Introduction: The Hookah Manual: the A-to-Z Guide

About: Dream. Design. Make. Share.

This guide contains detailed instructions on everything you need to know about smoking tobacco in a hookah.

Note that smoking a hookah is as addictive as smoking cigarettes since both contain nicotine found in tobacco.

Also, tobacco contains flavoring additives like honey and sugar that can be toxic when heated improperly.

In this Instructable I have included every single detail from buying a hookah to smoking it and maintaining it; I also solved problems in the design, and included solutions to some common problems even some confirmed hookah smokers still experience.


Everything I wrote in this project is tested hundreds of times by myself and I've had no issues.By following the instructions, You will be lighting and handling lit charcoals, and smoking tobacco containing Nicotine.. I will not be responsible for any type of problems,health or otherwise resulting from following the instructions mentioned in this instructable and/or from smoking a Hookah.

What’s a hookah?

"An oriental tobacco pipe with a long flexible tube connected to a glass container where the smoke is cooled and filtered by passing through water".

The smoking mechanism inside the hookah

Is it legal?

Yes, and so are tobacco products.

How often can I smoke it?

Smoking a hookah by yourself is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes (point-of-view nicotine dosage) in one hour, although the hookah filter is much more efficient than the one in the cigarettes (point-of-view filtration of smoke).

In general, One time per week or every two weeks should be Ok, otherwise feel free to experiment with the frequency.

How much does all of this cost?

You can get a good hookah for 40$ and the accessories should be around 30$, the tobacco costs around 1$ per smoking session.

Where do I buy it?

These products are mainly sold in middle-eastern shops like Lebanese, Iraqi and Syrian,egyptian and Iranian, but nowadays online shops sell these stuff too.

Step 1: The Components

Depending on the general interest in this instructable, I will decide if I'll include a list of links to the components and Accessories.

The Hookah

Hookahs come in different heights.this reflects on the smoke quality versus the transportation of the hookah.

Basically, the taller it is, the better the smoke quality is, but the heavier and bigger it becomes to carry around.

The Hookah size with the best quality-to-transportation ratio is 65 centimeters (26 Inches) tall.

I wouldn’t recommend shorter hookahs (at least not for smoking tobacco).

Ps: if you like to smoke outside and have a budget for 2 hookahs, I recommend that you purchase the 65 cm (26 Inches) one to move around with (like smoking on picnics), and a taller one to smoke on your terrace.

The Pipe

Pipe length

Pipes come in many lengths; this has an effect on the comfort level (the pipe reach) while smoking and passing the pipe to other smokers, and can be a matter of security explained later in the smoking session section.

A comfortable pipe length is around 2 meters (6.6 foot).

Pipe Handle length

The smoking end of the pipe has a handle; it comes in 3 different lengths to provide you with more comfort and flexibility while smoking:

Short (20 cm - 7.8 Inches):

I don't recommend this handle because it's simply too short..but that's my opinion.

Medium (35 cm - 13.8 Inches) and long handles (55 cm - 21.6 Inches):

I recommend these if you are sharing your hookah as it is easier to pass on to other smokers.

I personally prefer the long handle as I can rest it on my thigh while smoking.

The Accessories

Charcoal clamp.

Airway maker for the tobacco heads.

Extra Tobacco heads.

Inner-pipe and jar cleaning brushes.

Aluminum foil (for preparing the tobacco head).

Charcoal container (for keeping the charcoals in during the smoking session).

Camping gas (for lighting up the charcoals).

Extra tobacco pipes

the best would be to have one pipe per tobacco flavor - i.e. a pipe for apple scented tobacco, another one for grapes etc...

Disposable Plastic nozzles :

Put on the end of the pipe handle.One for each smoker.comes in contact with your mouth when you smoke it so that you don’t exchange saliva with other smokers; each smoker has their own nozzle and removes it from the pipe when they hand it over to someone else.

Wind deflector (used to cover the Hookah head when smoking in a windy environment so that the charcoals burn correctly).

Carrying case (optional: used to transport the hookah, sometimes given with the hookah)

Floor protector: A metallic dish of 60 cm (24 Inches) or more in diameter, optional but highly recommended especially for beginners, this dish will be put on the floor under the hookah, so that it protects the floor in case a charcoal falls off when putting it on the tobacco head-this happens with everybody.)

The Tobacco

Types,flavors and brands

Tobacco comes in different flavors, and nowadays with and without nicotine.

It is usually sold in quantities of 250 grams stored in air-tight bags for high quality tobacco and in cans or boxes for the medium and low quality and costs around 25-50$ per kilo, that is equivalent to 50 hookah sessions.

The best tobacco brands are “Al Fakher”, and in second place “Al Nakhla”. These are tobacco with nicotine.

The most sold flavors are apple, and grapes, but there are many other flavors on the market.

I personally smoke these 2, mixed with mint flavored tobacco.

Is it addictive?

Tobacco blends contain nicotine, an addictive component, just like the one found in cigarettes, but nowadays a nicotine-free product is also available on the market.

Quality and conservation

The quality of the tobacco is easily noticed; good tobacco is juicy and has a viscous liquid in it that is the flavoring while bad tobacco is good tobacco gone dry and it will lose its taste very quickly during the smoking session.

A great quality blend would be newly made and delivered in air-tight bags; the mix should be rich with the flavoring liquid so that when you grab some and squeeze it, the liquid flavoring would come out and drip off (Don’t squeeze the liquid out when preparing your hookah, this is only a test to determine the quality of the tobacco).

If the tobacco is older than a year ,or if it has been stored in a hot environment, or if the packaging is damaged or left open while stored, it will dry off in a week or 2 and will lose a great deal of its flavor and quality.

Tip: When you purchase your tobacco, also get one of those air-tight containers used to store beans or maccaroni that has a slightly greater capacity than 250 ml (the size of the tobacco bag) and put the tobacco in it to store it.

Always use one container per flavor.

The Charcoals

Types and shapes

Charcoals come in different shapes, sizes, qualities and composition.

Some of it is made from natural sources like coconut wood, tree branches, other types are made from synthetic material.

The size and shape of the charcoal has to be small and practical enough to fit on the tobacco head.

I have experimented with all the types, and my personal favorite is the coconut cubes charcoals for the following reasons:

It is made from ground coconut shells, shaped in a small 6 cubic cm which is perfect and very practical for hookahs, lights up reasonably quickly, it stays lit and lasts for one hour which is the average duration of a smoking session.

The price is around 3$ per kilo.

Another type commonly sold on the market and used in cafes is the round fast-to-light-up type.

This is a synthetic charcoal that is highly toxic, not only it causes cancer and extreme lung pollution, but it also has a horrible smell, doesn’t provide enough heat to light the tobacco; it also ruins the tobacco flavor and the hookah itself.

Please don’t use this type of charcoal as it releases great amounts of carbon monoxide, a highly toxic gas for human beings.

I recently saw a new invention being marketed on some websites: Electric charcoals.

I haven’t tried it yet, but this should be as simple as plug-and-smoke.


Charcoals have one enemy: Humidity.

Basically, you can store charcoals anywhere you can live without getting pulmonary problems.

Do not store in basements…

Troubleshooting charcoals

When charcoals catch humidity, it fills up with water, that makes it very hard to light up, and if you finally succeed, it won’t stay lit for long.

When that happens, you need to dry them off, either by putting it in the sun around noon for a couple of days, or by using a hair dryer or by spinning them a bit in the microwave.

Step 2: Preparing the Hookah

Prepping the hookah for first use

Many Hookahs nowadays have 2 design problems, the first is the glass jar, and the second is Air-tightness.

Modifying the glass Jar

First, If the Hookah you purchased has a jar that is fully painted in a dark color, this can be a problem because we need to be able to control the water level in the jar when preparing the Hookah; too little or too much water is no good, and you won’t be able to fully enjoy smoking.

The solution is very simple, you have to remove some of the paint from 2 opposite sides of the jar, this way you will be able to control the water level while filling it up.

Secondly, put enough water in the jar so that the copper tube is immerged by 2cm, and then mark the water level with a tape or a permanent marker for future reference.

Making it air-tight

Nowadays, all hookahs come with an air evacuation feature for troubleshooting overheating issues, but the current design of this feature does more bad than good in solving this problem.

Here we will simply remove this feature by closing the air evacuation exit with a plastic sheet from grocery bags that is shove in it or to simply glue it shut.

Next, for the middle section, sometimes it lets air in and out if the joint is a bit used or not inserted properly, here I simply tape it shut after I have assembled it.

I will show you later how to troubleshoot the overheating problem in a much more efficient method.

Preparing the hookah for the smoking session

Assemble the hookah

Fill the jar with water until it reaches the marker level; put the middle section on it, then the pipe, and finally put the dish.

Preparing the head

0- Wash the head with water and put it in the microwave for 40 seconds to dry. - If you don’t have a microwave, just wipe it with a clean tissue.

1- Place the head on the table face up.

2- Scramble the tobacco with your finger to mix it with the viscous flavoring liquid.

3- Once that done, pick out small tobacco pieces the size of a big tablet.

4- Spread them gently in the head until it reaches the maximum capacity.

It’s important not to stuff it or top it up too much as this will remove the airways created by the tobacco and makes it hard to suck the air through it.

6- Wash your hands and cut out a 20 cm x 10 cm (8 by 4 inches) square aluminum foil and fold it in half, the shiny side to the inside, that’s because the shiny side has an additional layer on it that will melt on the tobacco and can stick on the charcoals when they are applied.

7- Finally, punch in the airway maker one time, and test the airways in the head by inhaling from it.

If you find it difficult to inhale, then shake the head a little bit and try again, this will move the tobacco around and create new airways.

Preparing the Charcoals

4 or 5 charcoals is enough for a smoking session, I’ll be using the coconut cubes.

To light them up, you can either use a butane torch or an oven, gas or electric.

If you choose the electric oven option, know that this will leave permanent white marks on the glass. But, I prefer this method since it’s faster, does not change the flavor of the charcoals and because the white marks are almost invisible.

To light them up, simply keep them on fire for 5 minutes and turn them around a bit until their color becomes half orange.

After that, put them in the charcoal container and make an aluminum tent and put it on them until they become totally lit.

When that happens, they are ready for smoking.


- Always use totally lit charcoals, because half lit charcoals produce carbon monoxide that is toxic when inhaled.

- Always light charcoals in an open environment, or if you use the oven, turn on the air evacuator above it so that the carbon monoxide produced while the charcoals are being lit goes out of the your environment.

Hacks For Advanced smokers

Here are some of tweaks to make smoking even more enjoyable.

The icy water bowl

Hookahs taste better when the environment temperature is low, but obviously since nobody likes sitting outside in the cold, here’s a small hack I came up with.

Get a plastic bucket that is a bit larger than the glass jar and put the water pipe in it; fill half of it with water, then put in ten or fifteen ice cubes.

This will cool down the water in the jar, and as you smoke, the hot air coming through the head and the charcoals will also be cooled down, and you‘ll feel a great cold breeze.

The Vodka filter

Fill the Glass jar with vodka or any other drink with high alcohol percentage instead of water, this will still filter the air you smoke correctly but will also release alcohol along with it.

This will get you hammered in a way you’ve never experienced before.

Obviously don’t do this if you have some serious health issues…

The Weed mix

Pretty much self-explanatory..

Add weed to the tobacco you put in the tobacco head..Nothing more to say for this hack except it is still against the law in some countries.

Step 3: The Smoking Session

How many people per one hookah?

2 to 3 smokers per hookah is the best number, but smoking it by yourself is the best.

When sharing a hookah with other people, it is best to place it at equal distance from everyone smoking it, this way the pipe will be close enough for everyone to reach, and it will prevent them from accidentally pulling it too far and knocking over the hookah.

Hookah Etiquette

When handing the pipe to other smokers, you should always give it by the handle, point it upwards and either place your thumb on the end of the pipe or simply fold it and give it.

Never hand it away holding it after the handle or by pointing it towards the other smoker because in eastern countries it symbolizes a penis.

The Charcoals : How many to put on the head, Charcoal rotation and re-positionning

As you smoke and time passes, charcoals become smaller and smaller, and will produce less and less smoke.

Also the tobacco on the head will get burned and lose its flavor, that’s why we need to continually rotate the charcoals and reposition them over the head to get more tobacco burned and more flavor in the smoke.

Start with one cube; place it on the head but more on the side than in the middle.

After 5-10 minutes, replace the charcoal with one from the container and put it a bit next to where the first one was.

Repeat this operation 2 more times, or when you feel that the water pipe is producing less smoke.

When the turn is complete, add one more charcoal to the head and place them opposite to each other.

Repeat after 10 minutes.

After that, add one more charcoal.

10 minutes later, remove the 3 charcoals, and place a big one in the middle of the head.

After 10 or 15 minutes, the head will have been smoked out and you‘ll either need to replace it with a new one and light new charcoals, or simply end the smoking session.

Smoking: How to inhale and exhale

The best way is simply to breathe the smoke in, keep it in for one or two seconds to let the nicotine get absorbed then exhale it out either through the mouth or the nose.

For nicotine-free tobacco feel free not to inhale it totally.

In-Session troubleshooting

Inhaling difficulties

If you feel like you are struggling to suck the air in through the pipe, it means one of two things:

Either there’s too much water in the glass jar, or the tobacco was pressed in and stacked too much and thus removing the airways in it.

The solution for the jar is to simply spill over a centimeter of water and try again.

For the head, you can take it out and shake it a bit to create new airways (handle it with a thick tissue paper because it will be hot), or keep it there and simply drive a tooth pick in it a couple of times to create some airways.

The first method works every time, the second one doesn’t.

Charcoal Overheating & under-heating


When the charcoals become small or if you put too little charcoals on the head, less smoke will be produced and it will feel like you are breathing normal air through the pipe.

When that happens, simply replace the charcoal by a bigger one, or add a second one on the head.


Overheating occurs when:

  • too many charcoals are placed on the head at the beginning of the session.
  • The charcoals placed on the head are too big.
  • The first charcoal is placed in the middle of the head instead of on the side.
  • If you suck on the pipe for too long without giving it a rest time.

Overheating symptoms:

  • The portion of the glass jar that contains air becomes extremely whiter than usual and crowded with smoke.
  • The air you are smoking will become too hot to breathe in, starts to taste like burned paper and/or you’ll probably start coughing when you smoke and unable to smoke anymore.
  • The head will start burning on the inside and you will see smoke coming out of it.


Remove the charcoals, take the head out with a thick tissue paper, hold it horizontally, make an OK sign with your thumb and index and thumb and place it between the head and your mouth (the bottom side where it connects to the hookah) and blow the hot air out.(Be careful here because it might be hot and you may burn your lips if they touch it directly).

Next, blow out the air inside the jar by exhaling through the pipe until all the air is out.

Put the head back on, and start out with one charcoal and put more if needed to get enough smoke.

When is the head consumed?

After one hour of smoking, the head will lose its flavor.

It’s time to put another one in, or to simply end the smoking session. One head per smoking session is normally enough for one or 2 smokers.

After you’re done smoking

Put the charcoals back in the container, and keep it in a safe place away from inflammable objects.

Don’t put the charcoals out; they will become ash that we need to have in the container; this will keep the charcoals lit longer than in containers without ash.

Clean the head from tobacco and let it dry by itself.

Step 4: Maintaining the Hookah


Every 10 sessions or every month.


Dismantle the water pipe, and then start off with the head by simply cleaning it the same way like washing the dishes, only use hot water.

To clean the jar, use the jar cleaning brush, put a bit of dish cleaning product in it with hot water, and rub it from the inside with the brush for a minute, then wash it down with hot water.

Finally, for the middle section, run some hot water in it then put cleaning liquid on the thin long brush, and jam it in it.

Pull it in and out for a minute or two, and then run hot water through it again.

You will see that the water coming out of it is brown and there will be some small chunks coming out too, they are tobacco liquid residues.

Repeat this procedure until there are no more chunks coming out of it and until the water running through it becomes transparent.

You’re done.

When to replace the pipe

After 4 to 6 month of use, or after one year since you got it, the pipe becomes humid and will start to release small chunks of its components. This is where a new pipe becomes necessary.

Never clean the pipe, run water through it, step on it or twist it too much as it will ruin it.

Note: if you like to smoke different flavors, then one pipe per flavor is recommended but not obligatory.

Jar repair techniques

Sometimes people drop the water pipe or place too fast on the floor, this can create small cracks in the jar and will eventually start to leak water.

In this case, simply inspect the jar to notice the cracks, and then seal them off with fast acting transparent epoxy found in any DIY store.

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable and found it informative!

See you Soon with more original projects.Kreator.