How to Set-up your Hookah Pipe

Preparing Your Pipe

Its best to clean your pipe straight after using it, that way the smoke-steam in the metal part of the pipe doesn't have time to dry which makes it easier to clean. Plus the last thing you want to be doing when your looking forward to a smoke with your friends is having to clean your pipe. A dry pipe and hose gives a better smoke. Make sure your pipe is clean or you'll start to get a horrible taste with each smoking session. Use soft brushes to clean the pipe and base bottle.

Fill the glass base so approximately 1 inch of the metal tube is submerged below the water line. The area left above this is where the smoke will mix with air and cool further. Too much water makes it hard to suck the smoke through and leaves little space left for the smoke to mix with air resulting in much stronger smoke. Attach the pipe onto the bottle as above. The metal pipe is not to be confused with the hose, see image above.

To enhance the flavour of the smoke, try mixing cola, lemon juice, orange juice when using the same flavoured tobacco., or some other flavours into the water in your glass base.

Preparing The Molasses

Often the juice in the tobacco based molasses can sink to the bottom, give it a good mix before you take any out to put in the clay bowl. That way your not using dry tobacco from the top of the pack. When you open a large pack of tobacco we recommend putting it in an air tight container to prevent it drying out, the tub will also make it easier when you mix it.

If you're new to using a hookah shisha pipe try a small amount of tobacco first to practice getting it right. Place the tobacco into the clay bowl. We recommend about 8-10g of tobacco per smoke if you have a large pipe. Break up the tobacco rather than putting it in and covering the holes in the clay bowl fully.

For beginners we recommend trying tobacco free molasses until your familiar with setting up. Its easy to burn the molasses, whilst a good smoke is heavenly burning the molasses will make you cough like you would with cigarettes. The two most popular tobacco free molasses on the market today are SOEX and High Life Herbal. Ensure the tobacco is not compacted or the air will not pass through and will make the smoke strong and give a burnt flavour to your smoke. Place the charcoal tray on the pipe, the grommet in clay bowl then the clay bowl onto the pipe.

Take a small piece of aluminium foil, big enough to cover the opening of the bowl. Wrap the foil over the top so that the surface is tight. Use a toothpick to punch 5-6 holes in the foil. You may want to suck on the mouth piece to see if enough air flows through the pipe. If its an effort to draw air you may want to make some more hole or ensure the tobacco is not too tightly packed. Try to make one of the holes go right through into one of the the holes in the bowl.

Lighting The Charcoal

Quick Light - Light the charcoal and wait about 1 minute after it has stopped sparkling before placing it on the foil if you are using self igniting charcoal on the foil. If you place the charcoal on too early you’ll be smoking the charcoal fumes before you get any flavour, wait until it has stopped sparkling or smoking.

Natural Charcoal - Natural charcoal is preferred by experienced shisha smokers as it contains no chemicals which may taint the flavour of the smoke. Natural charcoal takes longer to light but its worth the wait. You can light it on your cooker or using a torch lighter. Wait until it is glowing before placing it on the pipe.

When you first start smoking your hookah, try placing the charcoal on the outside of the bowl and working it around the edges of the bowl. The centre of the bowl should be the last place your charcoal is placed.

Use a large wind cover to prevent the charcoal falling off in case someone knocks your pipe. A wind cover also preserves charcoal by keeping the heat from escaping.

Final Preparation

Place the hose grommet in the hole then attach the hose to the pipe. The hookah is now ready to smoke - we advise sucking gently to start with so the tobacco or molasses heats gently, sucking too hard will result in the top molasses burning which will taint the rest of if with a charred taste. Long gentle draws will help the heat pass through the tobacco.

Don’t forget to take in some normal air every now and then to make smoking enjoyable, too much of anything can be sickly. For best effect we recommend smoking with friends, after all the best ingredient to any gathering is good friends.

My hookah doesn't seem to be smoking right. What do I do?

  • 1. Check your bowl. The most common mistake is packing the shisha too tightly. Make sure that you break the shisha apart and lightly sprinkle it into the bowl to the top. Don't fill it past the top because you'll be packing the shisha when you cover it with a metal screen or foil.
  • 2. Check your charcoal. If the charcoal is covered with ash, there may not be enough heat getting to the shisha. Use your tongs to tap the charcoal ash off into your hookah tray and place the charcoal back on your pipe.
  • 3. Check your gaskets. Make sure that all of the components of the hookah are fitting nicely together. A snug fit will make the smoke flow more efficiently. You may check for a burnt gasket. Some hookahs expose the gasket and are easily burnt by charcoal that is moved around in the tray.
  • 4 . Check your hoses. If you have multiple hoses, make sure that all ends are plugged properly. For example, if you have two or three hoses on your hookah and there is only one person smoking, you'll need to remove the hoses and use rubber stoppers or tape to block the hose holes.

Cleaning Your Hookah Pipe

Make sure your pipe is clean or you'll start to get a horrible taste with each smoking session. Use a soft bristle brush to clean the pipe and base bottle.

Its best to clean your pipe straight after using it, that way the smoke in the pipe doesn't have time to dry. Plus the last thing you want to be doing when you’re looking forward to a smoke with your friends is spend time cleaning your pipe. A dry pipe and hose gives a better smoke

Cleaning The Pipe (Metal Pipe Stem)

Cleaning after each smoke

Use a brush with a dense array of bristles at one end as they clean better than the regular brush’s with a thin array of bristles along the whole length of the brush.

Run hot water through the metal stem, wet the brush and push it into one end of the pipe stem. Move the brush back and forth working 6-10 inches of the pipe at a time until full length of the pipe is done. If the pipe is longer than the brush you can insert the brush at the other end and clean the rest of the pipe. Run more hot water through the pipe again and repeat with the brush if needed.

Cleaning Every 5-6 Smokes

Remove the exhaust valve and ball bearing. Run water though the valve and clean the hole using a cotton bud.

Every Couple of Months

You can soak the pipe stem in the bath with soda crystals every couple of months and then clean it with a brush to give a burst of freshness and bring the shine back to the metal.

Cleaning the Base Bottle

Every 5-6 smoke drop 1 tea spoon of washing powder or soda crystals into the base bottle and fill to the top with hot water. Leave for 20 minutes then clean using a bottle cleaning brush. Rinse with water until clean. If you don't wash your bottle at least every month or two it'll collect dirt and mold.

Washing your Hose

Not all hoses are washable. Leather hoses tend to be washable to a degree but are usually made with a steel coil which will start to rust after the first month. Look for a washable guarantee from the manufacturer. Modern hoses are sometimes made with rust proof material but can still feel authentically eastern.

None Leather Hoses

Washable - Not recommended but can be rinsed out with cold water, this is not recommended more than few times as the water will damage the material

Life Span - 3-4 months if used once or twice a week

Leather Hoses

Washable - Yes, only use cold water, rinse out as little as possible as the coil will start to rust after the first wash.

Lifespan - 6-10 months if you smoke once a week

Washable Hoses

Washable - Yes, rinse with cold water

Lifespan - 1-2 years or longer of you look after your hose

Safety Tips

Make sure the charcoal your using is not crumbly before lighting it or you'll have trouble transferring it from the charcoal pan to the pipe.

Light the charcoal outside or in the kitchen. This will prevent your living room from filling up with unwanted charcoal smoke if your using quick light charcoal. This will also protect your carpet in the unlikely event some sparks fall onto the carpet.

Ensure the shisha pipe is stable before placing the charcoal. It’s a good idea to place the pipe on a hard flat surface such as a large tile available from any DIY store. If you have expensive carpets you may want to place a thick cotton sheet around the smoking area in case you knock the pipe over.

Information provided by

Pipe Geography

shisha pipe geography


Charcoal Tongs

An essential item used to transfer or move charcoal from the pan to the pipe. Crocodile style tongs with teeth are best at gripping charcoal.

Charcoal Screen

used on the tobacco bowl instead of foil

Hookah Shisha Foil

Convenience and time saver. These usually contain 50-100 sheets, for the sake of a few coins you'll have enough foil to last up to 100 smokes.

Foil / Screen

Pro smokers always use foil rather than a screen. Screens don’t create the air tight seal needed for best results.

Cleaning Brush

Long cleaning brush for inside the shisha pipe stem. If you don’t clean your pipe you’ll notice a charred taste after 3-4 smokes instead of fruit flavour.

Optional Accessories

Mouth Tips

Ideal accessory for parties or when your sharing a pipe. There are 2 main types

Disposable - Cone or Golf T-Shape, made of durable plastic.

None Disposable - Often in the form of a keying and made of metal.

Mouth pieces

These are found on café style hoses, more than often made of Perspex or wood. Detachable for easy cleaning.


Hookah Travel bags are great for transporting your hookah around if you're going to a hookah shisha party or gathering at a friends. Also a great way to keep all your accessories in one place.

Glass base protector

The glass base protector is a durable rubber piece that slips over the bottom of your glass base. Its rubbery surface prevents the hookah from sliding as well as cushions the base when setting it down on hard surfaces. Will fit most medium and large sized bases.

Charcoal Pan - Tray

The Charcoal pan is usually made from stainless steel. Great for those not wanting to get up to light the charcoal in the kitchen.

Wind Cover

Wind Cover - Essential for those who smoke outdoors to prevent the breeze burning the charcoal out too quickly. Can also be used indoors to keep the heat in making your charcoal last longer.

Adaptor for shisha air valve

Extra cone shapes adaptor to turn a single hose into a double house pipe.


Use a tile or matt to help your pipe stability when you place the pipe on the carpet


Swift Lite Exelior

Swift lite's consistent quality and availability have made it the UK's top selling easy lite charcoal and one of the most recognisable shisha brands around.

Shisha Lite

Shisha lite is another swift lite product, on par with swift lite exelior is marketed at the dedicated hookah shisha smoker.

Mera Charcoal

A high quality Iranian Brand, similar texture as most of the high end easy lite names but produces the lowest amount of smoke we've seen in any easy lite charcoal. This may also explain why it's pleasant to smoke with

Golden Flash

A Chinese brand which is on par with the top quick lite charcoal brands but produces far less smoke than most brands. On testing we found it to give a great smoke and exceptional value for money.

Abu Alabed

A natural charcoal from Syria made from recycled olive pips. Its log like shape makes it easy to use. Supplied in 1kg bags and often classed as wood charcoal.

Nakhla Natural Wood Charcoal

The most natural charcoal on the market. Its low smoke, low dust, high heat makes it second to none when it comes to shisha smoking. Made from natural lemon and orange wood it add's little or no extra flavour to your smoke.

Vivi Natural Wood Charcoal

Available in several sizes, and made from wood and burns longer than any brand we've tested, this may have something to do with the fact its more than twice the thickness of other natural charcoal. Vivi can taste very nice but you need to make sure you pick up a bag from their export batch rather than the charcoal made for the local market which seems to be poorer quality.

Vivi Quick Lite

Gives a great smoke but can be a little crumblier than other brands. Vivi quick lite seems to be available in more than one quality, this may be explained by vivi willing to produce their quick lite charcoal in smokeless if you purchase a large enough quality from them.

Three Kings Easy Lite

This brand is usually sold as incense charcoal. The discs are larger and are usually supplied in 100 disc box's. A good quality brand but untested by us for shisha smoking.

BBQ Charcoal & Shisha Charcoal

Impossible to lite and produces far too much toxic smoke to use for shisha. We don't recommend using it unless you want an early death !

Japanese Style Silver Blocks

Authentic Japanese charcoal produces no smoke is easy to lite and has little or no flavour. This is probably due to the fact it's made not to overpower delicate Japanese incense which is what it was made for. The silver coating seems to be enough to stop the charcoal rumbling until you touch it. Another great product from the very inventive Japanese. We've only tested it for incense so are unsure if it creates enough heat to smoke with. You'll find several middle eastern and Chinese companies now producing it for the hookah shisha market.