Packing the bowl is the first step most important step in getting a hookah working properly and will have the most effect on how well the hookah pulls, heats and tastes. There is no inherently right or wrong way to pack a bowl, as long as it works enjoyably. There are some tried and true practices that we have learned along the way and we will share our experience with you to help you become a pro bowl packer just like our staff.

So let’s get packing! Grab some shisha. First thing you’re going to want to do is mix it up…it’s been sitting in a retail pack, container, sandwich bag, whatever for a while, and all the flavor juice is going to have settled. Mix it up to get a nice even consistency. This makes the first bowl out of the container taste just as good as the last one. If you don’t mix it up, your bowl will be lacking flavor, die out faster, and in the end you will be left with a bunch of syrup at the bottom of the container and no tobacco to mix it with.

Now, grab a bowl. We utilize 2 types of bowls at the lounge, Egyptian and Phunnel. Egyptian bowls are the brown, made of clay, with holes in the bottom. These are the traditional style, but have some drawbacks. The holes in the bottom of the bowl mean you have to pull through the shisha, and can make it harder to inhale. The holes also allow the juice to run down through the inside of the hookah, which causes loss of flavor and gets the stem dirty and turns the water brown. Phunnels have a single hole in the center and a channel around the outside. This design allows for an effortless pull, and the channel holds in all the molasses and flavourings allowing for longer lasting hookah sessions.  Phunnels are better for many applications, which is why we serve them in Elites, Party hookahs and our hookahs at home. Tangiers Noir flavors must go in a Phunnel.  Nakhla flavours, particularly Double Apple, seem to prefer the traditional Egyption style bowl, good chance because of the diminished liquid content.

Each bowl is packed pretty much the same.  You want shisha lightly packed/gently placed filling the entire bowl till it is cresting over the top, around a centimeter or so. It is very important that bowls are always fully packed. If there is not enough shisha to completely fill the bowl, than the tobacco at the top is going to char because it will be absorbing all the heat and not transferring to the rest of the bowl. If you over pack it, the pull is going to be very difficult and lack of air flow will diminish the overall experience. Always pack ’em full…but don’t over fill. We typically put the shisha in one large clump and drop it in the center of an Egyptian bowl, spread it around evenly, and call that good.

Packing a Phunnel is pretty similar, except the shisha is packed around the outside channel of the bowl. You can pack it in a little bit tighter too, since you don’t have to worry about pulling through the holes in the bottom like you do in an Egyptian. You also want to make sure you have the shisha cresting over the top of the bowl. Tangiers NOIR flavors are exclusively packed in a Phunnel, don’t ask me why, but it just doesn’t work in anything else. When you pack noir in a phunnel, pack it tight! Place shisha in the bowl until it’s a good centimeter or so over the top, then press it down with your foil.

So we got shisha in a well packed boil. Grab a piece of foil and put it on their…this isn’t traditional baking and it really doesn’t matter what side you put down. Hookaholics have debated this point on geek forums at length. Personally, I always put the shiny side down, under the semi-scientific assumption that it will both reflect heat back into the bowl, and will be less likely to char the shisha on that side. You want the foil pretty much flat and tight across the top. It doesn’t have to be counter top flat, and it’s probably going to have a little bump in the center from the shisha, which is fine. You need good seal around the edge so when inhaled the air flows down from the coals on top and not in the sides.

Got that foil on their nice and tight? We use corn cob skewers to poke holes in our bowls. Like any task associated with hookah, there is no explicitly right or wrong way. We need holes so we can pull the heat from the coals in the bowl. No holes = no evaporate! So how many holes do we need? Well, “some” is the answer. Many people do three perfect rings. Others just poke a bunch of random holes and call it good. I tend to do one ring around the outside and then a bunch of quick stabs through the rest of it. Traditional Double Apple preperationi s to use a large poker and only poke 5-6 big holes in their bowls. Whatever works for you, as long as it works. One tip I do suggest you follow is that you poke your holes all the way through to the bottom of the bowl. By doing so you are aerating the shisha, giving the coal heat a path to follow. It also helps make the pull easier. Phunnel bowl hole patterns are pretty much the same. Tangiers Noir must have holes poked through the entire surface area of the foil. Some would say it is wrong to do so with Fantasia or other brands. I say the same hole pattern works for both types.

Finally, if you have an Egyptian bowl, gentley blow through the bottom. Make sure to hold on to your foil so you don’t blow your fine work away. This pushes the tobacco out of the holes in the bottom, which is going to allow for easier pull and create a more even contact between shisha and foil for better heat transfer. Also the resistance you feel when blowing through the bowl is pretty much the same resistance that the user  is going to experience. You can do this with a phunnel if you want; however, it’s not going to accomplish anything.

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