Here at Hookah Me Up, we know that the energy of our lounge draws you in, but most of you also smoke at home. Packing the perfect hookah bowl is as much an art as it is a science. First, let's start with the bowl: There are four types of common hookah bowls availale today. There is the Vortex bowl, the funnel bowl, the traditional clay Egyptian bowl, and the Modern ceramic bowl (we use these when we aren't packing in a pineapple).
The most common type of bowl is Modern ceramic bowl. These can be easily recognized because the holes will be on the bottom of the bowl, and the shisha is placed directly above these holes. A Vortex bowl features a center spire with holes around the top of the spire, and a funnel bowl features a center spire with a single large hole at the top of the spire.
The process of loading a hookah bowl is very similar regardless of the type of bowl you are using. After selecting your bowl, you will want to focus on your shisha tobacco. Shisha comes tightly packed in it's own juices to ensure longevity and to keep the hookah tobacco moist. We suggest getting a paper plate or small bowl for this. Grab a pinch of shisha between your fingers and gently break the shisha up over the plate or bowl. You want to focus on breaking up any big clumps and if you see any large stems, remove them and set aside. Once you have enough shisha broken up (usually about 10-15 grams) we can start to load the bowl.
The key things to think about while loading your bowl of hookah tobacco are airflow, and the amount of space between your hookah foil or bowl screen and the top of the shisha. Without proper airflow, the heat from your coals will not efficiently mix with the shisha tobacco and you will get thin, air-filled smoke.
Begin by gently placing or sprinkling your broken up shisha into the hookah bowl. Do not pack the shisha down tightly, you want there to be space for airflow. Sprinkle enough shisha to fill the bowl to near the top rim of your bowl. Your goal is to have about 1/8 of an inch between the top of the shisha and the rim of the bowl. This will allow for proper airflow under the coals, and will prevent any charing of the shisha.
The final step in loading a perfect hookah bowl is the hookah foil, or bowl screen which will sit on top of the bowl and support the hookah coals. At Hookah Me Up, we use hookah foil with a noticable thickness to it. If you are using a bowl screen, simply place the screen over the bowl, bend down the tabs to secure, and you are all set. With hookah foil (which I would recommend using) there are a few more steps but it is still very simple.
First, grab a sheet of foil and place it over your loaded bowl of shisha tobacco. Make sure the foil is centered and carefully wrap the foil around the top of the bowl. Make sure that the foil is taught on top of the bowl to ensure that your coals remain suspended above the shisha. If the foil is not on tight enough the weight of the coals will make the foil sag and your coals will sit on top of your shisha, causing a "burnt" flavor and noticably bad smoking experience.
Once the foil is tight on top of the hookah bowl you will want to poke lots of tiny holes in the foil in order to allow for sufficient transfer of heat from the hookah coals to the shisha tobacco. If the holes are too big, ash from the coals will mix with the shisha, which you don't want. If there are not enough holes, your bowl will not smoke well. I recommend using a sewing needle, thumbtack, paper clip, or a hookah foil poker (available online) to poke the holes. I start at the outside edge of the bowl and poke holes around the bowl in concentric rings in towards the center of the bowl. You want between somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100 holes in your foil for the best smoke.
That's it! You have successfully loaded a perfect hookah bowl of shisha tobacco. Place the bowl on your hookah and enojoy!