How To Set Up A Hookah For A Perfect Smoke!

Hookahs originated from the Indian subcontinent about 500 years ago and are used to smoke tobacco.

From these many years to now, hookah has evolved beautifully.

Numerous flavored tobacco shishas are available in the market according to mood and requirements.

However, you can smoke hookah through either of these ways:

  • By going to a hookah lounge/bar or
  • By purchasing your own hookah equipment

In the latter case, if you have just bought your own hookah equipment, you must be looking for a perfect guide on how to set up your hookah.

Well, now look no further!

Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide to assembling your hookah for a perfect smoke.

Let’s begin:

Assembling And Using A Hookah Properly: Quick Look

So, to make it easy for you, we have divided the setting up of hookah into two parts.

Part 1 – Set Up The Hookah Pipe

Step 1. Clean Your Hookah With Dish Soap Or Water

Step 2. Attach Gaskets To All Hookah Components

Step 3. Pour Water Into Base

Step 4. Insert Stem Into Base

Step 5. Attach Hose

Step 6. Check For Leaks & Proper Air Flow

Step 7. Attach Tray To Upper Stem

Part 2 – Pack Hookah Bowl Properly

Step 1. Mix Your Shisha Tobacco

Step 2. Separate Tobacco Leaves And Pack Them Into A Bowl

Step 3. Cover Bowl With Foil Or Add Heat Management Device On Top

Step 4. Puncture Holes Into Foil (Skip This Step If Using HMD)

Step 5. Attach Bowl To Top Of Stem And Light Up Coals

Step 6. Transfer Coals To The Bowl

Step 7. Inhale And Smoke!

How To Set Up A Hookah For Perfect Smoke?

Now let’s know each of these steps in detail and set up your hookah perfectly.

Part 1 – Set Up The Hookah Pipe

In the first part, we will assemble our tool, i.e., our hookah.

Once we finish this part, we will move on to the shisha and smoking part of this guide.

Let’s begin:

Step 1. Clean Your Hookah

You might be wondering if you should clean your hookah even though you have purchased a new one.

Well, doesn’t matter if you have purchased a new hookah or using an old one; it is always recommended to clean your hookah first.

Cleaning your hookah ensures no residue is left from the previous hookah smoking session.

Even if your hookah equipment is new, still cleaning it is necessary.

To clean your hookah, use simple water and scrub the components to ensure cleanliness.

You can read our detailed guide for step-by-step procedure here, How To Clean Hookah?

However, in simple terms, rinse your stem, base, and hose with soap and water. Wash your hose only if washable; otherwise, skip washing it.

Once you have completed the first step of setting up the hookah, it is time to move on to the second step of this part.

Step 2. Attach Gaskets To All Hookah Components

After cleaning, attach all the gaskets and grommets to hookah elements wherever necessary.

After washing hookah, most of us forget about this important step.

Hookahs are the equipment that will produce smoke properly only when all the equipment is sealed correctly.

That means connections of hookah components with each other must be airtight for better production of smoke.

And the gaskets and grommets provide that airtight connection between hookah elements.

Grommets that attach to your tobacco bowl that sits on top of the stem and the gasket that grasps your hose to the shisha stem are some of the essential parts of hookah that must be tight.

In short, you must ensure that the connections are proper and no air leakage from any part of the hookah.

Step 3. Pour Water Into Base

In this step, you have to pour water into your hookah base.

Read our guide to know How Much To Put Water Into The Hookah Base.

You can also pour cold water, room temperature water, or ice with cold water.

The general rule for the water level in the hookah base is to keep it such that the water level should be one or a half inches above the central hookah shaft or stem end.

This water level is adequate to provide proper airflow and dilute the smoke in the glass vase.

This water level ensures proper airflow by drawing air through the bowl into the hookah base.

However, if you are entirely new to smoking hookah and don’t know about water levels, reading this guide can help.

Step 4. Insert Stem Into Base

We have now washed our hookah equipment and attached all the gaskets and grommets.

Also, your hookah base has enough water to produce hookah smoke properly.

Therefore, in this step, you must attach the hookah stem to the hookah shaft base.

However, before doing so, you are recommended to ensure the rubber grommet is attached to the hookah shaft before you put the metal stem into the glass base.

Once you have ensured the rubber seal is tight enough, you can secure the shaft to the base. And you are done for now.

Step 5. Attach Hose

This step is self-explanatory and easy.

However, before attaching the hose, ensure the rubber gasket is attached.

And once you are sure, you can attach the hose to the hose port. The rubber gasket will ensure an airtight seal to draw air through it smoothly.

Step 6. Check For Leaks & Proper Air Flow

Checking for leaks and proper airflow before smoking is always a good practice.

You can do so by covering the top opening of the stem with your hand to block the air and then inhaling through the hose to test airflow.

As you do so and you can feel the base starts to bubble, you have successfully set up your hookah.

However, if you feel trouble pulling air or cannot feel the rumblings or sounds, you must repeat the steps or check if you have made any mistakes.

Step 7. Attach Tray To Upper Stem

Before we move to part 2 of this guide, the final step of part 1 is to attach the coal tray to the hookah’s upper stem.

The hookah pipe has a metal tray holder near the bowl port. The tray catches hot embers and ashes out of it.

Depending upon your hookah type, you may need to unscrew the bowl port and set the tray accordingly.

Part 2 – Pack Hookah Bowl Properly

As of now, you must be done assembling hookah equipment and have completed 50% of the guide.

Now, it is time to prepare your shisha and prepare for the first smoke. So, without any further ado, let’s begin:

Step 1. Mix Your Shisha Tobacco

The first step of part 2 is to mix the shisha tobacco in a bag or packed plastic.

All the juices and glycerin mixed in the shisha tend to sit at the bottom of the pack; therefore, you have to stir and mix the tobacco with the juices of it.

Doing so gives the best shisha flavor when you start smoking.

Once you have stirred the tobacco shisha properly, move to the next step.

Step 2. Separate The Tobacco Leaves And Pack Them Into Hookah Bowl

For a consistent bowl pack, remove the tobacco leaves from the shisha.

To do so, you can use your hands, and once you have removed the excess tobacco leaves, you can start packing them into a hookah bowl.

You can read in detail here How To Pack Hookah?

However, the rule of thumb is to pack hookah into the bowl so that after packing, the shisha should remain around 1-2 mm below the end rim of the bowl.

Therefore, do not pack too dense or too loose that it hampers your smoking experience.

Step 3. Cover Bowl With Foil Or Add Heat Management Device On Top

Most hookah smokers use either of the following:

  • Natural hookah coals
  • Heat management device or HMD

If you are using natural coal for hookah, attach the aluminum foil to it after packing your hookah bowl.

You can use two layers of aluminum foil for better results.

Heavy-duty foil is better than the standard one as it gives a more robust attachment.

Tip: When using heavy-duty foil or any other foil, ensure it is food safe so that you don’t inhale toxic chemicals while puffing.

Furthermore, if you use a heat management device, you have to place this accessory on the top of the hookah instead of aluminum foil.

Step 4. Puncture Holes Into Foil (Skip This Step If Using HMD)

Those using heat management devices don’t have to follow this step.

However, if you are using aluminum foil on top of the hookah bowl, you need to grab a toothpick or a regular pencil.

Now, start poking holes in your foil in a circular way.

Poking approximately 40-50 holes should do the work. Ensure not to poke too few or too many holes, as it can hamper your smoking experience.

Your breath pulls air past the coals to move airflow; therefore, puncturing holes into foil allows the consistent airflow within the bowl to produce better smoke as you draw air through it.

Step 5. Attach Bowl To Top Of Stem And Light Up Coals

So, until now you must be ready with almost everything.

You have packed the hookah tobacco bowl, attached foil to it, and poked holes through it for airflow.

It is now time to attach the bowl to the top of the hookah, but while doing so, ensure that your rubber or silicone seals it.

Putting rubber for better grip is necessary because you do not want the bowl component to fall during your session.

Also, properly fitting the bowl ensures the juices do not ooze out when your tobacco gets baked.

So, fit the bowl on top of the hookah correctly and move on to light up the coals.

Light up the hookah charcoal.

We do not recommend using the quick light coals; instead, using natural charcoal for hookah is what we recommend to every hookah lover.

Now put 2 or 3 natural coal blocks onto an electric burner on stove flame on a single coil burner or stove. When these coals are half-lit, make sure to flip them with tongs.

You have to light them until they are entirely amber.

Step 6. Transfer Coals To The Bowl

Now, we are getting closer to the finish line.

Your coals must be completely lit and ready to use. Use tongs and transfer the coals on top of your foil.

Arrange your coals evenly, encircling the edge of the foil.

However, if you are using HMD, ensure to place them evenly inside.

Let the HMD heat your bowl for approximately 5 minutes. Once your tobacco is baked completely, move to the final step.

Step 7. Inhale And Smoke!

Finally, it is the moment that you have been patiently working for.

However, do not hurry to smoke; ensure you let the hookah coals sit for 5 minutes, and your shisha should be baked.

Also, ensure your coals are turned into light gray ash and orange before drawing air.

Once you have given enough time for baking, take your hookah hose and start puffing first thick smoke out of it!

Smoke it at a relaxed rate and take short breaks to avoid headaches or dizziness while smoking hookah.


What do you need for a hookah set?

You need a hookah, hookah bowl, water, shisha tobacco, aluminum foil, board, foil poker, hookah tongs, etc., for a hookah set.

How do you set hookah coal?

Hookah coals must be adequately lit before using them on the hookah. You can take 2 or 3 blocks of natural coals and place them on the burner to lit.

Once the coals are ready, place them on the top of the hookah evenly in a circular way, leaving space for air to pass through.

Can you smoke hookah without coals?

It doesn’t always need coal to make smoke. However, multiple alternative ways exist, such as using a heat management device or lighting coconut shells to heat the shisha tobacco.

Remember that the ultimate goal is to heat and bake the shisha tobacco in the hookah bowl, and to achieve that, you can follow either of the ways convenient to you.

How do you load a hookah?

You can read our detailed guide on How To Pack Hookah? However, the ideal way is to pack neither too loose nor too dense and keep the shisha packing such that it should be below 1-2 mm from the end rim of the hookah bowl.

Get, Set, Smoke!

Doesn’t matter whether you are a novice hookah smoker or an expert; within a few steps, now you know how to set up a hookah for a perfect smoke.

I hope this guide has made setting up the hookah easier.

Now, go and start enjoying your session, but remember to take regular breaks and keep yourself hydrated.

To know more about better hookah practices and sessions, read here.

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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