When you are looking for a unique smoking experience that is both distinguished and indulgent, the hookah is one of the best options on the market. Although there is a little more time and trouble to the process, some would argue that the extra effort is part of the appeal. Rather than being a transitory activity, hookah smoking is a combined experience consisting of many steps.
If you don’t know how a hookah works, it uses hot air drawn over hot coals instead of a lighter or some other type of flame. This hot air is pulled down into the chamber, where it vaporizes the Shisha (a mix of tobacco, glycerin, and molasses). As the smoke is pulled down, it passes through the water and into the tube. From there, of course, it goes straight to your lungs.
Since the coals are the main source of ignition behind this process, it is natural to assume that the quality of the coals has a lot to do with the quality of your smoking experience. With that in mind, let’s look at the top five hookah coals as of 2019. We will examine these products in fine detail in order to determine which is the best.
Simple but effective
Burns clean and long
|Superior Coco Coconut Charcoal|
|eCoal Premium Instant Hookah Coal|
For the cocnut connoisseur
|Hookah John CocoBrico Titanium Coconut Coals|
Easy and fast
|Sunlight High Quality Premium Hookah coal|
These are probably the most basic hookah coals that you can buy. For those who are new to the hookah experience, small and self-lighting disks like these can be just the thing to help you get started. They offer convenience and ease, but there are a few downsides that must also be considered.
The good news is that these disks contain very little gunpowder in all. They have a thin layer on the outside, and the nasty taste is gone once you allow this layer of gunpowder to burn away. However, these types of coals will always produce a harsher smoke. Depending on your hookah type and your habits, this might not be a problem for you.
This is also a low-cost option. You can get a hundred of these things (in rolls of ten apiece) for about ten dollars. In terms of economics, that is hard to beat. According to the advertising, these disks are made from whole chunks of wood instead of pulp or sawdust. However, we aren’t sure if this really makes much difference.
We should also mention that these disks do not burn for very long. Each disk will typically burn for 30-45 minutes, so these things aren’t the best for long smoking sessions. They also aren’t the best choice for group smoking sessions.
This is one of the coconut coals, and it has a very good reputation. When we look at the negative reviews, there aren’t very many. Those that we see are almost universal in their criticism; they say that these cubes are too hard to light.
Upon closer inspection, we can see that most, if not all, of these reviews, come from people who are accustomed to self-lighting disks like our first product. These cubes are all-natural, which comes with both benefits and costs.
For one thing, this kind of cube will cost a little bit more, and it will be a little harder to light. This will be the case even if you use a stove top as directed. However, the upside of this is that your charcoal will burn much more slowly. You can get 1-2 hours from each one of these little cubes, so it’s great for those long smokes with your friends.
If you believe the advertising, these disks are meant to produce superior heat as compared to other brands. The mechanism for this is not explained, but it is almost certainly made from hardwood charcoal. The harder the wood, the hotter it burns. However, this could be a problem for some people.
If you are using a small or medium-size hookah bowl, this kind of charcoal can cause your Shisha to burn too quickly. Also, this charcoal burns a little too quickly, lasting somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes. So, although this product offers a high convenience factor, it also suffers from the same problems that all quick-light coals have.
Hookah John is probably the most well-known manufacturer of hookah coals and other hookah products. One quick Youtube search will tell the tale on that one. To make these particular coals, HJ partnered with a company called Cocotama.
Cocotama is noteworthy in this case because they were the original manufacturer of coconut coals. They originally had a contract with another company called Coconara, but Coconara has since moved on to cheaper producers. However, the quality of the product has suffered greatly as a result, with some users finding pieces of plastic and old rusty nails in their charcoal!
Complaints about this product usually center on the way that it burns. These are not self-lighters, so it’s a little harder to get them going. Also, Some reviewers complain that these coals either would not stay lit or that they burned unevenly.
Sunlight is another self-lighting type of coal, so traditional smokers won’t be interested. However, it’s a great entry-level option that is particularly easy to light. This does create a small potential fire hazard as a result of sparks flying during the ignition phase, but it is minimal as long as you keep your flammables away.
The most frequent complaint with this product is its short burning time. With only about 30 minutes per disk, this one could be a pain for some smokers. Hookah smoking is often a social event, but the socialization factor is reduced when you have to change disks so often. Of course, it helps that these are self-lighting so that changing disks won’t take as long.
Let’s look at some of the key information that you need in order to choose the best product of this type.
How Does A Hookah Work?
We explained part of this process earlier, but we should go into more detail for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with the hookah. You can tell that the hookah is very old when you see the unique way in which it functions. While most pipes work through the use of matches or a lighter, this kind of pipe uses hot coals to generate the heat required for combustion.
It might seem hard to believe, but the Shisha in the bowl is ignited by nothing more than superheated air. By sucking air through a hot medium, the air becomes so hot that it can vaporize the Shisha. This allows the smoke to travel down into the water. The water is meant to serve two purposes: First, it works as a filter, ensuring that no solid bits of Shisha get into your mouth. Second, the water helps to keep the smoke from being quite as harsh as it would normally be.
But what is Shisha? As we mentioned earlier, it is a mix of flavored tobacco, glycerine, and molasses. This is very interesting because glycerine is the primary base for most of the vaping liquids that have become so popular in recent years. It’s probably safe to say that the people who invented vaping were heavily inspired by the action of the hookah.
What To Look For In A Good Brand Of Hookah Coals
There are several important things to look for when you are buying some hookah coals. Let’s take a look at these factors one by one so that we can give you the complete picture.
The first thing to consider is purity. As we mentioned earlier, cheap hookah coals can sometimes contain foreign objects. This is very bad when you consider that the smoke from these objects will end up in your lungs. Some buyers have reported finding pieces of plastic in their coals. I’m sure we don’t have to tell you that this would choke you badly.
You can avoid these problems by buying from a reputable company, and by checking your coals before you use them. The easiest way to do this is to take one of the coals and gently crush it with a hammer. You might want to put the coal inside of a napkin first so that you can avoid making a mess. Once the coal has been powdered, look through it for any signs of impurities. Pass a strong magnet over the pile and see if anything comes out. Charcoal should never be magnetic under any circumstances.
Another thing to consider is price. Regular hookah smokers will potentially go through quite a few of these things. Thankfully, they tend to be pretty cheap. All the products on our list are relatively inexpensive, but even a small difference in price can be enough to make a big impact over time. Therefore, you should go for the lowest price that is possible without compromising the quality.
You should also think about how long the charcoal will burn. This is one of the most important factors because hookah smoking is supposed to be a relaxing experience. From the very beginning, the hookah has been something to enjoy in comfort, much like the caterpillar from “Alice In Wonderland” as he sits atop his magic mushroom. Thus, you want some coals that will give you plenty of time to enjoy yourself before needing to be changed.
In general, a lump of hookah coal will burn for at least 30 minutes. If not, you have probably bought a defective product. The better coals will last for an hour or two, and maybe even longer. This is where coconut coals enjoy a distinct advantage over their more traditional counterparts. Although these coals will burn longer, they also tend to be harder to light. So, if you don’t mind breaking out the hot plate every time you want to smoke, coconut is a good option. However, such a fibrous wood has a harder time staying lit and may require re-lighting with greater frequency.
Finally, you will need to make the big decision: Pure charcoal or self-lighting charcoal? There are good arguments on both sides, but most of it comes down to taste vs. convenience. Self-lighting charcoal is treated with an accelerant, such as gunpowder. Since charcoal is one of the three ingredients of gunpowder, they only have to add sodium/potassium nitrate and sulfur.
This accelerant will mostly burn away during the ignition phase. You light the coal, wait for the sparks to stop, and then start gently blowing on the coal until the entire surface is grey. At this point, most (if not all) of the gunpowder will be gone, but residual traces will remain. This will affect the taste of the smoke to some degree.
With a pure charcoal product, you will have to use a stove top or some other external source of heat to get things started. It may seem like this method is unquestionably better, but the convenience factor should not be overlooked. If you are on the go or in a hurry, a self-lighting type of coal can be very handy indeed.
General Knowledge About Charcoal
As you already know, While you don’t need to be an expert on charcoal just to smoke a hookah, it never hurts to expand your knowledge a little bit. Here are a few points to remember.
- Harder wood produces hotter charcoal
- Softer wood produces more absorbent charcoal
- Charcoal, though combustible, is not flammable unless an accelerant is added
- Charcoal tends to absorb impurities, making it useful for purification. It can purify the air, the water, and just about anything else
- Charcoal is a universal antidote for many types of poisoning. Ingesting small amounts of charcoal can also treat diarrhea, gas, and general stomach upset
- Charcoal is extremely hygroscopic, meaning that it wants to absorb moisture from the air
How To Make Charcoal
Although homemade charcoal is unlikely to be as high-quality as the store-bought equivalent, it’s not a bad idea to learn how to make this stuff. If you are unable to acquire some commercial coals, this knowledge can help you to enjoy your hookah regardless of your circumstances.
Charcoal is just wood that has been partially burned. When a piece of wood burns, it goes through three stages. At the first stage, it’s just wood. At the third stage, it has turned to ash. What you want is to bring the wood only to the second stage, at which most of the wood is converted to carbon.
Start by taking your chosen wood and chopping it into small pieces. It could be cubes, disks, flats, or whatever else you prefer. Now, you will need to place it into a metal container of some kind. For small batches, a steel cookie tin is ideal. Make sure that the container has a lid, but the lid should not fit too tightly. You will also need to punch a hole (about the size of a half-dollar) in the top of the lid. If you don’t do this, the container can build up pressure and explode.
Put the tin into a campfire and cook it for a while. After some time, you will begin to see a blue flame coming from the hole in the lid. This is actually pretty cool, as it resembles a small blowtorch flame. When this happens, the wood is being converted into charcoal. The flammability comes from the release of methane gas.
When the blue flame goes away, your charcoal is done. It is imperative that you remove it from the fire right now, or else it will turn to ash. It is acceptable to take it out of the fire when the blue flame is very low.
One final note: Do not open the container right away. If you do, all your charcoal will turn to ash within seconds. Wait until the container has fully cooled before removing the lid. Then, you should be left with a bunch of brittle black charcoal chunks. This charcoal will require a stovetop to get it started, but it will be completely pure in every way.
When you first began reading this article, you may have thought that all hookah coals were the same. We hope that you have learned differently and that you will now be able to choose the best product from the perspective of an expert. We included the extensive information about charcoal and its properties so that you can make a more qualified choice, and so that you can improvise your coals, if necessary!
But which one of these products is the best? Although it is hard to choose, we believe that the best product on our list is the Hookah John Flats. We chose this product because it had no significant downside. The only complaints that we found in relation to this product came from problems that are inherent to the use of coconut charcoal. Therefore, the manufacturer did a good job of making the best product that they could make. We thank you for reading this article all the way to the end, and we hope that we have rewarded you with all the knowledge you need.