So you’re sat there with your new luxury glass hookah pipe, and are surely wondering what next – do I pack the bowl? Should I clean the downstem? Is it time to fill the vase with water?
The short answer is YES to all of this, but in order to answer your question as to how much water to put in the hookah pipe, the fact you don’t know suggests you might also want to take a look at our post teaching you how to smoke hookah where you can get some help on assembly, loading the bowl and taking your first smoke.
So the ultimate purpose of using water in your hookah pipe is to cool the smoke to make it easier to inhale. Sure, you can smoke without the water but you’ll need lungs of iron and you’ll soon cause yourself damage from the heated smoke entering your airways. However, the reason water came about as a smoking coolant was totally by accident.
You’ll need to dig back into history of hookah for the answer, but it basically stems right back to 16th century India when it is thought that hookah as we know it was invented during the reign of the great Moghul Emperor, Akbar (Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar). Akbar had received a large quantity of tobacco leaves and a jewel-encrusted style pipe as a gift from Asad Beg, the Moghul ambassador in Bijapur – who had acquired them from Portugese merchants. Akbar, out of curiosity tried the pipe but under the watchful eye of his personal physician and out of a concern that this unknown substance might be harmful, it was suggested that water be used to help purify the smoke.
They had no idea that the addition of water would have absolutely no impact as to filtering out harmful substances, but it was very effective at cooling the smoke, and so hookah (or water pipe) began its long journey through history, and the activity remains largely unchanged five hundred years later.
Can I put too much water in my hookah?
Yes you can! If you were to fill the vase up to the top, what do you think will happen when you suck on the hose? You’ll get a mouth full of water – which is clearly not suitable. But how much is too much?
You need to really examine the pipe to see how it is made, and it’s the downstem you must focus on. How long is the downstem, and how far down does it extend? You need to fill the vase with just enough water to submerge the tip of the downstem by about 20mm – 30mm, and really no more than 50mm. The more water you have, the harder it will be to pull through the pipe, and the less smoke you will get as your lungs are working harder to pull through. It also depends on how large your hookah pipe is – for a larger / taller pipe, the balance of air to liquid will be greater, and the pressure required to pull through the pipe will be higher with too much liquid, but you’ll need to find that balance so by all means experiment with different water levels to find something that works for you, but you should not need much more than 50mm for a thick, flavorsome smoke.
Worse of all, with too much water in the pipe you also run the risk of water bubbling back up into the heat chamber and tobacco bowl – and that is really disastrous because not only will it totally ruin the tobacco mix by soaking it through, but you’ll need to empty everything out to dry it, and heat up the coals all over which makes for a total waste of time.
Not enough water in hookah?
So this too is a problem. Depending on how large your pipe is will depend on how much is too little but you’ll soon find out as the smoke will be hotter, and therefore feel more harsh on the throat and chest. This is not a very nice experience and if you find the smoke is a little too hot, then chances are you have not filled the pipe with enough water. Having not enough water in the pipe will have much the same result as smoking it dry – so the best thing to do is to stick with the rule above, judging the water level by the downstem length, and filling up the pipe with just enough liquid to submerge the tip of the downstem with between 20 – 50mm of water.
As long as you have the right amount of liquid in the pipe, then you won’t confuse hot smoke with having the wrong tobacco mix, or too little. Solve the water, then any other problems you do have will be elsewhere and not with your water level.
How cold should the water be in my hookah?
So we like it cold – you want ice cold smoke? Then ice cold water is the one. Ideally, if you have a water chiller then you can fill the hookah vase directly with ice cold water and this, whilst the water maintains its cool temperature, will be more effective at cooling the smoke down.
Better still, place some ice in the water. The ice will keep the water cooler for longer, giving you a clean, cool smoke for longer and allowing you to better savor the flavor of your chosen tobacco.
Hot water in your hookah? Well that‘s a bit of a no-no as it defeats the purpose of adding liquid. By adding hot water to the hookah vase and the hot smoke will be unable to transfer much if any heat away meaning hot smoke enters your lungs, resulting in a harsh smoke – something we are trying to avoid.
Can I put fruit in my hookah pipe?
Hell yeah. In fact, we recommend it! Just imagine the flavor of your favorite fruity tobacco mix, smoked gently through a crystal glass hookah pipe filled with ice cold water, orange slices, pomegranate seeds, watermelon, and handfuls of crushed ice?
It’s everything that is best about hookah smoking, and with a luxury glass hookah as your centre piece makes for something you can marvel at with your friends. Go on, give it a go.
Can I put alcohol in my hookah pipe?
You probably won’t want to drink it afterwards, but for a boozy undertone to your smoke, you can certainly try – and frozen vodka is a common replacement for water, often available on the menu of some of the more upscale hookah lounges.
However we urge you to proceed with caution. Spirit alcohol tends to have a much higher alcohol content than beer or wine, maybe 40% ABV or more. Inhaling alcohol vapor is therefore a dangerous activity as you will quickly become intoxicated and unlike drinking alcohol at a sensible pace, as the alcohol immediately enters the bloodstream you will find it very hard to manage your intake. The situation can be amplified further if you are in a venue drinking alcohol, so the effect of inhaling alcohol alongside could easily send you over the top.
So if you want our advice, stick to water, make it cold, and top up with some ice, fruit, and your best friends for a smoking session you will never forget.