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Hookah's on first?
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2014 5:36 pm    Post subject: Hookah's on first? Reply with quote

Hookah's on first?


Who? Sue Sea and I. Where? One of Hass's recommended hookah bars. What? What else, to smoke a hookah. We started at our usual English pub for fish and chips, then I surprised Sue Sea, said "let's try this". This particular bar was frequently by mostly younger Middle Eastern couples and groups, and a few Americans.

The food included herbal teas, milkshakes, Middle Eastern desserts (think baklava), fruit juices, and the like, all with a distinctly Middle Eastern flavor. No alcohol. Booths with hanging curtains, art, and a few of the now ubiquitous flat screen TV's. Not at all loud like a sports bar, but quiet, laid back and relaxed. As we approached the first thing we notices were fragrant and aromatic aromas. Unlike a cigar bar, not smoky, not harsh, not overpowering but just like the atmosphere,gentle and smooth. Quite pleasant.

The hookah selection used Mamoon hookahs in the 36 inch range, $10.99 for Al Fakher, $15.99 for Starbuzz tobacco. On hearing we were new, the young waitress attempted to talk us out of the AF Double Apple, which I was determined to try, as this flavor is alleged to be the most popular in the world. "Too strong for you" she said, but I insisted. Within perhaps 10 minutes or so, out came our hookah with the bowl filled with tobacco, covered with a multiply-punctured aluminum foil, topped with two glowing coals, a single hose and a new plastic mouthpiece.

Our first impression was just as gentle, cool, smooth and quietly aromatic as our entrance. Very pleasant. Sue Sea felt the flavor did not seem authentic (apple). Unlike Nakhla Double Apple the AF lacked the anisette tones the Nakhla is noted for. Whether authentic or not, it was entirely pleasant. We noted that the patrons seemed to like and produce rather large clouds of smoke.

While Sue Sea seemed to be able to achieve this, for some bizarre reason I couldn't consistently achieve this. Our attendant moved the coals and advised that as the bowl heated up, the smoke would increase. Unfortunately we never found out as Sue Sea's post-concussion symptoms interfered, and we had to leave. But our mission was accomplished.

We'd had a new and lovely experience and discovered that hookahs offer a lovely, quiet and pleasant experience and an opportunity for laid back socialization among other like minded individuals. So much so that I'm far less reluctant to buy a small hookah and some better tobacco.

A big thanks to the Hass...
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da'rum
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2014 10:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great write up Jimbo. I find I can't achieve a consistant thick smoke from a shisha either. I also find it hard to get the draw right. It's probably just a practice thing though.
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad you had a pleasant experience, Jimbo!

$11 for Fakher is a good deal, even if I'm not a big fan of the stuff. If you liked their double apple, wait till you try Nakhla. AF is one-dimensional anise, Nakhla is 3d complexity. That being said, double apple mu'assal never really tastes like pure apple. AF definitely not, Nakhla somewhat. From my review of it at hookahforum.com:

Quote:
with lots of heat, and you get lots of anise, and decent clouds. HOWEVER!! Pack it looser, put less heat on, say 2 CCNs cut in half vs 3 straight on, and although you get less smoke, the anise flavor subsides, and while still present, accompanying is it a delightful sweet apple taste. Almost like apple cider (the American kind, not the alcoholic kind). Sublime.


Was the place using instant light coals, or something more natural? If there were 2, I'm guessing they were using coconut charcoal cubes, which are what I use.

For the flavored, wet tobaccos, big clouds are the norm. Some brands are even known for their "thunder clouds". For the unflavored stuff, it ranges from small, thinner, cigarette-like clouds (Zaghloul and the like) to the wispiest, lightest smoke ('ajami/tömbeki).

Within 10 minutes or so you should get full-sized clouds. If you didn't, there are several things that could be at issue, but assuming everything is right on their end, the pipe needs to be started. By that I mean a few big, extra deep puffs need to be taken initially to draw the heat into the bowl. Once the bowl is warmed up in this way, it should be ready to go. Once it's at running temperature, full-sized clouds are achieved by smoking as if you're trying to breathe through the hose, not by little cigar/pipe puffs.

Quote:
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

da'rum wrote:
Great write up Jimbo. I find I can't achieve a consistant thick smoke from a shisha either. I also find it hard to get the draw right. It's probably just a practice thing though.


Things that affect the draw:

    - Amount of tobacco in the bowl and how tight it was packed (there needs to be good airflow even when packed somewhat dense, which is the MO for many brands)

    - Number, size, and depth of holes in the foil (more is better, I use a restaurant-style round toothpick, all the way down to the bottom)

    - Amount of water in the base: More than an inch or so above the opening of the downstem of the hookah makes the pull VERY hard.

    - Coals: too few produce little smoke, but that won't affect the draw or pull, per se.

    - The hose and hookah being used - some have a wider draw than others. Hoses by Mya Saray (a common, major brand) are notoriously narrow.
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da'rum
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Hassouni, I'll keep your advice in mind for next time.
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Based on the above...


You'll now find this in our home...


. . . . . . .


That plus some coconut natural charcoals, a tin of Nakhla Double Apple and a block of Nakhla Zaghloul. Awaiting a countdown to launch...
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Capn Jimbo wrote:
Based on the above...


You'll now find this in our home...


. . . . . . .


That plus some coconut natural charcoals, a tin of Nakhla Double Apple and a block of Nakhla Zaghloul. Awaiting a countdown to launch...


Oh snap! I'm curious what coals you got? There is a lot of variability in the brands. Most are decent, some are excellent, some not very good.

If I may make a suggestion:

The Mya bowls and hoses are not great. The hose is better than the bowl though, which would be the first thing I'd replace.

http://www.5starhookah.com/Elmas-Unglazed-Clay-Female-Hookah-Bowl-ELMFB.htm is probably the best bowl for Nakhla, but any standard Egyptian bowl available at any Arab grocery store will be an improvement.

For the Double Apple: Open the inner pack inside the can and dump the contents right into the can. Stir it around before packing each bowl. Pack the bowl fairly densely, just pile it in there. It's fine if it goes above the rive of the bowl. Slap some foil on tightly, poke holes all the way down, and you should be good to go. (you can test the airflow in the bowl by sucking on the open end of it once the foil on. It should feel a bit restricted but not difficult). Pop 2-3 coconut coals on and have it.

For the Zaghloul....there are 2 schools of thought. One is to smoke it as is, with no foil. This is what every Egyptian does, but I don't like it so much (Saying that, I'm not a huge fan of burning smoke, even from cigars. I enjoy the novelty of it but that's about it).

What I and some others do for Zaghloul and other unflavored but moistened tobaccos is to mix the entire contents of the box in a tupperware container with a tablespoon or so of honey, and the same of vegetable, food-grade glycerine. Once mixed, zap on low heat in the microwave for 15 seconds, and stir, and repeat until it's all warmed up, but not hot. Let it cool to room temperature before sealing the container or smoking. This procedure only needs to be done once, and it enables you to use foil and "vaporize" the tobacco rather than burning it as you would without foil.

For mixing Zaghloul into other flavors, such as Double Apple (highly recommended!) the untreated Zaghloul is fine.

As for the coals, for whatever reason, natural coals light better on an electric coil stove than on a gas flame. If you have electric, great, but open a window or turn on the stove exhaust vent. If you don't, gas will work but it takes a lot longer. You can buy a $10 portable electric coil from many shops (Walgreens is the favorite among the American nargile aficionados), which has the benefit of being able to be used on one's deck/patio/porch. In any case, make sure whatever is lighting the coals is well ventilated (I always light my coals outside on a Walgreens burner, but I'm sensitive to off smells, which happens when lighting coals). Once the coals are glowing red at least halfway up one side, give them a flip and let them light on the other side. Long story short, the coals should be 100% lit before use.

Before I ramble on further, my friend wrote a succinct little guide here:
http://www.hookahforum.com/topic/40373-beginners-guide-to-hookah/

And with all that said, enjoy and report back!
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2014 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the input...


Coals: Coco Hawaii - "100% natural from coconut shell". It is exchangeable I'd think.

Bowl: checked your link, is the important feature that it is unglazed? How do I know if it is Egyptian? From what I found they seem to shallower, flattish bottom,thicker, larger holes than Mya's standard small bowl. They are fairly inexpensive, $4 to $9. Will I need more than one (one for flavored, one for Zaghloul)?

Why is the Egyptian better?

Also, it is fair to say that the standard Mya QT bowl is a small one - keeping in mind this will be used by one or both Sue Sea and I, and we'd prefer shorter smokes, how about size? How much tobacco should it hold (small 5-10, med 10-15, lg 15-20g).

Again, thanks - much appreciated...
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2014 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Capn Jimbo wrote:
Thanks for the input...


Coals: Coco Hawaii - "100% natural from coconut shell". It is exchangeable I'd think.

Bowl: checked your link, is the important feature that it is unglazed? How do I know if it is Egyptian? From what I found they seem to shallower, flattish bottom,thicker, larger holes than Mya's standard small bowl. They are fairly inexpensive, $4 to $9. Will I need more than one (one for flavored, one for Zaghloul)?

Why is the Egyptian better?

Also, it is fair to say that the standard Mya QT bowl is a small one - keeping in mind this will be used by one or both Sue Sea and I, and we'd prefer shorter smokes, how about size? How much tobacco should it hold (small 5-10

Again, thanks - much appreciated...


Never heard of those coals you got. The best brands that are easily available are Coconara and Cocomazaya (made but he same company), and Mya's Genie Coals. Doesn't mean yours are bad. The lower quality once tend to smell a lot more when lighting, and may have a SLIGHT taste when smoking, but as I said I have no idea what yours are like. Once they're lit they're probably fine.

Unglazed is not the most important part of the bowl equation, though they are the most traditional and anecdotally smoke better than glazed bowls, for what reason I'm not sure. Egyptian bowls have a very distinctive shape, which you more or less identified. The big thing they (as well as Turkish and to a lesser extent Lebanese) bowls have over Mya is the size of the holes - the bigger the better (more airflow).

Egyptian and Turkish bowls (Elmas brand and others) are the best for drier tobacco like Nakhla, again probably because of the large holes. If you're going the unglazed route, definitely get two bowls, because Zaghloul will leave its mark on anything it touches (that goes for hoses, too), leaving behind its flavor ("ghosting") and badly staining and sticking to the bowl. I haven't tried smoking Zaghloul from a glazed bowl (at this point all my bowls are unglazed), but I suspect it's much less of an issue.

As for bowl size and smoke session duration, the average lit coconut charcoal has ~1 hour of usable life in it. If you want a shorter session than that, you can split the coals in half (there are multiple ways to do that), and instead of using, say 2 coals on either side, you put 4 halves around the rim.

Bowl size matters too - one nice thing about Egyptian bowls is that since they're shallow and wide, they have more surface area exposed to direct heat, which means there won't be much uncooked tobacco left in the bowl (Turkish and Lebanese bowls are deeper and 1 round of coals usually isn't sufficient to cook the tobacco all the way through, which has no effect on smoke quality, it's just a waste of tobacco!). I don't really know how much my "1 round of coals" bowls hold in terms of grams, but I think something in the 20 gram range sounds about right. The smallest retail size for mu'assal is typically 50g, and my 2 round of coals bowls hold more than half that. I used to have a Mya bowl that I used quite a bit - their stuff is quite standardized, and I'd say it probably held about 20-25g. Mya bowls also have a very thin rim - thicker is helpful because there's more thermal mass - you aren't just heating up the top layer of tobacco with the coals, you heat up the entire bowl and cook the bottom layer as well from the heat of the bowl (albeit less intensely than the top layer).
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Update:


It is notable how moist these tobaccos are; accordingly much of what passes for smoke is actually a vapor. in the pack the Nakhla Double Apple is drippingly moist and doesn't smell anything like apples, but more like a house of ill repute, lol. Sue Sea made me put it in the garage, though it doesn't bother me at all.

The Zaghloul - in the pack - was not quite as moist, but far from dry, and yes, does have a bit of that slightly sour tobacco aroma you mentioned. I'm having trouble finding food grade glycerine. Ideas? As far as the Egyptian bowl, my local purveyor of things Middle Eastern - in addition to good selection of Mya's, tobaccos, hoses, stems and supplies also had quite a few glazed Egyptian bowls - medium sized I'd guess - for $3.99. They are obviously handmade.

Last a word about the Mya which was available for $45 for the better model (not the "Econo". I was very impressed with the finish and fit of all of the components, and proceeded to wash and clean it thoroughly. It's a lovely and good looking unit that can easily be transported in its wire carrying cage (would also work for a small monkey), lol...

Stay tuned...
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2014 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Holy crap, there's a nargile section!

You're quite right about most of the smoke being vapor in reality. Arguably when you use foil, it's ALL vapor, unless you scorch the tobacco (this can happen when too much heat is applied).

With unflavored mu'assal (zaghloul, salloum, khan al khalili, etc) smoked without foil, I suspect the product is a mix of smoke and vapor. With 'ajami/tömbeki, it's almost entirely smoke (the tobacco is soaked and then wrung out, so there is still some water vapor present, but not much).

If you think Nakhla is wet, you should see what Al Fakher and the other more modern brands look like*, they are literally dripping with a sort of syrup!

Re: Zaghloul, as for food grade glycerine, this is what I use: http://www.cvs.com/shop/product-detail/CVS-Pure-Glycerin-USP?skuId=483707 - your local CVS should carry it. As I said earlier though, if you want to try it without foil, then no additional preparation is needed. Glycerine and honey are only to get it to the state where it will smoke/vaporize when used with foil or a screen.

At $4, get yourself two of those Egyptian bowls - 1 for flavored, 1 for unflavored.

Finally, Mya as I said earlier, or maybe in a PM, while not my cup of tea, is a highly respected brand and does make quality pipes - glad you like yours!



*The more modern mu'assal is VERY hit or miss. Al Fakher sort of pioneered it 10-11 years ago, but has mostly gone to the dogs, and many of the other, newer brands out there now are on average not very good but may have a smattering of good flavors.
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2014 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're welcome...


And were appropriately acknowledged for your amazing contributions to this section. A huge thanks from the both of us. Now back to "nargling"...

. . . . . .

$3.99 at our local Middle Eastern emporium, will buy another, and proceed - at least for a bit - with the Mya hose. Now it's time to deflower this narghile. I thought it might be appropriate to begin with your favorite blend, ie the Double Apple with the Zaghoul. Our questions...

1. Blend: Is the blend 50/50 of the tobaccos, just as sold, ie the Zag without honey/glycerine?

2. Filling: loose or packed? To the top or slightly more? Can less be used for a shorter smoke?

3. Wrapping: it seems a single layer of aluminum foil, standard thickness, enough extra to wrap and twist tightly for a "drumlike" over the bowl. Yes, no?

4. Water: I believe you've said no more than an inch of water over the pipe exit.

5. Coals: I have a hot plate I can take outside, or a cast iron griddle I can use on the stove? When are the coals ready? Will it make a lot of smoke? How many of our coconut coals will be needed (they are about 1/2"x1"x1")? Can they be cut? Is that necessary?

6. Placement: Where on the foil? When/how to move them? How long after placement can we start smoking? Will I need more coals? How to know when the bowl is done?


We apologize in advance for all the questions - thanks for your usual attentions - and feel free to link if that's easier for you...
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1. Blend: Is the blend 50/50 of the tobaccos, just as sold, ie the Zag without honey/glycerine?

I'd do more DA than Zaghloul, 60/40, maybe, or even 70/30. Depends if you want the Zaghloul to give the DA some "backbone" as it were, or to really stick out on its own. At such a low ratio, you can use the Zaghloul as sold, just mix it thoroughly with the DA (on a plate or paper towel, or whatever).

2. Filling: loose or packed? To the top or slightly more? Can less be used for a shorter smoke?

The general rule for Nakhla is packed fairly dense. You can pile it not too tightly, going above the top, and then push it back down when you foil it. Alternatively, you can pack it pretty tightly up to the rim before adding foil. Nakhla is probably the most idiot-proof mu'assal out there, and is VERY forgiving, compared to almost every other brand.

Less tobacco assuming the same bowl size might give a shorter smoke but the smoke quality won't be great, very wispy and lacking in flavor. That bowl you showed looks pretty small anyway, so won't allow for too long of a session. In general, larger bowl = longer smoke and vice versa, given identical packing.


3. Wrapping: it seems a single layer of aluminum foil, standard thickness, enough extra to wrap and twist tightly for a "drumlike" over the bowl. Yes, no?

Yep. For Nakhla and especially Zaghloul a single layer of light foil is fine. For wetter/more modern types, you'd want to use either a double layer, or heavy duty foil.

4. Water: I believe you've said no more than an inch of water over the pipe exit.

Yep

5. Coals: I have a hot plate I can take outside, or a cast iron griddle I can use on the stove? When are the coals ready? Will it make a lot of smoke? How many of our coconut coals will be needed (they are about 1/2"x1"x1")? Can they be cut? Is that necessary?

Use the hotplate, a griddle won't work very well. The coals are ready when they are entirely glowing red/orange. You will probably want to flip them once they're about 2/3 lit up one side, then wait until the entire coal is lit. They shouldn't make any smoke, but they might smell unpleasant, which is why I light outside.

For a bowl that size, 2 coals should be sufficient. Zaghloul takes a shitload of heat to get going, so there is a tiny chance you might need 3 coals if mixed with DA, but I doubt it, esp for a bowl that small. Coals can be cut in half. It's not necessary at all, but 4 halves will distribute less heat more evenly as opposed to the concentrated heat of 2 whole ones. Nakhla Double Apple is one of the very few flavors I've had where the amount of heat changes the flavor neither for better for worse, but just makes the flavor different (this is one reason it's so legendary). However: you will be mixing in Zaghloul which needs a TON of heat, so for this instance, I'd stick with 2 whole coals.


6. Placement: Where on the foil? When/how to move them? How long after placement can we start smoking? Will I need more coals? How to know when the bowl is done?

The general rule is to NOT place the coals in the center. You want to put them along the edge of the bowl. You don't really need to move them, but if you're slightly OCD about it like I am, just rotate them slightly around the edge of the bowl. Every now and then you might want to knock the ashes off - if you're inclined to move them that's a good time. You can start smoking almost immediately - you will probably hear a little sizzle of the juices in the tobacco when you place the coals on. Some people let the bowl heat up for a minute or two, some people start right away, and some people rotate the coals around to get the entire surface heated before taking the first pull.

Your coals should last you the better part of an hour before they're small enough to be useless. If you don't plan on smoking longer than that, you shouldn't need extra coals. When they start shrinking down, you can move them closer to the center. The bowl is done when the flavor is gone. If all you get is a sort of smoky flavor, your bowl is done. It is also possible to overheat the bowl, and you will get a very distinct, unpleasant burning, harsh smoke. If this happens, take the coals off for a few minutes, clear out the old smoke (this is Mya's one shortcoming, their purge system isn't great), and reapply the coals further out on the edge the bowl (edge = cool, center = hot). You will know the bowl was done when you go to clean up and you get a dried out puck of tobacco. If there's still uncooked stuff at the bottom, it means you could have gone longer, or you just torched the top layer.


We apologize in advance for all the questions - thanks for your usual attentions - and feel free to link if that's easier for you...
happy smoking!
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A great primer on the narghile -and a word from Columbo...


But we'll see if a Compleat Idiot can follow simple instructions. No doubt the fact that the narghile requires some research, knowledge and skills to use may inhibit some from trying. Compare to cigars or heaven forbid cigarettes - which amount to light and suck, lol.

As Columbo would say as he was walking away, would appear puzzled, turn around and say "Uh, just one more question, sir...". And that would be: I know there are different ways of puncturing the foil...

1. What pattern would be used for the above blend, and why? Are there other patterns used for other methods or tobaccos?

2. How? I understand using a round toothpick, or the slim metal punch supplied with the Mya is the method. I've read the holes are to be punched all the way through the tobacco, yes? And something about blowing up through the bowl before mounting it?

And yet again... our thanks in advance.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2014 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So, since Nakhla takes a lot of heat and is relatively dry and is packed tightly, you want big holes all the way through, for maximum airflow and heat transfer.

Use a round toothpick or even the pointy end of a bamboo skewer (bigger holes), and make a series of concentric circles, more or less like this:



For a wetter, more loosely packed tobacco the holes can be smaller (I've been known to use a safety pin, though I don't anymore) and don't have to go all the way down. However, the photo above is pretty general-purpose and should work fine for most stuff. In almost all cases you want an even distribution of holes done in concentric circles.

And yeah, if you're starting out it's good to take a pull on the bowl before attaching it to see how restricted the airflow is. You don't want to have to force it. If it seems too tight, either poke more holes, or repack less dense.
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