Washing your hookah first
  • Connecting all the parts of a hookah
  • Packing hookah bowl and putting aluminum foil or HMD
  • Heating natural hookah coal
  • Placing coals on the top of the hookah bowl
  • Waiting for 2-3 minutes to let your tobacco bake
  • And then start smoking

Heating Coals

While you set up your hookah, you can place your coal bricks on an electric stove or burner to lit them up.

Tip: Always prefer using natural coal instead of quick-lit coals. Quick-lit coals have ingredients that can ruin the hookah taste, and they are unhealthy.

Take out three coal bricks from the coal package and place them on the burner with the help of tongs.

Keep flipping the coals from side to side to lit them properly.

And once the coals are amber-red, you can put them on the top of the hookah bowl with the help of tongs.

However, on the other hand, if you use a heat management device (HMD), you do not have to go through these steps.

Ready. Set. Suction.

So, you have set up your hookah equipment and made coals ready.

However, checking for airtight connections and fixing loose attachments before you start puffing is always a good practice.

You can use grommets to make attachments tight.

Tip: Do not use paper towels or something else to make connections tighter, especially with the hookah bowl, as you do not wish hot coals to fall while you smoke.

Of course, you should do it before putting the coals above the bowl.

And once everything is up to the mark, you can start puffing from the hookah hose.

So, what happens when you draw air through a hose?

When you inhale through the hookah hose, a suction air forces past the coal, which further heats the tobacco under which it produces smoke.

And now the smoke travels down the stem and passes through the water to cool down.

Now, the cooled smoke fills the base. And as you draw air through the hose, accumulated smoke from the base travels to the hookah hose pipe.

Voila! You are smoking hookah!

It is how the hookah works and how you puff the shisha/tobacco.


What is the point of smoking hookah?

For smoking tobacco, hookah is one of the popular ways to sit and relax while puffing it. Hookah functions and provides smoke of tobacco which contains nicotine. And nicotine is an addictive drug component.

Is smoking hookah worse than smoking cigarettes?

According to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC), “using a hookah to smoke tobacco poses serious health risks to the hookah smokers and others exposed to the smoke from the hookah.”
However, it is still a popular way of smoking tobacco.

How many cigarettes equal hookah?

According to Stanford, If hookah sessions are typically for around an hour, then it is estimated that 200-puffs per hookah session. And hookah users would consume the equivalent of about 100 cigarettes from one of these sessions.

Do you feel a buzz from hookah?

Hookah smoking would not get you high, but the tobacco in it can surely give you a buzz.

How Does A Hookah Work: Conclusion

Hookah has multiple components that work together to carry out the tobacco smoke inhaled through the hookah hose.

Hopefully, you might have understood this easy guide.

Furthermore, cigarette smoking and hookah smoking are both unhealthy as they contain harmful chemicals, and secondhand smoke is also harmful.

However, despite cigarette smoke and hookah smoke being harmful, it is popular among young adults for multiple reasons.

One of the reasons is the availability of multiple shisha-flavored tobaccos, which attracts them the most.

Our author
Peter Russell

I smoke hookah every day. Like daily with my gang. This is what I love the most when the thick smoke comes out of my mouth, giving me the best feeling in the world. I have been smoking hookah since 2010, and one day, my friend suggested I share my experience with the newbies. So here I am sharing my whole lot of experience of smoking. Use my tips to smoke better and enjoy every day of your life.

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